About two weeks ago, my husband and I made a trip to Target to finally purchase some
replacement lamp shades. Over a year ago, during a crazed dash through the house, one of our cats crashed into the lamp shade, succinctly cracking the inside layer. We sighed, shook our heads and added lampshades to our wish list. Though cracked, it still did the job and we couldn't justify spending $50 or more on fixtures when loans, rent and gas were top priority. We placed it on the back burner and quickly forgot about it.
However, with the dawn of the new year, I resolved to stop waiting. We had the funds and I knew the exact shades I wanted. So we made a date, happily purchased the shades and brought them home. My husband, eager to see how they would look, quickly removed the cellophane and placed it atop the lamp wire.
It. Didn't. Fit.
All joy evaporated. Over a year of waiting and those hand-me-down lamps that had served me so well during college were too tall in design. You could see the light bulb clearly. They looked ridiculous and were a far cry from my vision of an elegant upgrade.
I numbly rummaged through my purse for the receipt, plucked the new, beautiful lampshade from its perch and stacked the betrayers on the floor. "Chalk up another dream to failure," I thought and turned away from the pain that confronted me.
Lampshades shouldn't incite such a dismal declaration. I tried to shrug it off thinking I was being overly dramatic or emotional, but it wouldn't go away. Instead of continuing to avoid my reaction, I sat down and wrote, my stream of conscious flowing across the page.
This wasn't simply about a lampshade. This was raw grief. It was deeply rooted, going back further than when the lampshade cracked. Pinning down a label for the feeling, however, evaded me. I continued to write. As the pages filled with my cursive scrawl, its name began to emerge. It had chosen the moment of the lampshade debacle to finally burrow out of the depths of my heart and rear its ugly head: Shame.
Finally, I could see it in all of its twisty and gruesome glory:
My twitchy, unwelcome companion at house warming parties and baby showers, making me feel awkward while acting celebratory.
My towering judge, causing me to evade questions about careers and five year plans.
My cynic, heightening my senses to the mess, the shabbiness and hand-me-downs of our cozy, yet "quaint," home, stirring up a restless anger.
My Shame knows no grace. It constantly flaps the Before and After photos of Dreams vs Reality, until, finally, I snatch them out if its gnarled hands and shove them deep into a dark drawer of forgetfulness.
But I didn't realize that by avoiding the pain, I had become paralyzed with a severe case of hope deficiency.The disappointment hurts less there, in the dark.
When did I stop trying? When did making simple improvements with unforeseen obstacles cause my fortitude to crumble? When did dreaming stop bringing joy and start bringing agony?
Shocked, I tried to pin down a point of origin, to no avail. This was a slow invasion, one disappointment building upon one another, growing and mutating, until Shame emerged. Disappointments were personal failures. My life stage didn't look like my friends who are buying houses and having babies. "Something must be wrong with me." Cue blame and resignation. I stopped moving entirely. I was frozen, as if I had entered a cryogenic chamber, preserving what life (and dreams) I had left. Inadvertently, I froze my heart too.
Today, I'm choosing to thaw out and embrace the grief. I'm unpacking those dreams my 23-old self had at the beginning of marriage and holding them close; that dream house, those ginger haired babies by age 30, that creative writing career. They may not yet have happened or may not have happened at all, but they're still precious and still hold hope.
I'm choosing to act instead of waiting and hope instead of despair. I've started to change my perspective from impoverished lack to innovative wealth. I'm asking myself questions: What do I have? What can I control? What can I change? I have to actively work to continue moving forward.
I began by manipulating those lamps to fit the new lamp shades. There was definitely an adjustment period (I literally had to leave the apartment for an afternoon to give the new look time to grow on me), but now I cannot imagine a better fit. A bit of creative engineering, some patience and the dream prevailed. In life not everything comes easily, but the things worth having are always worth fighting for.
I've joined One Word 365 and declared 2016 to be my year to #move. If you could choose one word for your year what would it be?