Sifting sharp pieces

Something I have realised I need to do some serious work on right now is owning my mistakes, missteps and failures more authentically.

I instinctively absorb blame whenever a situation doesn’t go as I’d like. Because of this, and because of the story that blame creates in me, I will ruminate over how to make it better, and how to be better, endlessly, if the wiser part of myself doesn’t intervene. But I am also so cripplingly ashamed of being at fault that I dare not speak it. I want to fix the problem, fix myself, and never make the same mistake again, so I can move on and never have to look at how wrong, and thus unloveable, I was in that moment.

This creates a strange dichotomy whereby my inner world is swirling with blame and shame and deep remorse, usually far outweighing the requirements for the situation, while my outer facade dances around the admission of guilt, and clings to all the reasons why it both wasn’t so bad and wasn’t all my fault. I’m suffering enough, I don’t need you to add to it.

And that’s entirely right; I don’t. But what I’m learning that I do need is a space to openly admit the exact boundaries of my failings; to examine them with considerate and compassionate eyes, and to find validation that they don’t in fact make me the terrible monster my shame would gleefully tarnish me as.

There aren’t many people in the world, I don’t believe, who can hold space for that kind of deconstruction of events, particularly in the throes of conflict, so it’s not that I should try to do this the in the raw, unfolding moment. But I’d probably be better served removing myself before I start to hear the defensive claims of victimhood or rationalisation gush from my lips. Take a breath, take a step back, save it for later. Save it for a space where I can tip all the failings onto the floor, and sift through for the pieces that are mine.

And then fucking loudly announce to the world which pieces are mine, and revel in the freedom of the proclamation.

Victim and Perpetrator

I have been The Victim, and I have been The Perpetrator.

I am keenly aware of these two truths. Sometimes my trauma gets rekindled and I fall back into helplessness. Sometimes I relate all too easily with another’s misdeeds.

Neither of these positions are a good place to be. Neither are happy. Neither are without turmoil. Neither are without blame. Neither are full of blame. Neither are the entire story.

We are all frail, imperfect humans, and we are all, I’d be willing to wager, both The Victim and The Perpetrator, right now, simultaneously, in countless different ways.

Right before lockdown, I was interviewing to become a Samaritans helpline volunteer, and I got asked how I’d feel if I had to speak to a child molester on the line. And the truth is – as despicable as such an act is, and as highly triggering as it is, to a parent especially – I’d feel sympathy, and empathy, for that person. I’d think about all the events of their life, or perhaps all the peculiarities of their brain and biology, outside of their control, and understand that, while they were a serious, dangerous, perhaps irredeemable Perpetrator, they had also been a Victim many times over. I’d see them in shades of grey, and I wouldn’t have to work at it.

That makes me perfect for the Samaritans helpline. Less perfect, honestly, for everyday living.