Sometimes I feel like two different people when it comes to making friends. Some of the time I’m really out going and love talking to new people. Listening to people’s stories is one of my favorite things to do as a nurse. Yet, there are just as many times where I’d rather keep to myself and not talk to anyone.
My fear of disconnection has controlled my life for far too long.
I go through phases of social awkwardness where I can barely will myself to talk to others and forget about me initiating any meaningful conversation. I loathe small talk, so during these times I keep to myself and hide in the corner at events I’m forced to attend. This attitude and behavior makes it hard for me to make friends. However, I still find myself striking up conversations with my patients and communicating with them as if I’d known them for years.
After analyzing my feelings and experiences this past year, all I can come up with is that I can engage with my patients rather than others because I’m not asking myself, “If this person finds out _____ about me, will they still feel me worthy of a connection?”
I have missed out on many friendships, job opportunities, and FUN because of my shame that I carry around. It’s a purse of the past that I can’t seem to put down for too long. I keep jamming shit in it. Every time I work up the courage to let go of some of that shame something comes along and I find new shame to stuff in my purse. This purse of shame weighs more than it should.
So I am going to try and empty its contents through this blog and in my everyday life as I hope you too can let go of any shame baggage you might be packing because no one deserves shame. No one deserves loneliness. And shame attracts loneliness.
Today’s story will focus on when I first started school at Duke University in January 2016 and was too ashamed of the fact that I was mom who did not have it all together. Another girl in my cohort had a toddler and a baby. She carried herself well, never was on edge, and seemed to have it all together. From the stories I overheard in the coffee line, her kids were making a smooth transition.
Madeline and I at Surf City, NC for Spring Break 2016. Even when I am “relaxing” I have a bad case of mom bags under the eyes.
At the time, my daughter was 2 years old and hated sleep (she still does unless we need to be somewhere early, then she loves sleeping in). Her father and I couldn’t get her in bed before midnight. She despised wearing clothes and tried to take them off every chance she could (including at the grocery store). We had stopped going to restaurants, stores, or anywhere else people congregated at because of fear of one of her tantrums. She loved to play, sing, and entertain which was so much fun but made laundry, cleaning, and studying a nightmare. Oh, and potty-training, I could not have been failing more as a mom. What was I thinking going back to school? And to Duke? Now?
Every time I have baby fever for another one, I remember how awful potty training was and how I am enjoying not changing diapers at this point in my life.
I felt alone alone at school most of the time. Though home life was chaotic, I felt comfortable and supported there. But at school I tried to put on the persona that everything was perfect at home. I wanted to fit in. I didn’t want to be the mom who didn’t have it together. The other moms were making it look so easy. I didn’t talk to them because of the question that always stopped me, “If they find out I’m a crappy mom, will they still want to be my friend?” Sounds immature, but if I’m being honest, that’s what I thought! “If these women knew my dishes haven’t been done all week and I’m buying my kid new underwear because I haven’t done laundry in awhile, will they think me worthy of a connection?” I didn’t think they would, so I didn’t talk to them. I kept my distance from the moms until this one morning when I couldn’t get my daughter to wake up on time, couldn’t get her to eat breakfast, couldn’t get her to keep her shoes on, and couldn’t get her to stop crying as I dropped her off with the nanny. I felt guilty for giving my child to another woman to take care of for the next 8 hours. I felt shame that I couldn’t make the transition smoother. for my kid and nanny.
That morning, I was running late for an important lecture and noticed dried milk on my blouse, crayon drawings on my pants, and coffee that I had spilled on myself getting out my car in the parking garage. To make it worse, I took a peek in a car window and realized I hadn’t taken off my makeup from the day before. Yep, nasty mom! Didn’t hav
Madeline manifesting a tantrum after I tell her it’s time for mama to go to school.
e time to take a shower. Washing my face had slipped my mind sometime between making dinner and cleaning up breakfast. That’s when I lost it. I smelled like a spit up rag and looked like a worn out clown. I sneaked in the lecture hall 30 minutes late, put my bags down, and found a stall in an upstairs bathroom and locked myself in and cried.
There is something therapeutic about sitting on the toilet with your pants on and letting your frustrations out. As I cried in the stall, I made the choice to let go of the shame because if I didn’t, I was going to drown in it at Duke. I needed support. I needed some mom friends – who, if they didn’t know what I was going through, maybe they could give me advice on what to do better.
So I stopped asking (to myself), “If you know about my imperfections, will you still want to be my friend?” every time I was around the moms who had it all together.
The mom mentioned above who ‘had it all together’, well, I started sitting by her and conversing with her on anything from school stuff, family, Jesus, and food. Turns out the more I opened up about my flaws as a full-time student and mom, the more we found out we had in common. BECAUSE WE ARE FLAWED and just because we aren’t perfect moms and have it all together, doesn’t mean we are any less worthy of a connection (or bad moms!).
A perfectly FLAWED family watching the Duke Blue Devils play basketball at Cameron Stadium in January 2017.
I almost missed out on a wonderful blooming friendship because of shame that was weighing me down. This friend and her family are an important link in my support system in North Carolina. My daughter almost missed out on playing weekly with one of her best friends having another because of my shame. My family almost missed out on having another family here in Durham to hang out with because I was too afraid to be vulnerable.
No one ever says, thank goodness for my shame. But I have said so many times, thank you God for letting me let go of that shame.