A Witness Through the Window – Entry 16

This trip will be a little different today –
This will take us around the world and back again, from youth to the present. To be clear, I think this trip was necessary for me. I think this will help us build some understanding between us about why we say things and why people lie.

I can remember the first time I ever heard the quote, “Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.” This comes from Mark Twain.
The quote continues, “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.”
I think I get it.

Now, it is not my place to say whether this is true of man or woman nor is it my place to degrade humans or animals. However, I can say that shame is an amazing source of motivation.
It’s why we lie. It’s why we embellish our truths. It’s why we pad our stories with interesting tastes of fabrication. More accurately, this is why insecurity can misguide us on so many occasions. 
This is also the grease which spins the gears in the rumor factories and the gossip mills. This is where the need to be relevant comes from too. It’s shame. And shame is a bitch!

I remember there was a person in school who used to tell people incredible lies about owning certain cars and having famous relatives – and wait, let’s not pretend that at one point or another; everyone has told a tale about themselves. Everyone has exaggerated once or twice and, to them, the story might even be true – even if its not true. 

By now, I have several journals about experiences and emotions, feelings, and mistakes. In each one, I made myself a promise not to paint a picture that was dressed up with pride, inaccurate or untrue. 

I say this because at one point, I was that person. I was so stricken by intimidation and insecurity that I had to dress myself up in pretty lies. I did this to decorate my truths and to appear more desirable. To be cool or more acceptable. I do this still sometimes; only, now I call this politics because the working world is also a bitch. In fairness, the working world is no different from the divisions of popularity which separated us on the playground.

Why is this?
Why do we cover our personalities with an appearance or likeness to something which is other than who we really are?
Why is it that who we are is not good enough as it is?
Where does this come from?

Somewhere are these messages we keep and hold them sacred yet these interpretations of who we think we are – and these ideas about who we believe we should be – or how we think we are perceived are really nothing more than distortions of the mind. It’s all a lie.

Take a look back to that little kid sitting in the lunchroom at school.
See him sitting over there? That’s me.
That’s my bowl-cut hairstyle, which was probably bigger than my body.
Notice how I am the smallest at the table.
Or, at least, this is my interpretation.
See how, in my estimation, somehow my lack of size and physical difference is equal to the idea that I am somehow less-then or less-worthy?

Or wait, let’s walk outside for a second.
Let’s take all of the kids outside and let them run around.
Now, look over there?
There’s a big red ball for the kids to play with. We can play any sport. We can play soccer. We can play a game of kickball – whichever game, it doesn’t matter.
But first, we have to pick teams. 

Let’s take the two biggest or strongest kids.
We will make them captains and now we will let them pick teams.
Who do you think they will pick first? Are they going to pick the fastest?
Are they going to pick in size order?
Or will they pick according to their perception of athletic ability?
Of course, they will.

Are you picturing this?
Imagine this is in the back of an elementary school. There’s a great big field in the back of the school. The grass is green and the sky above is as blue as can be. It is springtime and the warm weather has come along to show kindness and thaw the world from its winter’s crust. 

Picture the class of students. Think of the kids and give them faces.
Give them names if you want and think about this.
Think about the kids who were picked first and why.
Think about the order in this process of selection – first by ability and next by degrees of popularity. And then what?
Who’s left?
The refused, that’s who.
Can you imagine how this translates to a person?
In fact, nobody wants to be this person.

There are phases in life that we go through, which lead us up until now where, at last, I can see why man or woman is the only animal who blushes.
I can see where the need to survive and the need to be valid comes into play. I can see where, why and how character assassinations are used as a formative tool; to develop into series of cancellations – to keep us valid, and to keep us from the threat of losing our place in line or a spot on the team.

What does it mean to blush or to redden our face with embarrassment or shame?
Why is this “a thing” and why is it that we struggle to be exactly as we are, in fear of judgment or scrutiny?

I was never picked last and yet, I was never picked first either.
I was somewhere in the middle, which is less than being a consolation prize yet this is not far from the ideas that perhaps, I am not as good.
See that?
See that right there?
“Not as good.”
Here. enters the translation and hence, here’s where shame comes around.

There is an incredible lie which is taught and told; in which case, we listen and we learn and then we formulate our lives in ways to accommodate our discomforts through discounts and measures of quick-fixes and instant gratification. 

We lose sight of the long-term picture and live in the short-term discomforts of the moment (AKA The Now) and we mistake our sudden troubles for an idea that somehow, we can placate this with a mistruth – or that by satisfying the moment, we lose sight that the moment is only a finite instance and that in fact, one instant has an ability to shake the details of everything that follows afterwards.
Or . . .
Then we get caught. Then we blush.
Then we feel bad. Then we apologize.
But ah, what are we sorry for?
Is it that we felt shame?
Are we sorry for what we’ve done?
Or, are we sorry that we got caught?
These are honest and valid questions.

I think about the banter that goes on between people. I think about the ridiculous lies we tell or the way people slander each other.
I think about this and shake my head because the fight is as old as time.
Then I think about a shirt I once saw someone wearing, which said, The more people I meet, the more I love my dog.

And to be honest, I get it. 
We are a strange society. 

There are times when I wonder if I have outgrown the old lessons of the time I was laughed at in second grade because I had an accident and peed my pants in the lunchroom.

I remember the sound of laughter from the other kids and I can remember the feeling of shame – but worse were the pants they made me wear from the nurse’s office. Purple corduroys. There is absolutely nothing cool about purple corduroys. I reacted with shame; therefore, I was admonished by shame.

There are times when I am faced with people in higher positions at work and there are times when I give into the positional biases or to the intimidations of someone’s role. I can see how the curse of the purple corduroys comes into play.

But what if . . .
What if I would have laughed it off at school?
Would the kids have kept picking on me?
If I were to say, hey, this is me. What would have happened?

Maybe nothing would have happened because there was no edge nor loose thread for people to grab or pick at.
But since there is shame, there is the need to recover and to smoothen out the flaky bits of our personality which, to us, they stick out as abnormalities. 

To destroy shame we must destroy the inaccurate fears that somehow we are not enough or that we are flawed or that God forbid, if we are not picked first or if we are picked last – we have to destroy that idea that this has the right to dictate or determine our happiness.

I often see that little boy in me.
He’s still scared of being picked on or bullied.
But don’t worry.
He and I talk every once in a while.
I let him know that I’m here.
I tell him, you are not the only one who blushes,
Or needs to.

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