No Walk of Shame

Tonight was the last Third Thursday of the year, in downtown Joplin, and my first time to attend in 2016. Four of us from the book club met and strolled together up and down Main Street, enjoying the cool weather and the many interesting sights and sounds. 


It was the perfect end to a busy day, and a beautiful culmination for me, of a time of reflection…about my body and shame. There’s a reason tonight was my first visit this year to Third Thursday. This is a walking event, and I haven’t been able to walk well. 

As I was free writing this morning, I realized I have carried shame about my body, and in particular, my left leg, for a long time. It is very common for women, especially, to feel shame toward their bodies. We perceive ourselves as too fat, too thin, too tall, too short. We don’t like so many things about ourselves, and when we don’t like how we look, we tend to dislike the way other women look as well. 


After the car accident 21 years ago, I attached shame to my body for her failure to heal. I hurt. I walked differently. I limped. I struggled. And the struggle was real, and noticeable. I glanced behind me a few years ago, to see my little granddaughter lurching along the sidewalk. “What are you doing, Aubrey?” I asked. “Walking like you, Yaya” was her innocent reply. 

And climbing stairs was painful on several levels. Watching me ascend has elicited many startled mutters of “You poor thing” from sympathetic family members and clients. I resented my messed up nerves and muscles. I was ashamed to be broken. 

But something began to shift two years ago. I settled more into myself. I became more present with myself, more aware of my body, in a positive way. Those who followed the blog during my trip to Scotland in August 2014 may remember that I strove to see the good and the powerful in my body, rather than the weak and defective. I looked for ways to express gratitude for the incredible way my body supported me and sheltered my soul. I praised my left leg continually, calling her Darling affectionately. 


I believe that shift set me on a path that has led me to this healing journey. As I accepted myself more and more, I deepened the connection to my body, and lessened the shame. When my Darling left leg failed further late last year, and the Sweetheart right leg seemed destined to follow this year, rather than giving up, rather than shaming myself, I looked deep within for an answer. And I listened. That desire to heal, that listening to the still small voice, sparked Divine intervention and guidance, leading me to Anthony William, and a different way of eating. It has also raised my awareness of what my body now needs to be its healthiest best. 

Tonight, I walked along Main from 3rd Street to 7th and back to 2nd, before returning with my group to our starting point another block away. It wasn’t a huge distance. Yet, six months ago, at the first Third Thursday, I couldn’t have walked even half that distance without great pain. 

This evening I walked…easily, comfortably…without pain, without a cane and without a limp. And most gratefully, I walked without shame. 

Journey 319: Out of Shame

Today was “date” day, as suggested in the book The Artist’s Way, where I take my inner artist, my creative child, on an excursion. I have really enjoyed these solitary outings, as opportunities to encourage and have fun with my artistic side. 

  
I came up with an idea for a date yesterday, but this morning, I felt unsure. I had something I needed to do this afternoon. As if placating a reluctant child, I talked up the date to my inner artist. “It will be fun, right? We can do this and I can take care of that, deal?” No deal. This morning I checked the Connect2Culture Facebook page, scrolling through art opportunities available in Joplin today. One grabbed my attention. Titled Family Secrets: The Storytelling Artwork of Steve Head, this exhibit was featured at Joplin Avenue Coffee Company downtown. 

I was immediately intrigued. Steve and I are Facebook friends and we play Words with Friends together online. I’ve never met Steve but I feel like I know him because of our connection. I kept that idea foremost in my mind for my afternoon outing. 

  
And then the magic happened, as has been the case the past three weeks. After considering the exhibit as a possibility for my date with myself, I read the chapter for Week Three in The Artist’s Way, Recovering a Sense of Power. Julia immediately goes into the emotion of Anger (I want to explore this further before sharing) and the wonders of Synchronicity. I live with constant synchronicities, otherwise known as coincidences. Today was synchronous! I’ve written before and will again about how these amazing events guide my journey. 

  
The last emotion Julia wrote about was Shame. She says, “Those of us who get bogged down by fear before action are usually being sabotaged by an older enemy: shame.” She goes on to say that making art may feel a lot like telling a family secret. Wait a minute.  

Back I went to the info about Steve Head’s exhibit, Family Secrets. I opened a link and read more. Steve shares that his show features work about his own family and childhood. He tells his story through the use of mixed media and digital collage that incorporates vintage black and white photos of his family. Steve’s family history has members who suffered from poverty, alcoholism and mental illness. 

  
Steve wrote that for most of his life he carried a huge void in his heart, where love and nurturing during his childhood should have been. And a soul full of SHAME for who he thought he was and what happened to him in his family. His healing came as he acknowledged the shame and overcame it. His art, now on exhibit, allowed him to bring the pain he experienced into the light. Reading that, seeing that it dealt with shame, I knew the exhibit was my destination for the afternoon. 

  
They were beautiful, the pieces of art, and poignant. Joplin Avenue Coffee Company was strangely quiet when I arrived, although it filled up as I was leaving. I had time to savor a cup of hot tea while I studied the displayed works of art. I asked Steve’s permission, via messaging, to take pics of his art and write about his exhibit in my blog. He graciously granted it. I have those pics interspersed throughout the post. 

His piece Lost and Found tells the story of his grandmother, Mary. I stood before it the longest, looking at the collage and reading her story on the card below. It is a sad tale. Steve doesn’t try to hide that. Instead he gently sheds light on her story, one of a painful life that ended in an Oklahoma mental hospital. Mary’s journey was shrouded, until Steve uncovered it. Redemption for both of them comes through his marvelous creative expression. 

  
I was contemplative as I drove away. My family did not shame me. The shame I felt as a young child arose around my nighttime fears, and the fact that my crying at night disturbed my parents. I’m the one who decided that my tears bothered my mom and dad. I chose not to cry anymore. The shame I’ve felt my whole life around weeping is because I didn’t want to bother anyone. 

I spoke aloud in the car, “Little Cindy…Little One…it’s okay…” That’s all I managed to say before emotion closed off my throat. But I sent the four year old within soundless words of love and grace and acceptance. At last I finished with a whisper, “…it’s okay to cry. There’s no shame in being afraid. You can cry and it won’t bother anyone.” I know she was listening. 

  
Steve’s exhibit, Family Secrets, is on display at Joplin Avenue Coffee Company until Novembet 29. He has art at Spiva Center for the Arts as well and at Rose Gallery on N Range Line. Many pieces are for sale. Check out his art and future events at www.facebook.com/head2art and stop by the coffee shop this Tuesday morning, 9:00-10:30, for an artist talk and meet and greet.