I haven’t read a work of literature that wasn’t assigned to me in…maybe a decade.
But you wouldn’t know that from looking at my bookshelves.
Let me revise that statement. I haven’t FINISHED a work of literature that wasn’t assigned to me in a decade. As it turns out, I realized halfway through my undergraduate English Major, that I’m more a social-science girl. I would always tell students and colleagues I was a Social Studies teacher in the guise of an English teacher. Literature, for me, was just a vehicle for studying the human condition.
In truth, I don’t want a fictionalized study of human behavior. I want case studies. Ethnographies. Freakonomics. No shame in that. Nothing like a little Malcolm Gladwell before bed…except I can’t READ Malcolm Gladwell before bed.
My brain over-reacts to even the smallest grain of inspiration. I’m an avid annotater. Put anything in front of me, and I will talk back in the margins. Don’t let me read the constitution with a pen in my hand or I’ll be all, “Great point Jefferson,” along the edges.
I’ve come to believe that if you were to map the thought patterns of my brain you would never find a right angle. If train of thought is a line, mine is rainforest tangle of interconnected ideas, theories, concepts, intuitions. Tug on one vine and the forest quakes.
It’s not very restful.
When I was young, I used to lie in bed for hours, my monkey mind leaping from one thought, one possibility, one moment to the next. I think it is one of the reasons I was (am?) afraid of the dark. It’s a lonely place when your mind is swinging.
So while I love social-science in the well-lit day, at night, when I’m desperate to tip-toe into sleep, only two genres lead me there:
- Dystyopian Young Adult Fiction, and
- Paranormal Romance
This Lent, it’s Archangels.
Several weeks ago when I knew I’d be writing for Lent, this blog post was the first to pop into my mind. 34 days in, I’ve finally worked up the courage to write about it.
And that’s shame for you.
I don’t remember the first time someone articulated the difference between guilt and shame. Feelings of guilt emerge when you feel you have wronged someone else. Feelings of shame emerge when you feel you have wronged yourself. It exists in those dark untidy corners within that we dim, lock up, even dry-wall over.
I don’t do guilt, really. I find it easier to face and fix. If I’ve wronged someone, I’ve become practiced in seeking forgiveness. Working to make it right.
My relationship with shame is more complicated.
Growing up in a faith that, as a Tibetan Monk pointed out, is rife with sin, it seemed an impossible thing to avoid. Even though to anyone who observed my early life, they might wonder where there could possibly be room for shame amidst church three days a week, no parties, no drugs, no alcohol, and boyfriends with similar affinities and aversions.
But somehow there’s always room for shame.
I have often wondered, too, if only-children are particularly vulnerable to the secretiveness that allows shame to take root. After all, there was no one to rat us out. No one to expose our little deceptions. It’s easier to hide things from parents than siblings, I suspect.
This brings me back to my truth tellers. All most closest friends have slowly given me the courage to turn on and turn up the lights in even the darker spaces of myself. They have figured out that when you send postcards about your “Vacation from Life” the scars become conversation pieces. When you tell stories of your park bench prejudices, they become an invitation to revision. That when you read out-loud from vampire romance, you can simultaneously free your id and MOCK your id.
I don’t love reading books…but I love reading people.
When it comes to them, there is no story I won’t finish. None too grim, too dark, too long, too strange, to confusing.
None too radiant.
And if their dark chapters don’t scare me none…why should mine?