Tag Archives: panic

Shame and wanting to poking out your own eye

There’s a feeling you can get, after you’ve done something horrible. It’s so bad, that you might consider poking your own eye out (if for nothing else than a viable distraction.)

My first job (besides babysitting) was as a hostess at Eat’n Park Family Restaurant. A woman about 10  years older transferred there. She had been a waitress for a long time (even a decorated one. Yes, Eat’n Park is special like that.) She also had the name “Lisa,” just like me. That’s about all the ingredients needed for good communication and lasting friendship, right? um. No.
Background:
Sometimes I’d goof off and crack jokes in passing with Lisa. No big deal. (If you know me, this is all highly typical behavior.)
WELL-
One day, like a stoke of retardedness, it came into my head to wisecrack when I noticed Lisa had a blue pen scribble on her forearm. I noticed it was actually a very sloppily rendered mark of her own name. The “L” was super long on the bottom, and not in a cursive way. It was just odd. It struck me as humorous. I already knew she had a 4 year old daughter. Her little girl had probably been playing with her waitressing pen and wrote out her mom’s name all by herself. Or maybe Lisa had done it–for a joke, or because she was bored. So, feeling my comic Einstein vibe coming on me (which is inversely proportionate to my rational thought and good judgment), I said–rather flippantly, I might ad–“Hey, what’s that on your arm? Is that so you don’t forget your name?”

Sudden. Dead. Powerful stare.
Awkward pause. I could hear a spider near the salad bar blink.
Then I noticed she had a sort of sad “How could you, you freaking jerk?” look on her tired face. (I picked up on that because I’m really good at feeling people out!)
It was a tattoo.
A horrible one.
A mistake.
Perhaps a drunk boyfriend or trashed stepdad scrawled it there. Who knows. But whatever the story was, it was part of a painful past. A past she did not want thrown in her face by some stupid and insensitive quip from a dumb teenager.
My heart froze with panic. It’s the kind of panic where you start to smell yourself. Sometimes a cold sweat mustache erupts on your lip.
Would she stab me with a steak knife?
Plan to burn me “accidentally” with a scrod entrée platter? (Wicked hot, they are!)
I fumbled around, and got out, “um… hahah… I’m just kidding.” I was trying desperately to appear nonchalant. I considered whistling a tune to prove it.
Still, she just looked at me–steadily.
“I’m sorry,” I said, getting up the nerve. It felt like a blanket of shame washed over me. Self-loathing–all over the place.
She shook it off, and went back to work. From then on I tried to be extraordinary nice to her, in every way I could think of. I bused her tables, and got her refreshing beverages, and tried to be as pleasant, and positive as I could. She didn’t hold it against me, beyond a day or so.
Once, after a 10p.m.-5 a.m. shift when my dad failed to pick me up, she even drove me home in her weary beater of a car.
I still wonder about her.
It was poke-your-eye-out shame.
I’ll never forget it.

Have you ever had “inner death by shame”? (you can just answer yes or no, unless you want to be brave and tell your story)

(Change the channel or take a walk?) “The Show About Me” (part 2)


One of the most common responses people have when they get fed up with the re-runs of living their own small show is that they try to flip to a different channel. That is, they somehow realize a kind of radical change in life is necessary, so they try to re-make themselves.

Perhaps they start a new relationship, change careers, adopt a baby, buy a vehicle or expensive toy, go back to school, get plastic surgery, switch churches, move away, or in some way try to live out a better story. You’ve probably tried it, I know I have.

Maybe a person gets into religion, or he gets away from it. Maybe they start to need anti-depressants or anti-anxeity medication. Some abuse substances or live more dangerously. Something just seems wrong–and one tries to fix it.

Plenty of the time, these efforts do bring some distraction and change, and therefore a certain kind of freedom or renewal is felt (at least for a bit); but down deep, nothing important has changed at all. After a little while, the person still feels frustrated or undone. (Or something else unpleasant.) The channel may have changed, but what is lived out is just a Spin-off of “The Show About Me”. Sadly, very few fully realize that their perceptive, and how they live out reality, is fairly the same even after a massive change. The same troubles will assail them, in some way. However, the baggage gets heavier.

Our Creator is the true center of the Show (not us). The Supreme Being is irresistibly calling out, wooing us, and our thirst deepens.

It’s a fact that when a person is too dehydrated they may actually stop craving what they truly need-water/hydration and replenishment of nutrients. They may feel tired, ill, hungry, or numb, instead of thirsty. In an ironic twist, the person doesn’t desire what will make them healthy again. It’s a perilous situation. Without help, people die this way.

This kind of confusion happens spiritually too. Often, in fact. A common (household) term often used for what turns out to be a spiritual problem like this is most often called a “midlife crisis” or sometimes an “identity crisis.” It’s common for people to get a point where they need to “find themselves,” or re-define themselves, sometimes multiple times throughout one’s life. This “want to” to change is healthy, though many times misread. An identity shift like this may happen once or several times in one’s life where a person tries hard to better one’s circumstances, and find relief.

If you haven’t enter a stage like this yourself, I’m sure you can think of someone who has. For instance, in the last 18 months seven marriages at our church have spun out of control or failed. I believe a misunderstanding of this spiritual opportunity is a big reason why.

What must happen to be truly free, and on a full path to growth? Something more like a walk has to happen rather than a small show we create. A walk with God and changing one’s perspective to surrender to God and “his” Big Show (the authentic one “Reality”) is a path few take, or attempt for all that long. It just isn’t a simple or smooth road. It is a mysterious, sometimes troubling one, where the answers are rarely simple or pat. This is the path of faith (believing in what you can’t see, but still know is quite real). Sometimes changing the channel, multiple times, seems like the only sensible thing to do. The negative part is that we only get more of the same when we do that. It’s still our story we want to control, and our story stays small and frustrating.

As many who have done the enormous personal work to recover from drugs or alcohol can attest, one usually has to hit “rock bottom,” (or be fully ready), before surrender to a new, and bigger Show occurs (a life centered in God’s Reality). It all starts by doing something very rare and counter-intuitive. It’s something we all fear: Losing control and Humbly yielding to the Higher Power, and admitting that without grace, and true dependence on God and others, a better way cannot be possible. Perhaps the scripture comes to mind, …”if you try to save your life, you’ll lose it. But if you lose your life (yourself) for my sake, you will find it…”

In contrast, we wish to be self-made.… yet, only a small show about “me” is self-made. Transformation, growth, and sturdy happiness (joy) comes instead through the bravery of surrender to the greater Reality, and taking the more treacherous but rewarding path that comes with this decision.

In part III installment on this topic, I’ll mention some things that happen once this pivotal choice is made. A person’s attitude and outlook change; and how one orders one’s life undergoes critical and unavoidable development with radical shifts in thinking, acting, and relating to others–for the better! We’re talking here about spiritual formation.

I’ll describe that a bit more, soon, in part III. Check back in the next few days and see.

This is a lot to chew on, especially if this is a new concept, and you’ve never encountered these ideas before. Some people call it “being born again”…. and in a real sense, a new life starts for the person who is ready: A whole new life begins.

…to be continued…

Reflections questions:

Have I been living my own small story?

Have I longed for a richer life, but have really only being encountering re-runs or spin offs of a short-changed Show?

What is stopping me from walking a new life?

What are your responses, insights, or thoughts on this topic?