In general I consider myself an extremely honest person. I don't hold much back. I express my opinions pretty openly except in rare scenarios. I struggle with emotional vulnerability as much as the next person but in general I'm honest. But not long ago I came to the realization that I simply wasn't being honest about some parts of my life.
I've done a lot of therapy work and learned there's two different types of things we don't share, those that are secret and those that are private. Secrets we don't share from what I call our 'shame motivators' we shouldn't be this way or have done this thing or have this struggle so we don't share. Private things we don't share because we have decided this is personal and valued and treasured and sacred. It's an important process to learn what is secret and what is private.
I tend to be a rather bull-headed, stubborn person. I'm Irish, yep. It's one of my endearing qualities. Well perhaps not. But it is part of my enduring qualities, if I were not as stubborn and fierce as I am, my children and I would be in a far worse situation than we are at this juncture and I am thankful for that. My stubborn, fierce nature also has allowed me to create fences, boundaries and walls around my life in an effort to protect my family. Those were necessary, essential for survival. Some of them are still necessary and essential for survival. They help me discern what is private and what is not, who to let in and who to not, what to share and what to not.
Nevertheless, some of those boundaries became blurred because the person who made them (me) began relying on them because she was ashamed not because she needed to keep things sacred. I have held tightly, in a zombielike death grip, to the private daily nature of my personal financial struggles. I. DO. NOT. SHARE. THAT. WITH. ANYONE.
At first this decision came from a place of ownership and health. When my ex and I separated 2.5 years ago, I went from stay at home mom land to single motherhood land in the course of 3 hours. The weight of providing for my family hit me like a ton of bricks. I had no idea what I was going to do. I had been out of the working world for 8 years. I had next to no marketable skill that I was aware of and my children were 6, 5, and 2. I was scared to death. I was convinced I would never be able to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.
In a very typical, stubborn Shannon fashion, I put my head down and set about figuring it the fuck out. And in the time that has passed some hard ass shit has gone down. I'm not sure I can ever adequately describe the absolute panic I have experienced over not having enough gas money to drive my sick child to the doctor or the depth of the sense of personal failure I have had when not being able to buy groceries. I can not put into words the sense of desperation this mother has felt at knowing I'm down to my last $7 and having no idea where the next $7 will come from or when it will come.
But while all of those things are tragic, what is perhaps equally as tragic is that I almost never tell anyone when things are that bad. I especially don't tell certain people. I craft blog posts that make it look like that's the way I used to live, when in reality, that's exactly how the last two months have been for me. I make excuses for why I can't do things that cost money instead of being honest and saying "I don't have money for that." Ultimately, I have used boundaries as excuses for dishonesty. I tell myself, it's no one else's job to fix this but me, so no one else needs to hear about it but me. I have isolated myself from those that can support me emotionally and while the financial stress takes its toll, being alone in it is so much worse.
But recently in an almost accidental fashion, I told someone I love how bad things were for me. As soon as I started the conversation and I began to walk down the path of sharing panic surged through me, failure and shame threatened to drown me if I continued to speak honestly and within mere minutes of opening my mouth I was following it up with phrases like "It's not your job to fix this" and "I don't want your pity" also "I'm sorry I don't know why I told you that."
I wish I could tell you immense freedom has followed in the days that have passed since I told the truth. I wish I could tell you I'm not walking around feeling ashamed and like a failure and panicked this week, but those would all be lies. What has happened instead?
I've told the truth a few more times when people have asked me. "So how are you making it?" I have said "I'm not, I can barely keep food on the table." I have watched their discomfort at hearing me speak the truth and sat with our mutual discomfort and wondered maybe this is why I don't tell them. I've found a safe friend who can't help and I don't mind telling how bad things because he knows what it's like to solely often barely provide for your children. But to be honest sharing with him can be a cop out. It doesn't cost me any risk. Although it does lighten my burden emotionally, a huge benefit.
Part of the reason I don't tell people is because of pride, that stubborn Irish girl that inhabits this body doesn't want anyone to think she's asking for help. God forbid she be labeled as asking for a handout. She would rather die than be viewed that way. It kills me every time my parents help me and they're my parents, I can sort of jump through some mental hoops of making that ok. But beyond them, I. just. can't. even.
I have begun to see just what an emotional disaster this stress makes of me. I have begun to see just how edgy and jumpy I get. I have begun to see that I can't do school work when I'm like this. I have begun to see just how small my world shrinks because all I can think about is how to get the next thing I need for my family. I have begun to see that the way I'm handling this is wrecking my life.
So I'm praying for the grace to speak truthfully from now on. I'm praying for the grace to say to those in my inner circle, "I'm sorry but until I figure out where the groceries are coming from this week I can't listen to your romance saga. I care about you but I have to take care of my family right now."
This all feels like walking around wearing sandpaper for clothing.