Freedom in my shame

“The first hurdle is recognising that a lot of what I instinctively want to do is driven by shame or wanting to avoid shame…”

(A reader’s comments from my last post)

Location, Amsterdam.

High off legal herbs and overdosed on toxic beverages, we made our way over a canal—the only serene spot in town.

Amsterdam stays pretty much awake even after the sun has gone to bed. Crowds from a rainbow of nations descend upon the eclectic range of bars and “coffee” shops in the city centre, doping into the early hours of the morning, and with fluorescent strobes of red light darting across each street corner—a glorious sight—you’d barely notice it getting dark. One thing I love in particular about the city, is its liberalism; this unifying sense of freedom shared amongst locals and travelers alike, to just be.

As we staggered through a narrow walkway a young guy in his teens caught our eye. But for the freckles and a mop of red hair, he resembled Ed Sheeran—acoustic guitar in hand, shaggy clothing and a grand total of three groupies prancing around to egg him on.

Before I even had the chance to defend myself, one fan grabbed me, cuffing my hands forcefully like an American cop, as another began to pour the bitter contents of a random vodka bottle down my throat. I tried to resist arrest. Honestly, I did, but for fear of my life I surrendered, and drank. The third barely noticed me, let alone my breach of human rights. She simply shrugged, swaying from side to side, under the trance of fake-Ed’s abysmal rendition of Evergreen.

I eventually pulled myself away, flattened my collar and ran; my wrists intact though aching, my liver pronouncing curses over my tongue. In my exodus from Egypt, I found myself lost in a dessert once again; amongst a bunch of older ladies this time. They all wore the same cheap white top, the face of a pretty blonde girl hung centre, just above the navel.  She was a part of the group too, lost in the middle, the overtly smug one, a pinkish looking cocktail of some sort in hand—her hen doo.

The fun continued, but I’ll end it there. They say what happens in Dam, stays in Dam, right? So I’ll leave the rest to imagination.

Back to London; fully detoxed, on the sober road to recovery, back at normal.  In fact, as I write this, I’m squirming for a slice of fresh air, squashed into a tight corner of a central line, top button undone, tie loosened; one hand, being scornfully auto-corrected for the countless typos I’m making on my iPhone, the other clinging to a pole for dear life. Personal space a myth, as close as we’ll ever be, yet nobody has muttered a word. Typical Brits, guarded; each to themselves—me, my paper and I.

Story of my life. That First born, Christian son. The “example”. The emotionally unavailable one who attempts to remain composed at all times, playing my cards close to my chest, rarely giving much away.

Why? I don’t want to be exposed.

At least I look like I’ve got my shit together, sometimes.

But in reality have I? Inside, I’m often a shipwreck, sailor and entire crew abandoned ship, lost. I’ve just found a way to hide it all these years. Concealed behind the contouring regimes I picked up from YouTube and the fashion tips I learnt from Adam and Eve.

Somehow, I very much doubt that their biggest troubles arose from the bite of an apple, but more so down the fact that they felt so exposed afterwards, the need for them to immediately clothe their nakedness, to hide their shame. And the real shame is that we haven’t moved on much further since, still wearing fig leaves to hide those “private” parts today.

Take the scandalous shame of my thirty year old mate for example. She’s unmarried and has no kids, disgraceful.

“My parents are just appalled,” she says. “And that’s all my aunties ever talk about. When are we ‘aving gran’ shildren?

“Really?” I chuckle, knocking back my latte in between breaths. Then the frown on her face grows fists that box me right back to my senses. I rephrase. “Oh, yes. I see.”

Gran’ Shildren? At least pronounce the t’in’ properly! I wanted to tell her to shut up. Harsh maybe, but really? She has no fiancé, let alone a boyfriend or anything close to a vibrator, yet she is entertaining such talks with outdated grey haired folk. Because, of course, they will be there. They will even be the ones to push the ten pound pikin out for her?  Please, I beg—die. Them, not her.

Jokes aside, this is just one of plenty examples, of the pressures we all face, down to shame. I blame that little motivational speaking demon that sits in the lower regions of your gut, constantly demanding of you—to be somebody, to do something, to have someone.

And so the real us often ends up getting clothed under the latest high street trend of some sort. Today it’s marriage, a 15-plate car or that boring (though well paid and somewhat prestigious) profession that makes Daddy so proud. Tomorrow it will be something else—as long as it’s black. Simply keeping up appearances, just to keep that demon and his comrades (aka everybody else’s) mouth shut.

I often wonder what life would be like if we all adopted the shameless, free-spirited approach of the Dam’ians, and relaxed a little? Yes, maybe we’d all burn in hell, eventually. But at least we’d die, dignified.

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