Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Crimes of the Past

These past few days I've had synchronicity about shame and alcoholism.

I read Doctor Sleep, Stephen King's sequel to The Shining.  In the book, Dan Torrance is a recovering alcoholic. His sponsor urges him to spill his guts, conveying the message that a kept secret might one day lead to a drink.  Dan finds it very hard to open up about a certain incident in his past, because he feels so guilty about it. 

On my episodes of Neighbours this week, Sonya, another recovering alcoholic, is being harassed by a mysterious angry person who reveals Sonya's secrets via letters to Ramsey Street residents.

I don't remember all of Sonya's secrets, but there were a few that stood out. A) she broke her sister's arm. B) She stole money from her own son.

B is not that shocking coming from someone with a past substance abuse problem. 

The broken arm thing is bad. But even good people go a bit violent at times...especially when drugs are involved.  I think if someone feels remorse, shows remorse, doesn't repeat the behavior, and makes positive changes to their life, the bad action can and should be forgiven.  

In the past, going to her meetings made Sonya feel very safe and played a large part in her recovery. But now she's worried that it's someone from her meetings that is spreading hatred about her. No longer feeling safe and unable to rely on that avenue of support, Sonya almost starts drinking again.

Mark Brennan comes to the rescue in a lovely heart-warming scene that made me cry.  He gets the Ramsey Street folks to pay Sonya a visit. Since they now know the shameful stuff from her past, it is only fair to make things even. They write down their secrets and put them in envelopes; then hand them to Sonya. She's very touched and grateful. In private, she tells Mark that she isn't going to actually read the secrets. The gesture of trust and kindness is enough.

Later I was thinking it would be a great dark twist if she did read the letter, and the secrets made Sonya's seem like small potatoes.  

I pictured Sonya opening these letters and seeing things like:

I drown kittens and puppies.  

That special ingredient in the coffee, everyone loves, is my pee and little crumbles of my shit. 

I put razor blades in chocolate bars.

I used to have sex with my sister.

I sell drugs to primary students. 

I pick up women at the local petrol station and keep them prisoner in my attic.  

I'm in a romantic sexual relationship with a ceramic pig.  

We all have our secrets, but that's not to say they're all equal in terms of shock value.

When I have these synchronicity things, I imagine the universe is TRYING to send me a message.

So, today I've been trying to figure that out.

Is it that we should blurt out our secrets so we can make other people feel better about their own? Sometimes this is a good idea. It can work really well—be a great bonding experience, but only when there's some amount of equality to the confessions.  It's not so great for one person to say, I robbed a bank a few years ago and shot a guy. And then the other person says, Well, when I was six I accidentally stole a piece of bin candy. I meant to put it in the basket, but forgot. Then I left the store. I didn't return it, and I've felt so guilty ever since.  

Sometimes people truly don't have the same level of past crimes. In other cases, another person refuses to share theirs.

Here's an example.  Let's say you have a friend and you've actually heard them say racist things. Maybe a joke. Maybe they made a slur when angry. Maybe they made a comment that shows they think their own particular ethnic group is superior. Then one day, you're having a deep confessional type discussion and admit that every so often you have a racist thought. Your friend shakes their head in disapproval and says. Well, I'm not racist at all. I'm color blind. We're all brothers and sisters on this planet earth and until everyone thinks this way, we'll never have peace.

After thinking about the above, I decided the universe wasn't sending me the message that we should all share our secrets. Or at least, if it WAS sending me that message, I disagree with it.

I think the lesson I'm going to take from this is that whether we confess them or not, we all have stuff from our past that makes us feel bad.  I tried to think of what I'd put in my letter to Sonya if I lived on Ramsey Street. At first I felt a bit high and mighty because I couldn't think of anything that substantial. But then I remembered. I definitely have something. I have felt a lot of shame about it through the years...more so in the past, but even now, years later, I feel twinges of guilt, every so often.  

And shit. Now I'm thinking of another thing. 

If I was feeling generous, I'd put both in my letter to Sonya. 

The thing is, though. When I thought about the thing that I have felt most ashamed of, it seems somewhat small compared to Sonya's secrets.  But why did I feel so forgiving and understanding towards Sonya's secrets, but through the years I have been so less generous with myself?

You know...I guess the message I got from the universe is that I need to accept that I'm human and make mistakes like all other humans. I need to truly forgive myself. I need to stop feeling that I should have a blemish free past.  

What we are in the present is what matters most. 

And....if we're doing shit in the present? Well, in the future, it will be our past. We can keep working on being better.