Parker Palmer says, in his book Let Your Life Speak, “No punishment anyone might inflict on me could possibly be worse that the punishment I inflict on myself by conspiring in my own diminishment.”
My woodshed is well designed, artfully appointed with the faces of those whose voices I will forever need to quell, and although visited less often now than times past, I occasionally find myself within its walls.
For me, it’s the early morning half awake/half asleep times when the voices of bygone times slip through that dratted chink in the armor. Woodshed stuff, where I add my “woulda, shoulda, coulda” voice to the strident chorus. Before I know it, I’m singing in cockeyed harmony, doing a pretty good job at ass kicking…my own. Here I conspire in my own diminishment. It’s downright awful.
These are the times when the ripple effect, the consequences, of decisions made decades ago lap at my feet. They were necessary. They were protective. Yet, they cross generations, despite my fervent desire for them not to. I hate it when that happens. Because when ugly comes to one you love, one you’d lay your life down for, the chink in the armor opens quickly to poke at a bruise to your heart.
Beyond the lapping of this particular concern, beyond my sense of risk about it, and the distance disagreement sometimes brings, comes the woodshed. Normally, I’m pretty good at laying down angst with conscious thought. Fairly disciplined at compartmentalizing, acknowledging an issue and promising to take it back up when I can give it focus.
Laying down angst is necessary to thrive after child abuse, or any abuse. It’s as much art as it is science. When an old voice or pattern asserts, learn to recognize it. When you’ve identified who or what diminished you in some way, lay it down. Set it aside. Each time you do, you strengthen that pattern in your brain. This discipline requires conscious, thoughtful practice, and takes time. Be gentle with yourself as you master this new skill. Healing takes persistence, and you want to thrive, not just survive.
I have done many things imperfectly in my life. Sometimes that imperfection impacted those I love. For those times, I have regret. But a journey, the continuum of a life, needs acknowledgement, understanding, and more than a little grace; an “atta girl!” for intent and perseverance, imperfect though the implementation may have been.
When you discover yourself inside your own woodshed, you’ll see the door unlocks from the inside. Open it, step outside, and walk away. It’s a glorious day out there.