I am no stranger to long nights—really long nights. Between several unshakable bouts of insomnia, paralyzingly vivid night terrors, and rehearsed dances with alcohol—and, in the past, the occasional drug of choice—I know them well.
Over the years, the nighttime has become the greatest friend I wish I never had.
In the past year, these lengthy nights have become very few and far between. There was something about turning 28 that worked for me. Things started to make a tiny bit more sense. The mornings didn't seem as cruel and my peers weren't all out to get me any longer.
It took 28 years for my seed of self-love to experience the awe of its first sprout.
So, to my current dismay, I recently decided to surprise myself with one of these old kind of nights. And it knocked me on my ASS. Literally.
The day began innocently enough: Brunch with girlfriends at Basic Bitch Central. No, that's not actually the name of the restaurant but every city has one. You know, the one with the hour long patio wait, tables covered in bottomless mimosas, OH MAH GAWDs fill the air, bruschetta and cheese plates are the centerpieces, and there are enough Michael Kors bags to make Michael want to change his own name? Yeah, that one.
I love being basic with girlfriends over cheap champagne and over-priced paninis. It's our girl-given right.
Since brunch was so fabulous, I decided I didn't want the fun to end. I met my boyfriend at our local watering hole where I was going to have one or two beers with the guys. Well, after the third, my boyfriend sweetly reminded me that we still had responsible adult things to do that day.
But I wasn't really feeling all that responsible or adult-y, so, I told him to go ahead without me—my party was not over and he was NOT going to end it. I had no room for party-poopers in my company. See you later, alligator. I proceeded to cross my arms like the 3-year-old I am and watch him leave while I waited for my next beer to arrive.
Once that one arrived, I went ahead and put my next one on deck. I was going all out, damn it. I was going to SHOW him. I was going to have all the fun and he was not allowed to be a part of any of it. I even told him that I would find my own ride home because I was obviously being an independent woman. Don't worry about ME—I got this.
Now, let's go ahead and fast forward to when my boyfriend pulls up to the curb to come get me because his friend called him and told him I was sick. And, I was. Apparently a few pieces of bruschetta and half of a panini can't hold up to an entire day turned into night of booze. Oopsie daisy.
So, I flop into his vehicle and grumble about how unhappy I am to see him. He just sort of laughs because, let's be real, at this point it's pretty amusing. I give him the silent treatment the rest of the way home, he helps me into bed, brings me a cup of water (which I inhale), and I finally lay down. Before I start snoring, I call him an asshole and proceed to pass out.
Can I just bring to attention for a moment how classy and mature I am feeling right about now? YEP.
The dreaded morning arrives. I am convinced mornings like these are just about the worst kind out there. My head is pounding, my throat has been replaced by the Sahara Desert, and I am trying to remember why I thought it would be a good idea to sleep with only one shoe on.
Let's just say I've had prettier mornings.
I talk to my boyfriend in hopes that he can help fill in the many blanks of the night. He does. And with every detail my heart aches a little more. I have not heard about this girl's escapades in quite awhile. And I don't recall inviting her back into my life to experience some more. She just showed up—unannounced and, certainly, unwelcome.
I hang up the phone, grip my pillow tightly and curl into myself.
You see, I have always had this routine when nights like those turn into mornings like these. I call it The Shame Game and, Oh my goodness, it is SO. MUCH. FUN. All you have to do to play is dredge up every memory of every awful, bad, or icky feeling thing that you've ever done in your life, and then put them on repeat in your mind. You then highlight the worse moments AND you get to introduced new ones from the previous night!
It is AWESOME and it makes you feel SO GOOD about yourself.
But something happened this time when I went to make my first move in the game of shame:
I stopped myself. I stopped because I started to thinking about something. Something that had the power to distract my thoughts from themselves. I started thinking about this blog. I started thinking about me—MY writing. And then I started thinking about YOU.
What would I say to a friend, or even a stranger, that was feeling this overwhelming need to torture herself with her own thoughts?
I sat up and brought my knees to my chest and stared out my window-shame. I write about not being perfect. I write about why that's OK. I write about loving yourself and—most importantly—I write about forgiving yourself. Again and again and again. You do not get a certain amount of forgiveness for yourself. You are allowed to forgive yourself infinity times infinity times—you MUST.
That's what I would tell someone to do if they found themselves in this desperate position.
I would tell them to get up, drink some water, take a long shower—cry in the shower if you need to but leave the tears in that drain, comb your hair, put on a fresh shirt and FORGIVE yourself. Because messy hearts have the same right to be worn on clean sleeves.
Every time a cruel thought starts to creep in, shut it out by interrupting it with the words forgive yourself—command it! Whisper it if you must, speak it into life, scream it if you have to, but just keep doing it. It's the only thing that has ever successfully put an end to such an awful mental game.
Forgiving yourself is the only way out. It's the only way through the darkness. It's the hardest and most rewarding thing you will ever have to do but—if you desire to be freed from the chains of self-loathing—you will do it. Again and again and again.
Because it is not you that should be shamed. It is shame itself. SHAME should be ASHAMED.
There is no room for that shit in your relationship with yourself. You do not have the right to punish yourself if you are trying to love yourself. It just doesn't work that way.
So, make room for love. Own up to your wrongdoings. Address them. Apologize for them, meant it and MOVE on. Learn and grow because you have weaknesses—it will make you strong.
And if anyone tries to dig up what you have already buried—what you have already forgiven—then the shame is on them. Because only you can decide if there is any shame in your game. Only you can make the choice to live a life that is hopeful because it is shameless.