“Ladies and gentlemen, do not be afraid of who you are.” Chogyam Trungpa said that at the beginning of a talk on Buddhism. It comes to mind now, as I work on writing an “artist statement” for an application, because for a long time I let creation be the province of others. Because I was afraid I wouldn’t be good enough, because I thought myself unworthy.
The subtlety of that misbelief was stitched to an unrelenting shame that was handed down to me. I took it up, drew my arms through it like an ill-fitted sweater and refused to take off.
When I returned to writing, I found that shame was irresistible. My entire life was falling apart. I was a new mother, my son just over 3 months old. My husband and I split. The next month, I was laid off from work. I had to leave the house I’d bought, and eventually the bank took it by trickery and foreclosure. Shame had never been more present, more palpable, more impossible to ignore.
So I wrote toward it, and discovered that shame is part of the human condition. From things acted upon us as children to the first time we are caught shoplifting candy bars and Barbie dolls to being careless with the hearts of boys as waxing teens to the failures of marriage and careers and parenting.
That realization connected me. Was a lifeline, held the rode together so that I could pull up my own anchors and plot a new course, a course where the fear of who I was (and wasn’t) no longer pinned me in place.
And so I find that shame is a recurring theme, a place I explore sometimes greedily and often with tenderness. I don’t know how to translate that into an “artist statement,” but I’ll give it a try and remember to not be afraid of who I am and that I am worthy.