During a recent reading, while connecting with a dog, the subject of space came up. The animal was telling me how necessary it is for their human to have space and how intrusive it feels when people don’t respect that. I had a strong knowing that this person detested when someone hovered both physically and emotionally.
Growing up I didn’t have my own space and it affected me greatly. I moved into my grandparents’ home when I was six and didn’t leave until I was twelve. It was their home, and I never for one second felt welcome. I was a stranger there, a tiny human navigating through the decimation of my parents’ relationship, an only child in need of warmth and love. Those years were monumental. My first detailed memories appear from that time and it’s where, most of all, I learned to live with shame.
The town in Long Island we lived in was full of wealth and prosperity. We were not at all affluent and I quickly found out that I would not be treated well because of this fact. Kids were really mean and cruel in a time before bullying was a buzzword and I didn’t know how to defend myself. No one intervened. When my mother went to the school to complain because a boy was constantly in my face telling me what a loser I was because my parents were divorced, the teacher actually said it was MY problem to work out. I was 9.
All I wanted was to come home from an emotionally difficult day at school and have a snack. On top of this, three days a week I had to go to religious school, and consequently I didn’t have much time to enjoy this smallest of pleasures. My grandmother hated for me to be in her kitchen if she wasn’t there to watch me and criticize every move I made. As I sat down at the table, I’d hear her telltale footsteps approaching her domain. My body would freeze and be filled with rage. I wanted more than anything to be left alone and have a moment to myself, and this woman wouldn’t even give me that. She would taunt me with how bad my table manners were, how crumbs were getting on the floor, how I needed a new napkin, that my elbows were on the table, etc… This experience among others began a pattern of deep, dark shame that invaded my nervous system and psyche, not to mention an irrational phobia of eating in front of other people.
I hated living there. I hated feeling so picked on. I hated how here I was, a kind, sensitive soul with a great sense of humor and in no way was that nurtured or appreciated. Except when I would see my father one night a week, I was constantly anxious and uncomfortable. I was desperate for peace and little did I know that a couple of years after I got out of my grandparents’ home I would be back in a similar situation for the next many years.
It has been quite a process letting this shame go. Remnants remain, but luckily, through the turns my life has taken both spiritually and emotionally, I now know that this wasn’t my fault and that I didn’t do anything wrong. It took me a long time to not only understand this but to apply it to my soul. All of this pain and lack of personal space resulted in giving me an enormous amount of empathy that I am able to use in my life and work.
Animals want us to love ourselves. They see us for who we really are and wish we would tap into that glorious potential in order to thrive. As I write this, my cat Bubby is staring at me with the most gorgeous green eyes. I have no shame in this moment.