Ain’t It a Shame?

“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”Brené Brown

Meditations in Motion

I recently added track workouts to my running routine. As a recent participant in the Marine Corps Marathon, I now receive a workout plan tailored just for me in my inbox each week from Coach Tom. Each week’s workouts include some speedwork, and I use it to guide my schedule.

Last week, Coach Tom suggested I do six 400-meter intervals. I did seven (of course). Plus a warm-up and cool down.

I run these intervals on a track next to our local middle school. This track is the site of fierce competitions each spring when the children who attend the four elementary schools in our district compete against each other in track and field events. I still have the ribbons my own children won when they competed.

Meditations in MotionThinking about these grade school competitions reminds me of my own primary school days and the races we ran on the playground.

When I was in first grade, I can remember idolizing an older girl, a sixth-grader named Pinky. Pinky was fast. She could beat everyone in the school, running from one end of the playground to the other. She was confident too. She accepted accolades from her classmates in an offhand way, like she didn’t see what all the fuss was about.

I remember once mustering all my confidence to talk to Pinky. I don’t remember what I said, it was only one sentence, but Pinky smiled and talked to me, I do remember that.

A few summers later, my parents did the unthinkable. They enrolled me in a summer camp. I was looking forward to unlimited stretches of unscheduled time, frittering away my summer days, but my parents had other ideas. I was cruelly forced to walk to the park near my house every morning for two whole weeks to participate in arts and crafts, sing-alongs, cookouts, and nature hikes.

Meditations in Motion

On my first day of camp, I sat, sullen and morose, in the pavilion waiting for the teenage counselors to show up and describe the tortures they had planned for us that day. My heart leapt when I saw Pinky was one of the counselors! I was happy to sing all 20 verses of “Sippin’ Cider Through a Straw” if Pinky was leading us.

My parents were amazed when I bounded out of bed at the crack of dawn the second day, anxious to begin day camp. I got to spend 14 mornings with my hero and my happiness knew no bounds.

I lost track of Pinky for a while after that summer. She was in high school and I was still in elementary school so there were not too many opportunities for our paths to cross.

A few years later a friend asked me if I had heard about Pinky. “No,” I replied, “What about her?” My friend cupped her hand to her mouth and whispered in my ear, “She’s pregnant!

We lived in a small town and news traveled fast. Pinky and her boyfriend were in trouble. In those days, unwed pregnant girls had three choices: marry the baby’s father, disappear for a few months and put the baby up for adoption, or risk an illegal and possibly dangerous abortion.

Pinky picked none of the above.

Out conservative little town was aghast. A very pregnant Pinky showed up at the community pool with her boyfriend. They were sighted at the root beer stand. She didn’t hide her face in shame, she actually had the temerity to look happy.

Rumors were that Pinky thought someday she might marry her boyfriend but she wanted to graduate from high school first. Her demeanor, which I so admired, didn’t change in the least.

I wish Pinky’s story had a happy ending. I wish I could tell you that she lived happily ever after, that she married her boyfriend or didn’t, and that she and her baby thrived against all odds, but I can’t. Pinky died in childbirth. So did her baby.

The death of a teenager and her baby, of course, is a tragedy. There is still, however, a lesson to learn from this incredibly sad story, a lesson about shame and how to overcome it. Vanquishing shame came naturally to Pinky.

Meditations in Motion

Shame, you see, only survives when we allow it to get a foothold in our psyches and our lives. It depends on us believing that we have committed an offense so heinous, so atrocious, so monstrous, that it is unforgivable and we deserve to be shunned. Shame needs to isolate its victim to thrive.

Buying into someone else’s pronounced judgment is needed for shame to have power. If we have enough holy self-confidence and trust in ourselves, shame cannot get purchase in our lives. Our courage must come from within (I believe it’s a gift from a higher power), not from others’ approval.

Oh, I understand why shame is necessary. It’s a powerful mechanism to keep people in line. Shame helps promote adherence to social norms. I have done some things I am ashamed of, and let me tell you, I will never do them again. Shame can be excruciating.

I am not talking about the mild, necessary forms of shame that allow society to function, the kind of shame that comes from telling a child “No!” so that she does not hurt herself, for example. I am talking about the toxic, gossipy, judgemental form of shame. The sadistic kind that inflicts lifelong pain on its victim.

This kind of shame is on the decline, and I say “Good riddance!

We all have our heroes whom we look up to. They help us learn how to live our lives. They have traits we want to emulate, they teach us how to be better people.

Pinky was first my hero because she was fast and I wanted to be fast. Then Pinky was my hero because she was confident and I wanted confidence. Finally, Pinky was my hero because she was a small-town girl who had the courage and the power to stand up to shame. What an important legacy she left behind.

 

I am linking up with Running on the Fly and Confessions of a Mother Runner for their Weekly Rundown, Loopy Laura for Global Blogging, Random-osity for The Good, The Random, The Fun, Anita Ojeda for Inspire Me Monday, My Random Musings for Anything Goes, Denyse Whelan Blogs for Life This Week, and Esme Salon for Senior Salon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

93 comments

  1. Oh, my, Laurie, how this story of Pinky touched my heart to the core! That her legacy of courage in the face of adversity affected you so positively is amazing. Her life may have been all too short, but she lived it well and fully. Could we all say the same?
    Blessings!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m sure statistics back up your claim that toxic judgement is on the decline, but I seem to read about it in the news everyday. Maybe now that’s it’s news worthy is a sign that it’s becoming an outlier. Today I read that the Hallmark channel pulled a bunch of wedding planner commercials because the showed same sex couples and people found it offensive. I also read about a whole Starbucks staff that refused to serve a cop. Glass houses, casting stones, all that crap. People need to worry about themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it’s on the decline in some areas, such as gay marriage and unwed mothers, but when I read social media it seems like judgement is as prevalent as ever. People are just looking for a reason to put someone down. I read that Hallmark reinstated the commercials after protests.

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      • There’s a news site I use called newser. One of my favorite pastimes is to read the comments on seemingly innocuous news stories. Every single time it turns into a nasty personal argument between several people. People live to judge others. I read that hallmark reversed their decision. Moderately better. Of course they’re making all their decisions based on PR and the bottom line.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, what a sad story, but a story of triumph. Did other gals admire Pinky as much as you did? She sounds like a pretty charismatic person.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How sad that Pinky and her baby died. I’m sorry to hear that. She sounded like an amazing person. Shame can be a cruel taskmaster, but we don’t have to let it take control Of course it isn’t always easy, but with God’s help we can overcome when other people try to shame us. I’m so glad we have a forgiving God who loves us no matter what. Blessings to you! I’m your neighbor at #InspireMeMonday.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, the story certainly had a tragic ending. Pinky’s example of self-confidence and courage still has an impact on me today, all these years later. We should all follow Christ’s example of forgiveness and compassion.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Wow, so sorry to hear. We were just talking about this today — the judgement of girls — and it’s the girls who get the brunt of it — and how families come in all forms — and timelines.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, girls do receive the brunt of shaming. When I was a teacher, I only ever turned boys in to the administration for dress code infractions as my own little form of protest.

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  6. This post knocked the breath out of me. Pinky sounds like such a spitfire, such a spirited, confident girl. I appreciate that she took time to talk to you when you approached her. That she was worked with children younger than she as a camp counselor, kind of a role model in that position. And that she held her head up high when she was a teenage mother-to-be. Can you imagine what a wonderful mother she would have been, if the stars had aligned and she and her baby had survived.

    I guess shame is only a successful form of ‘punishment’ or ridicule or exclusion if the person being shamed or shunned allows it to effect their life. Almost participatory punishment. And Pinky was able to turn her back and her pregnant belly on those who tried to put her down. Rest in peace, mother and child.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Pinky definitely was a role model for me. I still think about her all these years later. “Participatory punishment” is a good term. Yes, the person who is shamed has to tacitly agree to the shaming.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What a sad story. The police chief’s daughter was the teenage pregnant girl in our neighborhood growing up. Such a scandal back then, but in hindsight who cares?? People do love to judge, don’t they? As a kid I was SO ashamed when my parents divorced.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. What an inspiration she was to you! And I’m sure she had no idea. We never know who is watching, do we? I’m always flattered when my patients tell me they want to be a nurse or a nurse practitioner when they grow up. Some of my teen patients are actually planning on that and it just warms my heart!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • So true, Wendy – we never know who is watching us! I had the same feelings as you when one of my students told me they planned to major in chemistry (I used to be a chemistry teacher).

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  9. Wow! Pinky’s story of courage in the face of judgment and hardship is both so inspiring. I hate that she died at such a young age, though. But it does remind me that time is always shorter than we think! Better to make every moment count! So glad Pinky did, Lauri, and that she made a lasting impact on you!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Why is it we often learn the most from sad stories? I love the young woman you described and I am very sorry her life ended in this way. Still, I’m glad you were able to take some positive things from her while she was alive.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Thank you for sharing Pinky’s story with us! Such a tragic ending to an inspiring, young life. It makes wonder what she might have accomplished if she had lived. I can remember all the whispered gossip that was a big part of our “social media” (way before the internet) when I was in high school. I’d like to say that I didn’t partake, but that wouldn’t be true. The older I’ve gotten, though, the less I pay attention to it. I know there is a lot of work to be done, but it does appear that we are becoming a more open-minded society as far as different ways of living ones life. One size definitely doesn’t fit all!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Pinky’s story had a big impact on me. I will certainly never forget her. I think in some ways we are making progress with being more accepting of differences in others and in some ways (mostly social media) we are heading in the wrong direction.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh wow. How heartbreaking. To die so young while being so brave. I am glad you have held onto her story an been inspired by it. Almost like keeping a part of her alive. Yes, shame can be so dangerous when it’s out of balance.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Laurie,
    It’s so easy to let shame sneak in and isolate us. I find that, more often than not, when I share a vulnerable part of myself that could lend itself to shame, I am greeted by others’ stories that let me know I don’t walk the road alone. Sad ending, but good for Pinky in holding her head high despite her circumstances. If we are forgiven by God then what the world thinks or says really doesn’t matter.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think the best response to shame is compassion. Pinky’s story definitely did have a sad ending, but she left a wonderful legacy. I certainly will never forget her. Blessings to you, Bev!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Decades ago when I was a teenager in my first year of college, I heard that a younger friend “was in trouble” in our small town. She did an unthinkable thing for the 1960’s – she had her baby and stayed in town to live. I remember thinking at 19, Wow she is courageous!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Despite the tragic ending to Pinky’s story, one can’t help but muse if perhaps she had done all she was sent here to do, living her life to the very fullest. That is another legacy Pinky left. How after are we so fearful that we do nothing? A little off topic, sorry, but thank you for sharing Pinky’s story & food for thought, indeed.

    I was the girl always reading a book at recess, or maybe drawing . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is very true, Judy. She did leave the legacy of living her life to the fullest.

      I spent a lot of time reading and drawing when I was a kid too. I loved to curl up on a bench above a radiator in my parents’ lving room with a pile of books.

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  16. What an incredible, compelling story. My Mom grew up in a small mid western town and shared stories like this. My Mom taught my sisters and me from an early age to not judge or shame others, otherwise it would come right back to us in karmic retribution. She gave some examples from her own life that really emphasized the point she was making and made an impression on my young mind.

    God bless Pinky and thank you for writing about her and the reminder to not judge lest we be judged. Modeling kind behavior and refusing to go along with the crowd or the accusers is not necessarily easy… but like working a muscle, the more we do it, the stronger we get .

    I especially love your phrase:

    “Our courage must come from within (I believe it’s a gift from a higher power), not from other’s approval.”

    So wise!

    Susan Grace

    Susan Grace

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Such a sad end to Pinky’s story but I love the impact she had on you and the lesson she left you with. Shame can be so destructive. We need to encourage one another in standing against it!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I can see why you looked up to Pinky! What a great role model. Pregnant or not! I do wish she lived on. 😦

    I had a kid I looked up to when I was little named Matt. He had heart problems. He’d stay in for recess because of his heart, and I’d stay in because my teacher gave me extra reading lessons. We bonded. Once he told our help teacher (we both struggled then in school) that he would be leaving early in the year to go to Disneyland. She scoffed and said, he should be staying in school because he had troubles anyhow. What she didn’t know is that Matt was scheduled to have heart surgery. He ended up passing away that summer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a sad story! I hope poor Matt got to go to Disneyland. I was a teacher for over 30 years. I always thought travel was a valid reason to miss some school. Kids get a different kind of education when they travel.

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  19. Such a powerful story and for those of us who were teens in the 1960s there was always “someone” who was being talked about for whatever reason. I admit I probably gossiped and that does not make me feel good 50+ years down the track. I have lived with the shame of being fat for the majority of my adult life and I know how that felt. Sigh. We all keep learning don’t we? Sharing the stories is why I blog. Thank you for linking up for this 2nd last #lifethisweek 2019. Next week is the last link up for 2019. 51/51 Christmas/Holidays: Prompt Optional 23/12/19. Back in the business of blogging and link ups on Jan 6 2020. See you then…or thereabouts! Denyse.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Oh man, what I sad ending to Pinky. But I am glad that you still remember her not because of her pregnancy but because you looked up to her. So cool! Sad that that does not happen now. 6th graders most likely bully the little kids.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. What a heart-wrenching story. It’s obvious that in her short life Pinky had a huge impact on you. I grew up similarly in a gossipy small town. Three girls out of our high school graduating class of only 60 students were visibly pregnant when they walked across the stage to receive their diplomas. I’m sure there were holier than thou whispers, but I’m happy to say that all three girls walked with their heads held high!

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