“Oh sweet darling, I’ve never seen anybody run as fast as that”, was the comment he made to me while I took a breather between sprints. There were three, 300 meter time trials at the track and field warm weather training camp at California State University Long Beach, in the spring of 1982. He had been working out in the infield and watched every sprint I made. His comment inspired me.
Yesterday, I was remembering this big adventure away from Calgary and how excited I was to be in California for the first time representing the University of Calgary and my Spartan Track Club. As I remembered this life changing event, however, I suddenly felt shame.
A lot of my life has been spent letting go of lessons taught to me by my family and stopping the pursuit of things that I realized were not about me or not in my best interest. It has been a tough learning curve.
A year prior to the Cal State Long Beach adventure, I was playing football for the University of Calgary and sustained a third degree concussion to my head. The injury caused me to lose six months of my life and also inspired me to stop pursuing my “family’s” dream of playing professional football. Having my ‘bell rung’ actually created the clarity I needed to let go of playing football. It was a whole new take on “every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings” – clearly I began to fly that day.
These memories still had me present to feeling shame in my body while trying to feel good about my California adventure, which was 30 years ago.
I’ve learned how to honour the feelings that show up in my body because they usually bring with them some outstanding learning. I often fight or dismiss the feelings because underneath is an opportunity to transform my life. But I was completely stumped when shame showed up mixed in with this 1982 experience.
So I walked along the seawall in Vancouver and brought with me my feelings of shame. I desperately wanted to breathe into the lesson present within the shame. As I picked up my set of keys from the kitchen counter I felt an immense pressure land squarely in my chest. Years ago, as my journey of healing began, I read John Bradshaw’s ‘Healing the Shame That Binds Us’ and discovered where shame resided in my body. It had landed with vengeance.
Gazing down at my brass key ring, etched with the coat of arms for California State University Long Beach, I was suddenly present to what the shame was about. I had stolen the key ring, in fact two of them, from Cal State’s University Bookstore. I was transported back to dodging behind a book case in the store and stashing the two key rings into my knapsack and brazenly walking out the front entrance.
This of course was not the first time I had stolen property, but it was the biggest reminder of the feelings I was still carrying in my body about an action I had taken three decades ago. I felt awful!
Although I have now acknowledged being a thief in this lifetime, I didn’t think I was still holding shame that went with my actions. I have loved that part of me, went to confession with that part of me, therapied that part of me and coached that part of me. Now for something completely different.
I quickly searched Cal State’s address in Long Beach and further investigated where I could send a donation. I chose to create what I call “restitution” for the action I took in that bookstore in 1982.
Restitution is the act of giving back something that has been lost or stolen, it is the act of compensating for loss or injury by reverting as far as possible to the position before such injury occurred. In this case, with the price of the key rings at the bookstore being $8.95 plus tax today, I am sending a donation and a letter of apology for my actions.
There were many thieves in my family and so it was an easy thing to become. I became it and to this day I still have the predisposition to be the energy of a thief. I am not better than my family members who stole, but I am open to learning from them and changing the hate I have for that part of me, to loving that part of me.
As I dropped the envelope, addressed to Cal State, in the mailbox I felt joy, relief, and pride. The shame was gone.
With a grin, I suddenly remembered an old Hitchcock film called “To Catch a Thief” starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. It seemed like I had just caught the thief and put him away.