Let’s face it, shame is sneaky. You want to stop believing shame, but it engulfs you like one of J.K. Rowling’s Dementors, those terrifying wraiths that drain happiness. Soon you’re locked in what author and researcher Brené Brown calls a shame spiral.
On my first day of kindergarten, my mom gave me some advice.
She told me what her mother told her on the first day of school: when you walk through the doors, don’t worry about making friends. Just focus on finding the girl who looks even more upset about all this than you do. Go over to her and say hello. Smile. Then, you’ll have a friend.
My five-year-old-self was incredulous. Could it be that simple? With a little prompting, I gave it a shot. I walked up to a weeping girl and said, “Hi, I’m Caroline. What’s your name?”
With that, I made my first school friend. It was a serendipitous choice, since she was (is) an excellent visual artist. Back then, I could barely cut in a straight line — OK, that’s still true! — so she’d help me with arts and crafts. She didn’t like to write, so I’d help her with compositions. We saw each other through.
Once upon a December afternoon, I decided to bake cookies for a party. I could have skipped it; in fact, I nearly talked myself out of it. Baking is not the most efficient use of my time. Nevertheless, I put aside productivity because it felt like Christmas, like celebration.
Choosing Christmas doesn’t come naturally to me. You see, the church I grew up in didn’t believe in celebrating Christmas, supposedly because it was a pagan holiday and a consumerist frenzy.
Looking back, though, I wonder if perhaps the church leaders weren’t really afraid of materialism or paganism. I wonder if they were afraid of what might happen if we were to be still. If we were to make the subversive decision to put aside striving and behold beauty instead.