Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. In this episode you will hear about From Shameful to Shameless and An Unexpected Path Taken.
Comments or questions are welcomed on Twitter @emilykaytan OR on https://inspiremereads.com.
Hello and welcome to episode #52 of Eye-Opening Moments where you’ll hear real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. They are moments that can lift your spirits, give you some food for thought, or move you. For the introspective mind that likes to reflect, discover, and find solutions or meaning in a complex life, this is for you. I’m your host Emily Kay Tan. In this episode, you will hear about From Shameful to Shameless and An Unexpected Path Taken.
From Shameful to Shameless
With a long list of shameful things under my belt, I hid them in the darkness. Out from the darkness, I emerge to announce that I am shameless! My once shameful situations are now shameless events. At first, I was puzzled, and then I was amazed at how it could happen. The shift took years to happen, but I discovered that they could have occurred in a matter of minutes had I known better. Wisdom gained through time and experience made it happen, but putting on different lenses could also transform a shameful state into a shameless position.
I always dreamed of getting married and did. I never imagined I could get a divorce, but I did. I was ashamed I got a divorce. It was hard to say the word aloud. Divorce meant failure to me; it meant I was defeated. I lost. It was hard to accept. Divorce felt like a failure, and failure felt like a divorce. Before I could feel ashamed, I think society told me it was something terrible, and I responded in kind.
Before I let my old gal pals know about it, I imagined their reactions, and the realities were worse than what I imagined. Instead of getting any sympathy, they blamed me for it. Yasmine said I was too independent and didn’t think I was the marrying kind, to begin with, anyway. That hurt. I felt belittled for being independent. It was my strong suit, and now she made it to be my detriment. Shelly said, “How could you do that to your husband? He is such a nice guy.” My friends thought it was all my fault without asking for any details about my relationship with my ex. Aunt Cassie said, “Why do you need to make a fuss? Just be married and have kids already.” Again and again, they thought me to be at fault. They did have one thing right; I was the instigator of it all.
Ashamed, I avoided talking about it with others. Embarrassed, I avoided letting any new friends or acquaintances know about it. And then, one day, over the phone, my older sister told me her husband thought I was a lesbian because I got a divorce. I was offended. There is nothing wrong with being a lesbian, but I am a proud heterosexual. Since my older sister informed me, it occurred to me that others could think that, so I let others know I was divorced.
Still, saying the word divorce made me want to cringe and hide. It was like I did such a horrible thing that I needed to hide. Checking it off on an application or even on tax forms was uncomfortable. It was another reminder that I was divorced and a failure. I have no regrets about getting a divorce, but those around me made me feel like I did something terrible, and I agreed with them. The side effect was feeling bad about myself.
Many years later, my friend Shana asked me how I was able to go through with the divorce or how I found the courage to do it. I believe she was asking because she wished she dared to do it. I answered it as best as I knew how, found the words to explain, and discovered greatness in me that should make me proud! I said I was tired of the emotional abuse and putting up with his anal nitpickiness. Living on eggshells was no picnic in the park, and I needed to stand up for myself. The reasoning behind it all was already there, but I couldn’t find the courage to do it until I realized where to find courage.
Courage was found when I chose it and declared it. It was a choice, not something that I had to find. I chose myself. I decided not to allow him to continue to demean me to make him feel better about himself or feed his ego or low self-esteem. I chose to stand up and show more respect for myself; I deserved better. By declaring myself a worthy human being, it was easy to proceed with the divorce swiftly. I no longer felt ashamed. I was proud of myself and no longer cared what others thought about it. I always say, at the end of the day, only I have to live with me, so it is my opinion of me that matters most. It was an aha moment. Instead of being ashamed, I was now a proud divorcee. Had I seen that perspective earlier, had I put on those lenses to see that, I might have shortened the pain of divorce.
Like many people, I dreamed of having a house of my own. Eventually, I did, but it was through marriage. Just a newlywed, I invited a friend over, and my husband told me I needed his permission because it was his house. It was a fact; on paper, it was his home, as he purchased it long before we married. I was ashamed to live in a house that was not mine, and my husband made it clear that it was not mine.
Several years later, we moved to a new house, and I ensured it was in our names. Since we were married, I contributed to all the household expenses and shared a joint account. My husband began to treat me differently. He treated me like his equal simply because the house now belonged to the both of us on paper. I felt judged or was less of a person. I had allowed him to make me feel less worthy because he owned a home before we married. He was proud and should be that he owned a home. But did he have to put me down for not owning one before marriage? Did he need to shame me to elevate himself, or say he was more accomplished than me?
Some good news did come. I divorced my husband and bought a house of my own. You could say it was a dream come true, but it was more like a nightmare was over for me. What mattered most to me was that I had a home where no one could say I didn’t belong there. I didn’t need it to say that I was a successful person. Maybe I thought I did because the world around me gave me that idea.
Years later, when I failed in business and money problems ensued, I sold my house in a short sale. It was heartbreaking to become homeless, but I eventually learned a valuable lesson from feeling shameful to jumping for joy in shamelessness.
Homeless and penniless, I moved abroad to an island nation. I lived in a studio apartment. Just a month earlier, I owned and lived in a home with three bedrooms, three full baths, a two-car garage, and a backyard. I was ashamed of where I ended up. I didn’t want to tell people back home what I was living in abroad. Luckily, I did not need to worry about anyone visiting to see it. However, I soon found myself living a happy, carefree, and worry-free life that I had never experienced before. Living in a studio apartment, I enjoyed a simple life. I had little to clean, and the many possessions I once had were missing but not missed. I realized firsthand that I didn’t need much to be satisfied or happy. The less I had, the more freedom I felt. I had more time to play, travel, and enjoy life.
I stopped feeling ashamed of no longer owning a home. A house does not necessarily represent my status in life. Though I wouldn’t mind having a large home once more, I don’t need it to define my success in life. Though I live in a rented apartment, I am a success in my own right. My definition of success shifted, and so my feeling of shame also changed. As I learned from an essay I read before, happiness or success is not about what you possess but who you are.
Once ashamed to be a divorcee, I put on a different set of lenses and saw the beauty of my strength and courage to stand up for myself. Previously ashamed to have owned a home and then lost it, I positioned another set of lenses before me and recognized that I didn’t need to be a homeowner to show my worthiness. The change in lenses gave me a path to feeling boundless freedom and self-worth.
Shifting perspectives can make all the difference in moving from shamefulness to shamelessness.
An Unexpected Path Taken
Auntie Cassie went on a blind date, and after two weeks of meeting Benjamin, she was madly in love with him. Benjamin was from Michigan and was only in town on vacation. Auntie Cassie debated whether she should marry him and move from Massachusetts to Michigan to be with Benjamin. I listened with interest as she told this story and dilemma to Grandma Sandy at the kitchen table. Grandma didn't give her a definitive answer about what Auntie Cassie should do. Suddenly, Grandma turned to me and said, "Emily, what would you do if you wanted to go get married?" Without hesitation, I said, "I'd follow the one I love wherever he was." In disbelief, Grandma said, "You would just follow him?" I confidently and decisively said, "Yes, I would follow him."
Looking back at the thirteen-year-old me saying that sounds naïve and funny to me now. At thirteen, I never had a boyfriend or ever fell in love, so how was it that I was downright certain with my answer? I have no idea, but I do recall watching many romance movies at the age of fourteen. I can only surmise that I had some ideas about love and romance as an early teenager.
Six years after I told Grandma Sandy that "I would just follow him," a guy I was in love with or wanted to marry, I actually did it! In other words, I did precisely what the thirteen-year-old me said I would do!
At seventeen, Keith and I were pen pals and then phone pals for a year before he flew from the west coast to the east coast to meet with me. Since we had so many conversations before meeting, we seemed to know each other pretty well. By the time we met, we were already in love.
Within two weeks of meeting, Keith proposed marriage and asked me to move to the west coast. Oh, my goodness! Like Auntie Cassie, I fell in love with a guy from out of town; within two weeks, he proposed and asked me to move out of state! We both debated whether we should move out of state to where our boyfriends lived. How could this coincidental similarity have occurred?!
More remarkable is that the nineteen-year-old me did what the thirteen-year-old me said she would do! Though I met Keith at seventeen, I didn't want to consider moving to where Keith lived until after I graduated from college. Keith, who was seven years older than me, had other plans.
During the first two years of college, Keith called me weekly from California to Connecticut, where I was going to college. He incessantly told me to move to California on each of our calls. As much as I was in love, I was also happy going to school in Connecticut. College was my first taste of freedom; I had worked hard to get myself there and didn't want to let it go.
If Keith had not persisted in our long-distance relationship, I might have easily lost myself in learning; I loved college life. Whenever I spoke with Keith, he insisted I transfer schools to California. I began searching for schools that might interest me, but I thought the school I was at was already ideal. I double-majored in Child Psychology and Chinese. My school was known for specializing in these two subjects, and they were my majors. No other school was well-known for these two subjects.
Further, I loved the small campus and small class sizes. Every weekday I had lunch with my language professors in the international dorm lunchroom. What other school could give me such intimate learning? As I walked to classes across campus, I loved looking at the buildings with not red brick exteriors but bumpy pieces of gray-stone exteriors that did not have a smooth surface. The buildings had much character, and I felt like I was around such character. The big patches of green grass were calming to walk across. I didn't have that when I lived in the city. And when winter came, the grass was all covered with large blankets of snow. It was so beautiful! The fall leaves of red, orange, yellow, and brown dancing in the gentle breezes of autumn flew me to thoughts of romance. Please don't ask me to leave this utopia!
Keith continued to insist that I move to California. Every phone conversation included this insistence, along with some flirting and getting to know each other even more. Finally, after three years of a long-distance relationship and two years of listening to Keith's insistence, I moved to California, the sunshine state with no blankets of snow in the winter or beautiful autumn leaves in the fall.
From my hometown on the east coast, the nineteen-year-old me flew to the west coast, three thousand miles away from where I grew up. I moved in the name of love. Few knew this fact. I told Grandma I was transferring to another school because it was cheaper. She was sad to see me go but understood my pains of having little money for college as I paid for it myself. All my friends didn't know about it; I don't know why I didn't tell them. Maybe I thought they'd think I was crazy to move across the country just for love. I thought I was crazy to do it, but I did it anyway.
As a mature woman today, I find it romantic. Any friends I know now are surprised to hear that I did such a thing. They'd say, "I didn't think you were the kind of person who would do that." Perhaps, because they know me as a practical, logical, and reasonable person, they didn't think I would take such a path. But there is a forever romantic in me. I love love stories, romance movies, poems of love, and sharing my own love stories!
Though I am an organized planner of life, in general, I am also a spontaneous and carefree spirit when it comes to love. So, the unexpected path taken to move for love was actually an expected road taken according to my heart. The thirteen-year-old me knew long ago that I wanted to follow my heart.
Though I felt ashamed for getting a divorce, I learned that it took courage to stand up for myself, and I became proud and unashamed.
Though I was a naïve thirteen-year-old who said I’d follow my future love wherever he was, the nineteen-year-old me moved to where he was in another state because I followed my heart.
Next week, you will hear two new real-life stories called Beauty Defined and Five-Year-Old Flying Alone . If you enjoyed this episode of Eye-Opening Moments, please share it with others, subscribe, support the show by clicking on the link in the description, or go to www.inspiremereads.com and leave a message. Thank you for listening!