When I was a young girl, my mom urged me to repeat the prayer, “Dear St. Anthony come around something is lost and must be found”, whenever I had misplaced something. Even now, I have friends who swear by St. Anthony and his ability to find lost keys or a hidden purse. I shake my head in disbelief when they suggest I ask him for help. I grumble, “it hasn’t helped before, why ask now?”
In fairness, there must have been a time when I found the lost shoe or toy, tucked away in a bedroom corner while saying the prayer. However, that isn’t what I remember. I remember the time this mythical saint didn’t deliver. The time that the stakes were higher and I had lost my valuable eyeglasses. Saying the prayer over and over didn’t make it happen; St. Anthony held out a false promise to my eight year old self.
When St. Anthony didn’t deliver that day, it wasn’t just disappointment that I felt; I was ashamed because I believed I wasn’t good enough. In my mind, if I prayed hard enough and was good enough, then he would perform his magic and save me from trouble. From that point on, my memory was that St. Anthony NEVER delivered. It seemed I was always losing things and carrying an extra load of shame for being the girl who couldn’t keep it all together. If St. Anthony didn’t “come around” to help me find my lost items, I must have too little faith or be lazy with my bedtime prayers. Worse still, perhaps I wasn’t a “good girl”.
To my dismay, 40 years later, I sometimes slip into the shame of that little girl when I lose my keys, cell phone, important papers, etc. I still carry a small resentment towards St. Anthony but it has become a funny joke, rather than an angry rant. I have declared a truce with this saint and more importantly, with the critical, blaming parts of myself. I didn’t just arrive at this truce-it took help and guidance from a trusted therapist, wise spiritual teachers, compassionate friends and carefully chosen family members. It has also meant developing self-awareness through meditation, yoga, writing, dance, and self-expression.
It is my belief that many of us are in recovery from something, but we are all in recovery from shame. My work with clients almost always includes rooting out the voices that carry the shame messages to find understanding and self-compassion. Realizing those voices are only a part of you is the beginning of the amazing journey in recovery from shame. Once the voices are recognized, the heart of this life-changing work begins. Compromise, agreement, negotiation, discussion and quieting the blaming and shaming parts becomes possible and we recognize that the voice is not who we are. We don’t have to be run by the shame tapes! Gradually, we hold our heads higher, speak with more confidence, trust our decision-making, appreciate our relationships, and even laugh with ourselves.
I still lose things and there are times when I don’t find them. Though, what I hear now is a voice that says “Oh honey, we all lose things. You’re human!”.