The shame of shitting

My seventeen year old slept overnight at school last night with a group of forty other senior school girls in a gesture of solidarity with the homeless. It was intended as a fund raiser but my daughter is a little sceptical about the value of such exercises when it comes to making a real difference to homelessness.

‘Better to join a soup kitchen,’ her boyfriend had suggested. I’m inclined to agree.

I bought my daughter a padded mat from Kathmandu to avoid sleeping on the bricks of the school’s breezeway and despite the fact that such a ‘mattress’ does not exactly emulate the plight of the homeless my daughter agreed to use it.

Now we have to figure out how to deflate this amazing piece of padding. It is self inflating and operates by opening and closing the nozzle. Every time I open the nozzle though I cannot be sure whether it is inflating or deflating.

Perhaps, as my husband says, we should read the instructions first.

I tend to by pass written instructions. I like to figure out things for myself and invariably as with this inflatable self inflating sleeping bag I find myself in trouble.

It’s a type of laziness I expect, the voice within that says ‘let me at it’. I can figure it out, only to be stymied at the first obstacle.

I have been reading about shame these last few weeks, shame and the way it links to grief and death. Jeffrey Kauffman’s series of essays on The shame of Death grief and trauma I had never thought of shame like this before, I had never considered that the essence of shame lies in our bodies and our vulnerabilities and how difficult we find it to accept the limitations of our bodies, especially when it comes to illness and death.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why I hesitate to go through the process of having a colonoscopy. I even shudder to write the word. I expect you all know the procedure.

For some reason that I cannot fathom I have always held a morbid fear of getting bowel cancer. There is no history of bowel cancer in my family, not as far as I know.

I’m not sure how to put this. I wonder whether it has to do with that part of the body, the hidden part that ends in the anus and is so closely related to the toilet. I suspect part of my fear and my deep shame goes back to some childhood anxiety about bottoms and poos and all those secret bits of bodies that go on underneath.

When I was little I imagined that my soul which was meant to stay pure and white was located in my bottom close to my poo hole. I do not know where this idea came from but it has long stayed with me. The idea that centre of my soul on which all sins were marked as dark stains was located so close to the dirtiest part of me.

Maybe my adult fear of bowel cancer harks back to this. And perhaps for this reason I have long resisted the idea that I should endure a colonoscopy if only as a screening procedure to rule out any polyps or precancerous cells.

Shame and the body. If I put those two things together, the first thing I think about is the shame of shitting, then I think of the shame of sex and then I think of the shame of illness generally and finally I think of the shame of dirt, as in a dirty house and of getting things wrong in areas where I think I should get them right.

I’m not too ashamed of being unable to deflate the Kathmandu bed mat. I don’t expect that of myself, but there are areas where I do expect more of myself and it is in these areas where I suffer the most.

In an effort to break up the text and to illustrate some aspect of my earlier shame I include a picture here from my childhood, one that demonstrates the clutter in which we once lived. I’m the headless one on the bed.

And in this photo, I’m the one on the left with long fair hair. The girl facing the camera was a visitor. The other two are siblings. In black and white the room may not look quite so bad as I once imagined, the mess and the clutter that is, but in my memory it is.

And did you know that shame and pride are close cousins? Pride to cover over our shame. I think often about my mother’s pride and how much I have soaked it in.

These days I sit with my mother in her retirement village room and listen yet again as she boasts about her age.
‘I’m 91 years old. I don’t get sick, It’s amazing. Other people here, all the other people here are coughing and spluttering. So many have the flu, but me not a sniffle.’

‘That’s good’ I say. ‘But if you get so much as a sniffle, or a tickle in your throat you must tell the doctor straight away.’

It feels like a threat. My mother towards the end of her life refuses to recognise the possibility of her death any day now, and I’m not far behind reluctant to acknowledge the same about my own.

In my family we boast about our good health, our genes, our immunity.

I spread the sorbolene cream over my mother’s legs and pull back once again at the stale smell that wafts over me whenever I take off her slippers. They are all she wears on her feet these days, special slippers, with Velcro strips that adhere together to make for easy wearing. She cannot otherwise get her slippers on and off. They smell of the vinegar of old age and dead skin.

She knows it, I suspect. My mother knows that her feet let off this sad stale smell but she says nothing.

I say nothing but spread the white smooth cream up and down her ankles and calves as if they are my own.

There’s a dark spot like a blood blister that I had not noticed before. I rub it with the tip of my finger. It’s smooth to touch.

‘I noticed that too, my mother says. It wasn’t there before.’
‘The mark of death,’ I want to say. ‘Your skin is breaking down.’

But no. ‘It’s probably just a blood blister,’ I say. ‘I get them all the time, ever since I had babies.’

‘Nothing to worry about then,’ my mother says.

‘Maybe mention it to the doctor next time you see him.’

All this emphasis on our bodies. All this effort to reduce our skin and bones into efficient machines that might go on forever, if only to keep out the cold and the shame.

58 thoughts on “The shame of shitting”

  1. A very honest and moving (pardon the pun, it is purely unintentional) post.

    I have the fear of getting cancer, but it is non-specific – more of the skin-variety if I have to zero in on it. Perhaps this is down to the idea of nakedness and showing skin. I come from a Catholic household where showing skin was just not done. I wasn't even allowed to paint my toe-nails, come to think of it.

    As for the colonoscopy, I am terrified of that and just recently (upon turning 50), I did do a prescreening which involved quite a lot of the act of which you speak in your title and post. (See, I can't even say the word!)


  2. Shame and guilt and indeed all the negative emotions are so powerful. More for me than the more positive ones. I often say that if I knew where my guilt button was I would disconnect it. Permanently. It brings me nothing but pain. And those ugly buttons don't (for me) respond to logic.

    Good luck with the colonoscopy.

  3. Thanks for the uplifting post Elizabeth! — just kidding

    It is refreshing to hear you talk about these things so openly and honestly. See, I have to call them "things". Although, I suppose aging is anything but refreshing. I don't do any of those tests, for lots of reasons but one reason is shame.

    I never do read the directions either.

  4. Such mattresses inflate automatically, so unscrewing the valve should set the process in motion. However, I always blow a little additional air into the mattress by mouth. To deflate the mattress, roll it up with the valve open, and once you've pushed the air out of it in this fashion, close the valve.

  5. I have the exact same problem Elisabeth, though it's not what you may think.

    No it's the the rough woolen the shirt roughly in the middle, not the piano book (which if it me and I saw it I would have asked to thumb through it)

    no it's not the right angled pieces of wood in position to support the shelves

    the problem I have is my mother, like yours, didn't love me

    my mother would sneak in photography graphs to break up the getting away with too long winded posts of words

    my mother was, like yours, not the sharpest knife in the goings on drawers and as a result, could not face the truth about tampons, placements of and wrong holes of said placementables

    but I am convinced AND convexed it was do to a problemata that was nomenclaturatic in nature

    In her attempt to help you she more than likely hindered you by alloweding you to refer to one of your holes as a poo hole

    it's not necessarily that she is a bad person or a liar, it is just that she doesn't love you

    you deserve better Elisabeth, all women do and you don't deserve anything that isn't properly shaped to fit against your sacrum, up in yo poo hole

    in order to deal with your shame, you only need to be loved Elisabeth

    by chance would you want to be loved?

    I can arrange for you to be honestly and thoroughly loved

    the only problem is that real love doesn't come cheap and unfortunately if you have to ask, then you most likely cannot afford real love

    in which case there is no hope for you

    and because I am moved to tares by reading your riding, I love you Elisabeth

    but I need you to promise me that you will keep it a secret.

  6. Once you've had your colonscopy done a great burden will disappear from your mind including guilt and shame, then you'll wonder what all the fuss was about :-).

  7. Your daughter's instinct to want to help the homeless is a noble one. Hopefully as she grows up she will find ways to really make an impact and make the world a better place, even if it is just in a small way.

  8. Guilt and shame have never been part of my life.
    As for those pictures, I'm sure your memory makes them worse than they are, I've seen much more clutter and untidiness than that.
    I really need to get on to my doctor about a colonoscopy though, my mum died from bowel cancer.

  9. I'm proud of your daughter for her effort to do something about something she cares for. I hope that she continues.

    I am very good about making mountains out of mole hills (what is a mole hill anyway?) Perhaps we all are. We allow, even push, to make connections that builds up massive walls that makes horrendous issues out of non-issues.

    I admit though that I was pleased when they 'put me under' for my colonoscopy. That way I couldn't hear any odd comments and grit my teeth at the indignity of it all.

    They took me into the dreaded room with a doctor and two nurses (female nurses — why did they have to have females looking at my butt?). They gave me a shot of something and within thirty seconds I was out. The next thing I remember I was being shaken to wake me up and being told "It is time to get up. Go home now."

    I got up and walked out….marveling with "That was no big deal."

  10. hello elisabeth, you pull and interlock all your observations and experiences together into a meaningful story. i enjoyed your photos. what glorious hair you have. and the pictures are so rich and classy, again a reflection of an era gone. we may have more money today but our stuff are plastic cheap and this would reflect in our current pictures. that is the way i see it.

  11. A very interesting, revealing post Elizabeth. I agree that we become obsessed with our bodies. I try not to be and to make myself be aware that it is the mind that is the important thing. Our 105 year old friend has never let her body be important to her. She is thin as a bird, always beautifully turned out and always interested in what is going on. I hope to age like that – god willing.

  12. Does it help the homeless to sleep outside with them? That single act, probably not. Does it help the homeless to say, "I dislike living in the world where some people have to be homeless"..? That single statement, probably not. It's when the single acts and single statements and single protests accumulate, that, just maybe, it helps.

    Like you, I try to do things without first reading intructions, usually to no avail. Instructions just aren't very reader-friendly. I have an easier time reading the Canterbury Fables than the manual telling me how to set the timer on my cell phone.

    I woke up deaf about a month ago, and went to the Emergency Room. Turns out I just had a head full of ear wax (talk about unpleasant images). While I was there, they found out my blood pressure was extremely high. The nurse told me I was a walking time bomb, and in danger of either a heart attack or stroke. As my father died of a heart attack at a younger age than I am now, I took the nurse's warning quite seriously. I was told to see a non-emergency doctor right away. Unfortunately, as a victim of Great Depression II, "right away" wasn't an option. I have no insurance, so I had to make sure such a visit didn't break me financially. So I've basically spent the last month gathering all kinds of documentation to prove I'm a hardship case, all the while wondering if the "bomb" would go off. I finally did see a doctor just this week. My blood pressure was still high, and she decided I should have an EKG, to see if my heart was enlarged. Fortunately, it's not. My heart is normal, though the doctor warned me it won't stay that way if I don't get the blood pressure down. I have to take some pills for at least the next two weeks, perhaps forever. I'm not at all happy on being dependent on medication. But then, I'm already dependent on food and water and air, aren't I? So just add little orange pills to the list. Sigh.

  13. Dear Elisabeth,
    this post brought tears to my eyes. (the mark of death, your skin is breaking down)
    Yes feeling ashamed, feeling guilty….. i must say i don`t feel much shame when growing oldwer though, guilt on the other hand….
    I work with elderly people so i experience shame a lot. I feel grateful for their trust, and am as careful as one can be.

    It`s good to be on the worldwide web again, reading your heartfelt posts.

    xoxo Monica

  14. Very powerful and thought-provoking post. There's something about getting very sick and being hospitalized where all pride and sense of modesty start to fade away. I would hope to never have to waste away under such circumstances, but sometimes we don't have much of a choice.
    Perhaps your mother's "pride" is part of her drive and will and the thing that keeps her going. I've seen much younger people just give up and let it all go.

    Tossing It Out

  15. I did not realize that shame and pride are related. In my culture the word pride is sourly misunderstood. Children every where on this Earth do a lot to make their parents proud, but a lot of children are not excused if they do a tiny bit to supposedly bring shame to the family. I beleive in setting my own standards. As long as my kids are not doing anything to hurt themselves or others it is Ok with me if they do not finish college and want to live a simple life.

  16. I sat in the bath room with my three year old grandson, Kat, as he did his business on the toilet. We discussed the ins and outs of toileting in such an open unabashed manner, it made me wonder yet again about the strength of the inhibitions we learn as we grow up that can be so stifling. It is a universal and human function after all.

    I suspect it's connected with the need to develop basic hygiene. Taboos often had a logical basis way back when. They just can get out of kilter in the face of too much civilisation and religion.

    Thanks, Kat.

  17. I think the guilt button can also get pressed in the face of 'disgust', Elephant's Child, and as far as I can tell, disgust generally arises when we experience conflict between our desires for something and societal rules that say we must not behave in certain ways, for example nose picking.

    Little people who have not yet learned do it with equanimity, but we all know it's wrong, except perhaps in private.

    Thanks, Elephant's Child.

  18. I'm glad to hear there's another among us who doesn't read the directions, Linda, however much it might toss us into states of shame for getting things wrong when we could perhaps have easily avoided our mistakes simply by reading the directions.

    Thanks, Linda.

  19. I figured out the mattress or should I say my daughter's boyfriend showed me how to deflate it, Snow, but thanks for the directions. It's amazing what you can learn from friends in the blogosphere.

  20. I didn't keep your comment a secret, Dusty, though perhaps I should have if others are confused, too.

    Given my developing understanding of your sense of humour I do not take offense and I urge anyone else reading here not to take offense as well.

    There's one thing I'm pretty confident about, Dusty Who, whatever my gripes and laments, my mother loves me, not exclusively not perfectly, but well enough for me to love others in turn.

    It seems to me it goes like this. 'Good enough' maternal love in infancy for long enough leaves us in a better state than not enough, though it's never perfect.

    Thanks Dusty Who. I enjoy your odd comments, however cryptic.

  21. I've et to make the appointment, Windsmoke, but I'm in the throes of it and already having blogged about it, I'm beginning to recognise that perhaps it's not as ghastly as I had imagined.

    Thanks, Windsmoke.

  22. I agree, Laoch, my daughter is on the right track when it comes to concern for others. And hopefully her good intentions will continue throughout her life and make a difference somewhere along the line, even if only within her small circle.


  23. I hope I haven't stirred up any angst, River, despite your protestations that guilt and shame are not companions of yours.

    Get onto that colonoscopy now and perhaps we can compare notes.

    Thanks, River.

  24. I think if you're sensitive, Jerry, no matter how 'well balanced' you are there will be times when you turn molehills into so-called mountains.

    It's human nature to worry. As long as it doesn't cripple you, and clearly your colonoscopy did not cripple you.

    You're past it now with that clean bill of health. It's time now for the rest of us to join you.

    Thanks, Jerry.

  25. Thanks for your warm ad generous comments, Ocean girl. I agree there are some things that technology can't improve on, especially when it comes to a certain spontaneous quality that comes out in so-called family pictures from long ago when strangely people were self conscious but not in the way they are today.

    Thanks, Ocean Girl .

  26. I tell myself that I too would like to age gracefully, Pat , but it's not easy . My mother often tells me how young she feels inside despite her 91 years. I do too in many ways.

    It's as if my mind remembers earlier years but my body reminds me it's not like that anymore.

    And my reflection in the mirror confirms this.

    It's amazing to me that as we age – at least as far as the folks in my family are concerned – we grow to resemble our parents of the same sex.

    I used to look like my father as a child but these days I look more and more like my mother. And it scares me.

    Thanks, Pat.

  27. I've had that ear wax problem, Kirk, and occasional bursts of heightened blood pressure but not lately. It sounds ghastly.

    We hear in Australia about the dreadful state of health care in America. It's not great in Australia but at least if you're seriously ill here you can get help and you won't have to spend the rest of your life paying off the bill.

    We have a level of guaranteed health care for all regardless and to me it's fundamental. Even the homeless can find a hospital bed if medically they can demonstrate they need it, but sadly they can't find a bed for the night if they're well in body. If they're unwell in mind it's not so easy too.

    It's a tough world we live in, Kirk.

    I hope things improve for you. Keep taking those little orange pills and get down that blood pressure.

  28. It's lovely to see you here again, Momo. I gather you've been unwell yourself. Take care now.

    Shame is such a difficult emotion but at least you can paint your way through it.

    Thanks, Monica.

  29. I agree Arlee Bird, the process of dehumanisation that goes on in hospitals in the face of illness can cause even the young to give up and my mother's pride to some extent has stood her in good stead.

    I think it derived from her family of origin and a certain tendency towards 'delusions of grandeur' if that's not too strong an expression. My father too had is pride but for different reasons. He prided himself on his intellect.

    A certain level of pride is necessary I suspect to survive in the world, as you suggest, Arlee Bird.


  30. I think pride can be a sort of defense against shame, Munir , but I don't think it's all bad.

    Pride can be necessary and a good thing.

    We need to feel pride in ourselves and our achievements as long as they don't hurt others, as you suggest, Munir.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. It's good to see you here.

  31. I have reached the age here in the UK where I qualify for bi-annual checks for bowel cancel, that age being fifty; I have now had two. Thankfully the procedure isn’t intrusive – no penetration whatsoever – it simply involves me having to scrape some faecal matter onto a card from three contiguous bowel movements and sticking it in the post.

    Many years ago when I belonged to a book club I ordered a book of euphemisms which I have to this day. The chapter entitled ‘Secretions, Excretions and Bodily Functions’ makes fascinating reading. I can’t remember what we called defecating when I was growing up. Most Scots refer to jobbies when they’re wee, a term I have always hated for some reason, but since my parents hailed from the north of England it wasn’t that. I expect all we said was, “I need the toilet,” and left what we might need to do there to people’s imaginations. I find it funny when Americans talk about restrooms.

    On the whole I’m not crazy about scatological humour – South Park’s poo-centric jokes don’t do much for me – but I do have a fondness for Billy Connolly’s ‘Jobbie Weecha’ routine (a master class in digression) – you can hear it here + here. As I’ve aged I’ve become considerably less offendable in so many ways but I can’t say I associate pooing with shame. It’s a subject that still embarrasses me but you do what you have to do and if that involves shitting into a plastic carrier bag rather than a custom-made receptacle three times every two years I can live with it.

    I don’t fear cancer. Since I don’t reckon there’s an awful lot I can do to avoid it, bar keeping out of the sun these days, I’ll cope with it when it comes. Carrie has had cancer twice now – two different kinds and not the one we were expecting – and she’s still around minus a couple of chunks of her body.

    We all tend to use shame, guilt and embarrassment as if they were interchangeable which they’re not. Everyone poos so what’s there to be ashamed about? I’ve not done something wrong and been afflicted with the curse of the poo so what is there to feel guilty over? For all it’s common to all of us it’s still a very personal thing so there’s plenty of scope for embarrassment – “What if I don’t poo like everyone else! I mean, could I possibly have been doing it wrong all these years?” – but I think you need to keep things in perspective. When I was much younger than I am just now I had to wipe my daughter’s backside and in thirty or (god forbid) forty years someone’s daughter may end up wiping mine. What goes around comes around.

  32. Hi Elizabeth,

    Fascinating post, and responses. Having been raised Catholic, I associate a lot of these feelings with my strict, almost puritanical upbringing. Catholics untethered the body from its aesthetic moorings many centuries ago and ever since it has been at war with things of the spirit. It's an unnatural agon, but still powerfully influential in the life of the psyche.

  33. Shame, pride, and humiliation are all intertwined. They're hard to separate, actually.

    I just found a book that might be relevant, and which means a lot to me. It's by Jungian analyst and writer Jean Shinoda Bolen, "Close to the Bone: Life-threatening illness and the search for meaning." She gets into grief and shame, as well as mortality. One of the things that I've learned from chronic illness, surgery, and recovery, is that shame is a waste of time. As you know, in hospital dignity, privacy, and modesty go right out the window anyway; so I don't bother with those, either. Body-shame is right out. LOL

    No longer having a bowel, a large intestine, a colon, I am cured of the chronic illness, yes, but I have a long journey to go before I am recovered. There's the reconstruction surgery, and the reconnection surgery, and the recoveries from those. As my doctor joked, hey, at least I'll never ever be at risk for colon cancer anymore. (Which my dad died from.)

    Emphasis on our bodies: The truth is, when you're faced with mortality, or illness, or surgery, you cannot ignore your body. It just isn't possible. It's in your face all the time. You can't avoid it.

  34. I had never really contemplated in so much detail the reason why we do the things we do and where our fears originate from. I am now racking my brains to point the finger at someone/something for my blasted OCD!

  35. The aspects of our physical selves that we're ashamed about can ebb and flow over time, too. When I was pregnant I was a bit of a celebrity in the medical field because the brain tumour I had (NOT cancerous) was supposed to have stuffed up my endocrine system so badly that babies were never going to feature in my life. How used to having an audience during my pelvic examinations I became?

    And yet, immediately after, I still can't get undressed in the public change rooms at the swimming pool….

    Thought provoking writing as usual, Elisabeth.

  36. There was a strong attempt to raise me Catholic. You can't even say Catholicism without including "shame" in the same sentence.

    It takes a lifetime to overcome, I wonder if we ever really do?

    I am slowly finding that I am removing the shame from my Atheism and being more open about it. I am less afraid to reveal it to others… my casual declaration of my Atheism is slowly turning into open pride. It is so much more liberating than shame.

  37. I know that screening test too, Jim, the FOBT – faecal occult blood test, as it's known here. I've been doing it for years since I hit fifty but apparently it's not as clear cut as the whole shebang of a colonoscopy. And so I will endure.

    One of my daughters when she was young took great delight in what we here in this household call 'poo talk', to the extent that she transcribed a poem my husband loved to recite – occasionally – from his school days, and pinned it to her bedroom door:

    Here I sit in silent bliss
    Listening to the trickling piss
    Now and then a fart is heard
    Followed by a plopping turd.

    I'm not sure how this would go in the Scottish vernacular. Australians would have no trouble understanding it.

    When I was young and even into my adult years I could not say the word 'fart'. I felt so appalled by the word.

    It's funny is it. Even when I had babies and they let off those wonderful volleys of farts as only babies do, I joked to them about 'breaking wind'.

    Ah me, now in my old age I can almost cope with these expressions but still I tremble just a little here at the keyboard.

    Thanks, Jim.

  38. I agree John, and you of all people would understand, the agony of the flesh via our puritanical upbringing.

    I've started watching the BBC TV series, Ballykissangel. I'm thoroughly hooked. I know it's lightweight to some extent but I keep feeling all these strange stirrings that go back to my girl hood passions for the priests who were off limits.

    Do you know this series? Perhaps not. It's not high brow and it's probably not even that Irish and yet it appeals to me as what I imagine the Irish might be like in a rural town in the north, and their accents are lovely.

    Of course we must be wary of cultural stereotypes. My father often complained that the book 'Hans Brinkler and the silver Skates', although set in Holland was written in America by an American.

    Thanks, John.

  39. Given your experience Art, you'd know all about the experience I describe and yet I can understand that you've also learned to transcend any sense of shame in it.

    I suspect if you've been subjected to lots of medical interventions regardless of your age and gender you grow inured to the constant prodding and poking that many others might find intrusive and humiliating.

    My daughter cannot bear to see a male doctor, unless it's for a cold. If there's any significant part of her body implicated, especially for the breasts or the nether region she will only go to a woman doctor. I can understand this.

    Years ago, before there were many female doctors we had little choice. These days I too prefer a female doctor, mostly for the bedside manner and just a touch the embarrassment factor but if I'm desperate I'll see anyone who knows what they are doing. You steel yourself against the experience, at least I do.

    Cearly you do too, Art. And as you say, at least you won't suffer the same fate as your father: death from bowel cancer.

    Thanks, Art.

  40. Well maybe these anxieties might well contribute to a tendency towards obsessive and compulsive behaviour, Eternally Distracted.

    As you imply: it all starts with toilet training.

    Thanks, Eternally distracted, and it's good to see you here again.

  41. As I said earlier to Art, Kath, when we're desperate or really in need as in the process of pregnancy, giving birth or at times of serious illness, we drop all pretensions at decorum, but put us back into our normal bodies in the ordinary world, we become prudish all over again.

    And how are the folks in Geneva. I should not generalise. The Dutch are said to be obsessive about cleanliness and hygiene but I never noticed it in my family growing up.

    Thanks, Kath.

  42. Shame is such a problem, Robert, and so insidious. It sneaks in at the most unfortunate of times and yet I worry about those folks who are totally shameless. There has to be a place for shame I suppose as long as it's not used in the service of crippling people.

    I too enjoy a certain level of pride at being able to write 'nil' when it comes to religion, despite my Catholic origins.

    Thanks, Robert.

  43. The Scots would have no problem with your wee poem, Lis. As a kid we didn’t fart, we trumped. I have never heard anyone else use that particular euphemism other than my family. Another euphemism unique to our household (as far as I’m aware) was ‘old man’ – that’s how we males referred to our genitalia.

    As far as the sex of my doctor goes I by far favour females. I have a male GP at the moment and he’s a thoroughly decent chap but I much preferred the nice Irish lady doctor I had before him; I was gutted when she left. When I had my scan a while back there was a female nurse present but I can’t say I was troubled by it. I really don’t get embarrassed by that kind of stuff. At times like that the writer kicks in and all I’m interested in is storing up experiences for possible future use.

  44. Elizabeth,

    I don't know that show at all.

    In ireland another report was published from another parish [Cloyne: The Cloyne Report], outlining yet more clerical sexual abuse, some of it as recent as 4 years ago.

    This was so damning that our Taoiseach excoriated Rome from the Dail Chamber. The Papal Nuncio left the country in disgrace, and more reports are pending. Pedophilia and other acts of sexual deviance reached pandemic proportions in this country.

    Then tonight, on our National TV station, RTE, they aired a docudrama on that monster, Brendan Smith, a serial pedophile, who was coddled and protected by the church as he mowed through the innocent lives of droves of children. The film can be seen here. It's quite harrowing and not for the faint of heart, but it goes to the heart of the kind of shame that Catholicism fosters about the body at the same time as its ministers prey upon defenceless children.

    I have come to the conclusion that Roman Catholicism is incompatible with human nature, human biology and human sexuality. It's an abberrant crock of horseshit, to put it bluntly. I'm glad its iron-fisted hold over my nation is finally at an end.

  45. I enjoyed the intensity of this post as I always "enjoy" your writing, Elisabeth. It's power reaches beyond the words, really. This reminded me of my paternal grandmother, an illiterate peasant from southern Italy who believed that as long as one's bowels were functioning properly, all was right with the world. I think she believed that quite literally and forced her children to have a big gulp of cod liver oil once a day (which also kept them close to home in upper Manhattan).

  46. Trumped: that's a great term, Jim. I've not heard it before. I shall remember. There are so many euphemisms for genitalia, for both men and women. Bits of the body and bodily actions that are emotionally loaded seem to need euphemism as if to reduce the tension. and shame associated with even saying these things. We learn it so early, to be embarrassed, ashamed of our bodies and bodily desires. It's inevitable I expect.

    Thanks, Jim

  47. Maybe we need an instruction kit for the body, Aguja to be able, as you say, to get the various bits in harmony with one another.

    So many of us, so much of the time, myself included, cannot find harmony between our bodies and minds. It's makes for a jerky ride through life.

    Thanks Aguja.

  48. Eleven times I pressed the button because I thought my comment to Ajuga had not been posted and lo and behold I've had to delete them all, one by one. I know no other way.

  49. I don't know how I have done it but I see now that I may have deleted Ajuga's comment, which was never my intention.

    Oh dear. My apologies Aguja, your words are so welcome and now I cannot reinstate them.

  50. I'm struggling with feeling foolish john because i;ve sytuffed up my response to the precvious commenyer and it loks as though i've deleted the comment and oh dear oh dear. If we were in a room in conversation with one another it would be as if I stopped someone in conversation. I feel so contrite.

    Back to your comment, John. I could not see the film from your link but I checked out the story on Google and he certainly looks like a frightening man this Brendan Smith.

    You put it so eloquently, your objections to the domination of a church that has allowed such abuses against children. It's frightening.

    Thanks, John.

  51. My husband's mother was into the cod liver oil as a regulator when he was a boy, too, Elizabeth. Ghastly tasting stuff.

    Some of those old wives' takes may have held some merit, but they also seemed to be laced with a level of cruelty and disregard for peoples' sensibilities.

    Thanks, Elizabeth.

  52. I applaud your daughter and her friends for their concern for those in need but am even more impressed by her boyfriend for suggesting helping out instead of demonstrating. I try not to dwell too much on dying and focus instead on living. I'm lucky to live as well as I do. Aging brings wisdom as well.

  53. It's so interesting to read your memories. They remind me of my childhood, in my grandmother's house, with my aunts and uncles. No wonder that I'm an only child 🙂

  54. Aging brings wisdom, Sarah and part of the wisdom as far as i can see is the beginnings of a healthy respect for the fact of death and dying, not that it's helpful to dwell on it obsessively.

    As you say, it's better to stay with the living, but every so often – for me at least – thoughts of death creep in especially when someone near and dear is about to die.

    Thanks, Sarah. It's good to see you here.

  55. Olga, was your life like that of Milly Molly Mandy? a little girl, an only child who lived in a 'nice white cottage with a thatched roof with her mother and father, her grandmother and grandfather, and her uncle and auntie'.

    Although her life sounds crowded and she was well loved, it was I imagine – reading behind the lines – tough for one little girl among all those adults. I wonder whether yours was likewise so.

    Thanks Olga.

  56. Why shame? In my personal world shame left the day I gave birth to my Down syndrome son at a time when it was not common to announce to friends and relatives that he was born different. Shame is a state of mine like fear. We can opt out.And my colon cancer had no worse affect on me than my loss of an ovary. My loss of vision took more effort to deal with. Homelessness is very sad but again there are those who deal with that stress better than others. Can we face hardships? We all try in different ways.

  57. Shame is relative, Kleinstemotte, across ages and cultures and experience. The things that shame me might seem trivial alongside things that might seem more shameful at large. I read a beautiful essay by a woman named Shelley costa about the shame she experienced when her first born child was still born. It was not of the loss itself nor of her own grief but of the way people judged her for how she dealt with her grief, namely her desire to keep her son's memory alive for years after his death. I can understand this well.

    Thanks kleinstemotte.

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