Skeletons In The Trunk

On a recent trip to the grocery store, I heard a strange creak each time we rolled to a stop. I looked back, turned to my boyfriend and asked, “What’s in the truck?”

I knew there is a spare tire, a box of old computer parts for the electronics recycle, and two P-100 masks and googles for when we need to visit the moldy condo. There are neon orange safety vests, a wool blanket, and a car battery jump-starter. But none of those things should squeak or scrape.

“Oh, that’s the skeleton,” he replied nonchalantly.

It took me a beat to remember that a family friend had gifted him an old model skeleton upon acceptance to medical school. My in-laws demanded we “get that thing out of the house” so it’s now, apparently, living in the trunk of the car.

There is a idiom: skeletons in the closet. It refers to a shameful secret that could seriously harm a person’s reputation if discovered. When me make disastrous mistakes, hurt the people we love, and fall short of our potential, our initial response is often to hang our head in disgrace, hide the evidence, and try to move on without anyone noticing.

We all make mistakes. I’m sure we all have events in our life that we wish we could go back in time to change. Perhaps a particular exchange of unkind words still haunts you. Maybe you stole something when you were down on your luck. What have you done? And have you worked up the courage yet to face it?

I have been thinking. What if, instead of tucking our darkest secrets in the deepest, furthest crevice of our home, we declared a truce and invited our skeletons out for a cup of tea? What of, instead of shaking with fright at the distant creaking, we offer our greatest failures a piggyback ride around the neighborhood? Check it out, everyone! I screwed up, and I’ve learned from it.

Shame disappears when exposed to the light. When we can admit that we made a mistake and apologize with sincerity, any sense of dishonor of embarrassment will begin to fizzle out. Sometimes slowly, and sometimes all at once.

At one point in my life, I was a full-time bully. And my only victim was my own self. Through yoga, meditation, and journaling, I gradually learned to ease up on myself just a bit. When stricken with chronic illness, I was forced to forgive myself entirely. I had no energy to function, let alone be consumed by negativity, so I chose to believe that at every point of failure, I had been doing the best that I could with what I had at the time. I think that holds true for all of us.

For the last several years, I have been quick to admit fault. Yes, I told a white lie. Yes, I ate the last slice of pie. Yes, I forgot to collect that signature. Yes, I’ve been an absent friend. Yes, I have made mistakes but, with you as my witness, it’s my intention to be better. It feels incredibly vulnerable. Yet, it feels deeply and profoundly freeing.

So, we’re driving around with this creaky skeleton in the trunk of the car. And now I realize, without the bandwidth for secrets, I’ve unknowingly been walking hand-in-hand with my skeletons for years now. It’s yet another gift bestowed upon me by illness: freedom from shame.

20 thoughts on “Skeletons In The Trunk

  1. But seriøsly. I’m a Negative Nancy. Cynical. Jaded. At any moment I’m a few steps away from nihilism. Which is why I worship darkness. It isn’t evil, but loathing can move you, and given time, become coequal to the light – which would be nothing, Eros comes from Erebus as life from a womb. I have been guilty of impatience and ingratitude, I struggle to maintain interior chastity. I frequently linger on schadenfreude. So I force myself to find the good where I can, and as a result, am moved to make my moral proclamations carefully. Because nobody is perfect, and while I don’t glorify imperfection I do know that it is the prime mover of elevation, so I try not to begrudge. Hard though it is.

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    1. Darkness is where the best art and the deepest thoughts seem to reside. It’s interesting, though, I think melancholy is not the pop-a-pill depression, but an appreciation for the suffering humanity endures (and subsequently overcomes). I suspect many “depressed” individuals have never considered that sorrow is a normal and healthy part of the human experience. I find myself doing the same–seeking out the good to counterbalance the darkness. It can be though, through.
      Also, thank you for the etymology lesson on eros. Fascinating!

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      1. Yes, I completely agree with you on psychiatrics. I noticed a strong correlate between food and mood. At least personally, avoidance of dairy, sugar, and alcohol paired with time outdoors is the optimal mood stabilizer. Everyone I know is in therapy… WHY?! I don’t get it. Life is great! I’ve been sick as all hell for years, and life is still amazing. I think it’s largely just in people’s head–we either choose to focus on our baggage or choose to stare out the window at the incredible view.

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      2. Innawoods, as we say among friends. A few hours at the pit plinking, climbing hills or slogging muck. I was in a hiking group a few years doing mountain hikes, I miss that. My current gaggle of friends aren’t hikers. Which is fine, more the museum and culture types which is good.

        While I think therapy is a sham which can be done by one’s self or confidants, I don’t begrudge anybody their depression nor downplay the crippling stupidity of society… which is still not bigger than a mountain, or more interesting than New England’s stone hence. I have been nixxing dairy lately, I don’t know as I’ve noticed a difference. As far as booze go – it’s only good for me in small doses for short times. Not big on sugar, myself, though I know some folk aren’t bothered by it in the least.

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  2. Freedom from shame by being open! Love this! I try to live this way within my own skin, and it definitely works! I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to give it a shot!

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  3. Wow. This is so powerful and speaks to me so much. Like you, I’ve been a huge bully to myself, spending years holding myself to the expectation of perfection even while very ill. Looking back, I really wish I’d been more forgiving to myself. These past few years, I’ve been working on admitting to things I can’t do because of my chronic illness. It’s hard but it’s also been freeing to some degree. I do need to invite my skeletons to tea and soon! Thank you for sharing!

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