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My Closet, Your Shame

By Maia Michelle Raven


She stared at the screen. She turned around and slapped me. Whack. She slapped me again. My face is burning. I run to the window to hide, but I have no protection. She can get me wherever I go. She finds me when I’m most vulnerable, when she knows I don’t have the strength to protest. She comes in without knocking when she wants to tell me that her friend is sad about something. I’m working, but everything stops for her. If you’re giving me attention, I’m all yours. You know I’m starving. You know I’m available. Come on in, invade me. Go get those most unwanted items of yours that you keep stored in my bedroom closet.

“Why do you have to keep all that stuff in my closet?” I ask with irritation again, hoping for a different answer. She responds immediately as if rehearsed, “I don’t have room for it in mine!” She then sighs with annoyed exasperation and entitlement. Exactly. You pour your unwanted overflow into me. Your shame most notably. And your disgust of yourself. There’s simply not even room for my shame, as all that fills my closet is yours. I have a few shelves of folded clothes, books, miscellaneous items, and a corner of child-size hanging garments being pushed over by your unwanted, discarded, neglected, and shunned belongings. Mostly long, flowy garments with puffy embellishments, dresses and suits in plastic wrappings from dry cleaning, all clinging and suffocating my corner of things. Boxes of once-worn high heels and ‘important’ papers ruffled together in sloppy stacks threatening to jump onto my neat little cubby. There's just enough space on my shelf for my stuff to be further pushed in and blocked from view. My belongings sit and hang there, curious and hopeful, but irritated, tense and scared, wondering, “When will all these obnoxious items ever get out of here! They’re jamming our space. We can’t breathe. We have no room.”

I tell them matter-of-factually with conviction, “Get out of my closet. You don’t belong here. You need to go back to your owner. I’m simply not responsible for you. I need my own space for my own belongings. For my own dreams, my capability, my self-compassion, my self-respect, my creative expressions of life and desire, needs, fears, and regrets. You will have to go back now.” But they protest, whimpering and ignoring my boundary, hoping I won't notice. “She doesn’t want us," they say. "That’s why we’re here. You will have us, right? You accept everyone, everything. You’re the one with infinite love and acceptance. We need you.”

I respond firmly with my feeling of real power rising, “I have an overflow of my own. The good stuff of me that has nowhere to go because you’re taking up all the space. I don’t want to house my things in another country, another vessel, another time, a life unlived. I want them here in my home, in my sacred body, my presence, this lifetime I live now. I’m sorry you were left but the only one who can really help you is her. I’m bringing you back to her room now. I will lay you on the floor in front of her closet. She will need to see you when she approaches to find her clothes. Maybe that will get you some notice. I hear that you fear she will toss you somewhere else into another hidden pile. Yes, It’s very likely. But her large double closet doors are mirrored; when she goes to see her own reflection, she can also see the whole room in the background, with each unwanted pile. You will be back where you belong. She may shift you from time to time. But it will be her hands lifting and releasing, not mine. There is nothing for you in my closet. Most of the time she doesn’t even remember that you’re here." I throw her clothes down in front of the mirrored doors. I stack the boxes and papers and walk a few steps back to my childhood bedroom.

My closet feels empty. We don’t know what to do with all this space. Where is she? Where are all her wants and needs and garbage and shame and things we need to hide from her. I feel scared. I don’t know what to do with all this space. I miss them now. They’re all I’ve ever known. This emptiness. A gaping hole. It hurts it cuts it stings. I feel dizzy. I want to be numb.

But a small hum buzzes at the floor. I look down and see bare earth. This is a dark closet, nothing will grow here I think to myself. But I see signs of life. Little green pops of hope glimmering. I talk to them. I tell them the story of who lived here before. I speak of my pain, irritation, resentment and rage at feeling invisible, voiceless, unimportant. I tell them why I needed the space and I tell them how I really don’t know what to fill the space with yet. I just know it needs to come from me and belong to me. It needs protection, encouragement and celebration. I find some toys from my childhood- Rainbow Brite, My Little Ponies, and a Popple. I put them together on the earth, in a circle around the green pops of hope. I look at them with love, with the tenderness I wish I received, with the longing I wanted held and mirrored. I hold them in my heart. I hold this little girl who has never had space all her own, who was endlessly required to make space for others inside her sacred being. I leave the door open so these green pops have a chance to grow. The sunlight beams in. I sit and cry. And cry and cry and sob and wail, and flail and cry some more. These tears are enough. They are. I won’t need to hose in water from a tap or crack my window to let in rain. I look down and the green glimmers glow. My tears enable growth.

I watch them ever so subtly getting bigger. But some days it looks like they’re just staying the same. The stagnation triggers my fears and releases more tears. And the next day, they grow! “Don’t be scared of the tears,” they whisper to me, the little green hopes. “We need your tears to keep growing” they say reassuringly. I feel gently encouraged by the usefulness of my crying.

I am filling this closet with life born from me, nurtured by me, and expanded by me. I am taking up space. I am claiming my time. I am making sure people knock, and that I know why I’ve invited them to enter. This closet is now mine.


Maia Michelle Raven is solo parent of two, NYC to West Yorkshire transplant, enjoying and reaching through life's many adventures. She strongly believes in human resilience and healing through the arts, as well as healing through caring for others.


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