"Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change."
She opens her journal and writes and translates into Italian:
"Dear God, please help me to be proud of myself and not to be ashamed of what I've written. Please help me love all parts of myself and my story."
"Caro Dio, per favore aiutami ad essere orgoglioso di me stesso e non vergognarti di quello che ho scritto. Per favore aiutami ad amare tutte le part di me stesso nella mia storia."
When she reads over the Italian, one word jumps out at her:
She knows that word, or one like it: VERGOGNA.
Or Si Vergogna, Ashamed.
She knows that word because she heard her mother say it over and over again while she was growing up. Her mother, who was easily humiliated, was determined not to live in shame. When she saw others doing things she disapproved of, she would say the word, ver-GONE-ya, accenting the second syllable.
Leah goes to a new page in her journal and writes in huge capital letters:
V E R G O G N A
She takes out her colored pens and starts playing with the letters that make up the Italian word that haunts her.
She adds an LO to the VE that begin the word, and creates the word LOVE.
She starts with the V and writes vertically the words VIOLET FLAMES, which help to heal. I have written about violet flames before, back in May 2020. Violet flames are an invisible spiritual energy that "revitalize and invigorate us and change negative energy into positive energy. By transforming negative thoughts and feelings, violet flames provide a platform for our healing."
She starts with the E and writes the word EMERGING. Leah has been using this writing to emerge into a healthier person. She wants to continue writing, and healing. She realizes that E could also be ENOUGH. As in what her friend Kathy Joy wrote to her a couple of weeks ago:
YOU. ARE. ENOUGH. It's enough she is writing this personal history. It's ENOUGH and it's OK.
She starts with the R and writes down the names she knows so well: RICCI and her mother's maiden name, ROTONDO. At the final O in Rotondo, she writes the last name of her shamed ancestor, ORZO.
born in 1870 in a small village in Southern Italy to an unmarried woman, Filomena Scrivano, my great great grandmother.
Leah thinks about the fact that her father's mother's name was Albina Orzo Ricci. Leah knows that her grandmother and all of her sisters grew up feeling deeply ashamed of the fact that their father was born out of wedlock. That shame passed down to Leah's father and his generation, and now, she realizes,
she too may carry traces of the ORZO shame.
Leah goes back to the word
V E R G O G N A
She starts with the letter G and writes the word GUILTY, which of course describes how she feels having written the last chapter, which is called:
HEAL LEAH LEAH HEAL FEEL ALL OF YOUR FEELINGS INCLUDING HATRED AND ANGER
But then she takes the L in GUILTY and writes the word LOVE once again. The more she loves herself, and her family, the better she feels.
She proceeds to the letter O and writes OLD. One of the things Leah has been feeling is that she's too old to be writing about emotional abuse that happened when she was a child several decades ago. But then she writes the words NOT TOO right above the world OLD. Mary says you're never too old to face beliefs that hold you back.
With the second G, Leah writes two words: GOD and GINA. Leah knows that God is guiding her writing, at least she hopes so. And Leah knows that GINA IS THE NAME OF THE VOICE THAT SPEAKS DEEP TRUTHS in her writing.
By the time she gets to the last two letters of
V E R G O G N A
the N and A are easy.
Taking the word apart has done wonders for her mind and heart. She has started to feel calmer.
She knows of course that she will continue to feel her feelings. She will feel anger again. She will feel shame. She will feel guilty.
Most of all she will feel confused about how to go forward with her healing story.
But today she knows for sure she is going forward, because today, she has taken a small step.