Th' expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action, and till action, lust
Is perjured, murd'rous, bloody full of blame,
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 129
Are some of us born more naked than others? Brought into the world ready to take in every criticism, suggestion, or unkind remark as gospel, increasing the shame and humiliation delivered along with the placenta? If so, maybe that manner of coming into the world created my submissive nature – or maybe my submissive nature merely makes me comfortable with embarrassment and shame. In the daily rush of getting through life, these are questions I don't need to answer. However, I think understanding requires going all the way back to the beginning.
Firstborn, with three years of being the only child, I competed with careers, a marital relationship less than a year old when I was born, and utterly incompatible spouses who had no idea how to parent. I needed the attention every child needs, so I learned to try harder, to try all the time, and to get used to disappointment and failure. I didn't learn to love failure and disappointment, but I accepted that they were and always would be part of my life.
When my brother arrived, I became the little mother at age three, seeing that caretaking might be the way in which I could get attention and love. Instead, I set a pattern for life – being the caretaker, the provider, the lover. These were roles I would fully inhabit without receiving those things in return. Continuing the pattern of my childhood, I believed it didn't matter what I did, since no one cared about me anyway, and I fell into the pattern of telling people what I thought they wanted to hear, and then doing what I wanted.
I have focused on my dogs, going to great lengths to give them a good quality of life, love, attention, and care – because, in a life devoid of warm contact and happiness, my dogs have always made me feel I matter to them, that they love me, and that they are always happy to be with me, even when I'm not doing anything for them. I never got that from any people in my life, so it was easy to understand why dogs became so important to me. It didn't hurt that they didn't constantly criticize and demand more, more, and still more of me, either. People have taken all I have to give, only to demand greater sacrifices. People have watched me change myself to meet their specifications, only to seek more alterations. I have been in never-ending spirals of defeat and despair, trying to please people without pleasing myself first. Despite the certain knowledge that such a life could only end in despair, incorporating new self-affirming behaviors my daily life has been a nightmare.
Since I started life as a submissive in service in January 2008, many of my ideas about who I am and what my life is about have come under attack. While the concept of being in service, of submitting myself to a Dominant, resonates with me on a very primal level, the actuality of giving up everything, of having no control, has been shattering to adjust to and to accept. The fact that I am relinquishing all of my life, my self, my ideas, my goals, and my desires to another is nearly impossible to comprehend, much less accomplish. The reality that I have spent most of my life trying to accomplish this does not make it any easier to do, since I have never had anything remotely like this in my life before. To make the transition from being responsible not only for myself, but for all the other people and things whom I hold dear in my life, to relinquishing all responsibility to the Dominant has so far been impossible for me to accomplish. I accept that the Dominant I serve requires this; further, I know from the many ways the Dominant I serve has stepped in to help me when I have been overwhelmed that he deserves that level of trust from me. But I still have yet to reach that level of submission, to attain that goal of reliance on the One whom I serve.
My failure to trust adds to my constant sense of falling short; of disappointing the primary person in my life; and of never being good enough. My fear of failure, my tendency to avoid it at all costs, sets up a constant stream of advice: "Get out now. You have been in this situation before and it never ends well for you!" Yet my need for submission, for service, and for the feeling of self-esteem that I earned through expressing my true self to persevere compels me to stay.
Through intense self-examination and discussion of my feelings with the Dominant I serve, I have come to realize that my past experiences with men were failures not just because the men to whom I gave myself were dismissive of the true gift they received, not just because the men whom I loved did not love me in return; or even not just because the men were selfish, self-absorbed boors who had little concern for anyone other than themselves. I have begun to understand that I chose to be in relationships with men who were all those things, not just because of my low self-esteem and unhappiness, but because, by being the giver, the facilitator, and the caretaker, I was IN CONTROL. I could give all or a little; I could try hard or coast; and I could keep most of my life separate from the relationships.
Submission and service do not allow me control. The Dominant I serve wants to know everything; he requires the truth even when the truth will be unpleasant or hurtful to him and/or to me; he will be the only one in control of our relationship and of me, or he will remove himself from the relationship. Wrapping my head around the reality, which is so far removed from the fantasy perception I have had of all my past relationships; recognizing that I always was in control in the past, has been a tough journey for me. It hasn't been completed yet; I'm not "home free" with an understanding and willingness to abandon the behaviors and patterns of decades for flying on an emotional trapeze without a net. But I am trying . . . .
At the moment, feeling fat and being fat seems like a fitting punishment for refusing to speak up for myself. I was too terrified of facing the Dominant's anger, disappointment, and censure to be honest with the Dominant about what was going on with me physically and emotionally. My fear encouraged me to give up, to let go of my goals, and to make myself so disgusting that the Dominant would dump me and release me from the never-ending cycle of disappointment and failure that was eating my soul alive. The submission and service that started as a voyage of discovery and personal expression was becoming my desperate chore that could only end in defeat.
When the truth finally came out, as I know it always will, the shame and despair I felt at my weight gain and esteem loss was exacerbated and heightened by the Dominant's reaction, by his experience of my failure, disappointment, and shame as his own. I did not appreciate how personally the Dominant would take what was, to me, a completely personal defeat, just as the Dominant seems unable to accept the killing punishment and ongoing humiliation of once again having lost my battle with weight. And yet what has been most difficult for me to accept and understand has been the Dominant's refusal to give up on me; his determination to hold me accountable not only for my failure to be honest with him, but for whether my life in submission continues or is cut short.
Every day, I take photos that feel like mug shots, standing convicted of being fat and ugly, and preserving the evidence for the rest of my life. Every day, I stand in a park and urinate, fearing discovery and arrest. Every day, I read stories that are full of violence and disrespect, making me fear that I am heading toward abuse and despair because I am becoming habituated to relationships that require a submissive to be less than human, whilst my goal and belief in submission has been that it makes me better and more than I was before I found that way of life. Every work day, I squeeze between the arms of a desk chair that used to be inches away from my hips. Every work day, I creep up and down stairs like an elderly woman because I fear my leg will collapse under me and people will laugh at the fat woman sprawled up the stairs. Every day, in every way, I am getting sadder and sadder.
And yet, every day, I face the facts the Dominant refuses to let me hide away from: the Dominant chooses to have daily photographs so as to maintain his connection with me despite the geographical distance between us; and the Dominant uses the stories I read and write about to help me understand the wide gulf between the service some submissives endure (or perhaps enjoy) and the service I am privileged to have found. The reading helps me appreciate my needs and desires in submission, as well as the parameters of submission set by my burgeoning self-esteem and pride in service.
Recognizing and accepting that the Dominant I serve, who like the men in my past told me that he did not and would not love me, expresses that denied love for me every day. The Dominant is there for me every day; his number is the first one I call when there is an emergency; he offers sympathy, understanding, and encouragement; and he cares about me – not just the part of me that is his serving submissive, but me as a professional, as a daughter, as a sister, as a friend, all the persons I am even when those persons don't touch his life in any way.
The Dominant I serve went so far as to lend me a large sum of money that was required to secure specialized medical care for one of my beloved dogs, care I could not afford on my own, despite the Dominant's dislike of dogs in general and the annoyance my attention to my dogs in particular brings him.
Even through my despair at my weight gain, and the hard acknowledgement of the underlying emotional issues that contributed to it, I have been encouraged by the Dominant I serve to claw out of my shame and disappointment. The Dominant I serve believes, and frequently tells me, what I have to KNOW -- that I am not as worthless and undeserving as I have told myself I am. I have begun losing weight yet again, but this time I am not just watching my food intake and increasing my exercise.
Instead, I am working on ALL my weight issues, including the insidious emotional and psychological ones. I am utilizing an online program that provides me with daily contact with others dealing with many of the same (and more severe) emotional and physical issues I face. Being a part of a community of people (mostly women) who openly and honestly express the emotional, physical, and psychological impact on their lives of being overweight and unfit physically has been tremendously liberating and empowering in a struggle that has consumed much of my adult life.
Being a serving submissive has taught me many things – things I didn't know about myself, things I didn't know about love, and things I didn't know about life. Submissive service not only teaches me how to serve, but how to learn all I can about the One I serve. Submissive service helps me appreciate some of the burdens and responsibilities accepted by the Dominant I serve as part of his acceptance of my service.
All of these are important, vital lessons for a submissive, and for a fully functioning human being. The primary lesson I have learned and continue to learn is that being my true and authentic self, in submission, or in any other relationship, is the only way to escape shame.