I’m a time traveler of shame

The mechanism

I have a superpower. Whenever I want — and even sometimes when I don’t — I can travel back into time. Unfortunately, I can’t go back and bet on sporting events Biff Tannen-style … my power has a few caveats.

I can only relive moments from my own past.

Actually, just my presence is traveling through time — not my physical body. I can watch events unfold. I can feel the emotions as fresh as the instance they first occurred. I cannot, however, affect what I say or change my choices.

Also, and this one really sucks, I can only travel to moments of intense shame.

What happens is that the intense despair in my gut is so dense, so packed with hatred for myself, that it rips the fabric of spacetime. That creates a tunnel, which enables me to reenter that space either at my choice or whenever I just remember that it happened.

For example, I remember the time as a child when I crawled under the chair of a girl my older brother was dating. I know that I wanted to look up her clothes. I don’t know why I thought that my brother (who is 12 years older than me) or my mother wouldn’t notice or care — I guess I just broke as children sometimes do. When I did sort of realize how I was behaving, the sense of shame covered me like a shower.

That moment floods back to me probably once a month, and the emotional effect is still blinding. When I’m driving. When I’m working. It rushes into my brain like oxygen into a vacuum. Each time I remember it, I clutch my brain and whimper.

I hate myself.

Thankfully, this superpower has conditioned me to focus my energies on avoiding situations in which I could embarrass myself.

Of course, they still happen occasionally — like it did on Sunday night.

If you don’t know what happened, I’ll recap it for you.

On Sunday night around 11:45 p.m.,  I noticed a press release from EA in my inbox announcing that the company had decided on a new chief executive officer.

I won’t try to justify why I thought it was OK to print it because I hate the way I sound when I’m defensive. Defensiveness is an ugly byproduct of shame.

I’ll just say that I was fully aware that April Fools started at midnight.

I printed the news. It was a hoax. Familiar, unbelievable shame.

And suddenly I have a new portal into my past. A new wound I can open at any time if I want to feel miserable.

I can’t blame anyone else. I fucked up at my job because I fucked up. I embarrassed myself and others.

And it’s just the worst feeling for me. My intestines have been overrun with acid all week. Every time I smile I feel guilty and immediately remember what I did. Every time I laugh, I automatically jump back to that mistake. My body won’t let me forget that I should hate myself.

It hurts, and I think I deserve that.

The worst part is that you just want someone to scream and yell at you until you cry. Someone to make you feel as horrible as you think you deserve, but everyone is just disappointed.

And that hurts.

But I’m OK. I really am.

There’s another superpower that helps me deal with that pain.

It’s called watching the news and remembering how lucky I am: I get to write about video games. They didn’t fire me. They helped me, actually. I’m getting married soon. I have a home. I have a family to fall back on. I’m not starving. I’m not oppressed. I’m not hated for what I look like. I’m not an orphan drinking filthy water in a war-torn nation. That person would despise me if they read that my feelings hurt over something so trivial.

It’s a mechanism that I can deploy at will. I just need to occasionally wind it up with outside perspective.

It helps remind me that my problems aren’t really problems — and I guess that’s why I’m writing this. Just so I can see myself write that and remember that my real power is the ability to remember how lucky I am.

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