“If you refuse to address your shadow, you will continue to meet your shadow in relationships.”
These are the words that came to me. I’m calling it a thought because I can’t be for sure that it was intuitive. The idea came to me while I was recalling an incident…. It was a moment of
“Wait a minute?” “I wonder if that happened because… “
Well, maybe it’ll be easier to just tell you the story….
I was standing in my room thinking about the recent shadow work I’ve started. To be honest, I am still learning all of what “shadow work” means, but for now, my definition of shadow work is addressing the painful and shameful stuff that we tuck away in the back of our minds so we can go on with life without crying all the time. That definition works for me.
I’ve said for the longest time that “I don’t have time” to process painful stuff. I’ve got a child to raise. Look, I’m just being honest. I am a single mother who has chosen entrepreneurship over employment, with no example to guide me through it. For the sake of my sanity—and so I could be present for my daughter—I chose to “suck it up” and deal with it later. I was kept that up for a while but you know the pandemic and all. I think we all needed a therapist. So I got me one, too.
Prior, however, my go-to coping mechanism was to just tuck that stuff into the overflowing storage closet of my mind, and periodically when the door creaked and a memory spilled out, I’d just tuck that stuff back in and force that door shut. I know I should not be proud of my chosen coping mechanism, given that I have a master’s in counseling. But I did what I thought would work to get through….
Well, as you may know, if you’ve ever discovered a slimy, gross, dripping, what-the-heck-is-this-color-and-what-is-that-smell nasty bag of uneaten salad in the back of your fridge…., you know that ignoring a task doesn’t make it go away. Eventually, it demands your attention in ways that are grossly inconvenient and at times horribly pungent.
This brings me to my ex….
You may, or may not, know this, but I’m a “pk.” PK stands for “preacher’s kid.” Despite the belief that many hold that the pastor’s kids are usually the worst ones (I’ve heard that a million times ), I was a people pleaser. I work very hard to do the right thing, keep my business to myself, and not “bring shame on the family.”
There are so many things that I wanted to do that I didn’t allow myself to do because I didn’t want to bring shame on the family. There are so many parts of my story that I do not share, because I don’t want to bring shame on the family. There are so many projects I’ve avoided bringing to life to avoid bringing shame on the family. For decades, I have had this duality within, that I was ignoring due to a sense of obligation.
Well, remember how I told you when you don’t address the internal, it presents itself externally? Well, that happened to me in April. On Easter Sunday, of this year, my ex showed up, stood in front of my house, and at the top of his lungs, for about 15 minutes straight, yelled my personal business, my family’s personal business, lies about me and my family and some misconceptions, for the entire neighborhood to hear. When I say “yelled,” I mean hollered with a barreling voice, so loudly that if you were within 3 blocks you could hear him from any direction, and if you were within a block and a half you could hear EVERY word. He walked back and forth in front of my house yelling lies, secrets, mental health diagnoses, and so much more with increasing volume, right as the neighborhood church dismissed it’s Easter Sunday parishioners. It was a HUGE scene, with LOTS of witnesses. It was humiliating.
It was the worst day of my life, and I was nearly shot and killed while I was pregnant. I have slept in my car with my newborn. I have been through all kinds of “you’ve got to be lying” experiences, and this was the WORST day of my life.
I am an introvert. I don’t argue in public. I barely discuss personal matters in private. And this…. individual…. put all my business in the street….
It took the wind out of me. It was beyond unsettling. He was out of control, but at the same time—because he took mine—he was in control. There was nothing I could do to stop it. I wasn’t gonna call the police, because he wasn’t being physically threatening and I wasn’t about to be responsible for the next police shooting. He wasn’t going to stop until he was done. I wasn’t even engaging him. I went inside and locked my door after the first minute of trying to get him to calm down and discuss things respectfully.
Eventually, he stopped. Someone calmed him. They left. And I locked the door, collapsed on the couch, pulled knees to my chest and wept. I mean graveside at a dear loved one’s funeral bawled, inconsolably….
Later, that day, when I was calm, I began to process what happened. And being me, forever the one who finds the bright side, I thought, “Well, I guess now I don’t have to worry about that tell-all I’ve been wanting to write. He just freed me.”
Being “nice” is now out the window. Whatever details are necessary to have most powerful impact for my readers will be shared… with ease.
This is the story that came to me as I thought about the shadow work I am now doing. I’ve been wanting to tell my story for a long time, now. I was afraid to do it because I didn’t want parts of my story to “cause shame to the family,” AND I didn’t want to upset some of the other characters by letting people know the truth about them. What I realized is that because I was too terrified to tell my story, this blankety blank individual showed up to tell it for me. And his version wasn’t fully factual.
The blessing in this is that his irrational behavior actually helped me, although, he was trying to hurt me. I believe “ALL things work together for good.” To me, that means that even if in the moments it doesn’t feel like it, nothings happens TO me, everything happens FOR me.
What he attempted to do to me, is now going to work for me. I had things that I wanted to share, but refused to because of a ridiculous sense of loyalty. I didn’t want to make him and others look bad. I was helping them keep up appearances. However, thank you my dear ex for freeing me to share my story. I no longer need to feel obligated to protect the image of people who repeatedly and consistently treat me like .
I am so grateful for that horrible experience. I no longer have to fear the worst case scenario. I experienced it. So any fear I have now of telling my story is purely out of habit. I get to tell it. I get to heal those places where I feel inadequate—those aspects of me I try to hide with accomplishments. I get to have honest conversations about my life, and my past, with those who matter most. And I get to take these lessons and moments and use them to help others feel less alone and see a path for navigating tough stuff.
I get to stop being afraid of what’s tucked away in my mental storage closet. I get to reframe stories for my inner child. I get to heal myself in a new way—through working with my shadow—and as you know, when I learn, I teach. We all get to grow.
Thanks for listening. I hope you found something inspiring in my venting.
Marlene Dillon Empowerment Specialist
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Marlene Dillon Empowerment Specialist is a single mom who lovingly shares her insights here for free. BuyMeACoffee offers readers a great way to support her work. You can securely send her a gift (a cup of matcha) as a thank you for this post. Simply tap the photo. Then, to the right of the screen, choose “Support” (to send her a one-time gift) or “Membership” (to give monthly). You can even add a thank you message! Blessings!
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