Category Archives: Shadow Side

Doing It All In Spite of Your Self

Image by Peter Lomas from Pixabay 

Many years ago, as a wife and mother of three young daughters, with aging parents living next door, I awoke one morning to the normal sounds of my daughters getting ready for school. Instead of getting out of bed, I uncharacteristically pulled the covers up under my chin, giving in to my desire to ignore the call of yet another busy day.

My husband worked rotating shifts; he was on the early watch that day. With a 45 minute commute, he was up and out of the door before dawn, having made his own breakfast. It was the one indulgence I’d claimed from the beginning of our marriage. I’ve never minded rising early, but my brain doesn’t fully engage for an hour or more. Trying to make breakfast is comical at best, sometimes even dangerous . . . cooking with gas. Tea and quiet contemplation are more my style.

This day, I begged off getting breakfast for the girls and overseeing their morning rush, saying I maybe had a cold coming on. I had that tell tale achey and fatigued feeling, despite having slept through the night.

The girls ate cold cereal and got themselves out the house and down the driveway to the school bus. Eventually, I had to get up and into my day, but when I tried, my back seized in pain, paralyzing me in place. Living on our little hobby farm, with large garden, a small menagerie of livestock and heating our home entirely with wood, any number of daily chores may have been the cause of my pain.

Even the slightest movement was excruciating. Anybody whose ever had back pain realizes very soon how much of our movement is supported by the back—it hurts even to breath. All I could manage was to roll to the edge of the bed and drop to the floor. I crawled on my hands and knees to the phone, to call my mother for help.

At the ER, a breif exam and X-rays revealed nothing more than severe spasm of the major muscles in my back (oh is that all?), and a bit of spinal misalignment. I was fitted with a soft support brace and scheduled for physical therapy. It ended up being months of therapy—six before the pain wasn’t a constant companion and nearly a year before doing even light work didn’t cause a flare-up.

It was that incident that started my journey to self care. I was the “backbone” of our family. I kept everything running, kept everybody on schedule, provided comfort and nurturing for my growing family and companionship for my aging parents. I worked out of the house part-time, but was home when my children were home. I cooked, cleaned and was responsible for most household maintenance as my husband work hours were long and demanding.

I didn’t just “have it all” as they promised young women of the day, I was doing it all . . . all by myself. I didn’t realize exactly how ego driven my need to be needed was.

The Natural Remedy Book for Women, by Dian Stein, introduced me to the idea that our body’s dis-ease is often the best clue to where we are suffering imbalances in our life. It sometimes takes a little detective work. For example, the skin is a barrier for the body, hinting that unexplained skin conditions could be the symptom of poor emotional boundaries. Chronic sore throats or difficulty swallowing may indicate feeling unable to speak freely or to call out untruths as you see them (a lot to swallow).

For years, even before my marriage, I was the fixer, the family mediator, the one jumping in wherever I saw the need to smooth things over, or maintain harmony. I was carrying the load, physically and emotionally, for too many who were willing to let me. And who would blame them? I was filling all the space, patching all the cracks before anybody had a chance to see them.

I didn’t know how to step back and leave enough room for others to step in. When my back gave out on me, I had no other choice.

It would be even more years before I awoke to the ways of witchery, and still more before I delved into my shadow work, where I would begin to understand that my desire to make others happy is a desire for their appreciation. I am a praise junky, no doubt because my parents showed love through expressing appreciation, whether for a job well done, a story or joke well told, a kindness given—any notable action or accomplishment. A high achiever, I became an expert at cultivating heaps of praise.

My default for receiving love is co-dependent, basing my sense of worth on what others tell me is valuable to them. I’ve learned to resist my first impulses to jump in and save the day, but it’s like fighting any addiction—my craving for acknowledgment and appreciation is always gnawing at me. Before I offer help, I have to ask myself if I’m doing it only for the praise I might get, and would I still do it if I knew for certain there would be no pay-off.

I once cooked meals for a woman after she’d done me serious harm that effectively ended our relationship. Her husband was dying of cancer. She was working full time and couldn’t quit her job. She’d asked among her friends and family if somebody could make meals that she could easily reheat at the end of her long days.

Nobody else responded to her need for this small comfort, so for several months I cooked a week’s worth of meals at a time, arranging for a mutual friend to deliver them to her. It was one thing she needed that I was capable of giving. If there were never a single word of thanks, I knew, without questions how much those meals would be appreciated.

I’ve also learned there are healthier ways to channel my penchant for trouble shooting, as I did when working as an events coordinator—there’s always at least one fire that needs dousing at every event. And there are far more enjoyable ways to receive accolades, like performing in community theater for one.

My mother used to say I’d cut off my nose to spite my face. As a headstrong and persistent teenager, I didn’t understand what she was trying to tell me. I spent a good part of my life, bending over backwards, doing cartwheels and handsprings, trying to get people to do the same for me. It’s taken me a long time to figure out I could put all that energy into giving myself what I need, instead of begging others for crumbs.

You don’t have to love yourself before others can or will love you; but if you don’t love yourself at least as much as you expect others to love you, there will be an emptiness in your heart that remains unfilled.


Living Dangerously

It’s my wedding anniversary today—16 years. That’s right, I chose to get married on the 13th, throwing superstition and caution to the wind. If that’s not enough, every so often our anniversary falls on Friday the 13th!

I suppose this tells people a lot about my character. Though appearance might suggest otherwise, I am not conventional. Caution has to come to me late, thanks to the laws of nature and physics requiring more prudent thought before action, for my own wellbeing. But that’s new for me.

I don’t conform. I like to be the odd duck, the square peg, the devil’s advocate. “But what if . . . ” is probably one of my favorite things to say. I like to challenge people and I like to be challenged. When I told my father I was going to be a writer (at age 22 with a husband and two small children in tow) his comment to me was, “You can’t even spell, how are you going to be a writer?”

I flirt with tempting fate. My father was right. My spelling prowess is mediocre at best. I seem to get tangled up in double consonants all the time. If I double them, chances are it’s wrong. When I don’t, that’s wrong too. Lately I’m having trouble with vowels—I had to look up consonant. My sister and I both begrudge menopause for eating away at our language skills, but that’s another story.

Anyway, hoping for a career in which spelling skill is essential (remember, this was before spell check) doesn’t seem like the best bet, but my father’s comment was the challenge I needed to succeed. He probably knew that. I don’t think there was any single person more proud of my success. I only wish I’d finished my novel before he died, especially since he inspired so much of the characterization of Pops.

Perhaps choosing a day for my wedding that many people attach to bad luck was just another challenge to me.

Perhaps it appeals to my shadow side, which is very much out there, alive and thriving.

Perhaps I just wanted to be sure my husband would never forget our anniversary.

Halloween was another consideration, with a masquerade ball for the reception. But I’m a (recovering) Catholic girl who made her first communion on that date, and then years later took her first lover on the same date. October 31 seemed like it had enough going on already.

Screen Shot 2018-04-13 at 12.54.24 PMSo, today, I’ll celebrate my anniversary with dinner and drinks at a very nice restaurant, and then come home in time for a little midnight nosh with Hekate.

Yup, that’s normal for me.

 


When a Good Girl Goes Bad

I went to see Gone Girl last week. Talk about a gal who’ll stop at nothing to rid herself of a man with whom she’s grown disenchanted. It prompted a conversation with my husband in which I told him (no offense or threat intended) that it was a good thing women are creators by nature and not destroyers, else there would be a whole lot of men sitting in prisons or disappearing into the night never to be seen again.

Gillian Flynn, the author of Gone Girl, is receiving accolades for her work (both the book and the screen adaptation she wrote) mostly because this level of dark brutality isn’t expected from women writers. Or maybe it’s just that it hasn’t been acknowledged before this.

It seems I read that Sue Grafton, author of the popular series of books with alphabet titles – A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar and so on – plotted her first book while lying awake nights thinking of ways to do away with, or at least get even with, her ex-husband.

Back to Gone Girl (as in gone bad, really bad). It sparked recollections of my favorite women-over-the-edge-movies. If you like to peek into the devious feminine mind, I’d recommend seeing Gone Girl before it leaves theaters – then follow up with any or all from the list below, all available for streaming from Amazon or Netflix.

  • Witness for the Prosecution – and oldie but goody, this classic courtroom drama – murder trial will keep you guessing until the final verdict. And who says love is dead when a woman will perjure herself to save her husband? It’s what she’s saving him for that will surprise you.
  • Diaoblique – another oldie this movie was originally filmed and premiered in France in 1955, but there are several newer adaptations, including an 1996 version in english and the earlier, 1993 House of Secrets starring Melissa Gilbert. The plot puts an interesting twist on the gaslight genre and what happens developes two women put their heads together. Just remember, when keeping your friends close and your enemies closer, don’t get them confused.
  • Body Heat – Speaking of doubling down, the captivating Kathleen Turner (at the height of her sex bomb days at the time of this movie) not only disposes of one bothersome rooster, but two – with the proverbial one stone; the best part is she doesn’t even have to get her hands dirty throwing it.
  • Too Die For – is a slightly campy delight focusing on a media-stardom obsessed, femme fatale. It will take you down a rabbit hole of disbelief; meaning you can’t believe how effortlessly she mesmerizes a slew of minions to do her bidding, and yet you can.
  • Sea of Love – the ending in this one is a bit different from the rest of my picks, and isn’t quite what you expect, but it will still leave you wondering if the guy needs his head examined—the big one on top of his shoulders. There’s plenty examining of his little head going on (though it didn’t make a screen debut as did the over exaggerated package of Ben Affleck in Gone Girl).

Turns out only two of my picks were written by women, Agatha Christie’s witness for the prosecution and Joyce Maynard’s To Die For, and even those were adapted to screenplay by men. In fact, it took a total of four men to wrap their brains around the devious workings of the feminine mind to bring Diabolique to the silver screen.

Whether adapting or writing original screen plays, it seems apparent men know what we might be capable of when or if we were to give our dark thoughts reign over more than paper, stage or film. You’d think that would make them treat us with more respect, or at least start sleeping with one eye open because, just sayin’— Burning Bed?


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