When I was a kid, I often had to choose sides. Whether on the playground, the bus, in the girl's bathroom, or at the dinner table I was perpetually caught in the middle of other people's "stuff". It didn't feel good, but I saw no other option than to stay put, squirming in messiness that wasn't mine.
At the time I didn't know how to say "May I be excused while you guys work it out?"
How I coped as an eight year old didn't look much different from how I coped as an adult. Sometimes I picked the side I could most benefit from. Sometimes I worked both sides, arrogantly assuming the voice of reason in an unreasonable dispute. Sometimes I sided with the person who I most needed love and approval from. And sometimes I just dodged bullets, suffering unnecessary casualties.
Sound like every episode of Game of Thrones? Welcome to my codependent life. (Spoiler: it's gotten better!)
I never learned how to consider my own neglected needs in the chaos of other people's drama, let alone express them. Instead I pretended to be okay and dissociated in self-harming ways which progressed as I got older. I settled for a temporary sense of intimacy that being in a triangle gave me. (It wasn't until much later that I learned the difference between intensity and intimacy.) And here's the mustard seed... when the conflict resolved itself and my role became obsolete, I felt very, very alone.
This loneliness followed me into every one of my relationships until I finally started doing the work of identifying, naming, and recovering my core needs.
I'm sharing this intensely personal and vulnerable thing about myself because shadow work has been so valuable in identifying patterns like this and releasing them with non-judgment and compassion. This work isn't about shaming ourselves or anyone else. It's about naming, freeing, and feeding those hungry parts of our spirit that have been malnourished. It's about asking, "How do I take care of myself right now without acting out of emotional scarcity?"
And when you're ready, it's about acknowledging the ways in which your shadow protected you. How certain defects are actually attributes once they've been exposed to the light.
This week Saturn in Capricorn is squaring Mercury in Aries which means we get a chance to set right the ways we communicate from the wound. We get to be warriors of love and loyalty TO OURSELVES by being aware of our shadow behaviors and cultivating kind, loving acceptance. When that happens, great healing is possible for the entire world.
My mantra for the week as I embrace my shadow is "Breathe, tell the truth, ask for help, remember this is all practice, and just show up the best you can."
Carry on witches.
Good read: The Language of Letting Go, Melody Beattie