a visit with shadow

Over the weekend, Shadow showed up at my front door. I hadn’t invited her, but her visit was not unexpected. She has a tendency to drop by when I experience loss, sadness, or frustration. She typically makes a grand entrance, sashaying in with her XL cup of ominously dark coffee, and exclaims, “Buckle up! Get ready for a ride!”

As one who has been passionate about social justice and has a strong combination of F&J on her Myers Briggs, I have struggled with a shadow who demands fairness, truth and justice. Sadly, my Shadow doesn’t always mind her manners, and she ends up proclaiming what is right and wrong in ways that start the roller coaster on its downward spiral. (By the way, I am sure the XL cup of coffee she carries around doesn’t help matters.) As a result, I go to my safe place of withdrawal, filled with shame and guilt and feeling horribly about hurting those around me.

Even with centering prayer, rest, therapy and spiritual direction, Shadow doesn’t disappear. She might take a cruise or lounge poolside on a tropical island, but after resting up, she hits the road running–staying just close enough to remind me of the dark silhouette of who I am.

But as one who has begun to settle into her life as a contemplative, I am learning more about myself by walking with Shadow. I won’t try to pretty it up here–it is hard trying to see her for who she is: an amalgam of childhood woes, holes in my heart, and defense mechanisms. And yet, as she looks back at me, I am starting to find the opportunity for growth instead of withdrawal and humility instead of shame.

Most importantly, I am learning to accept grace that is extended through the Creator and creation while extending forgiveness and understanding to myself.

So a new prayer practice for me has become sitting with Shadow, being tender with her and understanding her, listening to her and learning from her.

And even extending to her a cup of chamomile tea.

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