Last week I shared the first instalment of a story on this blog, as story which is designed to give you a flavour of how I got to where I am, and how I come to be doing the work I am doing right now. And, as promised, here is the second instalment:
It’s May 2009 and I am just back from a weekend workshop for women and I can’t quite explain it to anyone – not least my neighbours who are having a barbecue in the garden – but for what feels like the first time in my life I feel really different.
I don’t even really know why I went on the weekend in the first place but I had a funny feeling that I should! Since I started doing Action Learning I have been thinking differently at work but I am full of confusion about what I want in my life more generally. I don’t know how to figure it out at all really. If I am totally honest it is almost like an alien question.
Generally, before this I haven’t asked myself what I want, I’ve asked myself what other people think I should do. What would help or please them most?
My friend Jo had been sending me the information about the weekend, which is called Women in Power, for years and I like the sound of it. Even though I am not 100% sure what it is, and it looks at bit wacky. I felt drawn to it mostly because the invitation reminds me of the amazing book “Women Who Run With the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés that I first read and loved years ago when I was still in College and because the invitation comes from a woman who I love and respect. And now it’s over and I don’t exactly know why but these women have got to me. They have challenged me. They have made me remember something about who I am.
I know now that I need to think more about me and a bit less about all these things that I am trying to do, all these people that I think I am trying to help. The upshot of it all is that, though I am exhausted and I have been camping in a field for three nights (without much to lie on because characteristically though I had a big bag I didn’t actually go very well equipped) – I’m elated,
I’ve met some really amazing women and I have promised myself that I am never again going to put myself last and I really mean it, or at least I really want to mean it.
I’ve said it to myself and I have said to some other people and they didn’t tell me I was selfish. They acted like they understood. And I believed them. So now the real journey starts. I have to work out what this means for me in the rest of my everyday life.
And so, because I can’t go on the way I have been, exhausted and a bit depressed, making decisions by working out what I think other people want me to do and struggling completely to figure out what I actually want, I start.
First I sack my therapist – I realise that I have been lying to him as well as to myself in my therapy sessions. Then I start following every lead I have to get support with unraveling my life. I try Shadow Work. The first time I go, all I do is sit on someone’s sofa and talk.
I start to realise that I have a story I tell myself that I am lucky and that I should be sharing the luck out, helping other people, but that actually this story is vicious with me. It ignores my anger and pain about the things in my life that haven’t gone so well. And while I am busy sharing the luck out, I am ignoring my feelings.
I’m worrying about everyone else as a strategy to actually ignore myself.
Sure I’m pretty good at looking after others and at analysing and understanding situations but I have my own pain and anger and sadness in shadow. It leaks out sometimes but I have no clue how to embrace it, feel it and well, basically, let it out.
Slowly, gently and so cleverly a shadow work coach supports me, over a number of session over the next year or so, how to own my feelings and be pissed off about stuff that didn’t go so well after all.
It’s like I am getting back real me and embracing all the difficult facets of it.
Encouraged by a friend, I try writing too which is something I used to love as a teenager. I write how it actually was for me all the times things didn’t go quite so well. I start to see, when I write about my childhood, a little girl on the page that I have almost, if not totally, forgotten about. She is me of course but now I see her energy and enthusiasm for life and her big heart – which is so apparent in this picture of me dressed up as The Queens of Hearts for a fancy dress competition in the early 1980s!
Inside, behind the saviour complex, busyness and confusion, “me” is a little girl looking at life and embracing it.
It’s the me before I learnt to obsessively please people and do my funny chest hiding walk (more about that next week!). I’m a thirty something now and as I start to see these parts of myself, I am slowly and determinedly finding my way home to the whole of me.
Six years later I support others to write and reclaim their stories through my StoryPower work and I am also an accredited Certified Shadow Work® Coach. I will be opening up more ways to do this kind of work with me in the coming months as part of a new project I am launching this autumn. To be sure you hear about it join my mailing list below: