Sunday, April 7, 2013

Learning to Love Our Shadow



My father, mother, sister, Pam (left), and me

 For when I can love all of me, I will love all of you. --Debbie Ford, Author, The Light Side of the Dark Chasers

When I was as young as five years old, I remember meditating although I didn't know it at the time.  When things were scary in my house, when I heard my mother's muffled screams--Daddy's slaps to Mommy's face--I would slip into a space that protected me.  I even had my own mantra, "me is, me is, me is, me...."  Those words put me in a sacred space.  The violence outside the four walls of my bedroom faded, and a loving, warm, and gentle presence formed all around me.  I knew it was God, Spirit, All There Is, or whatever name is given to an entity that I, in my finite state, cannot define.  

I also knew that my father was not entirely a bad person.  He did horrendous things, yes, but I could forgive him.  When I pushed my little sister, bossed her around, or sassed my mother, that part of me was not the whole of me, either.  I could be angry, stubborn, even mean.  That dark side or shadow side of myself scared me, and I had a hard time understanding how the "bad" me could co-exist with the loving, caring me.  As an adult, I grew to disdain the "bad" parts of myself.  I punished myself for being bad by stuffing food into my body and purging, or abstaining from food altogether to punish my overeating.  I numbed myself with empty relationships with men.  The layers of self-hate just grew and grew and grew.  How could I forgive my father and not forgive myself? 

That quiet warm and loving space I went to at five years old was always there for me.  I returned to that space after the failure of my marriage.  Seeking forgiveness and understanding in that space, I reasoned: "If I am worthy enough to sit in this divine space, how can I be unworthy of forgiveness?"  The answer was clear.  The love I felt in that space is the love I could have for myself.  The parts of me that I defined as "bad" were just the hurt parts of me that needed healing, love and compassion.  "Me is, me is, me is... helped me to realign, regroup, forgive, and love myself in the midst of failing.  I now know I can love all of me--the bossy me, the caring me, and even the sassy girl who sometimes pushed her little sister.