Eric Klein asks “How will you face your Shadow Bag and stop the stink, so you can bring forth what is best within you in 2015? What can you claim right now?”
I’m familiar with Shadow Work. I’ve been doing it consciously and creatively for at least ten years. I’ve had what Klein calls “the stink” do way more than make me uncomfortable. I’ve had it nearly ruin my life.
I’m not sure how to approach the whole “bag of severed aspects of self” image that smells like rotting flesh in my mind. That’s not how I conceive of shadow work, and I don’t find it particularly helpful. So here’s some apple cider vinegar to neutralize that dead mouse in the wall, and let me tell you what I’m working on instead.
Right now, the shadow part of me that I’m dealing with the most is my inner teacher. She comes out in awkward belches as an insufferable know-it-all. She taps me on the shoulder when I get repelled by other insufferable know-it-alls. She sits down and stares at me bold-faced when I give training at work and it lights me on fire. When people afterward tell me I’m a natural trainer. I still can’t quite look her in the eye.
I’m crying as I write this, because I’m ashamed to admit it. Some of my deepest connections of love and respect are with teachers. I respect their calling, their service, their selflessness. My cluster of dearest friends includes of high school teachers, college professors, yoga instructors, chaplains and spiritual teachers, principals. Hell, my husband is finishing up his certification to be able to teach paramedics.
That’s all well and good for them, my ego sniffs, teaching isn’t for me.
Except, it is.
I know when – roughly – I rejected that aspect of myself. It was right around the middle of High School, and I was really hitting my stride with foreign languages. I was studying Spanish and French.
In rural Ohio, this was my way of reaffirming to myself that there was a larger world, and that I had a place in it. My dream was to work for the UN, and to travel. I was only selecting colleges that had International Affairs programs.
In rural Ohio, the only job most people thought learning Spanish and French was good for was teaching it to college-prep high school students.
I was not learning Spanish to be a Spanish teacher. Was. Not.
Teaching wasn’t for me, you see.
There were a lot of things about my rural Ohio life that chafed. I didn’t like having to drive to get everywhere. Cities were so much more alive, and you could take the subway! Almost everyone who lived there was exactly like me. There was little to no ethnic or cultural diversity. I wanted to be somewhere – anywhere – different. I wanted to go do the things I’d read about. Climb the mountains I’d heard about. I wanted to experience everything first-hand, and I was one of those kids that stubbornly had to make her own mistakes.
This is making me think about the other prompt I just answered. In it, I realized that my prioritize and long term goals are stability, a larger house in a safer neighborhood. And that if I wanted my life story to be written based on my actions, that I needed to travel more. Do you see it? Catch the pattern? The travelling is the well-tempered ego. Having a comfortable home and not living out of a suitcase, well, that ego might sniff not for me.
Except, it is.
I do prioritize well, dammit, and we need a house with 2 bathrooms and a corner where I can put a comfy chair that isn’t in the line of fire of the television. We traveled a lot last year – Bermuda, New York, Florida. A weekend getaway to Chattanooga. I went hiking in four states. I suppose the idea of buying a house with a sunny patch where I can plant a vegetable garden is just chafing the hell out of my ego that is obviously still seventeen years old.
So, to the seventeen year old ego, this is what teaching is: It’s a profession she’s not worthy to do (she doesn’t know enough to teach anything) and it’s simultaneously beneath her. She had set her sights on professions that couldn’t be fulfilled in rural Ohio. Teaching was “beneath” her because that was a job she could have and potentially still live there. At home. With everyone who was the same as her. With the people she’d known since she was tiny. She wanted a fresh start! A big city! Adventure! And a profession that could be held down by someone in her neck of the woods was not what she wanted.
When I started to take yoga teacher training ages ago, I ran into the other half of that weird mix. I wasn’t worthy to teach it. I didn’t know enough. I ended up quitting the program I was in because I felt like the instruction wasn’t complete enough. It didn’t tell me everything I needed to know to feel able to teach.
How is teaching bubbling up now?
At work, mostly. I’m doing a lot of training sessions, and my boss wanted me to formalize it into a new job description. That’s terrified me into a standstill.
I went to a conference last fall, and I realized I had some stuff to share. I thought about a great program – something I could pitch as a speaker. I think I could make it work. Except it’s teaching other people how to teach SEO. Again, terrified to a standstill.
In my personal life, people ask me to teach – teach me how to sew, teach me how to write, how do you create a writing practice and stick to it, how do you blog. This list gets incredibly long, incredibly fast. And don’t get me wrong. I love it. I am, after all, an insufferable know-it-all.
Klein tells us to “walk into” this discomfort. So, I can do that. I’ve got some pretty clear actions listed here already, don’t I? That job description? That conference pitch? That daggum writing group I’ve gotten asked for consistently for 2 years?
Guess I’d better do that.