The Shadow of Inefficacy

I spent the weekend with a group of people who are so dear to me.  Not only that, though.  They are also some of the most powerful and bravest people I know, and they inspire me in ways that I probably can't adequately express.  It is not unusual for me to be kind of blown away after spending time with them, and this weekend was no exception.  They went in almost blind, and even not knowing what to expect, they dove fully into the deep end of the pool.

I was in awe.


Because they did that, I was able to do that too.

Geez.  My gratitude is big.

We went into the weekend to face, dance with and maybe even befriend our Shadows.  As a group, we do shadow work fairly often, and many of us could probably accurately name most if not all of our shadow selves.  You might be able to guess that I'm no exception.  I mean, I'm a real Enneagram 4.  I've made a hobby out of self examination (that often borders on self-indulgent).  The point is, I know my shadows pretty well.  Who they are, when they came into being, what they're trying to do....  Lots of insight over here (not necessarily nearly as much action...but, well... yeah)....  Anyway...  I was pretty sure what I was going to encounter, but here's the thing about Improv, and even more the thing about Improv in sacred space with bold-ass, courageous, powerful, shadow-walking women....  you never REALLY know what might come up.

I wasn't expecting what I found.

As I stepped into my Shadow improv scene, I thought I knew where it would go.  I'd asked for 2 players to join me, and their only real job was to alternate conflict and peace with each other.  The scene played out the way my childhood played out, and I didn't feel much at all.  And then this thing happened inside of me.  My heart collapsed, and I knew, fucking knew, that I could not save my my scene partners (or my parents), that, in fact my efforts to make any change at all in the scene or in my family situation were like trying to put out a forest fire with spit generated in a desert-dry mouth.  Worthless.  I realized in one moment that I was completely ineffectual as a human being.  In that moment, I crawled onto the couch and snuggled with a friend (who in my mind became my stuffed animals or my pets).  I got very small and very quiet.

And I realized something. In many ways, I've stayed that way - small, quiet, hiding in a blanket fort with my animal companions, fantasy friends, and novels.

Just recently, my partner and I were watching The End of the Fucking World on Netflix, and the lead character, while being fondled by a man at the urinal, says to himself, "sometimes I just let things happen.  I don't know why."  We learn later that his mother drove herself into a lake while he (as a young child) stood and watched without being able to change a bloody thing.

Me too.

No, I've never been fondled at a urinal, and my mother didn't drive into a lake, but sometimes I just let things happen.  I tell myself that I have an open relationship with the Universe.  I say I trust that the right stuff will spin out of the Universal Muck, and I'll be ok.  That might be partially true, but the real truth is that I often don't ACT boldly and bravely (or sometimes at all) because I've got a deep-seated belief in my own inefficacy.

I have always called myself lazy (I'm sure I've said that before), and in our culture, that's certainly what it must look like.  I'm not a pusher - not even for things that I love, that I'm passionate about.  I sit back.  In my professional work, this means that I don't go out seeking clients.  They come to me (and I am very very fortunate in that regard).  In my personal life, it means that I don't work on my diet for health and well being, I don't push myself in my writing or in my art, I sometimes don't even clean my house.  I sit back, crawl in my bed, and talk to my girls.  My shadow says I can't make a difference, so why bother trying. The tide is rolling in one way or another.  I'll just stand here and see what happens.

Because when I was a kid I tried to to save them.  I really did.  I tried to get it right.  And it didn't matter.  I couldn't save them even when I did get it right.  My parents were going to destroy themselves and each other, or they weren't.  It didn't have anything at all to do with me.  But.  My magical thinking little person brain thought otherwise.

Here's the thing.  I have strong evidence that when I act from a place of agency in my life, things do happen.  I have the degrees to prove it.  I pay my rent and my taxes.  I take care of my girls.  I have friends and systers and ohana and beloved people.  I may not do a lot to seek out clients, but I do serve people.  I am not ineffective.

Shadows will ride us like demons until we are aware of them, understand their motives, and feed them loving kindness as we gently let them go by acting against their best advice.  I am done unconcsiously being driven by the notion that I don't have an impact on my own life and world.  I know that I do.  So, once again...

Here I am standing up.

Copyright Fálki Heiđdóttir


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