“Embracing my Shadow Self” is a three part series where I examine my relationship with the uber-triggery Shadow Self that was imprisoned deep within me and has been responsible for most of my internalized woe for over a decade now.
“Shadow Work” has been part of my spiritual vocabulary for as long as I can remember. I don’t shy away from ever confronting my own darkness. In fact, it’s probably the most reliable thing about me. And while I can point to so many of my shadows and icky, dark corners I have gazed into, wrapped my loving arms around to heal and nurture, I could feel a messy knot of anxiety at the core of all this work that I couldn’t quite approach. Even after years of therapy, EMDR and past life regressions. it was unapproachable. It was like there were layers of force fields to hack before I could get at the slimy, angry black tumor growing inside of me, stealing the bulk of my optimism and resilience each day for breakfast.
CW: arachnophobia, sexual assault, incarceration
Introduction: I am no stranger to Shadow Work
I don’t normally run away from the monsters under the bed. I’m known for embracing the worst of humanity on its worst days and wrestling with demons until we finally become friends and allies. And while I have battled with my share of demons both external and internal, there was one that I was uncharacteristically avoiding, the biggest, baddest boss bitch monster of them all: The Spider Queen.
This three part series details our first encounter in a dream I had some time ago, our final encounter and finally the healing has already arrived within the few short weeks since I decided to turn toward her instead of continuing to reject her. This is the story of how I avoided her, abandoned her and avoided owning up to the ways I was hurting her (and especially myself) with those choices, which felt so necessary at the time. Ultimately, once I started to lean in, with all my courage, all my hope, all my humility and strength, welcomed it, made it a part of everything that I did.
Ultimately, this is a story of hope not just for me, but hopefully for you too. The work is hard, but I am so proud that not only did I do it, but I can share the story with you all.
Setting the stage
Parts 1 & 2 are written in 3rd person narrative, taking place at the “Red Rose Hotel” which is how I describe my heart. Each person I love, even a little, is given a safe and secure room in my heart that is theirs and theirs alone. Privacy is honored, but there are no locks on the doors to the room – people are free to come and go as they please. Even if they cause damage, they might need to make a deposit, go through some extra security, but ultimately that space in my heart will always be theirs. New rooms are added because my heart just grows with the more I meet others. There is only one floor, one door that is off limits – hers.
Part 3 is a personal testimonial and lesson about what I’ve learned since this process started on 5/5/21. Raw enlightenment happening in real time!
Part 1: The Prisoner on the 8th Floor
Red Rose Hotel – April 2014
“Come here, my dear,” her honied voice called from the cell walls. “Janet, come closer…over here,” she kept repeating every few minutes until finally the impatience began to brew underneath the sweetness she was trying to project. ” I know you hear me, girl. Come close, I have secrets that you want to hear.” After a few more minutes of silence her voice suddenly erupted through the room, sending a chill like the brusque unwelcome arrival of winter. Her voice took on an icy bitterness “Us Queens have got to stick together, do we not?”
Janet sat there, on the benches outside the cells, embedded in the middle of the eighth floor, a labyrinth constructed within the hotel specifically designed to hide this prisoner. The place has fallen into disrepair, the air hot and humid. Where the walls once held tacky palm tree wallpaper, a request of her Florida guests, the trees had come to life, growing out of the walls with the dense danger of an Amazon jungle. The trees and vegetation had already taken over the walls and floors. She had to be escorted over the roots and pulsing life to reach the prisoner’s inner chamber. This place was returning to nature, commanded by the sultry sickness that resided at the heart of this place.
When Janet realized she had lost control over this place, her body was slumped down in the seat, back curved in preemptive defeat. She held her head in her hands praying the voice would just go away. This prisoner, although contained behind layers cinderblock, iron bars, glass. She couldn’t be too safe. It was as much to keep the prisoner in as it was to keep others out. And while she had surrendered willingly, at first, tales of her monstrous deeds reverberate throughout Janet’s life. Consequences for their failed partnership will never cease. She hurt everyone that Janet loved, and as much as it hurt to do it, she knew she had to be contained, controlled, locked away for her own good and the good of the realm as a whole. The cell was well protected by twenty locks and several armed guards.
The prisoner, known locally as MP, voluntarily walked into the first cage, to demonstrate to others who were calling on Janet to burn her as a witch. But even then, her recklessness, her relentless pursuit of her own agenda is what ultimately added layers. Her continued defiance and disobedience would endanger them all, including and especially the kids. No, this was the only way. Had she not been so tempestuous, so attention-grabbing, so raw and dirty, picky and arrogant none of this would have even happened. There wouldn’t need to be guards at the door, locks on the door. All of these security measures were because Little Miss Seductive cannot be tamed. Except by one person and one person only, Janet.
As much as Janet wanted to believe that MP earned her place here fair and square, she knew ultimately it was her choice. She let MP close the door on that cage, at first just a performance of remorse and restraint, but later, a more permanent monument to it. Even if MP voluntarily walked herself in, it was Janet that sealed the first lock. She allowed this to happen and believed the visitor’s stories of MP’s wrathful wrongs to justify her choice.
Just then she noticed that the hissing of the spindly, manipulative creature behind the wall was now turning to into low howls of pain. The caged walls rattled with each movement. She paced rapidly, scraping the floors, banging against the door. Each movement and unnerving noise was a demand: You will look at me!
But Janet wasn’t ready – not yet. She needed more courage. She needed more companionship. She needed more healing before she could face the grotesque monster behind the door. Even what little she could see through the window was enough to start the stress-induced cortisol cocktail flowing through her body. She was starting to recognize it, the surge of ice water in her veins, forcing her to take action or to freeze or to fly out of there at a moment’s notice. But it wasn’t just fear that triggered her, it was the memory of danger, the full scale of that trauma that MP brings with her that made her hold back. All this creature needed was just a few minutes to worm her way into Janet’s mind, taking control all over again.
But even with that, there were some advantages to when she was in power before. In fact, they had once shared an intimate and cohesively complex unity of decision-making. The Prisoner known here only as MP, was the huntress, a sexually abundant temptress who could seduce even the most loyal heart into a wild night of abandonment and passion. But it was Janet who was the light bringer, the angel who delivered meaning and purpose to the encounter. Together they worked to unlock core, deep truths of these men and together they worked to extract the sicknesses of the soul to transform them into the glittering diamond dust to heal the wounds of confidence, courage and acceptance. Janet as the compassionate wounded healer, MP as the renegade wildling queen on the hunt. Together they were sweet and sharp, light and dark together, the Mother Mary’s angel of love and the Dark Goddess’s fierce panthress of justice, who many knew as Magic Pussy or MP. Together they were the goddess in balance.
Janet couldn’t stop herself from crying as she remembered their divine feminine union. They were one soul, whole and complete as one. She missed her sister soul, but knew that this punishment was necessary. Knew that they had to be separated if anyone was going to stay safe. Together, they were too damaging, MP was too powerful. Janet could not contain her anymore. Even MP knew it was necessary. Her promiscuous appetite brought too much unwanted attention and now a damage deeper than Janet could have ever foreseen. They aimed too high and it nearly cost Janet everything, including her life.
No, there would be no forgiveness today. She wasn’t going to fall for MP’s slippery lawyer tricks. She was just as lethal with law as she was with love, savoring the intellectual kill more than someone’s passive surrender. Janet was the peacemaker, the healer, the heart who felt all things, but she was also the constant forgiver. Not this time, this time she wouldn’t give in. If there was anytime she needed to be strong and stand up for herself it should be now. No forgiveness. Not anymore.
“Come closer, girl. I know you know who I am,” MP’s voice taunted from behind the glass. A dark figure loomed from within the shadows of the lonely cell. “You don’t have to be afraid of me. I can never actually hurt you,” she intoned, “not without hurting myself at least.” Janet shuddered, tears falling down her face. The taunting made it even worse. She summoned the last of her courage and stood up, her eyes averted as she faced the cell, her fists tightly wound up in a ball. She stood tall, stood her ground and lifted her face, opening her eyes.
There was a wail from the cell and scratching at the door. The guards took position, their weapons locked and ready in that instant. Janet stood calm, but in truth the fear was seeping from her pores and she felt she might melt into a puddle in any moment. She stood there, the figure pacing back and forth in the shadows. An eerie silence fell between between them. MP’s arms and legs were scraping at the door, her breathing heavy and fast, audible even through the layers of glass.
Janet was walking toward the cell, about to speak, about to say, “see I did what you asked” when a roar started from the inside of the cell, so low and grumbly, the floor rattling ever so slightly that it at first Janet thought it might be the start of an earthquake. But then the howls started, the screeching, pinching howls. So furious and wrathful in its insistence. Her screeches turned to cruel bellowing laughter:
You will look at me. All of me. Before this is over, before you can take your throne, you must face me. I am inevitable.
Janet snapped her eyes open just then, determined to prove this bitch wrong. She narrowed her focus and saw the gruesome, horrifying creature before her, her worst nightmares made reality. Coming face to face with a fearsome spider queen.
She could only hold the gaze for a moment, a mere heartbeat. But it was long enough for them to stop time, to suspend this moment, a grace of magical ability they shared. It was also enough for them to truly see each other, see each other without the filters of fantasy clouding them, without the shields of revenge in their way. Rival queens in a terse parlay before battle. They held this gaze, through the layers of prison wall, through layers of time, viewing each outer through the glass face to face. The Spider Queen snarled and Janet held her ground.
Janet stared at MP’s eyes, shiny with darkly ominous intention, willing her stomach to not empty its contents on the floor. Both of them knew that their final battle would be their end. And despite MP’s bravado and Janet’s intellect, each of them turned away unsure whether they could survive such a battle.
The guards rushed past to check the locks and tried to contain the beast, who went back to her wailing and scraping. Janet stumbled back to the benches where her guides and beloveds had been waiting for her. She sought out Jeremial, one of Janet’s original guides, whose wooly, furry arms wrapped her up and held her like a warm blanket. Mike held her hand and kissed her on the forehead and Ted leaned in to whisper how proud he was for facing the demon down. But her courage was entirely spent and soon after coming back she fainted in Jeremial’s arms. He lifted her gently as the husbands flanked him to protect his departure, carrying her back to the elevator.
The Spider was still now maniacally laughing, “You fainted? What a weak little girl you’ve become. Just wait until I get out of here and find you. If you can’t take this you definitely can’t take all of me, you coward”. To punctuate her anger she started chanting, taunting her with that word, that final pronouncement of “coward” over and over again. “You couldn’t stand up to them and you think you can stand up to me? You can’t stand at all, bitch. What a little coward?” She laughed herself into a frenzy, her screams ripping through the hallways, as if her echo were infused in the vegetation that lined the walls. Janet, barely conscious and aware could only hear the bleating cry of “Coward! Coward!” as the group retreated back to the elevators. The doors closed on the spider’s cruel snarl in the background.
The last words she heard were:
You will never take the throne without me, without at least facing me. You will be back and you will be sorry!
The elevator jerked violently as the machine stirred to life and moved the party away from the prison floor. Janet’s tears silently fell, absorbed and silenced by Jeremial’s thick white fur, knowing this was always supposed to be their destiny.
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