Terminator: Shadow Work, Body Work, and Learning Who to Let In

Welcome back. You did it. You made it to the other side of that crazy year and you’re already priming yourself for bigger things. But for now, settle in. Let’s talk about the changes that rounded out the end of my 2021.

R.I.P., Betty.

First, let’s dig into this blog title: ‘Terminator.’

Terminator: A terminator or twilight zone is a moving line that divides the daylit side and the dark night side of a planetary body. The terminator is defined as the locus of points on a planet or moon where the line through the center of its parent star is tangent. Also called ‘twilight zone.’

Thinking on this definition reminded me of the definition of Shadow Work. Someone recently explained it to me briefly, but here’s the thorough definition:

Shadow work is the process of acknowledging and accepting the hidden parts of your personality. In order to live a balanced life, we have to acknowledge the shadow.

Got it? Good. We’ll circle back to it.

October ended on a high note, with sales picking up on the new book and things going well with my day gig. November was a shit-show, and I was going to make this blog about what happened between Thanksgiving and now, but then decided that it’s not actually important. In fact, I did a pretty good job towards the end of last year focusing on what’s actually important to me–wellness…and money.

I returned to fin-dom life after my last breakup (two new subs, yayy!), so the money part is covered. But, aside from that and the launch of my books, another positive milestone in my life this year was finding a home for my mental wellness journey. That’s right, muddafuckkazzz. I finally found a Black, female therapist. Not a clinical therapist like before, either. One who I can actually talk shit through with.

So that’s what we did–talked, i.e., shadow work.

During our first session, we dug into my past junk to establish a baseline of well, precisely what level of fucked up I am, exactly. Then we soldiered on and took a verbal pickaxe to the root of my behavior, eating habits, fears, etc. By week three, we’d gotten to the serious stuff: What’s the worst of it for M’Shai? What’s breaking her apart right now? I thought about it, and it’s this.

Ehh…I can be abrupt in ending relationships. I’ve done it a LOT.

As soon as I hit a wall with someone who I can bear to lose, I simply allow myself to lose them. And at this point I’ve done it enough to feel nearly nothing in the aftermath, and that’s the part I’d like to change. Worse, I once viewed this level of detachment as a skill. Now? I’m certain that it’s a trauma response, and arguably just as bad/weird as overattachment or premature attachment. Both extremes are two sides of the same coin, really:

Premature attachment to a friend/lover just means you find the thought of your own loneliness too soul crushing to manage.

A quickness to push someone away over a petty disagreement is proof of an unwillingness to connect because you fear that same soul-crushing loneliness will likely still be the end result of it all anyway, so what would be the point?

‘Nah’ to all of this ^^. Lol

Seriously, though. Somewhere in my gut I know that both can stem from feeling unworthy, even though the second one looks more like self-importance from the outside. In truth, I do regret throwing some people away on a whim, especially now that I understand that there are a few times that I’ve done it as a way to escape accountability. But mostly? I’ve done it to avoid being the one who gets thrown away. To avoid becoming the judged one and then, ultimately, the abandoned one.

So therein is my dilemma. Sometimes, there are subtleties. How do I tell the difference between an urge to cut people off because I’m triggered by something I’m projecting onto them, and genuinely protecting myself from people who I truly deem cruel? My dark secret for a long while has been that I don’t actually fucking know. Or at least…not a hundred percent.

Up until now, I’ve done it by administering myself a post-relationship assessment of sorts—a simple battery of questions that helps me decide whether I made the right decision.

Was this argument trivial? How often have you had this same argument with this person? What’s your role in it? How are you helping or hindering the resolution? Are you experiencing more or less peace and closure after separating from that person? If not, are you willing to back-track and try to sort it out? Are they?

Guess what. Sometimes, I’m not and sometimes…they’re not.

When I’m truly lazy, I skip to the fifth question and score the assessment based on that answer alone. Not the worst method, but I do always have the worst timing for it. Meaning, I need to learn to dribble and shoot this ball faster. So, one of the tools I hope to gain in therapy is a way to run those internal questions as a speed round, i.e., in the midst of a disagreement, not after. I’ll have reached Jordan status with it when I can run the drill entirely beforehand. As in, before I say something that unfairly triggers someone I value. Before I say something that’s cruel rather than objective in an argument.

Before I lose a friend.

I feel ya, L. I really do.

The good news? Attending sessions has been going well for me. Being vulnerable and transparent is rough sometimes, but I always feel good about having done that work because I consider it an investment in myself.

Still in my feels about this show ending.

So, now that we’ve covered what I’m doing to contribute to the mindset and personality makeover, let’s talk about the physical one.

Ain’t gone lie, I fucking love it. I got a breast lift (no implants, and an extended tummy tuck with muscle repair. The summation? Nearly perfect tits. (Shape is fantastic but there will be faint scars.) A cute belly button and contoured waist. A stomach flatter than Ashanti’s high notes. I finally have all of it and I’m glad I waited until I was certain I was done with children.

The recovery was rough at first, but I had 24-hour care and honestly, once the pain subsided a bit it felt like a little vacay. I ate well, rested well, and got daily massages, too. Texts from friends poured in throughout my stay in the recovery house, so I truly felt extra supported and loved while I was away.

So, there you have it. I only have one thing left to say. I’m a long way from the being the softness I seek in others, and the forgiveness I’d seek from others. My wounds make me a lot of things, and I’m working on all of those things. But there’s also a razor thin line that splits my moon right down its middle, cleaving the bright and sunny ‘Shai from the shadowy ‘Shai. A terminator. That place within me skirts the dark and if I ask someone–repeatedly–not to tap dance on it and they do? I won’t have to second-guess that friendship; I’ll know they don’t love me…which is a terrible thing to discover about a would-be friend, but also not the end of the world. In the immortal words of many Black folks’ sage-like mamas, “Everyone ain’tcha friend.”

Mahito being a “friend.” lls

And that’s okay, because the people I truly keep close to me? They love me. And I love them right back. They’ve been there for decades without fail, and I’ve been there for them in kind. They get that I (like them, and nearly everyone else) has that demarcation, or terminator, within–that line that marks the threshold between the demons they’ve conquered, and the trauma hidden in the shadows beyond them. Parts that are still open wounds in need of consideration and healing.

In need of shadow work.

Also, because I have friends who’ve been there forever, they’re proof that it’s possible for me to love people without alienating them. It reaffirms that really, I’m just a nurturer who’s had her warmth stepped on so many times that the callousness people sometimes perceive in me is just me guarding that eagerness to nurture and love those I care about. Further, I’m not a person who harbors resentment for long and I don’t believe in trying to harm people after we’ve parted ways. It’s exhausting to move like that. If anything, I’m a well-wisher because it helps me thrive.

And thrive, I do.

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