Shadow

My shadow follows me around everywhere like a little sister, like a sorrowful child. My shadow tags along everywhere, getting in the way when I want to be with my friends. She doesn’t understand the things I am doing; she cannot help me with my work or with relationships. She doesn’t understand; perhaps she doesn’t want to understand, that we are not the only ones here. If she decides she likes you, she will want all of your attention; I cannot break her of this habit of latching on to unwilling parental figures. When she finds someone she loves this way, she will smile and laugh, and the sorrow will recede for a while. She will let me work, let me write, let me care for us two. But eventually she will tap the vein of impatience in her current target, and, feeling abandoned, she will drown me in her tears. For days, perhaps weeks, she will refuse to move, chaining me to my home. She will swear hatred for her recent love, and hatred for herself, and in the next breath she will swear love, trying vainly to charm things back to the way they were. After a time, exhausted, she will sleep, and wrap me around her like a blanket. Winter will come and I will forget, we will forget, what we wanted, if we ever really knew.

My shadow, my sister, follows me around everywhere. I am trying to get to know her better. The last love of her life has grown impatient, and I am trying to keep the two of us awake. Her declarations of hatred are less pronounced than before; whenever she starts to curl into herself with hatred, I remind her that there is nothing for her to hate and nothing to gain with declarations of love. I sit with her tears, but I refuse to let her make up stories. I try to be patient with her; she’s just a child, and we are still learning what it takes people years to learn about how to love ourself and how to accept and give love.

Today I was listening to a song. Nancy O was singing about her Little Shadow, “to the night will you follow me.” I realized in that moment that my shadow is a shadow. Though I have been taught about ego, I did not really know until then what this child is that follows me around. And now I know that she is a shadow and that one day, when I have died, she will die. All that will be left is the darkness, or perhaps the light, or perhaps something that transcends light and darkness; for a spiritual seeker and practitioner that is enough. But all my shadow knows is that she will die. She will dissolve, like all stories do. And she is afraid.

And though I know she is a shadow, just a story, I feel compassion for her. And, I cannot help but love her.