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.

Changing the Story

Perhaps this entry will be a bit earthy at first…

Some of my readers know that I have a history of sexual abuse. I’m pretty open about it; I don’t see a particular reason to hide it, nor a particular reason to bring it out in the open unnecessarily. But I struggle with my sexual fantasies; they tend to be formed by past experience, and most of what happens in them is nothing I would want to happen in real life.

So, as is habitual, I get the notion that I might masturbate before going to bed. I like orgasms; they’re nice, soothing, and a good way to get ready to sleep. But much as I like them, I find myself this evening kinda not wanting to go through what I usually do to achieve them; I don’t want to watch porn this evening. It seems like such a hassle, looking for something that works. And I know I can get off without it, but it takes longer, and anyway the fantasies I habitually use are no more self-affirming than the porn.

So I start thinking: instead of what turns me on, what (or rather “who”) do I want to be turned on by? And that leads me to a fantasy about a rugged woman knight, a knight templar, only Buddhist. She looks like the knight lady in Game of Thrones, but she’s dressed more practically in a dark woolen kilt and simple breastplate, arm guards, shin guards, boiled leather helmet. She’s dressed for battle. But she’s a warrior of peace, a general who listens to the wise women; she parlays before striking. She’s a student of the writings of Sun Tzu, and a meditator.

Then I bring her into the modern era: she is a practitioner, and a warrior, a soldier. I see her wearing the banner of my family. Away from the field, she meets me dressed in dark slacks and a turquoise shirt. So I know already that she manifests Vajra (precise) and Karma (active) energy. She is a scholar and a soldier. She has dark short hair, and brown eyes. She searches my eyes, and we gaze at one another closely for a moment, and then I realize that this is just fantasy. She isn’t here yet.

But I know she’s out there, and I make a place in my heart for her. And I shed a few tears; poignant joy for who she is, and for the opening of my own heart. And then I let her go.

Suddenly I feel a deep loneliness. My heart aches. For a partner? I’m not sure it’s really about that. I think it’s just the momentary awareness of the vacuum that exists within me. I know that nobody can fill this empty place, not even a soulmate, if such a person exists. But feeling this sorrow, even sobbing a few times, I find I also have a sense of joy in that moment. My heart is open.

My heart is open.