So How DO You Work with Shadow?

I’m always on here bitching about when people only focus on the light, but someone recently asked how to work with shadow then. That’s a damn good question.

As with all shit like this, I can only tell you how I do it, and I’m sure there are a million different ways and they’re all equally effective. 

Firstly, you’ll have to go out in the dark. Metaphorically. Leave your flashlight behind in the warmth of the kitchen. If you bring it, your eyes won’t adjust. Grab the shovel from the porch on the way. When you reach the edge of the woods, you’ll realize you’re not there alone.

It might look like a monster. But it might look like a friend, a family member, a teacher. They will make an attempt to stop you from entering the woods. You may have even come this far before, but decided to take the advice of what looked like your mother warning you not to enter. 

This is not your mother. Nor is it a friend. Smash its fucking face in with your shovel. These are woods you have to enter.

After this, leave your shovel there. Any digging you do will be with your bare hands.

In the dark, you’ll trip. You’ll trip a hundred times over a hundred different things. Now is that part that takes time: stop and find out exactly what you tripped over. Examine it in detail. It will be gross and sticky and all manner of terrible, but look at it anyway. Dissect.

Once you’ve discovered how it works, leave it there. It belongs in the dark. These are not the kinds of things you display proudly on your mantlepiece. 

Often, I trip over people I want to punch in the face. 

In middle school, I was strolling along and fell hard. Soil in my mouth, I sat up to see what was in my path. It was a stone statuette of a girl who had been in my history class. I spat out most of the dirt in my mouth and had to swallow some. It had been my fifth day at the new school, and a boy had loudly pointed out the fact that I had a Harry Potter book in my arms along with my world history book. His mocking tone had dared the rest of the class to disagree, and none of them did. But one girl in particular had stood out because I knew for a fact that she had a notebook that said Gryffindor on it. But she went along and laughed at me with everyone else, like it wasn’t right there in her fucking backpack. 

At first, it was easy to try and dismiss as hurt that the class had made fun of me, but the next night, it was there in my woods again. It wasn’t until I had tripped over the goddamn statuette several times that I realized it was more than that. It was deeper than that. There was a girl who obviously liked Harry Potter too, but she had been perfectly willing to denounce it to fit in. Her weakness bothered me. She didn’t do what I would have done.

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Once I realized the underlying issue, the statuette lost its power. I buried it among the roots of a tree in the dark. 

Find. Dismantle. Understand. Repeat.

Every person you hate, every idea you revolt against, every irritation: look at it long and hard. It’s uncomfortable as fuck. But you have to do it. You have to.

Ask why over and over until you hit the very foundation. And then move into the next question. This is how you maintain your shadow. 


Queen of Swords Confessional

“I need to make sure I sit where I can see his face at his mother’s funeral, because I ended up behind him at his sister’s funeral and I couldn’t see his expression.”

Jesus Christ.

This was my thought as I placidly swept my kitchen this morning.

Housework gives me time to think, and when I have time to think, I inevitably go terrible, terrible places.

I’ve finally enclosed my absolute worst trait with words: I love seeing other people suffer that I feel “deserve” it. And I’m fucking ruthless.

You know whose face I want to see at his mother’s funeral? My father in law.

The man who refused to visit his sickly sister or answer her phone calls. The man who rolled his eyes and accused her of hypochondria with each new worrying diagnosis. The man who didn’t pack black clothing when she had a massive stroke and everyone gathered at the hospital to¬†“be there” while they pulled the plug. The man who stood in the room and watched them power down the machines¬†and walked out still wearing the expression of an irritated field foreman.

His mask never slipped. And nothing has changed.

His mother just turned 89 the other day. She’s diabetic with worsening Parkinson’s. A couple years ago, he told her she could no longer live in his house, and so she moved into a crumbling assisted living facility. Out of the way. He didn’t call her on her birthday. I crocheted her a blue scarf and visited her. My husband (her grandson) is her medical power of attorney, responsible for enforcing her Do Not Resuscitate order, because she knew she couldn’t ask her son.

A day will come when I’ll be dressing in black for her funeral.

And when we take a seat, I’ll need to make sure I sit where I can see his face, because I ended up behind him at his sister’s funeral and I couldn’t see his expression.