Twilight Wisdom and the Strength of My Shadow.
When I was very young, my mother told me not to be afraid of shadows, because shadows contextualize light. My vocabulary was limited then, so she explained this profound gem of wisdom to me in a child-friendly way.
She flipped the lamp on and off.
“See,” she said, “it’s the light that makes us see the shadow. Light and shadow need each other. They are pieces of the same puzzle.”
As a nightmare-prone kid, her words comforted me when I woke from dreams about monsters with empty eyes and bodies made of blades. I repeated her words in my head — the shadow needs the light — as I traced my gaze across the trickster flicker of my bedroom walls.
I consider my mother to be one of the wisest women I know, yet she holds her knowledge modestly. She’s rooted in a way that allows her to deliver high-minded truths as if she were telling you what she ate for breakfast. I’m grateful for her esoteric earthiness. It has helped me approach the width and the paradox of my own emotions with both feet on the ground.
And thank God, because this year, my 32nd to be exact, I’ve encountered the width and paradox of my emotional body with unprecedented fervor. My mother may not know it, but her metaphor is helping me navigate new territories of shadow and light.
Six months ago, I left my marriage. I left my marriage to the man I thought was my life companion, to be with someone else — a choice that has made my mother, my father and almost everyone I know, very uncomfortable.
I left to be with a man who showed up unexpectedly in the middle of my own contentment. I left because his presence electrified my life with the cellular memory of my most whole self. I left because I made a vow to the man I married to grow truth — and though this wasn’t the truth I expected to grow, it was the truest truth, and it refused to go gentle into that good night.
The Shadow has played many roles in the wake of this truth. When it wasn’t moonlighting inside the angry words of people who informed me I had made a mockery of the sacrament of marriage and knew nothing of love, it starred in the story of my own shame, sadness and guilt. Leaving my husband was the hardest decision I’ve ever made, and the loss reverberates in my bones, daily.
Choosing to do something that alienated me from the social norms of acceptance has triggered my own voice of self-hatred as well as a hidden, aching loneliness. It’s forced me to confront my vulnerability with a raw and raging heart. It’s shown me the strange and often taboo paradox of grief and joy. When I am feeling particularly self-critical, I visualize that lamp switching on and off in my childhood home.
I remind myself that shadow contextualizes light, and I attempt to face my shadows and wounds with a different aim.
I don’t want to beat them into non-existence. I don’t want to amputate. I want to integrate everything into the fabric of my conscious self.
It seems we are all trying to attain an illusory perfection — be it puritanical or New Age spiritual — we try to scrub ourselves clean of vulnerability and darkness so that we may finally rest. We work to rid ourselves of weakness, and in doing so, we negate the vast ocean of our humanness.
In twilight moments, when I still wake from the grip of a nightmare, I seek empathic grace. I fold my arms around my wholeness. I craft a call to action, and I whisper it to the darkness.
I will allow all of me to exist, I say.
I will befriend the crying beasts within, so they don’t lash out of my being like a caged, forgotten animal.
I will know them instead of fear them.
I will rest — here and now — just as I am.
Jocelyn Edelstein is a writer, filmmaker and choreographer who believes that stories activate the human code of empathy and voice our animal truths. She has been previously published in three Best Women’s Travel Writing anthologies, Conscious Dancer Magazine, 3Elements Review, Commonline Journal, The Doctor’s Review and The Huffington Post, and she has written adventure copy for Hip Camp and thegorge.com. When Jocelyn isn’t writing, she’s making documentaries in Brazil and teaching dance in the Pacific Northwest. Her film work can be found at urbanbodyproject.com and her writing can be read at jocelynedelstein.com where she keeps a blog entitled Shameless Joy.