In spite of the fact that everything is terrible beyond belief, we are packing up the Halloween decorations. They are wet and soggy and covered in golden leaves, an incongruous note of festivity in these dark days. My kids will not submit to a family costume in spite of my pleading. (Who taught them about bodily autonomy and consent anyway?) So our crew this year was Chauffeur Dad, an ethereal skeleton, a Man in Black, an alien, a character from a movie I’m still unclear on, and a clown.
Then there was me.
I went as “a mere shadow of my former self.”
Sometimes I think I am just hilarious.
(And when it feels like my heart is breaking every damn day, I take my laughter where I can, like the medicine that it is.)
My kids said I looked scary. I did. But it made me grin.
Ahhh, a mere shadow of my former self. This was a joke, obviously, as well as a last minute save when I realized I couldn’t find my traditional witch hat (which is also a pretty funny joke).
But just between you and me, my last-minute costume was also a wry reflection on how I genuinely feel a lot these days.
Like a mere shadow of my former self.
When I look at the mirror I see a woman who is tired and getting older. My chin is doing things I did not agree to and my hips ache and I have the general skulking uncertainty that is peculiar to parents of teenagers.
My heart is broken open again and again by the violence of this world near and far, and after years and years of grieving and raging and rallying I am weary and tempted to despair.
I shake my head at my own self for even saying that, because I know how truly my life is held in a bubble of such privilege and beauty that I also want to whisper gratitude for it every minute of every hour.
I do not feel certain any more of what it is that I am supposed to do next. It’s an empty question anyway, because I am already doing something every minute of every day, which is undoubtedly not helping things.
So I look at this tired woman with some of my shine rubbed off, not as desirable or inspired or glowy as I have been at other times in my life, and I still think– still, you. I’d trust you. You look like you know some things.
And you know what? I do.
Where some of my energy and charisma has rubbed off, it’s been replaced by sturdier things. My kids think my jeans and my jokes are mostly mortifying, but I’m a safe refuge when someone’s in trouble. I’ve been working on becoming someone I trust (I’ve got you, you’re safe with me I whisper to myself over and over again) and it’s working.
And the shadows is an interesting place to be. I feel a little more between worlds, a little less perky but a lot more tuned in. I’m more cynical but also more hopeful. I’ve seen some things but I’ve dreamed some others. I feel the bitter crevasses of this life but I am marked by its beauty too.
So even though I feel a little invisible, a little flickery, a little worn out, I also think that in a rough spot, I’d choose this version of myself to call on.
We’re collectively in a rough spot. The days feel like an ongoing crisis–because they are. And we feel that. I can sense how we are hurting ourselves as we hurt each other, that we are opening up wound after wound in our collective body. I bet you feel it too.
I feel so helpless against the currents of the world, its dark undertow, and I am rowing my little boat as hard and as fast as I can, and the water is high and choppy, and we are all just trying to make it home safe. I wish I had an ocean liner. I wish I could pull people up out of the water. I wish I had a beacon, a helicopter, a diplomatic order for safe passage.
All I have is my little flickery light, my shadowy self.
There’s a kind of magic in accepting our own shadows. There’s power in living rather than performing. There’s potency in going deep enough within that you can create a pool of quiet even in the middle of a storm.
I have been thinking about what I could offer that would be helpful in these choppy waters. One thing I do know how to do– and that is to hold space for people who are going through something.
“Hold space” is one of those cringey phrases but I mean that I can create a pocket of air in time and space that you can step into where the air feels different. I can help us move our feelings through our bodies so we can show up more present and human. I can help you let go of some things and fill back up with others. I can provide a brief port in the storm where we can work some alchemy with our wild emotions and turn them into something useful, maybe even beautiful. I can hold you for a minute so you can leave that minute a little stronger, a little softer.
Actually I can hold you for twenty.