As I near the trail head in the early morning hours, a shadowy figure approaches. I stop. A frisson of fear races up my spine. It takes but a few seconds to realize it is my shadow, come alive from the street light behind. I go forth to meet her. Even though I now know who she is, a whisper of trepidation remains. Knowing someone is never complete, there is always something more to learn. What does she want from me today?
Our shadows are our hidden selves, the parts of us we try so hard to remedy with the good, the kind and the generous. Despite this, maybe even in spite of this, they are not so easy to be gone with. Shadows don’t resolve with charitable deeds, nor do they disappear by ignoring them. No, our dark parts need recognition: they are here to teach us things.
I walk forward as she comes towards me. We are so much alike and yet, given similar circumstances, I know she would respond differently—she betrays my fears, my resentments; my impulsive judgments. She is the part of me that can be so alive in my thoughts that I must fight hard to keep her there. I also know that it is neither the shadow nor even the light that directs my actions—I always have a choice. And therein lays my fear. I have so much more to learn; and there will always be choice.
Over the last decade or two, the US has been slowly approaching her own shadow, tiptoeing at times and barraging forward at others. On November 9, this great country to our south, elected a president who manifests this deepening penumbra. Americans made a choice and now must deal with the consequences. The majority have not only decided to embrace the shadows of racism, xenophobia and sexism, to name but a few, but are allowing these fears to lead.
Let us as Canadians watch and learn. We have our own shadows, no one is immune, but it is up to us to educate ourselves about them rather than letting them take over. There are many examples but to name just three: the cultural genocide of our indigenous peoples; the ravaged land (both local and foreign) caused by resource extraction; and our dependence on fossil fuels . These are but a few of our shadows, there are many more. My point is that Canadians are not a beacon of shining light or, for that matter, a hell hole of darkness. What we are is a nation that must continually make a choice of which path we are to follow. For whatever we are given, we always have choice.
I face my shadow in the quiet stillness of the morning and ask what she can teach me today. No words come forth but I know she is listening. As I walk away from the light and into the darkness she becomes one with the forest. The teachings will come, they always do.
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