what the shadow knows

shadowShadow knows its purpose; it seeks to make the unconscious conscious, it tries to tell us its secrets. Our job is to learn how to listen and to discover our shadow’s purpose.” – Leigh Pobst

Following a sequence of topics suggested by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, we started an investigation of our shadow selves in writing group last Thursday evening. It was a surprisingly lively discussion, given we had three new participants and a shadow from the previous week to address while reinforcing our circle agreements.

Yes, as always in these circles, routine and consistency prevailed. We moved on through the opening poem, which stirred a surprising amount of resonance with the seven writers present. It was ‘From Out of the Cave’ by Joyce Sutphen, opening and closing with the following lines:

When you have been/at war with yourself/for so many years that/
you have forgotten why… 

then you wake,/you stumble from your cave,/blinking in the sun,/
naming every shadow/as it slips.

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living in a body

distorted image“It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out.”  – David Foster Wallace

Our theme this past week was ‘living in the body’ based on Joyce Sutphen’s poem of the same name. The first line reads, “Body is something you need in order to stay/on this planet and you only get one…”

I challenged the women present to ask themselves, “Which version of yourself do you see when you look in the mirror?” This is a question that few of us on the outside have the time to stop and consider on a daily basis. But the women present within the circle pointed out that they have nothing but time to contemplate just such ideas. As we continued to talk about the different ways we tend to view our relationship to our bodies, a theme emerged: the image we hold of ourselves in our unedited mind’s eye vs. the image others see.

When I watched E.B. read her words aloud, I did not see the person she described in front of me…..

My body of armor is what I see to hide all the scars of my broken past. In the mirror I see long smooth legs, soft caramel skin without track marks or bruises, perfectly straight eyes – that haven’t been touched by a surgeons hands. Strong healthy arms that can not only hold myself, but others as well, nails show color of different shades, not bleeding broken skin from my anxiety within – This vision I long to see is who I used to be. But I let drugs and negativity get the best of me. I cannot pull the wool over my eyes and pretend to be something I’m not.

I have these scars to remind me of who I am and the journey I’ve been on.

I see me. I am real.


Barbie doll obsessions

..continuing to unpack the internal messages about body image that women (and girls) are barraged by, our ‘inside’ women writers utilized Joyce Sutphen’s poem Living in the Body as inspiration.

JL penned a humorous rhyme, incorporating the myriad messages that run through her own brain (and many women’s too).  I appreciate her concluding line, what’s this fight really for?

36-24-26 Modern Slavery by Amadika

Feed me, soothe me, wash me,
let me lay in the sun
you should probably go for a run
I feel like escaping, let’s have some fun 

Be quiet a moment,
you petulant child!
Let me think, let me breathe
you are driving me wild! 

You are too skinny,
you are too fat
your hair is too frizzy,
now what’s up with that?! 

Brown eyes are okay
if you just want to see,
but green eyes are pretty,

My bottom’s too flat
and my belly too round
If only they could trade places,
like lost children now found

I want to eat cheeseburgers
laying in bed,
when what I know I need
is veggies instead 

Demands from the outside,
demands from within
like all of my problems
will be solved when I’m thin 

My body goes slowly while
my mind screams, “go fast”
This push and this pull
just can’t possibly last

There’s what I want, what I need,
and then in between
A photograph taken
from a messed-up crime scene 

My body’s my ally one day
and the next we’re at war
Maybe I should just stop,
pause and wonder
what’s this fight really for?…