Recently, I had an experience that could have turned out tragically. In some ways, it was tragic. Thankfully, it was something that can be corrected and moved beyond. After the incident, I spent some time alone thinking about what had taken place.
There are times when I am pretty lighthearted and funny. If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you often see me post some ridiculous things – mainly to get people to laugh. Laughter really is balm for the soul. Due to this particular experience, I wasn’t feeling myself. I sort of holed up in my bedroom with the curtains drawn, in silence, allowing my mind to work a few things out.
I am not saying I had an epiphany really. It was more like a rather long, drawn-out process of thought – and it was about shadows.
I was thinking of how I would explain to someone else that there is a reason we have a shadow. You know, that shaded thing that seems to follow you around, especially when you stand just right in the sunlight. I realize some who read this may not believe in God or a higher power, but I believe there really is a reason why we have a shadow. It mimics us. Every move we make, whether we can see it or not, that shadow imitates our movements. And when we stand still, it does the same. It is like our own little sentinel watching our backs.
Someone close to me had been living in a different kind of shadow; one that wasn’t their own. In life, there are times when we may have an insecurity, frustration or need to compare ourselves to someone else. In those moments, we often end up standing in the shadow of someone or something. It may be a physical object, like a person, or an idea that really has no tangible shadow but casts a metaphorical one just the same. But, there are times when even our own shadow isn’t completely visible. I realized that, in my own life, I too had stood in the shadow of something out of my control.
So, how could I tell this person I deeply cared for that the shadow they were enveloped by was not a very good one?
This is where the deep thoughts began (yes, I have some of those).
Using myself as an example, I began really digesting the thought of why a shadow may play an integral part in my life. The shadow I own is mine to control. It can only move if I do (or if the light shifts). It can’t act on its own. It can’t take another form. And thank goodness it is mine to own.
So many times, it is easy to step into a shadow that I can’t take ownership of, that I cannot control. I have PTSD. There are times when that disorder seems to take on a quality of its own and can cast quite a shadow. There have been times when I have felt like I was stuck in the shadow of another person, my life out of control and feeling like I had to try to measure up. The problem is this: those shadows weren’t good for me.
Without waxing too philosophical, I realized that to help my loved one I needed to share these ideas. They were struggling with those unowned shadows in a destructive way, being manipulated by their movements in a way that did not match what my friend wanted to do in their life. I needed to share with them that there is a reason we have one shadow, and it is because it is the only one we ever really need or can compare ourselves to.
If a shadow were a mirror, what would we see? Would we realize that there is no manipulation there? Would we recognize its shape and form as our own?
And so, my piece of advice to my friend and anyone reading this is this:
Step out of the shadows and embrace the one that is uniquely your own. It’s your constant companion and that means you are never alone. Trust that it can’t betray you or lead you astray. Welcome the reflection it offers you. It doesn’t judge. It won’t go down a separate path. Your shadow will be constant, even if you can’t view it at a particular moment. And with that knowledge, I hope in some way you become more free – to be yourself, to walk without fear in life and to trust that you alone have the power to change what you see and experience.
No one can take away your shadow unless you allow them to block the light that shines on you. Your shadow will never stand in front of you or block your path unless you turn from that light and face the other direction.
I have a personal motto: Just Keep Moving
I want to print it on t-shirts and give them away. And perhaps, once I make those t-shirts, I will put a little shadow on the back to remind people that it’s behind them for a reason. Move on and let your shadow, and any others, follow.