Whatever old gunky stuff clogging up my lungs, infecting my body’s arsenal of “what is no longer needed,” seems to have been mostly purged yesterday — we’ll see! Don’t get cocky, Ann!
Yesterday’s purge came one day after I had cleaned the bathroom, in anticipation of Katarina moving in.
First I show you the empty drawers with the pile that they held. Ye gods, says my inner “Mom,” how could you show the world your shadow side? She wouldn’t use the word “shadow,” but I would. She’d say these two pictures are “unseemly,” or “ugly” — anathema to a Libra — and I, one of two Sagittarians in our large family, would simply call them “honest,” “truthful.”
Actually, to be really honest and truthful, I’d say that she wouldn’t give a hoot about how I, or my “belongings” appear to others, now that dementia has claimed her. She and I have fun now that her own need to appear a certain way to others has just about vanished. Well, not quite — but almost. And certainly, at this point, having to watch her every step so she won’t fall, she has very little interest in making sure that I’m towing the line.
See the blond, oval-shaped thingie on the top left of the pile? That’s my Dad’s hairbrush, the only thing of his that I kept — though I don’t use it, my hair being in the “bed head” style that I affected at least, what? 15 years ago? No brush! No comb! Just wash, towel, shake, and go! This, after a lifetime of combing long thick blond tresses that I totally identified with as my Best Feature.
Notice, in the above photo, that I have buck teeth! Usually I didn’t smile, so they wouldn’t show. By the time I was in third grade I started to ride the bus to Boise to visit the orthodontist, by myself! I begged to be able to go by myself, after having been escorted by an older girl the first time. Very exciting. I got to spend the whole day on my own, traveling, with no one looking over me. All I had to do, while walking free as a bird around tree-shaded Boise after my appointment and the lunch I ordered at the Owyhee Hotel, was to make sure that I kept the the hotel sign visible (a tall hotel, sign at top). Except for my horse, those Saturdays in Boise were my first taste of physical, mental and emotional freedom.
And . . . the fact that my doctor dad could afford to “fix” my buck teeth. . . how fortunate I was! And I knew it, even then. Very grateful that I wouldn’t be called “rabbit” anymore, once they had been sufficiently “braced.” As we know, kids can be cruel.
That childhood experience of shaming has colored my view of “plastic surgery” and other aids we use to “fix” our self-image for others. Not that I “believe in” plastic surgery, but I can’t condemn it outright. My own experience with other’s attitudes towards my less-than-perfect “blond, blue-eyed” self still sear memory.
Before I cut my hair off entirely, I affected a sort of bob for a few years. That was fun, but I still had to brush or comb it.
Which reminds me of a story told about our Dear Old Dad, who left this world nearly two years ago at 96. It seems that about 24 hours before he began the active dying process (by finally agreeing to slip a tiny bit of morphine under his tongue — which relaxed him enough so that he could let go), he was standing at the sink the bathroom, busily and meticulously brushing his teeth and hair. My brother-in-law (and hospice nurse) Matt, just outside the bathroom’s open door, said he was amazed at how long Ben was taking, and finally said so, in his usual mild, humorous manner. He says Dad responded, curtly, “Why, what’s your problem. You in a hurry?” And kept going for a few more minutes.
I still laugh at this story.
So I have that hairbrush, which I don’t use, but it still sits in one of my bathroom drawers, having survived the ruthless winnowing process of two days ago. Basically, I made two piles out of the one you see, one for “first aid” the other for “alternative healing.” And let the rest go. Those drawers slide easily open and closed now.
So where was I? Oh yes, I wanted to give you an update for today, a day when puppy Shadow and I headed into the woods of InDiana, above Griffy Lake. Shadow’s name of course, is very meaningful; he dogs me like my own shadow does, to the point where i sometimes trip over him; his hairy muscled body and faintly bad breath gunk me up sometimes, just like my own shadow does, gunking up both the bathroom and my own body.
Here he is, barely visible, like shadows normally are. Check for the bit of blue, center left, that’s his leash. Follow it to the left end of the log, where Shadow is in shadow.
See him? I admit, I can barely see him, I just know he’s there. Kind of like my own shadow. Most people don’t see it, unless I show them, but for me, it looms large.
For you, here’s Shadow, alert and illuminated, a bit further along the trail.
How’s this, for truth? C.G. Jung:
“Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.”
I’ve been talking about the shadow as projected into the body, or the environment; Jung puts his finger on the spiritual/mental/emotional shadows that accompany them, and are perhaps their source. As the Buddha says, what we hate and what we love (read: “are attached to), both aversion and desire, are the sources of suffering.
I like to think I’m as detached as the Buddha apparently was, but whenever I take an (always cocky) “selfie” of my 71-year-old face, all the flaws and and crone hairs on chin and flabby wrinkled skin and strange look in eye, and messy hair, ete. etc., just about do me in. So, obviously, that Libra Mom of mine, my memories of her in her prime, have still got me. My Shadow, lives, and not just in the form of a little dog with hair the same color as my own short, faded, bed head bob.
Gross. Gross. Gross!
This morning, talking with new housemate Katarina on the screened porch as she ate her breakfast, she told me about black cohosh, it’s use as an aid for making transitions, both in the birthing process and in menopause. Her teacher speculates that perhaps black cohosh can also help ease the dying process as well. Hmmm.
Interesting tidbit! I will file it away.
Meanwhile, even though I no longer have a fever, I feel like this log, kind of weak, and certainly bent over, low to the ground.
BTW: tell me, what is held in shadow more thoroughly, than our own personal death? Hopefully, we can bring that collective fear of all fears, the one that just about everybody wants to hide and pretend is not real — please, not real, or maybe real for others, but not for me! — into the light of day. For once we do, the world will change.