In these early years I was in my season of shining. I knew my head. I knew my heart. I was free. But they say that to truly know something, you have to know its opposite: all facets and faces. The depth of something is made expansive by opposition. The very existence of something is determined by duality: yin and yang, love and hate, life and death.
Light and dark: our human journey is to encounter it all. To work on and through the murky shadows to the transparent and transcendent. To swim beyond the shallows, the saturation and the synthesis. To each find our colour, our symphony in the spectrum.
And because this is how my mind works, I pose the question: If everything has its polar, what is the opposite of dualism? Perhaps it's oneness: universal love. That everything is love, and that our reality is simply how much we are viewing each moment through the lens of love … or not. That our experiences take shape through our awareness of love: both calls for love and the capacity to love. And perhaps the snippets that follow – and in many chapters to come – were my slow separation from unconditional love.
Sometimes, sticks and stones stay. They don’t break bones, they break the spirit... securely lodged and slowly leaking lethargy and lovelessness, communing and calcifying until set free. For even their memory releases emotional chemicals into blood, body and being.
We were at the public swimming pool. I was having fun. I was as large as life. I remember diving and ‘dolphining’; my 7 or 8 year old self frolicking free. I was wearing bikini bottoms with little need for a restrictive top. That was her problem, her reaction, her shadow. She was only a few years older than me. These were her words: “You are an absolute disgrace to all women walking around without a top on.”
Now, the grown-up in me knows this was her conditioning, fed to her by a guardian with their own issues. But it threw me off balance. I physically felt my magnanimous self shrink to miniature. There was power and poison in her words which winded me and left me wordless. It felt like she had sucked all the joy out of our immediate environment. In that moment the sky darkened, the pool water dulled and I dimmed. I covered up and there was a little less oxygen to breathe. Someone was blowing on my inner flame … it flickered and faltered but the flame remained.
A bit like Eve, I was suddenly aware that I was ‘naked’. That I needed to cover up and hide a little to ease and appease the less alive, the less loving. That my body and being weren’t beautiful enough to simply be. That my divine design needed dressing, draping and disguising.
It was around the same time that a shadow visited my bedroom window. I would be remiss if I didn’t provide a little political context. It was the late 1980s in South Africa: a turbulent time. The country was seeking to shine a light on its own shadows. However, this is a story for another novel – not mine.
I was always moving my bedroom furniture around to change my perspective. In this memory, it was in the middle of the room, running parallel to my double windows. There were bars on the windows. Sometimes, gunshots could be heard in the cane-fields beyond. I woke in the middle of the night – it was dark and something felt off. I saw the shadow of a figure standing at my window, holding onto the bars, gun in hand. It must have been near a full moon as the silhouette was clear.
FEAR – full body fear. The intensity was almost overwhelming. I slowly wriggled further under my duvet until my head was covered. I wanted to be invisible. I wanted to unsee and be unseen. I panicked that my movements would be detected. That he would know I was there. That the gun would go off. I envisaged warm sticky blood seeping out of me. I lay stiff and still. Perspiration pooled around me. The air under the duvet was warm and waning. Time evaporated, eluding me.
It was do or die. I quickly rolled off my bed, landing on the floor; my bed serving as a shield from the window. I listened. Nothing. I slowly crawled out of my bedroom and bolted to my parents.
I’ve come to understand that you can – literally and figuratively – see things in the dark. An absence of light, doesn’t mean you can’t experience the texture and tapestry of all things. In the shadows lie lessons and life; dormant deeds and dreams waiting patiently for the light, desperate to be unearthed, to be allowed to shine.
For the longest time I have been afraid of the dark. Outwardly, I keep my eyes closed if I stir from sleep; I can’t look into a mirror at night – there is just too much to see. Inwardly, shame and blame suffocated my own shadows into submission, leaving them to mutate and manifest in all manner of ways. But the beauty is that I started to crack … and fissure by fissure, fracture by fracture I began to let more light in again. This is my story; this is why I write.