There is a point in the healing process when you have to embrace all the things you learned to hate. You stop running and hiding from your own sins and you turn and look them in the face, stretch out a hand, let them take you. Wholeness means integrating the dark.
Carl Jung called it the shadow self. “How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow?” he asked. Of course, these ideas are older than Jung — the yin and yang of ancient Chinese Taoism had a great influence on his work.
In the Christianity of my childhood, we had good and evil, sin and grace, but there was no integration. “And God separated the light from the darkness,” the opening verses of Genesis told us.
We were taught to always be ashamed of our darkness, unable to escape it but by the grace of God that washes us clean. We were meant to chase a perfection that does not exist, even for the divine.
In the adult shadow lie all the things we were punished for as children — the shame we learn to feel. In mine you will find all the times that talking got me into trouble, the exasperating questions I asked, my inability to keep up, to be “normal”, all the ways that I was queer, and how I faked it to survive.
A little after midnight, every night, I take my dog out for a walk. I have always been a nocturnal type, found the stillness of night a comfort, the drama of stark contrast beautiful. There’s rarely anyone else out there when we walk, which makes it easier to notice the slugs.
They inch along the sidewalk toward the grass, slowly, slowly, some unfortunate ones crushed and smeared by an impatient passing foot. I mourn for these, and stop to wonder at the others, crouched down like a kid fascinated for the first time by ants.
Slugs are gross, their spotted bodies glistening in the street lamps, their little antennae wriggling out ahead, but I get excited when I see them, and for a while I can’t figure out why. Snails start to inch their way into my collages — my gut keeps reaching for images of them. The art makes itself, and sometimes it also makes me.
I start reading about snails. Christians thought they symbolized the deadly sin of sloth. Laziness, the…