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My Shadow Is Me, A Poem

It was the year before the world fell apart

Quietly, my internal world was crumbling

From the outside looking in, things looked good

I had love, a home, a job, and time

But inside my mind, things weren't right

I sank to the kitchen floor and cried

Without really knowing why

Caught in a cycle of self-pity followed by shame

I hated myself for feeling this way

And if you haven't yet learned from Brene,

Shame isn't helpful, it's damaging

I thought I found a fix - I just needed to get away

So I figured it out, pressed pause on everything

I packed my bags, kissed my husband goodbye

And hopped on a plane

I flew to a place I knew, a tiny green jewel

Where the people are warm and the sun is too

A place where surely the darkness couldn't follow

A place that would surely fill in this hollow

I arrived at dusk, gathered my stuff, and set off alone

A friendly face offered me a ride

I said yes and hopped inside

And off we went into the night

I safely arrived at the home where I'd stay

With a Tica whom I'd met through Instagram

She welcomed me in, this open soul,

with dinner and a bed and to me she said

Mi casa es tu casa, bienvenida a Costa Rica

I felt then that I'd done something right,

Made the right choice to leave home

My therapist encouraged me, my husband supported me

And now here I am in rainforest paradise

I woke to the warmth of the morning, the sun streaming in

The sounds of tropical birds and diesel engines

A spark in my heart I hadn't felt in a while,

A jolt of life, the thrill of having gotten myself

To another part of the world.

Certainly I'd managed to leave behind

The heaviness I'd been feeling all the time

For when you're in a place so full of life

How could it possibly follow you, the deadness inside?

I set off on a walk along the winding roads,

Not knowing or caring where I'd go

Soon the heady thrill faded and I realized

I'd made myself really alone

Lost and trying not to panic,

The sun was sinking low, and so was the charge on my phone.

Somehow I made it back in time

I walked inside and felt a sense this wasn't right

Plopped into the middle of someone else's life—

Should I be here, or should I be back home?

Rather than living within the confines of my routine,

I'm a random foreign person in this woman's world

The strangeness of my situation hits me,

But there's nothing to be done but

Try to be normal despite my inner turmoil.

After a few days I felt the itch to pack up and leave

There was more of that rich land to see,

and I had to keep going to keep the shadow from finding me.

I made it to the van just in time

I climbed inside, sweating, wanting to cry

Catching my breath from the uphill run

Lost and late, I almost missed my ride

I met another kindred soul on that drive

A young Italian woman going the same place as I

To me the destination was an escape,

the next place where I'd try to hide from me

A quick friendship grew, as they often do

when you're living outside of what you're used to

I leaned on her as my shadow reached for me

Like jungle roots to the earth,

she held me in place while the rain fell around me

I fled to this land to be alone, to escape the noise, to be no one

But as humans do, we find community

even when we think it's the last thing we need

I tried like hell to isolate myself,

San Jose to Arenal to Jaco to Puntarenas and back around

I kept finding myself in the company of those

who were unaware that they were helping out

propping me up, as I tried so hard to lay down

Onward again, another attempt to fly solo

I placed myself so far out of reach

down a treacherous, winding, pot-holed road

in the middle of the jungle, in a house all alone

with only the butterflies and the tap-tap-tap of a persistent bird

to keep me company

I thought it was what I needed, but

My shadow finally got a good hold of me

The rainforest storm knocked out access to the phone

the lights went out for hours at a time

Never in my life have I felt so completely in a bind

It scared me, to only have me on whom to rely

The version of me crying on the kitchen floor returned

but this time with no distractions, no one to pick me up

I cried and cried, hours at a time, til my eyes were raw and dry

I placed myself so far out of reach

No one was going to come find me

I made a deal with my shadow that if she let me lead

I'd get us out and get us what we need

I packed up my things, managed to make it through the days

Barely feeding myself, not daring to drink

for fear of where that would lead me

Finally the morning came, and yet another open face

Unknowingly came to my rescue

He drove me out of that little jungle house, down the road

No idea of what I was going through

The absolutely mess that was my mind.

I guess I put on a brave face, able to hide

He dropped me off, waved goodbye,

And with serious doubt I wondered, could I?

Could I do this? Get myself home?

I had a long road ahead, a ferry to catch before the sun rose

A couple days I'd spend in the city 'til I could board a plane

and run back home to where I'd find help

I felt like I betrayed that tiny green jewel

Coming to her, then running back home

But looking back now, she was my very best friend

Holding a mirror and showing me an honest view of me

She gave me friends in the form of people and trees

She gave me the understanding that I could do hard things

She held me and gave me passage while I ran from me

She gave me time and sunshine,

as well as an understanding that running wasn't where I needed to be

I needed to take my shadow and go home,

Be brave and face my troubles head-on

Get real help, turn around, and look my shadow in the eye

While I don't recommend fleeing your life

To see if you might find grass more green

Maybe it takes the destruction of routine

To wipe the slate clean enough to clearly see

What's going on, what's beneath

It's not something we can run from, our shadow selves

They'll catch up, if only to plead with you to get help

Maybe the shadow isn't a shadow at all

But the most honest part of ourselves,

My shadow is me.


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