AKA, MEETING MY DARKNESS AT THE DOOR LAUGHING AND INVITING HER IN (Special thanks to Rumi for the alternate title)
We all have many sides. Some are light, some are dark. And that’s that.
Personally, I have Empathetic Emily, Joyful Emily, Compassionate Emily and Deep-Connecting Emily. On the darker end, I’ve got Self-Absorbed Emily, Serious Overthinking Emily, Talky Emily, Worrying Emily, Judgmental Emily and…
Coming soon to a cocktail party near you: Saucy, Unbridled Emily. (Mom and Dad, feel free to discontinue reading here.)
Boozy alter-ego: Is she light or is she shadow?
Let’s explore this a bit, shall we? Except in the case of very close friends, who have to deal with my complete personality with some frequency, Saucy, Unbridled Emily usually only makes an appearance while cocktailing. So, because she surfaces when I’m in a less conscious state, it follows that she plays for Team Shadow. (Naturally, our Team Light traits are probably fielded by the personality aspects we want everyone to see in the light of day. The ones we can cultivate.)
After reviewing the fuzzy details from a particularly big night for Saucy, Unbridled Emily at a superbly festive cocktail party, and then feeling the aftermath of “Oh, boy. Did I really go there?” I feel called to explore her. After all, she must be trying to tell me something. I’m not done delving on my own yet but, for starters, I *think* she wants me to grow comfier with her and with owning the things she’s about. She wants me to embrace and display my whole self, not just put my socially acceptable “pretties” on display as for company. In case it helps convince you to explore your own version of a shadowy alter ego, Winter Solstice is next week and we could all be taking advantage of the seasonal support to dive into our own darkness. ‘Tis the season for that.
‘Tis also the season for parties and drinks with friends, which means Saucy, Unbridled Emily has been climbing out of the shadows more than usual. She’s very pleased to meet you, by the way. In fact, she finds you riveting. She wants to know all about you, and she has no taste for small talk, so she’s probably going to say some bold things to coax you into sharing some of your own real stuff. If you shock easily, it might be a little uncomfortable at first, but you’ll warm up as you go along and, in the end, you’ll at least have a modestly entertaining conversation.
Let’s take this out of the third person because, holy cow, it’s time I own the fact that “she” is actually me. I am Saucy, Unbridled Emily. There. I feel better already. Now let’s give some examples of what you and I might chat about should we find ourselves sharing a couple bottles of bubbles, or something with bourbon in it.
Top 10 conversation topics Saucy, Unbridled Emily is most likely to bring up after her third glass of wine
- Why we should either go out dancing or put on some 90s jams and have a dance party right in there in your kitchen. Excuse me, Pandora, can you play “Ain’t Nuthin but a G Thang.”
- The clear vision I had of a past life with you. What? You didn’t know I believed in past lives? Oops. I guess we’ve never talked about this before. Yeah…sometimes I have psychic experiences, which sometimes involve visions, which might sometimes involve you. In a good way, though, I promise. It’s totally not as weird as it sounds…
- That time I was propositioned by swingers. No, no, no. I hailed a cab long before the catsuit actually came out of the closet.
- The metaphysics of Sensory Processing Disorder. Let’s talk about today’s ultra-intuitive kids and the book I’m going to write about them. But first, who needs another drink?
- Couples therapy. Mine, that is. Likely as a segue to suggesting you get some, too. Because marriage is hard for everyone, you know? And it’s worth working on. Once you see how normal I am, there’ll be no question therapy is right for you, too. Right?
- Outlandish stories about my husband when he was a young, single wild child. Fine. You won’t quit prodding about why he went home early, or why he’s not out with me, so here’s your answer: A.) He’s more of an introvert than I am. Like, by a long shot, B.) He was tired and didn’t want to drink any more and C.) He got his hardcore partying out before we even met. Here, let me tell you about the time he was a ski bum in Aspen in the 80s…
- My deep admiration of men, and of women, for all the magic that each of them hold. Hush. No human is hotter or better suited for me than my husband, scout’s honor. But a girl can still enjoy the human form and spirit, especially while she’s drinking like the good sorority girl she was.
- The names and personalities of my spirit guides. I know, I know. Crazy town. But the thing is, you have spirit guides, too. Yes, really. Hold on. Lemme see if I can tune into them for you… Maybe? Nope. I’m a little fuzzy right now. But you totally have spirit guides. Ask me about this again when I’m not drinking.
- Tales of one or two unconventional relationships from my single days. I mean, didn’t you experiment, too? Oh, you didn’t? Oh, ok. Now this is awkward. I’m gonna get another drink now.
- All things TMI. (also, bawdy jokes, prodding questions and a general vulnerability floodlight.) It’s so great getting to know you better. Thanks for opening up so much. I hate small talk, so this conversation is the bomb.
Get a few glasses of wine in me and we’re diving right in. Because, after all, I mean, who likes small talk?
PART TWO (Here come the gratuitous selfies)
Let’s explore a little more about how I feel when I look at Saucy, Unbridled Emily. What purpose might she be serving, for example? What am I to learn from this side of myself? (Feel free to apply these questions to your own boozy alter-ego, whomever he or she may be.)
What I like about myself as Saucy, Unbridled Emily:
- I’m fearless.
- I laughingly own up to my shortcomings.
- I brazenly claim the stuff that makes me awesome.
Those all sound like things I might want to apply to my life across the board. However, when I wake up the next day to find a more conscious version of myself is in charge, it still feels a little icky.
What I don’t like about myself as Saucy, Unbridled Emily:
- I experience a sense of vulnerability from sharing details of my inner life.
- I feel a sense of shame for losing sight of my normally steadfast commitment to higher consciousness. Simultaneously, I feel concerned that “Nice Girl” and “Good Girl” were nowhere to be found in Saucy, Unbridled Emily’s spotlight.
- I’m embarrassed about certain parts of myself. Like, the fact that I turn into a loudmouth hedonist when I choose to imbibe.
It’s true. Saucy, Unbridled Emily is a hedonistic, show-offy aspect of my makeup that, somewhere along the road, must have been deemed frivolous and indulgent and inappropriate and dirty and naughty and not allowed and therefore stuffed into the darkness only to emerge when my tight controls were compromised. Around that time, “Nice Girl” and “Good Girl” began their salad days, gradually evolving into deft oppressors of Saucy, Unbridled Emily, and other shadow sides. See, look how socially appropriate I can be. But, as we know, when you push something down, it’s going to keep coming up until–
Boom! It’s so obvious! You can’t turn away from it, girl. Look at it, look at it, look at it…
Aw, man. Throughout my adult life, I’ve been using occasional big-drinking nights to silence “Nice Girl”* and “Good Girl”* so that saucier sides might emerge.
*I use scare quotes here because what the deuce do “nice” and “good” even mean? The expectation to be “nice” and “good” is woven into many a woman’s inner fabric, still without clear definition, I might add.
Hear this, Socially Appropriate Emily: Saucy, Unbridled Emily refuses to be pushed down any longer.
These shadow sides of ourselves, whatever they look like to you, want to, need to surface. And there are two ways they can come out:
- Getting yourself chemically uninhibited or otherwise “weakened”
- Asking for it.
I’ll be darned if I haven’t repeatedly done both of those things this holiday season. One, alcohol. Two, prayer:
“God, please help me to discover and understand all that stuff I’ve pushed down over the years because I somehow decided it’s not fit for human consumption. Yep, I want to see that stuff, and I want to embrace it. I know it’s in there because I can feel it prickle me sometimes. I want to understand it. I want it to not be so scary and powerful anymore. And, whatever it is, I want to integrate it into my everyday persona. I want you to shine some light on it and make it visible so that I can move beyond and be bigger and better for you. Cool?”
I find a lot of people who don’t want to know what’s lingering there in the dark. It’s terrifying. It’s deep down there for a reason—not going to bring it up. Don’t even go there. What would happen?
I’ll tell you what can happen when you “go there.”
Just Saturday morning, after a very back-bendy yoga class with a friend, I found myself standing on the curb in the noonday light crying in her arms. Our casual after-class conversation got real when a truth from the darkest corner of my shadow came rolling off my tongue. I was safe with her, but this part of me was painful to release, because it was not at all in line with who I’ve long thought I’m supposed to be in order to be “good” and “nice.”
I showed her my darkness. After she beamed her own warming, understanding light directly onto my patch of spiky, neglected shadow, do you know what she did? She thanked me. She said my vulnerability was a gift to our friendship, and she wrote me: “Know that there is no judgment, only compassion and empathy.” I felt a kind of emotional freedom I never imagined. She then sent me the Rumi poem that follows.
In one very well-timed, no doubt divinely orchestrated conversation with a true and wise friend, all my tremendous fear of these darker aspects of myself softened into curiosity, even compassion. I’m still figuring things out, but I can see a faint glimmer of how I’ll feel and who I’ll be once I’ve completed the process of observing, embracing and integrating my various shadows into the me everyone sees. It’s hard to describe, but this future vision is so comforting, so surprisingly empowering.
In any event, for the time being, Saucy, Unbridled Emily, (and all the other shadow aspects of myself) I bid you a warm welcome to the Guest House.
The Guest House
By Jelaluddin Rumi
Translation by Coleman Barks
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
Because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.