I’ve always had a bit of a crush on my shadow for some reason. She seemed to be taller, skinnier and more worldly than me. But being from a place where the sun shines rarely and living where the redwood tree shadows loom larger than anything else, I don’t get much one-on-one with my shadow. Until I got into the desert.
The sun is relentless and I’m pretty sure I’m taller than every tree in Moab. Well, except for those by the river. And since my man and our travel companions are more into mountain biking, I’ve gone on many hikes alone. Well, with my shadow.
While I might have a certain love for my shadow, like most people, it also represents the things about me I’d rather not think about. The darker sides of me. When you’re not judging, these things just balance out the lighter side of human nature, but many of us have been raised to think of them as bad, things you should fear.
Once I got out into the stark wildness, I started realizing how many fears I had built up in my shadow. Many of them had, at one point, served me: Don’t wander too close to the edge of a cliff. Don’t walk alone in strange places. Don’t go into the wilderness unprepared.
But some of these have started doing more harm than good. When we visited the Delicate Arch, I about had a heart attack when someone did a handstand under the arch. It’s as if I have internalized everyone else’s fear as well as my own. Not good.
So I decided to do something about these things. After all, I was staring my shadow down all day. Might as well.
I went out to the Corona Arch, had a slight freak-out and then ended up having lunch under the arch, complete with entertainment.
Notice the shaking? That’s not wind, just me trying not to lose it. But after this adventure, I was able to walk along cliffs, spend some quality time on top of vortexes in Sedona and watch the sunset (for hours!) next to the Grand Canyon.
I also realized how scared I was to go places alone, probably because I was attacked a few years back, and the desert took care of this pretty easily. It is impossible to sneak up on people when there is nothing more than shrubbery to hide behind. Sure there are the occasional boulders, but this isn’t Princess Bride, right?
And that worry about dying of dehydration? First of all, it rained twice. That was truly amazing. You know that rain smell? Multiply it by a million and that’s what it was like there.
Secondly, it’s hard to find a place to pee in the desert for the exact same reason it’s hard to sneak up on anyone. So really, it’s almost better to limit water consumption to normal levels (read: Not Rebecca’s 12+ glasses of water/day).
I feel like I had some sort of breakthrough out there in the great, vast nothingland of Nevada, Utah and Arizona. All the fears I had became normal, pint-sized and reasonable. But in stripping away the ridiculous, it got me considering the source. What causes me to blow my fears up to this proportion? Why do they paralyze me?
This is where many people, including my past self, would just say, “Nah, I’m not going down that path. It’s dark, dreary and overgrown. No one’s been down it for years.”
But for some reason, my fear to explore those dark, deep places has diminished as well. I’m a writer after all. And plus, my shadow and I deserve a little more lengthy love affair, wouldn’t you say?
What things have helped you overcome your fears? What tricks can you suggest for me in this new(ish) journey I’ve undertaken?