- TWIL (This Week I Learned)
This week I contemplated foundations.
Anyone who has lived through a few major earthquakes understands that a healthy foundation is strong but not rigid.
If I speak too much about actual construction I know I will get stuff wrong — instead, an anecdote about what happens when your foundation gets shaken. At 5:04 pm on October 17, 1989 I was on CalTrain returning to Palo Alto from San Francisco where I was staying with friends.
The train stopped. Passengers around me had been silent — it was the first day of the World Series and the Giants (boo) were playing, so they were glued to their portable radios.
Gentle murmuring started as they began to fill us in about what was happening. Soon, with very little information, we all got off and made our way home on foot.
Disoriented, phones cut off, when my friends and I found each other later that evening, I remember the quiet. I remember nervous laughter. I remember walking through a cemetery because one of us thought it would be interesting.
Before we found out how many people had died, before we found out about the destruction, there was a solid quiet, a gentle, steady calm, a pulling together of inner reserves.
There had been an earthquake. The Bay Bridge had collapsed and in rush hour traffic, people on the lower half of the bridge had died. The houses in the Mission district crumbled as their foundation was made of repurposed landfill.
I would like to introduce the idea that when shaken, a strong foundation holds. Shadows can be dislodged, examined, and let go :)
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
“People don’t understand how you’re unmoved by their best efforts to shake you. The point they’re missing is they were never your foundation.” — Thema Bryant
“Questions that pertain to the foundations of mathematics, although treated by many in recent times, still lack a satisfactory solution. Ambiguity of language is philosophy’s main source of problems. That is why it is of the utmost importance to examine attentively the very words we use.” ― Giuseppe Peano
What happens to our shadow side when shaken? What can happen, with a strong foundation, I might better ask…
This week in counseling, we played around with, “What if there is no ‘shadow side’ to ourselves”?
What if that which appears to be our ‘shadow side’ is actually that stuff we are stuck in — the whatever it is we have yet to process — and when it is shaken loose, or otherwise processed, nothing is left? No shadow?
During counseling, I used my tightly closed fist to symbolize that ball of unprocessed stuckness, and as I unfurled my hand, nothing was left of the tension, of the fist.
This week’s prompt really feels beyond words to me, so I will say again, dance, draw, finger paint, knit. Work out — What is your shadow?
What are you stuck on?
If either or both of those work for you, use them. Contemplate what your ‘darkness’ looks like and, if it works for you, contemplate how attached you are to keeping it. Contemplate a “what if” scenario where you didn’t need to hold on to that, whatever it is. Contemplate how, as an imperfect human, a good enough human, you’ll likely always have something you are stuck on, and that’s okay. You’re a work in progress.
5. Level-UP / Go Deeper
That contemplation alone seems enough. Awareness of the flexibility that can come from shaking loose that stuff we are stuck on in life feels freeing — almost too freeing — to me. With a stepmom who is a Jungian Analyst, I am well aware of the heresy involved in saying we might be able to just let go of, shake loose, our shadow side. This is meant to be just a contemplation to see what comes up — “What if?”