Have you ever tried to outrun your shadow?
As a child I would pretend my shadow was chasing me as I ran down the street. My shadow’s pace was in sync with my own, quickening or slowing down as I did. Sometimes I would come to a complete stop to see if it would continue on ahead of me as I switched directions, throwing it off my trail. But no matter how suddenly I stopped, it stopped exactly when I would, without fail.
I would remain still, catching my breath, eyeing my shadow to see if it would do anything on its own, but it only moved as I moved or turned as I turned. After a few moments, I’d sprint suddenly, hoping I had outsmarted it, expecting to see it lagging behind me, but it always remained directly on my heels. I ran and often turned my head to see if my shadow had separated from me, even for a split second. But it remained inseparable from me.
As the sun set, I watched my shadow stretch further and further away and then almost disappear as the sky’s amber faded into a blue so deep it seemed black. But as quickly as darkness came, the moon would shine its glorious white light, and my shadow reappeared. It always interested me the way my shadow’s angle would shift depending on where the sun sat in the sky, or depending on where I stood against the light of a street lamp. Sometimes my shadow appeared lanky as it stretched diagonally, and sometimes its appearance was short and straight as it stood directly behind me.
At times my shadow seemed to cast a shadow of its own.
Wherever there was light, my shadow was there. I began to understand light created the shadows. Rather, my figure against light created my shadow. Without light, there is no shadow—we do not see shadows in the darkness because there’s no light to cast them. But in the light, the shadow is cast. And so I realized darkness is an inescapable part of life, even in the light. And I also understood that my position against the light would alter the shape and placement of my shadow. Pure, shadow-less light only exists in the absence of mass. I would only eliminate my shadow if I dissolved into nothing.
As I grew older, shadows began to take different forms. There were shadows of the past, stretching back so far I could not make out where they ended. There were the shadows casted by others too, crowding me. At times their darkness was all I could discern. I often found myself overcome by shadows, too many to avoid, none of which could be outrun, especially the shadows of painful life events.
I have often gone into grief-stricken shock, paralyzed as waves of sadness continued to rise, climbing up my face, shooting up through my nose and down my throat, entering my lungs. I have almost drowned on my own despair. I have known pain so deep and heavy it jolts you into silence. I have been stunned into speechlessness, left with nothing but the faint echo of silent cries ringing in my ears, and shadows dancing before me, merging into one formless shape, hovering over me, covering me in darkness.
But without fail, just as it seems an eternal darkness is befalling me, a flicker of hope begins to shine, like the beautiful light of the moon in the night sky. The shadows remain, but are no longer formless. The light of hope is there to guide me.
We cannot outrun our own shadows. And unless we imprison ourselves within walls of isolation, we cannot escape the shadows of others. But what is beautiful about shadows is, they wouldn’t appear without light. It illuminates their forms.
Where there are shadows, there is light.
Always look to the light.