"You’re a gorgeous mystery with a wild heart and lofty purpose. But like all of us, your psyche also harbors a portion of the world’s sickness: a mess of repressed longings, enervating wounds, ignorant delusions, and unripe powers. It has been known by many names, including demon and devil. Psychologist Carl Jung called it the shadow. He believed it was the lead that the authentic alchemists of the Middle Ages sought to transmute into gold." – Rob Brezsney, Pronoia is the Antidote for Paranoia
Every single one of us harbors darkness inside with demons waiting to escape ~ sinful thoughts that creep in or destructive behaviors we act on in moments of weakness. We can try to run and hide from this fact, but the shadow is relentless and always comes back.
Leaving Bangkok, I was afraid of succumbing to the shadow, falling into old patterns and reverting to more primitive forms of myself after two years of growth and development. Outside of my BKK bubble, would I be able to stay focused on wellness and spirituality? Would I fall back into the Party Girl Amanda role and throw my healthy habits out the window? Would I remember to slow down and take time to just breathe?
It’s not like I never partied or indulged in Bangkok, but having a completely fresh start with people who radically accepted me and didn’t hold me to who I used to be made it so much easier to explore all aspects of my personality.
I could be a larger-than-life dancing queen rolling face one night and a green-juice-drinking yogi practicing meditation the next. There were no boundaries or predispositions or people to please. I was free to explore all sides of myself without judgment and it gave me the space I needed to come to terms with my shadow.
At my worst, I’m a lush that goes shot for shot with the boys. A nympho that fucks without a condom when she’s too incoherent to be safe. A glutton that will shove that last piece of pizza in her mouth even though she was full after piece #3. I err on the side of selfish and often get crippled by perfectionism and insecurity.
This shadow follows me everywhere I go. From Minnesota to Chicago, Australia to London and Thailand and beyond, this has always been my darkness. I acknowledge it. I accept it. I own it.
I’m human so of course there were slip-ups, but in Bangkok, I felt like I had more control over the shadow than ever before. I was taking care of myself physically and mentally ~ dancing every day, eating well and meditating regularly. Those habits seemed easy to maintain in the sunny paradise I called home, but I wasn’t sure how my self-control would hold up back on US soil.
The last month has been full of hard battles against the shadow for sure. Chicago, Minnesota…these are breeding grounds for old behaviors I’m not so proud of. But they’re also places that I get to see some of my favorite people in the world and feel comfortable letting my hair down and having a good time. It’s a reminder that the shadow isn’t inherently bad – it just consumes me when I get caught up and don’t take the steps to keep it all in check.
In between bouts of overindulgence, there’s been a lot of creativity and inspiration and beautiful conversation. I’ve spent time with so many people I love and have tapped into the invigorating flow of creating for the sake of creation.
Polly and I decided to get weird one afternoon in Chicago and let our freak flags fly with the photo shoot you see here. We messed around with a new style of photography and had a hilarious day creating these shots.
When I saw them all together for the first time, I thought of the shadow. I saw the lush, the nympho, the glutton. But I also saw a woman that accepts her worst sides and works hard to create positivity and light from the darkness.
I feel immense guilt when the shadow comes out, but these photos served as a reminder to be gentle with myself. A reminder to be better, to keep striving towards the best form of me I can be, to treat that girl the same way I would treat my sister or a best friend when they’re dealing with their own shadows.
I hopped on the blog to find these sweet words my soul sister Sarah left on a previous post:
“There is no right way to do anything. There are unhealthy or destructive ways, of course, but everyone needs different things at different times in different ways. Be as kind as possible to the most desperate, destructive part of yourself. It will always be there. Making friends with it will serve you for the rest of your life. There is no right or wrong way to be happy. There is no right or wrong way to fall apart and be remade again.” – Sarah Stokke
To my inner lush: I acknowledge you. Let’s use your hedonistic desire to bring love and good times to everyone around us without relying too heavily on substance. You can go out as much as you want and dance your ass off till dawn, but make sure to order a Blue Dolphin between drinks so you can remember it all in the morning.
To my inner glutton: I accept you. You really like to eat delicious food? That’s awesome; just be more mindful when you’re doing it. Check in and see if you really need that last handful of fries.
To my inner freak-a-leak: I own you. I’ll be channeling your sexual energy to make the divine feminine inside even stronger. Thank you for making me comfortable with talking about sex, celebrating my body and giving/receiving intense pleasure. I’ll do my best to only give it away to people worthy of your power.
But sometimes the irresponsible party girl needs to let loose when she sees her old friends for the first time in two years. Sometimes stuffing your face with Doritos is mandatory after you’ve been living in a country where it’s cheaper to get a massage than your favorite kind of chips. And sometimes it's okay if you want to get a little tipsy and make some art with your best friend. Sometimes you need to surrender to the darkness in order to see the light.