I recently headed out on a 9 day shake-down cruise on 27’ sailboat with my boyfriend, his rescue dog Cricket, and a bag of arty accoutrements that included my SoulCollage® deck.
I had a fantasy of creating a wee art studio in the cabin of the boat while we motor -sailed down the Intracoastal Waterway with cool breezes and happy dolphins, while I rested and rejuvenated from a very busy schedule.
After 3 days (and nights) of blazing hot, sticky South Carolina weather a boat breakdown, a tow, a repair, mosquitoe swarmings punctuated by plagues of biting horseflies that made me wish for the mosquitos back and perhaps worst of all, a marine toilet that smelled like those port-a-potties at the end of a 3-day music festival…
After THOSE three days I pulled a SoulCollage card with the prompt (thank you Suzie Wolfer) “What are my core values?”:
I stared at it blankly….
Of course it seemed so obvious. The card is about love and partnership—but honestly, as important as romantic love is, it is NOT one of my CORE values or priorities. I’m not a woman who studies romantic relationship reading books and discussing with girlfriends all the ways you navigate, keep, expand and rejuvenate “the relationship”. I’ve had other things on my mind…And, still, it is I who made that card!!
As I stared into the visual layers of the card time ticked by…
my brain scurrying down so many rabbit holes of meaning…
After awhile, I suddenly saw:
The couple is covered in mud!
They are embracing their own--and each other’s—SHADOW!
And THAT is one of my core values! Ding-ding-ding. As I sat in the lower deck of the boat, sweating and swatting horseflies all of a sudden I SAW my own shadow. And SHE was ME.
Whining about the heat, oh, and then the cold, the storm and the rain, oh, and then the dead calm and the mosquitoes that come with no wind…Actually, it seemed, I could whine about ANYTHING because I was so far out of my comfort zone. Just exactly like people I judge, yes, especially women, who seem to think they are BORN princesses and that everything should always be COMFORTABLE.
I’ve always been against that sort of thing.
Heck, I spent a year of my life purposely living outside and training myself to sleep on the ground without a tent—the sand dunes,--no problem—the rugged back country—no problem—I made myself one with nature, by BEING with nature. The truth is I took pride in my earthy "do anything go anywhere" personae and felt just a bit superior for it.
And now rounding the bend to fifty…having spent a lot of the last 15 years, not in luxury, but comfortable, I find I don’t want to be eaten by bugs—I don’t want to sweat in my sleep—I don’t want to wake up aching from ANYTHING that I can avoid.
The Shadow Princess has been revealed to me. I AM the princess I judge in others. AND what is more profound: my boyfriend is seeing it. Minute by minute I am revealing to him the horrible dark side of my being. I’m a bitch, and worse, a PRINCESS BITCH. And you know what—he’s a good sport!
With our only 12 volt extension cord he points the little, tiny, baby-sized fan directly on me…and then in the morning he says, “why don’t you take the local tour boat out to the barrier island while I try to fix the boat motor”.
He’s the best kind of Libra partner this Virgo could ever ask for—but I haven’t stopped whining yet!
Boat repairs complete, motoring down the Intracoastal Waterway again, now in some of the most uninhabited areas I have seen in 20 years we fall into a mesmerized state of being. A discussion unfolds and meanders in the way that only the wide open wilderness can facilitate…
I show him the SoulCollage® card and tell him about the “reading” of my core values and the shadow and my insights. I say, “I’m afraid we’re drifting apart with this boat and our experiences together…I want to support you in your dream, but this is really hard for me, starting out so exhausted and the monster schedule I have when I get back home. I’m afraid I’m disappointing you—I’m not the adventurer I thought I was, or once was!” He says, “I love you, I really don’t have expectations for you, we’re both learning, together, right here, right now, about all aspects of ‘us’….”
8 hours of the Intracoastal later—[“Intra” meaning within, Coastal meaning the edges/boundaries between things]— it has been breathtakingly beautiful and breathtakingly difficult. Dolphins and biting flies….a scenery of water, wet lands and sky with a rare building and a rare boat passing with RAIN and HEAT…and SUN and HUMIDITY. We arrive, rain soaked, sunburned and hungry at Isle of Palms where we will dock for the night. I have called ahead and made arrangements but the dockhand is a kid and the directions are confusing and, actually, this is all new to both of us. PLUS our boat engine is very fragile at this point. If we slow to an idle too quickly it will die and is very hard (sometimes impossible) to start. We’re pulling up and the dockhand starts asking questions as our boat drifts out away from the dock and starts sputtering. Peter yells out in the worst ugly American voice—cutting him off-- “just tie me up, just tie me up at the dock!”.
I’m mortified. The dockhand is shamed. We all look down at the ground.
I take Cricket for a pee-walk. Peter settles up with the Marina.
We meet at the restaurant a combination of sunbaked, exhausted, elated, for having made it this far, and humbled by our shadows. We order food and drinks and I say: "I was embarrassed when you yelled at that kid…he was just trying to figure out what we needed and dock us at the right place”.
Peter looked right at me and said, “I was embarrassed too—My shadow popped out! That is what my dad did—belittled people out of his own fear and anxiety. I was anxious about the engine conking out before we docked…I don’t hate my father anymore but I DO hate my own shadow!”
The SoulCollage® card pops into my mind’s eye, the couple covered in mud embracing, and now I really got it as I reached out and squeezed Peter’s hand, feeling only love and compassion for his shadow (and mine) and our ability to talk about it to be aware, even if only in retrospect.
It was one of those holy moments where a SoulCollage card comes to life in the middle of your life--translation—an aspect of your SOUL comes to life, LIVE and is understood, and accepted. I felt the two of us embracing our own shadows and each other and the whirling dirvishes spinning around us—we truly were the Shadow and the Light of that place, and the dolphins and the biting flies were made one in that moment too! The result: very simply, MORE LOVE.
One of my MOST core beliefs is that how we heal the world is by healing our own shadows by seeing, accepting and transforming it. Our shadow, and the shadow of another, once seen cannot be unseen. We then have a chance to do something constructive—such as embrace, love, accept and integrate that part we have banished in ourselves but judge when we see it in others.
From an ego standpoint the vacation was a disappointment. I didn’t meet my expectation in any way shape or form and I did not get the rest I so badly wanted. And yet, from the Soul’s perspective it was absolutely perfect: I got the lesson I was ready for, I paid attention, and I now know I need to make a SoulCollage card for the “Princess Bitch” who is alive in me, who I can also now tolerate, even love, much more in myself AND others. And guess what when something is loved, it is transformed!