I had been rolling in the meadows of lush me-ness that my last bout of shadow-eating brought me. Then, for two weeks, my dreams were filled with toilets, bathrooms, dirt, and chicken shit. I knew I needed to ask for some shadow… but I couldn’t name it.
In my daylight hours, I struggled with the twin evils of envy and criticism. I was harsh about my own work, but also that of others. Rereading Pride and Prejudice gave me my strongest clue; I thought, “This isn’t as good as I remembered.”
Last night, I dreamed about the handsome neighbor I had as a child, Chuck, who is the only person who has ever sicced his dog on me. On waking, I realized that I’ve also been dredging up other ghosts these last two weeks:
- Teachers who called me juvenile delinquent (first use of dictionary in 7th grade), whitehonkybaptistnigger (that just baffled me), and bitch, or said that the reason no one liked me was because of my laugh.
- Getting beaten up by the other girls on the playground, right in front of the coach, more than once.
- Being teased about my hair, weight, glasses, braces, grades, language, clothes.
But about Priscilla.
She was the childhood friend who began calling me “Mary Soup” in a sweet voice that sounded like acid-laced honey. The one who asked me over to play, then told me she didn’t really want me to come and teased me for crying. She did this kind of thing right into junior college, where peer pressure finally backdrafted.
I don’t like to be criticized, and yet I am a brutal critic. I fear embarrassment the way other people fear violence. I can’t watch I Love Lucy. I hate people who make fun of others.
I haven’t forgiven those who did it to me.
Priscilla, Chuck, tormentors, all, please give me back my shadows of criticism and envy. I have missed them, and you must have felt them as a weight on your shoulders all these years. I’m sorry I cast them on you, and I call them back.