It was that time in my life when, though not exactly a time that I want to forget, exactly, but, rather, the time that never really existed for me.
A shadow time. A time of not existing.
I had had my first vision before I had ever had my first school lesson. And so it went. Happily, really. Intensely, certainly.
Until the call vision.
Julia, come do your work.
But I was seventeen. I was aware of my budding womanhood. And of the potentially budding world around me.
So I said, No.
I want to be normal.
None of this vision nonsense any more.
And I took up my stick with my bandanna full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches tied tightly inside, hoisted it onto my shoulder and walked out and into the world.
To be normal.
So now, years later, like gifts being parachuted down to Earth from God to me, they fall into my life.
Friends, they call themselves.
Shadows, I think of them.
Some I acknowledge and greet, pretending most of the time to know them, recognize them, remember them.
Some I don’t. And just let them fade back into the background.
Like a ring around me they form.
Confused at my awkwardness.
Who are you? And what do you want with me?
But that’s not the accepted or anticipated response from a friend.
An old friend.
A close friend.
I’m to jump with joy. Clap my hands. Strew flowers on the path between us.
Instead I weep.
It is too much for me.
To go back to that time.
To make reality out of the shadows.
Who I was.
But, mostly, who I wasn’t.
I wasn’t normal.
But they just don’t expect me to join with them in remembering the good old days.
They also bring a light that I can use to see with.
See into the shadows.
And I see the box that I created around myself.
The box that caused the darkness that plunged my life into shadow.
Sealed walls. Tight corners.
I suppose, in reality, I wanted to be in that box alone.
But that’s not how life goes.
There are people. Hands. Faces. Laughter.
Fireflies lighting my way through the darkness.
Gifts from God, I suppose. Letting me know that in spite of my wish to be alone, that I was not going to get my way.
I was going to have friends.
People to watch out for me. Not let me get lost in the darkness. Not let me fall off the edge.
Mostly, during that time I learned how to walk away from them.
I want to say it was because I wanted to keep the door between us closed so they wouldn’t find out my secret and then slam the door closed, slamming my nose. My toes.
But that’s a lie.
I wanted the door closed because I was afraid that if it stayed open, I would reveal myself to them. Tell them my story.
Want to know what God says about that?
And what if my revelation was met with respect?
Then I would have to be me.
Instead, I searched out and found those people who couldn’t see me. Couldn’t see me if their life depended on it.
So I could bring the structure of the shadowland into the relationship with me and feel safe.
So I learned how to say good-bye to my friends, and hello to those I might even call my enemies.
I preferred enemies, really.
I wanted to not be so strongly that I created a life in which I could feel dead.
And yet be still alive.
And people wonder why I really don’t want to remember that time.
How that felt.
Standing in the shadows. Not being seen. Not being heard.
I think my greatest goal was to die and be left on the roadside.
Achieving nothing. But mostly, achieving the ultimate state of being nobody.
Learning the art of not existing.
And now having to see that about me.
I understand the ways of healing.
But this is new to me.
Being dissected. Having pieces picked out of me and shown to me.
What kind of surgeon does that?
Showing the diseased kidney to the patient?
But this is what God is doing to me these days.
Here, look at you back then.
Photo albums from hell.
Except they are from God.
When God, the Hound of Heaven, howls, is it the howls of hunger? Or of laughter?
Or of warning?
Warning that he is closing in.
That it’s time for me to really start paying attention.
That no moment of my life is safe from his prying eyes, his fidgeting fingers, his ever-healing impulse.
It kind of makes me understand why, so many years ago, I looked for a time of shadows.
Out of the light.
Out of the way.