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shadow boxing

April 15, 2013

is the hardest thing i’ve had to do at my boxing gym, and that’s saying something because i’m often sure i’m going to puke while trying to hit the heavy bag. i think it has to do with the fact that i’m looking at myself in the mirror, doing motions that i’m not entirely sure of or comfortable with – and honestly, staring at yourself in a mirror for an extended period of time can be discomfiting. nobody likes being forced to look at their honest reflection, real or metaphorical. this post isn’t really about boxing at all, but i find it interesting that the thing i find most difficult in the gym is parallel to writing. (well, so many things in day to day life are parallel to writing. we just don’t always pay attention).

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also, barfing into your hand-wraps

also, barfing into your hand-wraps

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one of my friends told me that i “bring darkness out” in people. actually, men – that’s what she said. that i bring darkness out in men. shadow boxing, “the shadow self.” i always liked that feisty, shitty shadow-peter-pan that wendy had to sew back onto peter’s feet – what a weird, borderline-violent image for a kid’s book (and movie). to bring darkness out in people? that’s such an extreme statement, but not necessarily a bad one. i didn’t consider it an insult at all. the people i tend to become closest to – friends, writers, colleagues, partners, interests – are people who have, at the very least, acknowledged their dark side (definition, in my opinion: the side of themselves that they don’t particularly like, whether it be the anxious side, the depressed side, the side of themselves where they want things that aren’t considered politically or socially correct, the side of themselves where they want to write about topics that will stir controversy or anger or sadness or provocation). there is something calming about being around someone who has done that self work to at least crack open the tightly-wound pandora’s boxes we carry around within our guts. i had a friend once tell me if someone admits that they’re a little bit crazy, i feel immediately more comfortable than if they deny it outright.

the shadow self – that’s an over-used term. it’s almost lost its meaning with how often it gets thrown around. (the shadow boxing self? much more interesting, and a harder opponent). but we have it, we grapple with it. i write a lot about anxieties and depression – i’ve published pieces on it, and i write about it on here. (there’s more to my own shadow self, but some things are to be kept secret, despite all that i believe in self-disclosure when it comes to psychological distress and help). i think that’s a slice of my own shadow self. it’s like we have umbra and penumbra inside of ourselves, this peter-pan shadow carbon copy that dances away from us and has to be yanked back into ourselves.

you know, it’s really only recently that i’ve started trying to write out the weird stuff. that dark stuff, the troubled admissions or confessions, the things i see that distress me or the things i think that make me feel abnormal. it’s a little easier for me to write it in poetry because poems are small bursts of fitful rage or distress or rebellion, and people like a poem with a hook or a scandal. to write about the dark underbelly of human emotion or sex or day to day life in prose is hard – fiction or non-fiction – because there is space to fill. i worry a lot about what people might think – who i might hurt – who might judge me after reading stuff i write. what if my mother or father dislikes it? what if my friends dislike it? but when i look at the books i love reading – mccarthy, findley, faulkner, my big three – it’s the darkness, the strangeness, the discomfort, and the shadowy ins and outs of life that draw me to their writing. these are writers who don’t shy away from describing and expanding on the real lows of the human heart, the base and violent desires that people contain within themselves. it’s not even the large sins that always interest me – it’s often the minutiae.

if i bring darkness out in people, then that’s both a good thing and a fine line to walk. two years in the writing program made me tolerant (and interested in!) the dark shit that people wrote about. every poetry class was a super intense therapy session, every fiction class a dive into the weirdness of the human brain and its desires and upsets. i never want to be the person who writes only things to perturb or provoke people – that gets old, fast, as does any writer who writes only about one topic. (in fact, it’s the reason i really dislike some of mccarthy’s books – the perpetual violence against women, the perpetual killing-off of characters that i’ve grown attached to.) but i also never want to be the person who shies away from telling the closest thing to the truth that i can manage – and sometimes the truth is strange, painful, disturbing. as they say – truth is stranger than fiction – or you can’t make this shit up!!!!

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but this guy really was a jerk.

but this guy really was a jerk.

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so when i go to the boxing gym tonight, and when i have to shadow box (something i often try to dance away from – much easier to lament the dulling of my reflexes while trying to keep the speedbag going at a metronomic pace) i’ll at least try to look at myself in face while i do. the presence of a mirror makes things more difficult. and when i try to finish this manuscript (which is decisively not my thesis/novel for the writing program, but a new thing, and something that also has the potential for shadowy truth, or something along those lines) i’ll try to be that mirror for myself. no easy task, i’m sure, but the more i write in this manner, the better i feel. call it catharsis, or just the development of bravery. whatever it is, it kind of rules.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2013 12:54 pm

    I loved this, and tomorrow when I’m at my gym shadowboxing, I’ll probably be thinking of you.

  2. April 15, 2013 2:31 pm

    You bring out my bruised side. See you tonight, you sexy-shadowy freak!

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