Bobbie Jo Morrell is a mountain woman, poet, writer, leathercrafter, rustic furniture builder, cat owner, technical writer, website designer. She says, “Colorado’s Front Range, with the smell of pine trees in the cool air of morning, is my home.” Her blog address:


BWSelfPortDeeper Warrior Chapter 4: Land of Shadow
by Bobbie Jo Morrell

OK, so people didn’t think I was a coward. So what? That didn’t seem to be helping me at all. The structures I had built to support myself in the world, to keep me secure somehow, were dissolving like a sand castle at high tide.

I’d also been reading about existentialism. I understood the philosophy to be based on the premise that life had no real meaning. The only meaning that there could possibly be to life had to be given by the person living it. Me. I had to give meaning to my life. So I tried.

Martial arts, classes, my work, reading, writing, friends. I worked consciously to will meaning into these things, to give myself a reason for my own existence. But as I spiralled out of control it became very clear to me that I could not possibly, by any act of my will, give true meaning to so much as a speck of dust. If something possessed no inherent meaning of its own, no value making it worthy of pursuit in and of itself, I’d just as well sit down and say in all seriousness, “Life’s  a bitch and then you die.”

So I did a lot of just sitting. In the dark, staring and waiting. I even have a self portrait from my photography class that fall, portraying me sitting in the dark, gazing longingly out to bright daylight that I am unable to reach somehow.

Really, would anyone notice if I just dropped dead? Would my life or my death leave any sign on the world?

But if my life was meaningless, then my death would be meaningless too, and not worth any additional effort on my part. I appeared to be an abject failure in finding life; there was no point in wasting any energy trying to find death.

Even psychologically, suicide struck me as pointless. After all, suicide seemed to be just a way to finally get everyone’s attention and make them sorry somehow. I was certain no one would notice, so why bother?

Oh, I still went to martial arts, to classes, out drinking. But now I could see the tangible shadow  between me and these things, the rest of the world. Maybe no one noticed the difference, but I felt like a zombie, with heavy head, heavy limbs moving slowly and stiffly, constrained by the weight of meaninglessness. How much longer could I carry this?

The organic chemistry lab room was ominous somehow—rows of spotless black soapstone lab benches and walnut stained drawers full of arcane glassware and apparatus. And filled with older students, chemistry majors without smiles on their faces. So unlike the cluttered genetics and pteridology labs where I worked for my daily bread, full of joking grad students and mandolin-playing professors.

Struggling to manage boiler flasks and bunsen burners in the hopes of rearranging aromatic compounds became to much for me in the heavy darkness, and I broke. Fighting back tears I fled the class. I couldn’t do this any more.

I walked across campus to student counseling services to see the on-call counselor, Ruth. She was blind, with a black lab for a seeing eye dog.

“Watch out for Shadow,” she said. “He’ll try to eat your kleenex.”

Keeping a close grip on my tissues, I poured out my story to Shadow, who gazed at me with a warm, sympathetic look in his brown eyes.

My childhood sexual abuse, my withdrawal and isolation, the darkness, the meaninglessness, the not seeing purpose in continuing to live, it all came tumbling out of my mouth. Shadow listened without being appalled or angry, without changing his attitude of gentle, friendly attention.

Ruth listened also, asking questions here and there, with the same calm compassion as her dog. At the end of the hour she spoke kindly to me, encouragingly. She referred me to another counselor at Student Services who was the “certified sex counselor.” Ms. Hetzke would be the best person to help me.

I’d been heard. By someone who wanted to help and had the resources to do so. I was tempted to give Shadow my kleenex out of gratitude.

story by Bobbie Jo Morrell, all rights reserved

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