Life with a side of demons.
(Photo: Francesca Woodman)
“Man is not by any means of fixed and enduring form. He is nothing else than the narrow and perilous bridge between nature and spirit. His innermost destiny drives him on to the spirit and to God. His innermost longing draws him back to nature, the mother. Between the two forces his life hangs tremulous and irresolute.”
~ Herman Hesse
I’ve been trying to tame myself my entire life. Like most humans, I’ve had more faces than I can remember and I’ve done things I’m not sure if I should save or delete.
If only I wasn’t so ephemeral or if I could live another thousand years. 80 won’t do to figure it all out. Or maybe if I was a better detective of this life and I could solve all mystery and memorize all knowledge… If only I was god, I think I could finally succeed at understanding myself. All-knowingly. For good.
The Absolute doesn’t have nightmares.
We are all born manifold: more than one, sharing the same body. It’s a good thing to live in unity; as long as we don’t mistake unity by unit; as long as we stop limiting ourselves to being just one thing.
But you’re not one, you’re many. You are the body and the shadow, the subject and the object, the one and the other. You are a group. You are legion. Physically and mentally, you are a plural phenomenon.
Out of all the people who cohabit me, perhaps the one I like the least and love the most is Ms. Yang, the dark(er) side, the bitch, the horror.
The first time my Evil Twin emerged, I must have been at least five, because I can still remember the fire. If, say, anyone wanted to hurt my brother, an inevitable demon would rush its way through me and terrible knives would start growing out of my knuckles.
I didn’t exactly recognize the person kicking and screaming at the bad guys, but there she was, burning through my skin. I suppose the bitch has been with me since before the world was created.
As the years passed, ET returned, changing shapes, as I also changed my ways of welcoming her.
Part 1 – When you deny your demons
Part 1 — When you deny your demons.
In school they teach us definitions. You can’t just smell a plant, you have to learn what a plant is: Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae, says Wikipedia.
Definitions are needed to situate you in a defined world and help you survive in the jungle of Society, but children don’t care about the situation. They care about the story.
And through this daily story of definition upon definition of what we should (must, oughta) be, these children—you and me—are taught the Art of Separation.
Not that distinction is negative per se. We are part individuals, after all. We need to point at things and mindfully appreciate the difference.
But separation also has a self-destructive side where, instead of welcoming all the opposites within us, we keep on Self and kill the rest because you see, they just don’t fit in the one-bedroom apartment in our chest. Or so we’ve been taught.
You must be reduced to one single paragraph, one type of person, one label, one name. Or so we’ve been programmed. And you better pray that your one Item doesn’t turn out maladjusted or bad-looking.
In this divorce from the whole, the Evil Twin is the first one to suffer, because the rest of your personalities are usually more acceptable.
There is no necessary opposition between being outspoken or discreet; beautiful and smart; outgoing for the most part and an introvert on rainy days. Even a scientist and an artist are complimentary.
But no one likes the bitch. Nobody digs the asshole. No, really, it’s not sexy. We may like to date them from time to time but we marry the good guys.
So you just limp through life. You grow up thinking there’s a one kind of woman you must be, a one type of man you should try to be. One image.
Renaissance is for the unreliable. You must settle down. Choose your major. Pick your team, your color, your specialty. Restrict yourself to one. And let it be a nice one.
For the greatest part of my life I couldn’t get myself to admit the existence of an Evil Twin. Skinny, pale and lonely Yin was in denial. I thought that, like a terminal illness, once the dark side was diagnosed it would immediately get worse and everything would start to crumble.
Or, minus the drama, my ET was more like a seasonal flu, a nightmare that if never mentioned, I’d never have again.
She didn’t exist.
Except for when she did.
‘You look great’, someone told me once. ‘Have you been losing demons?’
‘What demons?’ I shouted back in rage.
Part 2 – When you repress your demons
Okay, so maybe there is someone in my closet, after all. She can be selfish, dark, twisted and cold. She’s got fangs, she drinks blood instead of wine and she has good memory (which is a terrible thing for her offenders).
She likes to prey upon the ignorant, ignoring that she is herself one in more ways than she could understand; and that ignorance is the most relative condition. She ignores, for instance, the most basic notions of accounting or how to handle her money.
She is way too dramatic. She’s always thirsty for arguments and likes to fight whoever gets in her way, even when they’re carrying a white flag.
Her problems are the end of the world. And being in danger, the world should pause from spinning, until she solves them. She was the first woman in history to chop someone’s head off, in order to cure a migraine.
It’s not that she enjoys being her. It’s just that hurting is her only language. She doesn’t know of any other way to communicate or materialize. It’s the currency in her country. What can you do?
After I was forced to notice her – over too many battles to ignore – I started actively hating her.
I was sweet, almost-funny, likable lady, until the monster showed her teeth. I was ashamed and afraid of her at the same time. But mostly, I was mad. I wanted to kill the fucking snake (with all due respect to snakes).
She disgusted me especially because she lived with me (Me! What Greek gods have I upset? Zeus, get it together!) and she had no intention of moving out.
But I didn’t know how to put her down without also cancelling myself in the process.
So she kept on showing her ugly face at the most inconvenient moments, embarrassing me and others, mercilessly setting fire to all my qualities. The more she showed up, the more I tried to silence her; and the more I punished her, the more she hurt me back. I was living in my own, organic mad-house.
I guess the most painful realization was the disappointment of looking in the mirror and seeing the disfigured shadow behind the relatively pretty face; the disenchantment, the imperfection, the not-enoughness. The deep, dark and inoperable lament of the soul.
Does 21st Century Western Angst imply having a psycho signing my letters after me?
Part 3 – When you face and swallow your demons
I don’t remember how truth came to be on this Earth, but I’m pretty sure it used to be life’s original condition.
All I had time to learn in nearly three decades of human experience is that it doesn’t dawn upon you at once, but gradually, so we don’t go blind from a sudden display of light.
Truth works through puzzles, just like love. One day you wake up and you know. Your eyes are opened and you finally see the picture you’ve been building all along.
So I woke up that day with a mission. Open Pandora’s Box and let the devil out. I was worn out from so much hiding her. Besides, she still found a way to cheat out of all closets, so why bother any longer?
I thought, just let the creature out of the cage, let her go 100% crazy, while I sit back and watch the bloody show. Let’s see what happens.
Sometimes you have to choose between losing your dignity and losing your life. I chose the first and in losing my small self, I found that terrifying, beautiful and fuller condition they say it could be, must be, Life.
Like any dragon let loose after lying in a dungeon for ages, my Evil Twin was skeptical at first.
‘What now? You mean I can go? Like, walk away?’ I nodded in disgust. ‘Really? You’re not gonna’ try to exorcise me or something?’ She couldn’t believe it.
She did roar around for a while, but soon enough, the strangest thing happened. She started losing interest in her freedom and she even made a few attempts to communicate with me, managing to transmit a sad echo of her story.
So I seized the opportunity and caught her off guard one day, in the bathroom mirror.
‘Hey Satan’, I said, ‘how would you like a job?’ She stared back at me, visibly surprised. I think I saw the fangs again and heard a deep, tired growl. I figured I should explain better, lest she should decide to bite my head off. You never know with these creatures.
I told her I was willing to let her stay, to cooperate, come to an agreement, some sort of win-win situation for the next 80 years. There had to be a way…
She couldn’t close her devilish eyes for an entire minute. I tried not to make any sudden movements, give her some quiet time to think.
And as she was considering her new mission – that of a bodyguard instead of an assassin – she suddenly seemed to me less hateful and more human. I felt that if I just looked at her long enough and from the right angle, I’d find a watercolor sadness behind all her monstrosity. As if all she’d really wanted all this time is for someone to listen to the silent whisper beyond the louder cry. To understand. That’s all.
Isn’t that what we need after all? A witness to our lives?
A bitchy Renaissance.
From that day on my Evil Twin and I have become some sort of awkward friends. Or more like friendemies, a middle-ground new variation of our human species.
She makes serious efforts to stop herself before it’s too late and sometimes succeeds in doing what I never thought her capable of: think twice. And when she can’t help but cross the line, her madness is usually not terminal and I am willing to fix her mess.
On the other hand, unlike me, she’s extremely focused and helps me finish my most mind-consuming projects. She’s the one who contacts my phone company each time my internet goes down or whenever I experience tech issues with this website.
She gets me through the toughest times, especially when Sweet Girl has had enough cruel world for lunch. And in doing so, she cusses way too much. Sometimes I have to cover my ears.
She protects me from the bad guys in the dark alleys — even better than most men I’ve dated; and she is so much stronger than me.
So I no longer want to kill the snake because I’ve learned to sort-of dance with it. As gross as I find snakes.
I turned the Bitch into a friend — or, better put, a trusted co-worker. We share the same office space, the same hands that type this letter. She even makes me laugh at times.
The first best thing about our newly integrated relationship is that figuring out whatever “right” means in any situation is no longer a struggle, but an adventure, where no one has to die in order that another may live.
Because I am not bound in any way, but free to be as multiple and manifold as I possibly can. Each one of my Selves has a say in any matter, especially the Evil Twin.
Managing your demons is more interesting and takes less energy than ignoring or fighting them.
Who would have guessed that in losing yourself you’d find your selves – and thus, your higher, more complete Self? That when you die to the little and limited you, you’re born again into a whole, more comprehensive version? That those who seek to preserve their one small and cozy life will lose it and those who lose it for the sake of their bigger beautiful, bold truth, will, strangely, find it?
Well, Jesus did – among others – but religion has found a way to lock the truth in churches; false morality has managed to castrate the Evil Twin.
It’s a newer, more progressive and subtle version of the Spanish Inquisition. They don’t hunt witches down now, they just turn them into nice girls.
The second best thing is that once you learn to co-exist with your Evil Twin, to accept and forgive him/her, your start regarding everyone’s Evil Twin with the same kind of compassion, far from the black or white but somewhere among the different shades of grey that we all are.
You stop being their judge, just as you’ve stopped being your own judge and policeman. Or you are at least capable of trying.
I never understood what was so wrong about Adam & Eve eating that apple… wouldn’t you rather know your good and evil?
Would ignorant bliss have been better than the freedom of thought — which you can only acquire from looking your own demons in the eye and using them to your benefit instead of letting them silently destroy you?
So what if we’ve made a mess out of things? “Truth comes with blows.” There’s no Plan B, only one long and crooked A.
Simone Weil figured this out long before I was born:
“I also am other than I know myself to be. To know this is forgiveness.”
So, love thy enemy, you think? Even when that sweet enemy is occupying the same body as you?
They say it’s only love that changes people. Not knowledge, progress or materialism.
I think acceptance needs to come before love. I can’t love the Bitch unless she means something to me. And I certainly can’t accept other Bitches, unless I’ve accepted mine first.
‘Cause when I give you the same right to exist, you matter. And when you matter, I consider you. And when I repeatedly consider you, I start understanding you. And when I understand you, I start feeling your pain.
And once you feel somebody’s pain, it is impossible not to love them. Because pain, no matter what the size or shape, is really one universal knife stuck in one heart.
Everyone lives inside your chest.
P.S. Shhh! Not a word. No one can see this but you.
Evil Twin ending this letter. I’m often put off by the length of my Nice Twin’s arguments. She thinks she’s so clever. But I stop listening to her after the first long sentence. This woman can’t shut up.
If you’re like me, it’s pretty simple. Please let me see beyond your pretty face. Who’s that Bitch under your skin? How’s the Asshole doing? Where’s the Vampire hiding? Don’t keep all the blood to yourself. Join me and introduce your Crazy. I’d love to meet the entire Psych ward.