This is my third year of making July a Month for Loki, and I feel a bit like I’m cheating to be using a writing prompt.
I figured that I might as well answer this particular prompt today for two reasons.
First, for the three years that I’ve been dedicating July to Loki, I’ve always found myself at one point or another in the month attempting to answer this question in a post. So, in that regard, I have written perhaps six variations of my answer to this question in the past three years, but I’ve always been reluctant to actually post it for various personal reasons. So there’s that.
Secondly, there’s the ‘inevitable nudge’ reason: this is a question that has come up on several occasions during five – count ’em five – separate conversations that I’ve had with others this week.
So, here goes…
How did I first become aware or know of Loki?
The truth is, I’m not entirely certain.
On the one hand, I could say that I’ve known of Loki since I was a kid, but I’ve only been considering myself as Lokean in the past three years.
There seems to be a weird dichotomy there – how could I have always known of Loki but never noticed Loki in my life? This is the reason why I read other’s answers to this question with great interest but I’ve been reluctant to post the answer to this question myself. Simply because I don’t like to share a lot about my upbringing or childhood because it was, in a word, dysfunctional. And the shame factor gets pretty high when I consider that, yes, there is no doubt that I was considered a ‘weird’ kid by family and strangers alike – and not to put too fine a point on it, I learned at a young age that the way that I experienced the world was not normal. When pressed, my mother and my three older siblings often attempt retroactively to put a positive spin on things by insisting that they thought of me as simply an ‘imaginative’ and ‘sensitive’ and ‘easily spooked’ child, but they are reluctant to admit to how they reacted towards my imagination, my sensitivities, and the reality of why I was often deeply affected by — if not terrified — of damned near everything on a daily basis until I was about 13 or so.
In short, it had become deeply ingrained in me that there are many thoughts, feelings and experiences that, if I talked about them with others, garnered me anywhere from looks of mild concern (oh sweetie, that sounds scary) to grimaces of discomfort (oh my goodness, that’s an awful thing to talk about [swiftly changes the subject]) to lectures of outright dismissal and warning hissed through gritted teeth (If you keep talking about that, people are going to think you’re crazy, so stop talking about that right now / Shut up!)*
And so, here I am.
But I did have an imaginary friend.
I suppose that a lot of children do. I often wonder if other children have imaginary friends as moody,vivid and strange as the imaginary friend that I had had. I mean, I suppose that every child has an imaginary friend that is uniquely theirs – a wonderful, engaging, usually benign being. I was always delighted to find others who had imaginary friends, and I mostly enjoyed sharing details about mine. I guess that everyone thinks their imaginary friend is different or unique…but I didn’t notice how different or how unique that mine had been until I was an adult.
You see, I had an imaginary friend in kindergarten. I thought that I had made up that imaginary friend because I was lonely. I had made a ‘real’ friend named Jenny Glickman in first grade, and she had an imaginary friend, so I made up an imaginary friend for myself, too. The ‘friend’ I made up was supposed to be a lot like Jenny’s; but hers was a young girl, and mine…was sometimes a girl, sometimes not. Jenny’s looked like her, she said, and shared the same birthday and everything. Mine had a birthday, but I thought that it was a secret (which Jenny thought was weird but funny) so I didn’t know how old mine was. And mine – even though I made zir up – didn’t look like me at all, which Jenny also thought was weird.
She couldn’t ‘see’ hers, but I drew pictures of mine all the time.
Jenny and I made up stories about our imaginary friends, and we spent recess either telling each other the stories that we made up, or pretending to ride horses with them. The ‘riding horses’ detail kinda sticks out in my mind, I think because it seemed to be the only interest that our imaginary friends seemed to share. We could all agree that we liked horses.
I remember going home and telling my mother about Jenny Glickman and how I had an imaginary friend just like she did.
And I remember my mother’s response: ‘Well that’s nice. So you have two imaginary friends now?’
And I laughed, and I felt confused. I argued that no, I only had the one that I had with Jenny Glickman. And I’ll never forget how she corrected me, saying that I had had an imaginary friend long before I went to school or met Jenny Glickman.
Truth is, we were talking about different things. She was talking about the Shadow in the Dark.
(You may remember that I’ve written about the Shadow in the Dark here).
If you want to consider the Shadow in the Dark as an ‘imaginary friend,’ that’s fine.
The Shadow in the Dark was, at first, quite terrifying to me. Hardly like an imaginary friend…since aren’t imaginary friends supposed to be ‘friendly’ rather than terrifying?
But the Shadow in the Dark was the reason that I would have done almost anything to avoid going to bed at night. Looking back on it, I had typical elaborate bedtime rituals that I had hoped would prolong the process, such as needing a snack, brushing my teeth, going to the bathroom, needing to have a story read or a specific stuffed animal in order to fall asleep, etc. As it is with most, my parents were only slightly annoyed by many of those typical avoidance maneuvers — unless I was still awake three hours later trying to prolong my actual bedtime. (Sometimes I would be the only one left awake at midnight or 1 AM, when they’d notice light leaking out from the bottom edge of the closed bathroom door, and they’d find me sitting on the edge of the tub, praying for sunrise.) They were baffled by my behavior because they couldn’t understand whatever in the world that I could have been so afraid of. They thought it would comfort me to assure me that I wasn’t alone in the dark, since I shared a room with my older sister; but I quickly realized that the presence of my older sister didn’t seem to deter the SitD from showing up. (If anything, the SitD would simply stand quietly by my bed until my older sister fell asleep.) A few times, I thought that I was being clever by burying myself underneath a layer of assorted stuffed animals, thinking that I could fool the SitD into assuming that I wasn’t there…or maybe I could make myself so difficult to find in that pile of toys that the SitD would give up and leave.
At any rate, I gave up trying to avoid the SitD, and over time, I began to feel less anxious about zir presence… but I still wouldn’t have considered zir much of a friend.
First of all, it seemed obvious to me that the SitD was an adult…a moody yet soft-spoken adult presence that definitely felt much older than my parents. Whenever zie spoke first, it seemed only to ask me either of two questions, in a curiously business-like manner:
Do you know who I am?
Do you want to come with me?
Do you know who I am?
Zie never answered who zie was, no matter how many times that I would try to guess. It seemed an endless guessing game, and in the end, the SitD’s identity a remained a strange, puzzling mystery for many years.*
Though there were times when I thought that I was so close to figuring out zir identity, because zie would allow us both to abandon the yes/no pattern after a while, and zie would give me a tantalizing hint:
Are you older than my dad? Yes. Do you live in this house? No.
Does my dad know you? Yes. Are you a friend of his? No.
Are you a stranger? No. Do I know you? Perhaps.
I don’t think so. I don’t remember you. (Zie chuckles) [calls me a nickname that my grandmother calls me.]
Do you know my [grandmother]? Yes.
Do you want to come with me?
I didn’t say ‘no’ right away. I asked zir to tell me where we were going, or why zie wanted me to go with zir. As it was with the previous question, zie would usually only answer yes or no to questions that I asked, and offered very little information otherwise:
Where are we going? Somewhere with me. Can my parents come (with us) too? No.
What if they won’t let me (go)? It doesn’t matter. Why not? Because I am asking you.
At first, I feared falling asleep, because I was afraid that I would be taken away anyway…but then. later on, it seemed to be very important that I make the choice whether or not to go.
It still strikes me today as to how profound that felt – to have an adult -invisible or not, in dreamspace or not – seek my consent, and then, to realize that same adult would honor my choice.
But, at any rate, it took a while before the SitD went away.
And despite what my parents may have hoped, there was nothing imaginary about the Shadow in the Dark.
And, in 2008, like sneaky tons of bricks often do, I began to connect the dots as to Who my Shadow in the Dark was, a little over three decades since He went away.
* Gods please forgive others who would demand that a child discuss their experiences (paranormal or not), only to respond to their experiences with such invalidation and aggressive dismissal. But not surprisingly, it was not until I had my own children that I began to realize the fear that was obviously inherent in the responses and reactions that I received from others; it concerns me in that I have come to consider myself in that ‘skeptical onlooker’ category as well — but perhaps that is a shadow-work entry for another day this month.
**In writing this entry, it occurs to me that He may have considered our guessing game to be quite an entertaining pastime rather than the frustratingly repetitive process that I thought it to be.