Well, I’m back! Back from a cruise on a big ol’ fancy ship to Northern Spain, Portugal, the Island of Majorca, Gibraltar, and Rome. Went to celebrate 40 years of marriage with my man, “WW” (White and Wonderful) and my birthday of 71 years. I had a blast ‘cause my man knows how to treat his woman—Oh yes, Jesus, he does! He had been organizing this trip for two years, and it was outstanding—first class all the way!
Talk about acting like a “balla”—for two weeks I was a committed hedonist. (For the uninitiated, a “balla” [baller] is someone like a successful basketball or football player who lives like she is queen of everything—a Serena Williams or Beyoncé with so much money to burn that one’s lavish and outlandish lifestyle is de rigueur.) The way I acted over the course of those two weeks onboard the cruise, you would have never guessed that I was born a poor-Black-child in the inner-city of Cleveland because I took to being pampered like a pig to slop or a Trump.
Everything was just perfect, and I can see why people prefer being rich rather than poor. For me, this lifestyle was temporary, but if I could have stayed on an eternal cruise on this particular ship, you bet your sweet tuckus, I would have. That’s because humans—especially Americans—are prone to the seductive life of getting our own way when everything is how you want it, when you want it, and where you want it—a.k.a. easy. In other words, my “idealized persona” (what Carl Jung calls our mask, and what the author Mateo Sol of Loner Wolf describes as “…what we would like to be and how we wish to be seen by the world”) was livin’ the dream on this floating luxury resort. That is…until I boarded the plane in Rome to return home, and I got into a rip-roaring fight with my “shadow self” which is still whimpering today as I try to wean myself from all that rich food and pampering.
What is a “shadow self,” you might ask? First of all, we all have one. Mateo Sol* describes the “shadow self” as “an archetype that forms part of the unconscious mind and is composed of repressed ideas, instincts, impulses, weaknesses, desires, perversions and embarrassing fears.” Carl Jung furthers Sol’s definition from his book: On the Psychology of the Unconscious:
“It is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses—and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism. The individual seldom knows anything of this; to him, as an individual, it is incredible that he should ever in any circumstances go beyond himself. But let these harmless creatures form a mass, and there emerges a raging monster. “
BELOW IS THE TRANSCRIPT OF THE FIGHT WITH MY SHADOW SELF WHO HAD STOWED AWAY UNDERNEATH MY SOUL AND STAYED HIDDEN AND SILENT UNTIL MID-WAY DURING THE TRANSATLANTIC FLIGHT HOME AFTER THE CRUISE.
SHADOW SELF: Psst! Wake up! Wake up, Fool!! Why the fuck are we in coach? This is not what I signed up for.
MY PERSONA: Oh, my God—where did you come from? I thought I left you locked in the closet at home.
SHADOW SELF: As if! Where you go, I go. Do you hear that nasty-ass old man hacking up loogies sitting just three seats from you? He’s been doing it all night. We’re going to catch “p-new-moania” from this dude and be bedridden for weeks. We’re almost 71 years old. We can’t be putting ourselves in this kind of danger. Now, on the other hand, do you hear anyone coughing and sneezing in First Class? Did you notice their lovely hot meals (three choices—each with hot soup options) served on linen table clothes along with champagne and copious wine and hot fudge sundaes on trays in front of their lay-down beds and massive TV screens that tilt for maximum viewing? It’s a different world up there — a world where we definitely belong. A world where people have been “expedited.”
What did we have for dinner? A freezer-burned gluten-free cardboard chicken piece in a tin (half cooked) with unseasoned veggies (also freezer burned). We are in a seat with a TV screen on the back of the seat in front of us which is the size of a postage stamp. I tried to pee an hour or so ago and there were at least 250 people lined up to use the toilet.
MY PERSONA: Listen, SS, we discussed this before I left. We used all our Benjamins for the cruise and all our frequent flyer points for the flight to London. You’ll survive this return flight from Rome. I know it’s like being in a can of sardines flying in coach, but unless you are Trump or a televangelist with a fleet of private planes, you’ll just have to suck it up. Besides, this is why I thought I left you home. I don’t want to hear any whining after such a fabulous vacation.
SHADOW SELF: There is always room for improvement, Chickadee. The cruise line showed you the blueprint. I keep dreaming of that ship and how this is the first time you’ve really treated me as I truly deserve. The cruise ship had me at “hello!” Remember the entry-way to the ship when one of the stewards looked at your ticket and said, “Oh, you don’t belong in THIS LINE, Mr. and Mrs. Tomczyk. Come with me to the VIP line because “you’ve been expedited!” God, I love the sound of those words: “YOU’VE BEEN EXPEDITED!” We were swiftly escorted onto the ship with not another person ahead of us which meant no lines and no waiting. (Bitch, you know how I hate waiting in lines!) Then, before I could say, “Let’s locate the martini bar,” a waitress gave us our choice between straight champagne or mimosas as we toured the ship — champagne in hand. Didn’t even have to pick up the keys to our suite…just told to go to our lodging at our leisure where we’d find the keys in our mail slot.
MY PERSONA: I must say that was nice. So easy. So expedient. Kind of makes you wish all of life was like that, especially the DMV.
SHADOW SELF: Exactly. See…now you’re thinkin’ like me. That cabin was just to die for, wasn’t it? A bathroom that was big enough to throw a party in with a bathtub the size of a six-person Jacuzzi. And remember what was waiting for you when you opened the door? MORE CHAMPAGNE! And not the cheap-ass stuff either. Slap me some Moët, Baby…Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary to me, Sister-Friend!
MY PERSONA: Ummm…and the delicious chocolate-covered strawberries—so sweet, they made my toes curl. And the flowers…weren’t they precious?
SHADOW SELF: Yep, if only everyday could be like that, right? Now my favorite was when we heard the knock on the door and in walks our own private butler. Lawd, have mercy, I almost fainted! I thought to myself: This po-black-chil’ done hit the lottery! Remember what he said to you: “Welcome Madam. Do you find everything to your liking? I’m sorry that I didn’t have a chance to sprinkle the rose petals on the bed, but I can bring them later, if you’d like. I’m on-call to serve you 24/7. Also, would you like to be addressed as Mrs. Tomczyk, Eleanor, or Madam?” Sweet Jesus, I just knew we had died and gone to Heaven. I was hoping you’d choose to be called “Madam” so I could pretend we were in an episode of Downton Abbey. This would be the only time in my life that my Black-ass would be called “Madam” by a White butler. BUT NOOOO…you went all egalitarian and shit on me, and said he could address you as “Eleanor.” But I forgive you, because the butler was so hot. Him with his silver-fox hair and Ukrainian accent—looking like a bleached Denzel Washington. I knew right there, he would be just perfect for all my needs.
MY PERSONA: Would you cut that shit out, SS. Did you forget I’m married? I did not perceive the butler like that. He was nice and attentive. That’s all I noticed. That and the fact he offered to do my laundry anytime I needed it done—for free. I would have taken him home just for that. Anyway, enough of this. You know that the downside of any wonderful experience or gift is the sin of ingratitude. The worst part of the cruise were all the habitual cruisers (people who cruise every three months or so) who brought along their shadow selves and bitched and complained about everything under the sun (“it’s too hot, it’s too cold, this isn’t as nice as the other cruise, I don’t like the entertainment, why did they change the private bar area, why is the elevator so slow, where in hell did my butler go…”). Get yourself together because if you think today is bad, wait until I get us back home and put us on a diet to take off all the pounds we gained over the past two weeks with a butler who would bring us any food and drink anytime we wanted it.
SHADOW SELF: I loved that the first activity you did on the ship was get an 80 minute massage. I liked that almost as much as sampling the six different specialty restaurants with chocolate desserts that would make a grown man weep, and the premium drink package that could stock a neighborhood bar. I figured if we started drinking at breakfast and kept going straight on to dawn, maybe we’d be able to use up all that drink package, but you wouldn’t even give it a try. I kept nudging you to “go for it,” but after a while you kept choosing hot tea instead of pina coladas. Where’s the fun in that, Girlfriend?
MY PERSONA: Because after the third day, my body was saturated. I can only take so much rich food and alcoholic drinks. Pretty soon the mojitos and creamed lobster artfully placed on a Sriracha aioli and partitioned by figs and fried marigold flowers have to be replaced by a juice cleanse and salad or I would have rolled back into town weighing 300 pounds. Besides, I wasn’t touring Spain, Portugal, and the like to just eat and drink. I loved seeing the history of the towns (especially Sintra, Portugal). I loved discovering their Jewish quarter and learning about Aristides de Sousa Mendes do Amaral e Abranches, a Portuguese man who issued thousands of visas for Jews to escape Nazi Germany against the wishes of his own king. It was fascinating to learn how a large group of Jews appeared to assimilate into the Portuguese culture, pretending to be Christians (hidden in plain sight), and even inventing a sausage as proof of their conversion. What the authorities didn’t know was that the sausage was made of cooked chicken, bread, spices, and tomatoes to give it a “bloody” look, but it was strictly kosher. The sausage is still one of Portugal’s most sumptuous delicacies.
And to top it all off, when I turned a corner after leaving the Old Jewish Quarter, I thought I saw Barack Obama waving to me from an apartment window as he stood with Chinese President Xi Jinping. I almost fainted at the shock! For a minute he looked eerily real, and another American tourist, an Australian and I teared up and waved back. The White American from New Jersey said out loud to the other nationalities longingly gazing at the picture in the window: “We’re sorry we couldn’t give you another Barack Obama. It’s not personally my fault, but we’re working on fixing it. Please, please don’t give up on America. Ignore the clown masquerading as our President in the White House.” That’s when I knew, this cruise was only a momentary fun event and brief respite; once I got back home, it was back to the grind of reality and into the resistance movement I had signed up for to help undo the national nightmare that had engulfed our country.
SHADOW SELF: Fine. You went for the culture, history, and inspiration, I stowed away for the pampering and the spoiling. I want you to figure out how the phrase “You’ve been expedited!” gets me rollin’ like a balla when we get home. If you don’t, I’m gonna raise bloody hell! I will be unable to be lived with—do you hear me, Bitch! ‘Cause once you go coddled and pampered, you never go back! You tell WW, your trip to Africa next year has to at least be business class or I’m gonna throw a stage 4 temper tantrum in the terminal!
MY PERSONNA: Shut the fuck up and go to sleep! You are officially on lock-down, Shadow self. I don’t want to hear another word from you! Get yourself prepared to eat nothing but lettuce wraps, exercise incessantly, and attempt to write the next great American novel because my “idealized persona,” that I am a disciplined writer and in control of my flesh, is my modus operandi when I’m state side.
WANT TO READ MORE? CHECK OUT AUTHOR’S LATEST BOOKS: “Monsters’ Throwdown,” Fleeing Oz,” and “The Fetus Chronicles: Podcasts From my Miseducated Self”—on sale now at Amazon!
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