After over ten years of an incredibly intense journey as a seeker, I find myself lying fallow. Taking a rest. When I first discovered this uncomfortable fact — threat to the hamster wheel that was my spiritual rat race, I surrendered for dead, but something wouldn’t let that fact sit as truth. I was lying fallow, but this implied that after a good rest, fruit could follow. This had nothing to do with death.
I am humbled at the courage it takes to write. For many years I kept a blog read by only a handful of very supportive people, and you’d think that after sharing writing for so long with perfect strangers, writing would have gotten easier.
Actually, it got harder. In fact, at one point I was so paralyzed, I just stopped writing altogether. It was just too vulnerable. There was no trust there anymore, and I attributed any courage I had had to my youthful ignorance.
However, life continues, as it inevitably does, and there is still this pang to write, and it grows stronger and stronger with each wrinkle, each ache and pain, that reminds me that I don’t have forever.
So, I sit down and write, and in this incredibly vulnerable place, I realize I am surrounded by ghosts of the past: loss, incompletion, premature death, and I am reminded of the movie Poltergeist and the climactic moment when a sacred burial ground is discovered under the swimming pool, and during torrential rain, bones float to the surface. A little aside: I remember that the parents’ bed in the movie had the exact same striped pair of Mervyn’s sheets on their bed as my own parents bed circa 1980’s. Terrifying connection!
So, for a long time this is what happens when I begin to write, and it is harrowing. The poltergeist comes out, terrorizing me, drowning me in a dark swimming pool with skeletons gurgling up around me. And if lucky enough to escape, I don’t come back for more.
Not until the pain of not writing has usurped the fear of a terror ride through Hell.
This gives me so much compassion, which I wouldn’t have found, if I hadn’t actually written through the horror today, because if I hadn’t written, I wouldn’t have started to get some perspective, that indeed, every time I sit down to write, I enter terrifying territory, so, of course, I would be a little anxious about building a writing habit!
However, I recall that the denouement in the Poltergeist movie comes once the bones are unearthed and the ghost is placated by the sacred ground becoming consecrated once again. And perhaps I too can find the cleansing morning after, when all ghosts are laid to rest, and life moves forward. Perhaps the mere act of continuing to write is my way of unearthing the ghosts, getting the bigger story of their anger and pain, to give them what they need, so that once and for all, they can rest in peace. This would be the Hollywood ending.
If the reality is that there is an infinite number of ghosts that will continue to join me forever on my writing journey, perhaps, at the very least, I can get a lot more comfortable walking with them and opening my eyes in the dark anyway. Like recently when I saw the preview for Stephen King’s IT, and the clown jumped out of the closet, I didn’t even flinch. Maybe it could start to be like that. I could begin see all that horror and gore for what it truly is, my eyes seeing the world through a filter of fear instead of curiosity.
The one thing that I cannot ignore when I write for long enough, is that there does seem to be some sort of crusader figure walking with me, pointing out just a little bit more of the trail, and how best I can travel down it. It is subtle, wordless, but perhaps one of the reasons I feel so compelled to write — as if I was always meant to write my own owner’s manual. And if not mean to write something so ambitious, at the least this figure reminds me of my courage and waits for me around each bend, patient for me to catch up, no matter how slow the go.
So perhaps the next step is consecrating all those ghosts.
Get in line ghosts. I’m ready to hear from you. With my steadfast knight nearby, I think we can face you with the respect and reverence you deserve.
One is here right now. It is a ghostly scene of my daughter as a 5-year old, when due to circumstances beyond my control, I can’t get to her, when she really needs me. She is threatened by one that tells her in a fit of anger that if she doesn’t comply bad things will happen. I start to see my own five-year-old self, who experienced something similar, and how helpless I was as I flitted around the room, terrorized, unable to break into this adult scene with any effectiveness. I imagine all the years that this was my prime directive, to pierce the veil of the adult shadow and show them each other’s hearts, and how much life force was lost in this innocent pursuit of mine.
I imagine her in the room, door shut, all on her own, unable to see what is happening outside of the room, worrying about my safety, me worrying about her on a visceral level, not having the literal physical strength to fight and break through to her, to let her know I am okay, and certainly that it would never be her fault if something bad happened. To let her know that I was a mama dragon, and I could take care of myself. I was always safe, and it was never up to her to keep me or anyone else safe. Not in a way she wouldn’t be forgiven for, especially as a child. Nothing she could do could make me go away from her, even if my physical body was gone. Nothing. A mother’s love breathes fire.
I send my mama dragon self back in time, to that night, floating up beside her in her bedroom, but I am surprised at what I find there! There is no cowering child, helpless, crumpled in a heap — there is a baby fire-spitting dragon! So strong, so okay, so much more understanding and equipped with armor for this world than I.
In fact, the knight tells me that these children are to help me know my dragon strength, and to also know theirs, which is why they get so frustrated when I try to soften the blows for them. They were made to weather the storms, and to experience life deeply and, heaven forbid — darkly.
I kneel before this baby dragon, spitting fire, valiant, full of truth, full of understanding and knowing that never is she alone, least of all those times when things go bump in the night, when poltergeists terrorize the night.
I consecrate the sacred ground we both stand on, reflecting our strength, resilience, and knowing that just like the clown no longer scares me that jumps out of a closet, there will come a time when I am no longer scared by my most vulnerable fear, that those I love need saving, marshmallow landings, rounded corners. That those I love can’t come back from adversity forged of iron, climbing to new heights, one handhold, one foothold: repeat. And that the fear I fight within me about their safety is mine, and mine alone, and as their mother, the truth of my duty is nothing other than to push them out of the nest to fly. Their adversity is a sacred vessel.
The baby dragon that was with her that night held her in a sacred hold. She was warmed by white hot flame. She wasn’t alone, and will never be alone.
One ghost that can perhaps RIP. The last thing I ever thought I would call myself — a ghostbuster.
And, of course, the bigger take away, is that adversity is my sacred vessel, and I can walk with the terror of the night. I can jump out of the nest, even in the dark, because maybe I’m a bat after all, and just wait ‘till my night vision kicks in.