Ghosts in the Hall


One of the facets to having the last eight-plus years of my life documented here in the open is that… well, it’s all there. There’s no deleting or erasing, or revisionist history even possible. It’s a risk I willingly took on when I decided to open the curtain on what, at the time, was a very typical and pedestrian life of a woman with young children and another on the way. That didn’t last long though, did it?

There is a vulnerability in choosing honesty. There is a vulnerability in being open about life, pain, struggle, failure, and even in success. One of my goals in life is to make it through without bitterness taking root in my heart and without fear being an overriding directive on how I make my decisions. Something I didn’t fully understand though is that when a person has repeatedly been through really hard things, those fears and uncertainty creep into your heart like crabgrass in a tended lawn. Or like dandelions, if you prefer.

There is a reason the colloquialism warns against resting on our laurels- to do so is to stop being an active participant in one’s life. Things we think are behind us still leave ghosts in the halls of our hearts, and we can treat them like foes, locking them away and pretending they aren’t real, or we can nod warmly as the spectre wanders by, realize it’s a part of us, and cease being afraid of our own reflection.

It is still surprising to me, four years out from my divorce, five years after the loss of the house, seven years after the addiction reared its ugly destroying head, how it’s still so very hard for me to trust happiness. It shouldn’t be surprising. But I get complacent, rest on my laurels, and think I can stop weeding.  It’s not just a deep taproot, my friends- it’s a labyrinth in my heart.

So I find myself now having to revisit those halls, pause and smile at the ghosts in the halls, and remind myself that these are my own familiars. Roosevelt was right- I have nothing to be afraid of except fear itself.

It’s a continually shifting and moving thing, our own fear- yet no matter when it’s found, it’s tied to the same sources below the surface. It’s dawned on me that the complicated walls of the labyrinth, that the criss-crossing network of roots and scar tissue, are not really the enemy. Those walls are strong; that woven, subconscious tangle of roots might actually be for my own good. Perhaps…just perhaps… the things we build as defenses— our scars, our network of roots— could be the work of a lifetime, and the only danger is in not knowing how and why they were built? I’m starting to believe the only real danger is being unwilling to see ourselves.

The things we build to protect ourselves in times of danger can be mighty foundations for a beautiful life. The key is never forgetting, never denying, where you came from.

5 thoughts on “Ghosts in the Hall

  1. Beautifully said. I have been writing about the same type of thing: it’s OK to talk about who we are and how we got to be who we are. I feared the risk for so long – not just for my own reputation but for the humiliation of those who helped get me to where I ended up. There is a price for honesty. Fortunately, the payoff is often freedom for everyone involved. 🙂 I hope that is true for you as well.

  2. Once, years ago, I was talking with a wise friend. I was sharing a complicated and painful experience that had shaped me as a child and that had continued to influence my life into my adulthood. As I finished telling the story, which was well-worn and familiarly comfortable to me, my wise friend looked at me and said:

    “That’s a compelling history. You tell it well, and it’s clear it influenced you and justifies decisions you made. But why are you still allowing it to determine your future?”

    I was stunned.

    It was true. I had a narrative that explained a lot about me, and I had grown comfortable allowing that narrative to prop me up, to use it as an excuse for modern and current events. My friend told me that those painful things in our past are for us to learn from, but once we learn, we must set them down and move on, otherwise we haven’t really learned anything.

    At that moment, I stopped using that story to define my life.

  3. I love you and your writing speaks to my soul! Thank you for sharing with us your ups and downs and letting us love you the whole way through!

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