Everyone is haunted by something.
Be it love, disappointment, loss, or the ghost of who we are at our core – we are haunted.
Our ghosts can propel us in a myriad of directions. We can run as far as we can, even to the ends of the earth, but the faster we run, the more they chase us down. Some want to possess us; others want to teach us. Sometimes we can’t tell the difference and without question, we run like hell.
I had an older sister who died when I was four years old. I know my mother is haunted by the memory of her and by the other experiences she’s had in her life – some I know about and some she won’t tell me. I cannot remember one single thing about my sister, try as I might. Years and years ago I had a dream about her: She was lying down on the ground and I reached to open a small door in her back. I placed some garlic bulbs in there, closed the door and voila! She sat up and starting walking around. She was alive.
I recently found an old article by Martha Beck about how having a mishap is a chance to expand your outlook. She wrote:
“…shit happens. Randomly. But here’s an amazing human capacity: We can use virtually any experience as a catalyst for hopelessness or growth. We can see the world as if everything is meaningless or as if everything is meaningful. Each of these positions is equally untestable. So we get to choose.
“We all have the same freedom to find and focus on the meaningful parts of our own misfortunes. Every one of us encounters random events, but we also possess a universal ability to create meaning out of suffering. We can turn a curse into a blessing, tragedy into heroism, loss into gain. Lucky us.”
I know it can be difficult to try to turn something emotionally tragic into something meaningful. It somehow feels…wrong. But I get the essence of what she is saying. Everyone copes in different ways. Whether you cope in darkness, in the light, or go in between the two, grief needs time to move from smothering you to sitting beside you. Eventually, it may reside peacefully, but it never moves out. You simply allow it to be what it is. You allow it to sit in the same room with you. That’s when your relationship to it changes.
This Buddhist practice is ideal, but I know it is damn difficult to do while in it. I don’t like grief and the causes of it. I can see it in people and sometimes it is excruciating to witness and you don’t know when and if they’ll reach for that life preserver.
I have ghosts.
Some are quite lovely, some are bothersome. Some float around, reminding me that I already have a life jacket on: really, love…stop all this flailing around.
My conscious memory does not remember my sister, but because she was a part of my experience, she is a part of me.
And there, she lives.