Don’t bump your head on the way out.
Yesterday was a threshold for me. In some way or another, I had to face all my personal demons and ghosts, all day long.Â I actually felt “presences” following me around, staring me down all day. My mom, my grandpa,Â and the many and sundry painful experiences of the last half-decade.
It started at 3:30 in the morning. We got up, got the kids ready, and headed over to Jeffy’s on the way to the airport. And Chris was so clearly pained at the idea of leaving his kids for just five days. That’s when the ghost of a previous Chris turned up, one who didn’t make his kid a priority. One who made awful choices without regard to the consequences for his son. That is not the present-day Chris.
We drove on into the darkness, and passed the gas station where we’d said goodbye before his last trip to Tucson without me.Â I faced the ghost of my mom, who had picked him up there and taken him on to the airport.Â Thanks to the events of the past couple of months, I was able to remember her andÂ think of her fondly without pain. The demon of guilt that has plagued me about moving on with my life after her death appeared, but only briefly and already defeated upon arrival.
At that same point in the road, another ghost appeared. A phantom of lies and betrayal and attempts to convince me I was crazy and out of touch with reality. A demon of resentment, and pain, and the sneaking suspicion that I was lied to and betrayed and disregarded because that’s what I deserved. This one I had to wrestle with a bit more. And I was already tired.
Dropped off Chris at the airport, found a well-lit spot close to work, locked up the car and slept. Dreamed of my grandpaÂ and how I’d locked my keys in my car that same week that Chris was in Tucson before. Dreamed of walking the two blocks to my grandparents house, and Pop coming over, and scaring me half to death getting stuck trying to crawl through the trunk into the backseat. Because he never stopped to think “can I actually DO this?” he just thought “what needs to get done?” Last week, Gigee reminded me that it was a year exactly since he passed.
I woke up, and drove to Starbucks, and had some coffee and coffee cake, and then on to work. My new work, where everyone is almost painfully invested in what they do. It’s such a change. A year ago, I was at the end of my rope, working with people who just did. not. care. About what I did for a living. About what they did for a living. Like a bunch of zombies.Â And still, it was hard to leave because that was where I really learned to believe in myself professionally. I had probably my two greatest professional mentors there, who honestly adored me, and who I think took my leaving much more personally than they admitted to my face. Spiritual brothers and fathers who helped me become who I am.
That was when the ghost of “you’re not good enough, and when they find out what a fake you are, they’re going to fire you” showed up (who has dogged me my entire life, and who sounds remarkably like the dark side of my mom). I wrestled with her pretty much the balance of the workday.
About halfway through the day, I noticed I had a charleyhorse from sleeping in the car. It got progressively worse as the day wore on. By the time I finally got to head home, I was nearly doubled over. My ulcer was killing me. My charleyhorse hurt from my ankle up to my… another word that starts with the letter A. I looked like Igor, hunched and limping.
I picked up the kids, and headed home. Brief dinner, baths, homework, Dora. Before I knew it, the kids were in bed asleep, and I realized that Grey’s Anatomy was on. It was almost halfway through, but I figured it would be better than staying on Wikipedia continuing to try to figure out the difference between fate and destiny, determination and free will.
So I turned on the tv and plopped on the couch.Â There was Meredith Grey, in the land of the dearly departed. Talking to her mom. And it all clicked. Psyche has to go into the underworld, to bring back beauty. The last chapter of Till We Have Faces. All the ghosts, images of her loved ones trying to distract her from her purpose, get her stuck.
“Run, Meredith,” says Ellis Grey. Go back to life!
“Dammit, Kate, RUN!” shouts Jack into the Walkie. Get the hell off of Alcatraz.
A five year old me, toy-stuffed handkerchief in hand, “running away from home.” “I want to run away, I hate you!” I said to my mom, no idea how badly that would hurt a 25 year old, insecure kid. Could she really have been that young? Twenty-five? “Fine. Go.” says Mom. Â I got all of two blocks before realizing I didn’t really have anyplace to go and that what I really wanted was for her to tell me to stay.
A six year old me, running away from my friend Kristen and my sister Jen, to see if they’d find me. Hiding in the dogwood tree, surrounded by flowers and budding green leaves, watching them call for me.
A nine year old me, running away from Jessica and Julie and my other girlfriends on the school playground, to see if they’d try to find me. To see if they’d “prove” they really liked me.Â I didÂ it so many times, they eventually got tired and quit and gave up on me.
A twenty-two year old me, leaving Florida and separating from Chris to see if he’d re-engage and try to bring me back.
What have the last five years taught me? To stand. To stop running. To stop trying to get people to prove to me that I’m worthy of love, and live out of the love I know is given to me.
Ephesians 6: 10-13
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”