(This blog entry is being entered in the October writing contest sponsored by Michelle at Scribbit, a mother of 4 living in Alaska. I had the opportunity to hear her speak at the BlogHer08 conference and found the info she shared really helpful. Her site offers many tips to bloggers -- thank you!!! -- as well as crafts and parenting insights and is definitely one to check out).
* * * * *
They pop in to haunt me from time to time - never expected, rarely welcome. Sometimes they stay for only a second or two. Just enough time to announce their presence, to remind me of their previous existence. On some occasions they choose to linger, hoping to get enough of my attention to play the “What if” game. What if I had handled it differently, what if I had said this or not said that? Yes, what if?
Dickens writes of Ghosts of Past, Present and Future; in my case it is a multitude of ghosts from the past that haunt me in ways I cannot imagine are healthy. Am I somehow continuing to invite them back into my life? How do we gain power over these ethereal creatures and send them away for good?
Are ghosts really just unsettled situations we have in our past? If there had been closure in the perfect sense of the word, would that be the lock that would keep the door shut? Instead of trying to barricade the door, perhaps we should greet them warmly, “Oh it’s you! What brings you around today?” They could deliver their message and hurry along, without making us relive the tumultuous feelings that usually get stirred up when they drop in. Do ghosts ever visit without their baggage? Or have they learned it is never as effective to show up empty-handed?
In my case, their haunting thoughts are silly ones: what if I had dated the other guy – you know, the infamous “road not taken?” Would I still have gotten involved with him, Mr. Elusive, and put up with him flitting in and out of my life, leaving turmoil in his wake? If it hasn’t been for Mr. Elusive, would I have rebounded over to Mr. Un-Motivated who although able to commit to the relationship (which was a definite step in the right direction) was not motivated to set and achieve goals toward a real job or career, although he did do well keeping the local bar in business with his patronage.
At times these ghosts from the past creep over into the present. Occasionally there will be a moment or a nighttime dream where my head is filled with endless questions: what would it be like if I saw that person today?? What would I say? How would I act? It is as if the ghosts desire to tease and challenge me: where is your bravado now??
I share author Iyanla Vanzant’s belief in the fact that all people come into your life for a reason – just not always for the reason you expect. Sometimes we think, “This is it! This is the one!” when they are not “the one” at all. But as it turns out, you needed that experience as a stepping-stone, bringing you that much closer to your goal. If I was explaining this to my son, I would use the baseball metaphor: you were playing Double A ball (the Minors) and now you have moved up to Triple A ball. You are still in the Minors, but now have become one step closer to the Major Leagues. Maybe that person’s purpose in your life was NOT to be “the one” (or get you to the Majors) but simply to help you grow a bit along the way – preparing you for that which lies ahead!
This works not only when thinking of romantic love, but with friendships too. There are women I was close to at one point or another that are no longer in my life. Physical distance is usually the culprit; I have moved around the country, made friends in various places, kept in touch a bit after moving away, but found over time contact has just dribbled off. Soon we are down to just exchanging Christmas cards; after a few more years that often dies off too. A few of them I wish I was still friendly with and that they were still an active part of my life. They were fabulous women and I am disappointed I did not make more an effort to keep things going. Or maybe I did, and they didn’t – or maybe they did and I didn’t – at this point it is hard to remember. Others I never think about. They have gone on with their lives and I with mine and it feels very much as if it all happened the way it was suppose to.
However, those people are not the ghosts. Ghosts are the ones that are emotionally charged. The woman that wronged me and I am still not sure why. The one so threaten by me that she tried her best to excommunicate me from the group and the saddest part wasn’t her (psycho) behavior, it was the mutual “friends” (I use that term loosely – very loosely) who weren’t able to stand up for what was right. I tell myself I have moved on, but at times the ghosts pop in; What if I had done this? What if I had said that? What if instead of feeling disgust, I could have shown more compassion? Would the outcome still remain the same?
Ghosts bring back situations that happened when I was a working girl. Could I have made more of my career by making different choices? What if I had taken that other job instead? What if I had stayed longer at the next one instead of choosing to leave? What if I had handled that boss and her power-tripping behavior differently? Would I still find myself in the same place today?
The power I have against these ghosts (when I use it) is my overwhelming belief that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Through a series of events, I met the right guy. If I hadn’t previously been involved with Mr. Illusive and Mr. Un-Motivated, I might not have appreciated the qualities my husband has (he is, among other things, deeply committed to me, can talk openly about his feelings, always has high-reaching goals and ambitions, and works hard – sometimes too hard – to achieve them). If I hadn’t experienced those shallow women, I might not appreciate and treasure the virtuous, loyal girlfriends (who enrich my life in so many ways) when they come along. If I hadn’t had the mixed bag of work experience, I wouldn’t be the person I am today – someone who feels blessed being a stay-at-home mom and not torn by the calling of a certain career.
My heart knows it is all as it should be. It is my head that allows these thoughts to enter, occasionally stirring things up. Will I ever get that door to lock, preventing the ghosts from returning once and for all? Or do their visits keep me in check, reminding me of how far I have come and how I could perhaps do better the next time around?
There is one secret this Zen Mama Wannabe has learned over the years: ghosts only haunt us as long as we let them. Perhaps it is time to ask ourselves when will we be ready to put the ghosts where they belong – in the past – and gently but firmly close the door.