When I was very young, I believed in ghosts. I don’t remember what I thought they were or why they were scary, but I was scared of them. When I would have a bad dream in the middle of the night, I wanted to run to my parents’ bed for comfort. I made it only a little past my bedroom door. Then I stopped. Because between me and the door of my parents’ room was the hallway. I had to pass across the hallway to get to their room. And down that hallway was a ghost. I just knew it. There was a ghost hiding in the dark just a little past my view, and if I ran across and exposed myself for even the short second it would take to get to mom and dad’s bedroom door, it would get me. I don’t remember what I thought it would do to me if it got me, but it would get me and that was a frightening prospect. Many a night, I teetered at the edge of the hallway wall, trying to force myself to run across. Many a night I sadly turned around and went back to bed alone. I was not brave enough to go anywhere near a ghost.
There were other places in the house a ghost would hide. My parents’ bathroom, with the only shower in the house, was at the end of their long closet in their bedroom. Guess what was on the other side of the closet? A wall. Guess what that created? A very very short hallway. Ghosts like hallways.
The door to the bathroom was a sliding wood door. I would close the door to take my shower at night. I would open the small window in the bathroom to vent the steam. When I got into the shower, the ghost would rattle the door. I was terrified. I was completely vulnerable, alone in the shower. There was nothing I could do. The next time I took a shower, I tried locking the door. The ghost rattled the door. The next time I took a shower, I pushed that sliding door as hard as I could, pushed with all my might to close it tight, and I locked the door. The ghost still rattled the door. The door rattled at some point in the middle of my shower when I was just starting to get comfortable and feeling a little bit brave, scaring me out of the shower, with or without shampoo in my hair, to grab my towel and yell at it that I was there and I knew it was there and I was leaving now so it could get across the bathroom and out the window. Because that is what I figured out it wanted to do. Go out the window.
This routine went on for a little bit. It made me scared and sad. But you know what? You can only be scared and super sad for so long. It’s exhausting. It makes you want to change your behavior to avoid the thing that is making you scared and sad. But what could I do? Whether or not I explained the ghost, my parents were still going to insist I take a shower at night. And, except for the part about being so scared my flight instinct kicked in, I wanted to take a shower. But really, I didn’t want to take a shower. I was too scared. I was in a quandary. I had to shower. The ghost was not going away. But there had to be another solution besides long-term angst. So, I thought of one.
I took my towel into the bathroom. I opened the window. I went to the sliding door. I closed it most of way. I left a small space between the door and the door jamb. And I tried to make friends with my ghost.
I told the ghost we could make a deal. Instead of trying to keep the door shut tight to close it out completely, I would leave the door open a little to let the ghost in. But if I did this, then the ghost must just race across the bathroom, leave me alone, and go straight out the window. The ghost could go about its business. I could finish my shower. It would stop rattling the door. I would be able to relax and rinse shampoo out of my hair. And it worked. The ghost was still a ghost and it was still there, but we had a tenuous friendship. The door stopped rattling. I showered in relative peace.
There are some ghosts that will not go away. There are some scars that will not heal. There are things that cannot be avoided, things that cannot be forgotten, things that cannot be done, and things that cannot be undone. These are our ghosts. If we are to continue to live with them and still live our own lives to the fullest, it would serve us best to make friends with our ghosts. Or, at the very least, make a deal with them to allow them to coexist with us and pass by us, but not rattle us. Not scare us. Not hurt us, not cause us to alter our own course of life to avoid them. There are ways to do this. Sometimes, ghosts are more accommodating than we give them credit for. Sometimes, if we stop trying to close the door on them and shut them out completely, thereby causing them to rattle more loudly than we ever imagined, we can learn to acknowledge them and give them what they really want. Not us. They don’t want us. They want to go along their own path. They want their own freedom. And none of us can help it that our paths just happen to cross. We don’t have to best friends. But we can learn to be peaceful friends.
What are your ghosts? Can you find a path of peaceful coexistence?