Halloween. The veil between the worlds of spirit and body wavers and thins. Knowledge and fear of knowledge, consciousness of The Unknown, are close at hand. Ghosts walk, demons dance, all the skeletons in the closet rattle. I am tense with horror at what I am about to call up, at my own deadly courage in facing the shade that hovers.
A year ago, I was lying here in my bed, weeping again from exhaustion. It was 7pm, the trick-or-treaters were in full parade. One daughter was downstairs dispensing candy to the crowds and laughing with the neighbors; the other daughter pacing the floor, waiting for a ride to a party who never showed up. I was so tired, fatigued from my hysterical illness, the six weeks of continuous bleeding, the runaround in the health-care system. I drove my daughter to her party, shaking like a palsied old woman. Three hours from now, I was checking into the Emergency Hospital.
A year of doctors and tests that told no story, of healers and pills and therapies that dug new stories out of the depths of lost memory. I lost forty pounds; it all found me again and brought extra. I've been to a dozen doctors. I've consulted astrologers, psychics, and charlatans. I've been hopeful and morose, resigned, and suicidal. I spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in analysis, diagnosis, meditation--scouring my case history for clues, making peace with skeletons in my past, finding skeletons lurking that I never suspected.
Last Christmas I lay in my bed, wishing I were dead. Lent came around to find me hopeful of a resurrection into new life, a renewed spirit. I wondered what would grow from my broken body and bruised heart. Grace had cracked open my life, deeper than I imagined possible. The self I laid down is dead; the self that rises now, I still don't recognize.
Not two weeks after my Lenten post, I lay on my healer's table, confronting my long-dead mother. More than one of my sensitive friends told me that I had an attachment, that the ghosts of uneasy souls lay in my spirit. My mother appeared to me with remorse, anxiety and longing. Death had given her a new perspective of our lives. She begged my forgiveness for her sins. She warned me of demons hiding in my psyche. She gave me few words but what she said turned everything I remembered of my childhood upside down.
It felt like my memories, and the meanings I attached to them, were a kaleidoscope, a familiar pattern of sights and sounds and feelings. But Mom came and shifted the lens just a quarter turn. All those pieces suddenly fell into a different pattern with all new meaning. Everything I thought I understood about myself, my childhood, my family was new. I had stepped into a parallel universe, a Twilight Zone.
But how could these implications of my mother's words be true? I had no recollection of anything that supported what she suggested that day. I was haunted now as I'd never been when her spirit had lingered. I'd watched her fade into the light of my healer's window but I was burdened now with a new, terrible truth I couldn't accept.
My lack of confirmation weighed heavy, though the scars of the truth were now clear. I felt like a physicist who hadn't seen the unknown planet but knew it had to exist because of its effects on nearby space were obvious. Suddenly, the many questions through the years from psychologists and psychics weren't so absurd. Perhaps the wounds they suggested had happened.
Then the memories began to leak out. In dreams. And flashbacks. Glimpses of sights and sensations that had no context but I could feel them in my body, gagging me, tearing my most sensitive places, burning my belly, the gall strong.The demon danced always just out of sight, daring me to call him by name.
My body is the battleground of this fight to own my memories. I was struck with Bell's palsy; I lost part of the vision in one eye, and have been tortured with pain that threatened to blast my brain out through the sutures of my skull bones. The medicines and therapies prescribed to lessen the pain, served also to weaken my defenses that blocked these memories to begin with. The more I mediate the pain, the more the demon dances and, by force of long and well-ingrained habit, I try to repress him. I am about to start my third round of remedy/therapy combinations that will safely exorcise this evil from me.
I long to name this demon with confidence. Fetch him to dance to my tune. Tame him to work for me in healing, not destroy me. As I write, a muscle under my eye is twitching, my whole body aches in a permanent flinch, the frozen trauma caught in the muscle memory I can't yet allow fully into consciousness.
Tonight I step into the circle, howling my terror, singing my strength, this demon is mine. Bring to consciousness the fears and the memories that terrify. While the veil to the unconscious is thin and shifting, when the power of those saints who passed before us lingers close, I invoke Grace. The demon Grace who dances, not to terrify but to save me from what I could not be permitted to see. Grace, whose blindness now will be sight, I call you to transmute from fear to love, no longer Death but Life.
Tomorrow, I go to a Franciscan labyrinth to honor All Saints Day/Dia de los Muertes. I will walk into the path as to the grave, to bury my fears and traumas. The dreams and knowings I call forth tonight will go with me tomorrow into the labyrinth. I will bring the demon fears with me, but in the holy center space where grace happens, he will be no demon to me. When I come out, it will be wisdom that walks with me.