My soul lives on an island where no visitant calls my name. Ghost? was my mid-life crisis creative research project. I became a paranormal investigator for a year, with all the gadgets and technology used today to find and communicate with ghosts. Except, I was on the hunt for my personal ghosts, my haunted self, to attempt to speak with them, because at the age of a-bit-over-fifty, I felt haunted. By some vague, shadowy ghost that seemed to be following me. Or, living in me. I’m not talking about the spirits of the dead here. No, I’m talking about the heft and weight of personal ghosts that take form after certain experiences in life, phantoms which linger there in the periphery of my awareness.
I spent a year travelling across and through the landscapes of my life to confront memories, mostly the troubling ones, and, hopefully in doing so, exorcise the ghosts that creep about in the dark spaces of my body and mind. So, if you’re wondering what on earth this has to do with islands, then I will explain that I work with islands that are not girt by sea. I explore the islands we land upon through being, literally, or psychologically, isolated from others. Island-like experiences, if you will.
One day I set the task of expanding my paranormal investigation to include demon hunting. In the genre of paranormal investigation entertainment, demons are big and often very popular. They seem to crop up in the most banal suburban houses and settings. Trust me, it’s a thing. Personally, I don’t believe in their actual-literal existence. My excursion was all about a figurative demon that I had in my life for many years: The Demon Drink. Addiction. Another island you can wash up on and find yourself living out your days. I wrangled with this personal demon for many years. Ah, but there was love there, too. I cannot lie. I took myself on a sober pub crawl to visit a series of pubs, with apps and cat balls used to detect motion of ‘spirits’. A tour of the ghosts of love (constantly misdiagnosed and) lost.
Are you, like me, overly sensitive to stimuli and find the world and the people in it very noisy? Even if they are not making a sound and a constant state of agitation settles in your body and mind, whereby ‘just be still and relax’ is some kind of mean joke people keep telling you over and over as you try to explain your discomfort, then drinking alcohol can become a form of self-medication. It has this wonderful effect of quieting everything down.
Being just-a-bit-drunk was my happy place. I was (literally) spirited away to an island of peace. Everyone else, everything else going on around me, was a roiling ocean of chaos, but I was now a rock upon which the waves crashed. These pubs became my playground and my sanctuary. I felt safe here. I loved being here. Being social here. Here: any place falling under the general category of public bar. I fell in love with someone more than once at these tables infused with the stench of beer and other spilt drinks. Rapid-fire conversations, stories told and retold, stolen kisses on first dates, stolen kisses with strangers whose names I never knew. Baring souls with others as I kept looking for people with whom I could really connect, who understood the world as I experienced it. Swimming through the aspic of altered reality, a state with softer edges, a warm fuzzy glow around it, a slower paced reality where I could take in details one by one instead of everything all at once coming at me fast, fast, fast.
I cannot shame myself for these years I spent as a drinker. Rather, I merely look around these same bars now and muse that I am simply no longer that woman. She is now a ghost. The longer I worked with my personal ghosts and sent them on their way, the more liberated I felt. So many little voices embedded in the folds of my flesh and hallways of my mind echoing down the years and years. Those are the real ghosts to exorcise, aren’t they? All the well-intentioned (or not) pieces of advice offered up, the little suggestions, cruel jibes, criticisms, the adjustments to your thinking imposed by others, whoever they are for you. The whole dang mess of confusion that results from allowing so many other voices to penetrate the fortress of your own true self. It’s hard to remember who I am. Assuming I ever knew. My ghosts had held me hostage for a long time. So now where am I? An empty room in a house. New island. This room in my mind that my ghosts have vacated. This room that is all mine now. No others inhabit it. I have found a sacred temple within which to take refuge. It took me a year, but I now stand here, alone in this empty room and murmur, “It’s over now. It’s over. He/she/they can’t hurt you anymore.” Fuck you. All of you who tried to.