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Spiritual Dryness

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For awhile now, I’ve experienced a lack of deep, spiritual connection. I remember hearing about this issue when it was discovered that Mother Teresa wrote in her diaries that she had suffered from what she termed ‘spiritual dryness’ for many, many years. She persevered in spite of spiritual disconnect she felt, but apparently died without feeling any assurance that a loving God was watching out for her. I don’t compare myself in any way, shape or form to Mother Teresa, and my spiritual issues aren’t as serious as hers apparently were; however, I have realized that this issue affects a great many people, and it’s usually trauma that kicks it off.

I drove back through the old neighborhood this morning, having felt compelled to do so over tea. Call it a ‘spiritual phone call,’ but I knew that I had to check on something. I just didn’t know what that was. I drove by the old house, and noticed that the fence continues to fall apart, missing boards like a face losing teeth. It bothers me that the new-ish owners won’t replace the missing boards in our fence–it seems a sign to me of neglect, or depression, or a lack of pride in their house. They have left the gargoyle on the roof, the crosses on the side of the garage, the lanterns on the deck and other assorted items that we left behind. The result is, it looks like our house and they are temporary occupants. I wonder why they never seemed to bother to put their stamp on it, to make it their own; I wonder if my attachment and connection to the house and property was just too strong . . .

I continued on around the corner to the Big Pink House that we used to walk by on a regular basis. We always thought that there was something wrong with the owners, something ‘off’ about the house, and the big, nasty dog never helped matters. We never spoke to them in the past. I wish we had, because maybe we could have supported each other in the sad business of losing one’s home. A red-haired lady was out front, frazzled, sad, sorting through piles of stuff that she had removed from her house. I know from stalking real estate sites that her house had sold a couple of months back. She waved me down, I stopped the car, and she asked me if I had any use for a punching bag. She wanted, she said, to give all this stuff “to Jesus,” or anyone else who might take it. I said that I had little use for a punching bag, but that I would see if anyone else I knew might want to pick it up. “It cost me a hundred dollars,” she said, “all this stuff has to go. I am happy to give it all away.” She seemed confused, overwhelmed; she said that she now has three days to be completely moved out of the house that she and her husband lived in for 24 years.

For the sixth or seventh time in the last two years, I heard the story of broken dreams, lost homes and forced relocation. “My husband declared bankruptcy, and I took the tiny amount of equity I had here and bought a cabin in the mountains.” Her eyes darted from the pile of stuff, to the upper deck where her husband was wrangling the loud German Shepherd and yelling something incomprehensible, back to me: “please take anything you want, it all has to go.” I told her that it will get better, and it will; I said that I had been in a similar situation a couple of years ago, that it’s going to be OK. Somehow, though, there was something profoundly not OK about her situation, or mine, or the situation of all the others in our old neighborhood who were on the wrong side of the economic crisis that still plays out today.

This is something that most people do not want me to talk about, or write about, or even spend time thinking about. Either they tell me that I am not “accepting responsibility” for the situation I found myself in, or they patiently explain that this is how the economy and capitalism in general works (and I need to accept it, or move to a Communist country and starve) or they tell me to distract myself with other things, anything, because to fully contemplate what’s happened to so many of us in the last few years will only lead to depression and frustration. That’s true; I am depressed and frustrated, but mostly because I can’t start a meaningful conversation with anyone about what it feels like to lose your home, live paycheck to paycheck, and watch the homes in your neighborhood go up for auction to buyers who have all cash and plan to gut the house and turn it into a bland, Home Depot special for rent.

It feels like I have somehow failed in this culture, this community I live in. Maybe it’s like this all across the country; you’re supposed to hide any pain you feel about losing a home. You’re not a real adult if you have financial issues. Or, you’re a whining, ungrateful child because, after all, you have a good job and a nice rental home. Let me make something perfectly clear: I AM GRATEFUL that I have a good job and a nice, rental home to live in. I am not trying to turn myself into a victim for anyone’s pity. That’s not the point. The point is twofold: there is real trauma involved in financial hardship and in the loss of a home, and there is real confusion and pain when you watch outsiders come in, kick out families that have lived there for decades, destroy any historical charm the house may have had, gut it, “remodel” it and turn around and sell it for hugely inflated prices or convert it into a rental with a price tag almost no one can afford.

The pain, the loss, the confusion and the grief are real emotions that we have all been forced to sweep under the rug, because somehow, it’s not ‘serious’ enough to deserve anyone’s attention, or it’s our moral failings that created the problem in the first place: we’re irresponsible because we signed up for a bad loan; if we lose hours at work or end up divorced, we don’t deserve help or even support; after all, we are living in a world of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’, and if we are on the wrong side of the economic and social system, that’s just too bad. We “lost,” so we need to get over it and try harder next time to ‘win’. This is the attitude of our American culture: we deserve no support–emotionally, financially, spiritually or otherwise–for our losses (which were mostly beyond our control) because we somehow brought them on ourselves, and we deserve our fate.

I see the embarrassment and the shame of the person packing up her belongings and moving away after decades in their home. They have been banished because of lay-offs, deaths in the family, medical crises or other misfortune. At the root of the shame is the idea that we failed at the American Dream; never mind that foreign investors, landlords and massive real estate investment trusts have purchased that dream. It’s not their fault that they’ve displaced so many families, so many people who dedicated their lives to a particular community, who put down roots in a neighborhood and raised their children on a particular street and knew all their neighbors. Those companies without a face, those investors we never meet, are winning the game we call capitalism. Our entire system is predicated on winners and losers, and to question that is to be un-American and suspect.

I am not going to attempt to prove to anyone that I love my country. It’s enough to know that I dedicate my life to my students, I work for the betterment of my community through my church and the community center I founded here. Anyone who knows me knows how much I care about the people in and around my city. It’s damaging to that community when you have to leave your home, when you’re displaced from your neighborhood, when purchasing another home is impossible because housing prices are artificially inflated and when it seems as if the entire real estate industry is not about finding a family a home that they can afford, but about maximizing profits at all costs. People laugh at me for thinking that any business should care about anything else. Is it so naive to think that the American Dream should mean something? Is it so stupid of me to believe that we all benefit from strong and stable neighborhoods?

I don’t have a solution to this crisis, for it’s still a crisis for a great many people in the middle class. We struggle so terribly hard to hang on to that house, because that house becomes a reflection of us, a symbol of who we are, a monument to our dreams and hopes for the future. It’s not a soulless investment or a business opportunity. It’s an extension of WHO WE ARE, our very identity. Americans (and probably most people on the planet) have felt this way about our homes for a very, very long time; and I wonder if the powers that be depend on that very emotional attachment to make money. After all, most financial institutions are well aware that we’ll go broke attempting to save our home and end up losing it anyway. They, so to speak, ‘bank’ on our love for our little castles and our shame over losing them. They amass billions on our fear and shame. That makes me very, very sad.

Grief over loss of one’s home is not allowed, really, because when one compares that grief to losing a loved one, or receiving a terrifying medical diagnosis or even saying goodbye to an adored pet, it seems insignificant by comparison. It isn’t insignificant. I have lost loved ones, both human and feline; I have received terrifying medical diagnoses; I have been on the losing end of a terrible divorce; I have lost a job; I have endured much pain as a parent, and the list goes on. I can tell you that being forced out of a home and a neighborhood that defined you in so many ways as part of a community feels like exile, like a form of shaming. That deep, social shaming is largely unexplored in our culture. We don’t talk about it, we don’t feel comfortable admitting that we have ‘lost’ the game of success and ambition, and we try to hide how much it hurts.

This is why my old neighbors struggling with displacement from their homes and neighborhood avert their eyes when talking to me. This is why they try to end every conversation with something upbeat even if they don’t feel at all hopeful. This is also why, before they start crying, they turn away and end the conversation.

I can’t fix the economy for the middle class, I can’t do anything to help people keep their homes, I can’t stop the foreclosure process, I can’t change how capitalism works, but maybe I can lend a sympathetic ear or give some decent advice about life after short sale/foreclosure/bankruptcy. I can, at the very least, let people know that there is nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to apologize for and no reason to add guilt to all the other emotions that can overwhelm you when you’re packing up your belongings and wondering what’s next. Even if one believes that it’s ‘our fault’ for not fully understanding the 2,000 page contract we signed or how the economy moves in boom and bust cycles, or what real estate valuations have been over the last century or so, or how banks work, or how houses are actually terrible investments for a single family, even if we didn’t ‘get’ that a huge recession was coming or didn’t know in advance that the government programs designed to ‘help’ us were NEVER going to be implemented by our banks, even if we were totally ignorant about how the financial system works, we should NOT be ashamed, embarrassed or silenced.  We didn’t understand the rules and lost the game. Most of us didn’t even realize, until it was too late, that we were in the game at all.

I have realized that the ‘spiritual dryness’ has hit me hard because I have repressed my grief, anger and pain; I have put a lid on those emotions because if feels unacceptable to admit the causes. When one’s general culture defines what is acceptable to grieve and what is not, you shut up and put up. When you feel that someone is about to condemn you for expressing pain over something undeserving and points to others much less fortunate than you, your sadness is compounded by guilt. All of this leads you to question yourself, to think that something is wrong with you, that you need to spend your time and energy figuring out how to break into the 1% and stop sniveling about your loser status in the 99%. Spiritual dryness is the result of the forces in the culture that do not acknowledge a reality that you know has evicted thousands, millions (?) of people from the places where they felt safe, from the homes where they were creating their lives.

If you want to respond to this, please do. If you want to tell your own story, please do. Respond in the comments, and if you want, you can have my private email so that we can keep this conversation going. We can help each other, but not if first we don’t hear each other.

Much love to you all,

Kirsten

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The “How Old Do I Look” application says here I look 71, and Ty 42. I always did love those younger men!!

Facebook appears to be sponsoring another application to waste our time: “How Old Do I Look.” Since I have been a pathetic sucker for such things in the past, I very unwisely decided to post a bunch of my photos to see what the app had to say. It started off placing me in my 30s; in one picture, I was 27. Not bad, I thought; and then, I posted one of my favorites. My age? 71. You might be screaming at me right now that these stupid apps cannot read anyone’s face or figure out anyone’s age with any accuracy whatsoever. And you would be right, of course. That didn’t stop me, however, from freaking out. If you’ve been reading my posts, you know that I’m having a bit–just a wee bit–of a crisis over turning 50. I’m not responding maturely, not at all. In fact acting like a hormonal teenager; now that I’ve admitted that, I’m hoping you won’t be too hard on me after you read the rest of this post. I fixed my hair and makeup and decided I was going to reclaim my youth. As I was diligently attempting to act young, I noticed in the car next to me some guy staring at me. He was not old, either, not the usual 89 year old who slaps me on the butt. He was no more than 30. I was starting to feel flattered when he made a gross, lascivious gesture and revved his engine. OMG, seriously, this guy was revving his engine for me? No way. Then he sped off in a cloud of smoke leaving me so impressed that I could hardly drive (kidding). My instant reaction to this was to spit out the word ‘douchebag.’ I also felt something else very familiar: just a tad of fear along with revulsion. Then I remembered all the reasons that this kind of attention is not desirable, not something worthy of chasing or missing or desiring. No, not at all. All those years of dealing with unwanted male attention came flooding back to me. The slightly sick feeling when someone starts following you or continues to contact you long after you tried to dissuade him; and that terrible realization that you allowed unwanted behavior to become abusive because something in you doesn’t value herself enough to put a swift end to it. Suddenly, all the bitching and moaning about ‘not looking young or attractive’ seemed idiotic and counterproductive. I could put myself out there and garner all sorts of attention, if that’s my goal. Some of that attention would be destructive, and tap into that part of me that allows and accepts abuse. That young man and a couple of scary social media dudes who crossed the line reminded me that I am wasting my time lamenting my distance from 20. I should be f*cking CELEBRATING not being 20, or 35, for that matter. Just because I don’t know what the future holds does not mean I should long for the past. When I remember what life was REALLY like before 2002, I am grateful beyond measure to be where I am; and this is the last post about turning 50. That day arrives on Saturday, and I am ready for it. It’s time to get back to the ghosts that are banging around, wondering why I’ve abandoned them to write about me. It’s OK guys, I hear you, and I’m paying attention again. Next post: my long conversation with a deceased lady. It was illuminating . . . —Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

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I was born in 1965, so this is a big year. You know; half a century and all that. I am the eldest member of Generation X, a much maligned group that was hit hardest by the recession and is the first generation to not reach the social and economic status of their parents, the affluent (comparatively) Baby Boomers.

The big decades for me have been marked by crisis, usually triggered by what my culture/community expects of me versus the reality of my life. Turning 30 was terrible; in my head, I was supposed to be in a happy partnership, enjoying a stable job, drinking wine with my close friends, and wrangling at least one adorable toddler. Instead, I was in a disintegrating marriage, no kids, and battling to be awarded tenure in a place I didn’t want to live long term. My friends were filled with angst and drama, and all we did was complain about Wisconsin and how much we hated most of the people we worked with. So, about 5 minutes after I received tenure, I took off for California, started work at a private high school, watched helplessly as the marriage dissolved and decided I was polyamorous (don’t ask; it’s embarrassing).

Turning 40 was much easier. I had met my true love, married him, become a stepparent, and had a full-time, tenure track job at a local college. It helped that at 40, I still could pass for 28, something that was—sadly—very important to me. The only crisis—comparatively tame, compared to the one ten years prior—was that I hated living in Winnetka. I remedied that by buying an almost 1 million dollar house on a teacher’s salary in those heady days when all you needed was a pulse and any kind of job to get a massive loan. At 41, I was a homeowner, a mom, a wife, a teacher, and there were even friends and healthy parents. I was doing exactly what the culture expected of me, in the acceptable time frame. I fit in, at last! However, Generation X is also defined by their marginality to the dominant culture; the harder we try to fit in to cultural and social expectations, the more we realize that we are fundamentally different from our parents’ generation.

At the end of 2006, when everything was supposed to be perfect, I had a huge crisis. Deep down, I knew that the house was a ticking time bomb. We couldn’t afford it and the cabin I had purchased by taking out money on the previous house. I had built up a lovely, crumbling edifice and hoped it would hold long enough for me to fulfill my fantasies of becoming a famous author or the star of a reality show on the paranormal. In December of 2006, I broke my foot and twisted my ankle as I descending the stairs from the laundry room, and in the process I broke a mirror. “Seven years of bad luck,” I told myself, thinking that was idiotic but still—kind of—believing it. Seven years later, we were forced to sell our home in a short sale. Coincidence?

From 46 onward, it’s fair to say that every expectation that I had for myself unraveled, with the huge exception of my marriage. I had tried very hard to fulfill what I honestly felt that society expected of me. By ‘society,’ I mean the culture of Los Angeles, the mainstream media, my family, my friends (even though they never pushed me in a particular direction; I simply assumed that certain expectations existed and acted accordingly) and everything I was reading about my age, my ‘decade’, and my generation. First of all, the home ownership issue is so engrained in American culture that it dies hard. Second of all, parents assume inauthentic roles attempting to fulfill expectations that we can’t even identify, but direct and define our behavior; and, finally, we fight at work to find ourselves and are bitterly disappointed when work feels like . . . work. Add to that the cultural expectation that women in their late 40s are STILL supposed to pass for 28, and you end up with a recipe for disaster, at least in my case.

My daughter also felt the pressure to conform to unspoken expectations, and this lead to heartbreaking circumstances. When she broke out of the cage that her family and the wider culture had created for her, she found a freedom that her stepmother is still struggling to discover. Ultimately, everything was supposed to fall apart, because the structure of my life was inauthentic, based on false premises regarding what I supposed to do, how I was supposed to live, and even what people expected me to look like. The three of us endured much pain as our illusions about ourselves and our relationships evaporated and left us staring at each other in shock. What happened? We all discovered that our plans and scripts for ourselves made no sense in the world in which we were living.

I am one month away from 50, and this is what my life looks like from the outside: my husband and I are renting a house. Our kid is 19 and leaving for San Francisco soon, so we hardly have any parenting duties left. My job is the same, on the surface, as it was 25 years ago. I am not rich, or famous, I am not Chair of my department or head of anything, or managing budgets or any other grown up job. I haven’t written a novel or published anything outside of the Internet. We pay our rent, I date Ty, I teach Spanish, I hang out with my cat, I write blog posts instead of writing in a diary, I see my parents when I can, I walk around the neighborhood, and I drink lots of tea. For most of the week, I am in the company of people between 18 and 28.

In other words, I am 25 years old.

That is why turning 50 is so utterly strange. That is why I cringe when I see the bags under my eyes and that annoying loose skin under my chin, because 25 year olds aren’t supposed to look so tired and worn out. 50 feels more like 23 or so than any other age I have ever been. My responsibilities are practically the same as they were then. There are no kids to raise, no big upgrades in status and power at work, no mortgage to pay off, no serious threats to my mortality. My parents are still healthy and don’t look or act their age, so for the time being, here I am: at the weirdest age yet.

I realize that this is very temporary. When the parents have their first age-related crisis, when a serious illness hits, when something catastrophic happens to a loved one or to me, then I will feel the full force of my age. At some point, I’ll be pushing my mother around in a wheel chair and watching my kid get married. At some point, all the lotions, creams and cosmetic procedures won’t be able to hold back the years. When all that hits, I’ll feel my age and maybe feel older; my perspective will change, as it always does. I lived through serious illness and faced my mortality at the ripe, old age of 32; so I do know what it feels like to know that your life is fleeting.

In the meantime, 50 is coming fast, and it seems, for all practical purposes, completely meaningless. I suspect that many members of Gen X feel the same way; the strict markers and delineations that separated one decade from another have all but vanished. When you and your kid are listening to essentially the same music, participating in the same youth culture, and enjoying the same movies and television shows, the generation gap hardly seems to exist. The biggest gap I feel is between my parents and me. They have enjoyed home ownership for many decades; they aren’t even aware of their privilege, because they have always enjoyed a high standard of living. My father worked, and my mother stayed home, free to pursue projects and interests without much worry or care. Their world still makes sense, still has rites of passage, a common culture and expectations. Yes, they have to get old, and that sucks for the Boomers; but they have had the consolation of a predictable world and stable roles, both at home and in their community. My parents have been able to comfortably define themselves within a larger context of their peers, and while they might watch Fox News now instead of protesting the Vietnam War, they have all progressed together towards a common understanding of the world and their place in it.

I have no such understanding. I am weirder and more marginalized now that ever, and all of my attempts at fitting in have ended in disaster. The only message that I can take away from the experience of my life so far is that I must stop trying to be like everyone else or adjusting/adapting my character to fit a social or cultural norm. It simply doesn’t work for me. Anything I do in this world of any meaning will be left of center and incomprehensible to most people, and it behooves me to find peace with that. I don’t know if my X peers feel the same way, but I suspect many of them do. After all, we have never really occupied the power centers of our culture. We are the volunteers, the idealists, the ones willing to strike out on a different path, even if that path meanders and doesn’t seem to lead to a clear destination.

Although it is tremendously confusing to live on the margins of the mainstream, still largely controlled by the Boomers and constructed for the Millennials, there is some comfort in knowing that we are free of cultural expectations. I don’t think our larger community really expects all that much from us, which we can turn to our advantage by not conforming to the various myths that pervade our waking hours. We don’t have to be the boss at work (unless we freely choose to), we don’t have to look 28 anymore, we can spit on the home ownership and upward mobility myths, and we can be interesting and quietly revolutionary parents, citizens and role models. We may work behind the scenes, but that is the work that effects real change. We don’t hold up the status quo or even understand it, but neither then do we have to be victims of it.

My 50th birthday might still inspire a certain fear, but it’s more the animal fear that I am closer to death now than I was at 25; then again, I almost didn’t make it past 32, so there is no comfort in youth. I suppose the secret is to live as freely as possible from all the rules that permeate the fabric of our culture. As scary as that feels, it is much scarier to live someone else’s life and wonder, in your final days, why you wasted your precious time.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

Last night, I woke up from the worst nightmare in recent memory and wondered if I were losing my mind. It felt as if something terribly evil were trying to steal my soul. I briefly contemplated waking up my husband so that he could banish the Unmentionable One from the house and from my mind. I didn’t, however, as I noticed that “Jesus Loves Me” was running through my head and my Virgin Mary lamp had turned itself on. I took these as positive signs that I need not worry about the evil in my dream coming to claim me during my waking hours.

The dream started with me pulling into a driveway of a house. I had the sense that I had not been invited to enter this house, but that it was somehow acceptable that I go inside. It was painted a dark, barn red and had a screened-in front porch. I think that it was built in the 1940s. My purpose, once inside, was to finish a ritual that I had started and failed to complete. I was organizing crosses and other Catholic relics on shelves while simultaneously attempting to ‘fix’ various issues in the house, such as straightening window sills and other odd things that were ‘off’ in the home. I realized that I could not accomplish my goal of cleansing or ‘making safe’ this place, so I went to find my husband and bring him back with me.

He was with me in the bedroom while I continued what appeared to be some sort of Catholic exorcism ritual designed to banish the evil from the house. I was in a race against time; I knew, somehow, that I was losing this battle. Whoever I was trying to save was too far gone, too enmeshed in the Dark Side to be helped. Oddly enough, I was alone in this fight against evil; I didn’t ask my husband for help.

I fall back onto the bed, and the mattress starts to undulate, like a giant serpent. It’s pulling me into the bed, sucking me down into some infernal hole, and I realize that the Evil One is trying to take my soul. My husband grabs my hand and tries to pull me out, but judging by the look on his face, he is not sure that he can save me. I wake up right before I am dragged down into a place I can’t imagine, a place that terrifies me beyond measure.

Those few moments after waking, I feared for my soul. The Virgin Mary light popping on in the living room calmed me down enough to pray and think. What message was contained in this dream? I thought about this for a long, long time. At first, I was concerned about who it was I was attempting to save: did this person have an identity? Was this person me? If this person is me, what am I attempting to save myself from?

Awhile back, I was told by a priest and a pastor–together, in a group meeting to assess the state of my soul–to be very, very careful with Hollywood and their interest in the dark side of the paranormal and how they might use me to portray and explore it. The night before, I had watched an episode of “Aftershocks” where I appeared in an interview with Zak. The whole purpose of the show was basically to warn paranormal investigators of the dangers inherent in our attempts to contact the spirit world. The show ends with a question to Dr. Barry Taft: (Zak) “So, who are these voices?” (Dr. Taft) “I have no idea.”

And none of us have any idea, really, if we have ‘contacted’ the person we intended to. Not only that, we assume that these voices are from ‘people,’ when, in fact, they could be non-human entities finding their way into our consciousness. Once you open that Pandora’s Box, it’s very hard to close. Yes, we can come to these investigations with the best of intentions and ask for only the nice and well-intentioned spirits to manifest, but that doesn’t mean our request shall be granted. The other side of this coin is the fact that most paranormal television loves the idea of dark forces haunting buildings and investigators. There is a drama and fear factor in those negative energies that draws in an audience.

The scary stuff sells. No matter how much we wish to avoid it for the sake of our sanity and mental/emotional health, we will always be brought back to that dark place by those who want to sell a show to an audience who wants to freak out and feel the adrenaline rush of horror and mayhem. Producers respond to what the audience wants, so in no way do I blame them for responding to the obvious demand for such material. The problem with this dynamic is that it ignores the human cost of such a fascination. The investigators involved suffer during investigations where the criminal spirits and non-human entities attempt to invade our lives in any way they can.

Paranormal investigators talk a lot about “protection,” and I used to think that was silly. I didn’t need “protection;” I was just fine in the dark, communicating with someone who cursed at me and scratched my back! Of course I needed protection, and even more now. We all do, if we are seeking to find answers to vexing spiritual questions. I’m not sure, however, if I need to find those answers in hopeless places with lost souls, or if I should find those answers in the ‘thin places’ of my heart: Idyllwild, the Santa Monica Mountains, my little church, in the company of those I love.

But that doesn’t make for interesting entertainment, and therein lies the rub.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

Kirsten A. Thorne

This is an interesting consideration of what causes illness. Of course, this is not to say that anyone is to blame for a serious illness; it’s not that one can ‘make’ it happen or ‘make’ it disappear. However, this tells me that we in the Western world all too often ignore the spiritual causes of physical distress and disease. The ‘first cause’ is disharmony, which the author weaves into the second cause, ‘fear’.

“Fear
The second classic cause of illness is fear. A person who is walking around with a chronic sense of fear gnawing away at them is doubly vulnerable to illness because their anxiety aggressively and progressively diminishes their sense of well-being, and this, in turn, affects their feeling of being safe in the world.

This sense of well-being is the base upon which our personal health system stands. When this foundation is affected negatively, it diminishes the ability of our immune system to function. And when our immune system goes down, we’re in trouble.

It’s not too difficult to see that there is a feedback mechanism at work here. Fear, and the anxiety it creates, produces disharmony. In the same breath, disharmony generates fear, and if the two of them are working together, it doubly affects the protective mantle of the body’s immune system, as well as the energetic matrix. Illness is the inevitable result.

It is no surprise to Western medical practitioners that disharmony and fear can manifest themselves in diseases that are recognizable to science. Almost 500 years ago, the Renaissance physician Paracelsus observed that “the fear of disease is more dangerous than the disease itself.”
This brings us to consider the third classic cause of illness–the phenomenon known to indigenous healers as soul loss.

Soul Loss
Among the traditionals, soul loss is regarded as the most serious diagnosis and the major cause of premature death and serious illness, yet curiously, it’s not even mentioned in our Western medical textbooks. The closest acknowledged context is “He/she has lost the will to live”.
In Western society, soul loss is most easily understood as damage to a person’s life essence, a phenomenon that usually occurs in response to trauma. When the traumas are severe, this may result in a fragmentation of that person’s soul cluster, with the shattered soul parts dissociating, fleeing an intolerable situation. In overwhelming circumstances, these soul parts may not return.

The causes of soul loss can be many and varied. There may be traumatic perinatal issues that happen around the child’s birth experience such as arriving into life only to discover that they are not wanted, or that they are the wrong gender—they’ve come in as a girl when everyone was hoping for a boy.
Soul loss can also occur when a child is mercilessly bullied or teased at home or at school, day after day, or when a young person is molested by the one who is supposed to be caring for them. When someone has been raped or assaulted, has suffered a shocking betrayal, a bitter divorce, a traumatic abortion, a terrible car accident, or even a serious surgery, soul loss is assured.”
http://www.sharedwisdom.com/page/three-causes-spiritual-illness

Those of us who have endured some of—or even all—of the traumas listed in the last paragraph, know that recovery involves chasing down those pieces of your soul and attempting to convince them to please come back. This can also be understood as losing bits of your consciousness that have decided to find refuge elsewhere in the universe. This is what a ‘ghost’ is, and you can be physically alive and give them life. What happens then is that your ghost is free to interact with everyone else’s, living or post-living, in a supernatural display of fragmentation and loss.

How does one help the ghosts you and others have created? I think that is what you spend your life figuring out, or several lives figuring out. As Paul told the Philippians, “12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” This doesn’t mean that your actions can accomplish this alone, but that you allow God to work through you to resolve and remove trauma and its effects. This doesn’t have to be the Christian God with the beard and the scepter, and indeed, that is not what I think this passage is referring to.

Call God what you will, envision God however you must, but the key is not banging your head against the wall in this life, trying to understand why you have arrived at the point where you now are. You can’t understand the overall purpose of the pain you experienced right now, but you will one day: 12” For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

For everyone of any religion or spiritual tradition, this is valuable information. You are on a trajectory that you can only dimly perceive right now, due to the limitations of your physical form. It will not always be this way. Don’t rip out your hair because your life doesn’t look like, from the outside, how you thought it was ‘supposed’ to look, or you aren’t doing what you expected to be. Wherever you are in your evolution, there is time to work it out, or observe as it is worked out through you.
Don’t allow for trauma to make you sick. There are ways out of the trap of emotional pain. I won’t be so pretentious as to pretend to give you a recipe for how this is accomplished. For some, it’s as simple as watching an endangered bird find a mate. For others, you have to apply spiritual lessons every day from a variety of angles. For many of us, paranormal investigations are a way of exploring and comprehending our own trauma, and that may stop working one day; and so you move on, always pressing forward, always looking for that next epiphany, that next shock to your spiritual system. Every day, you must work out your salvation; and that might mean giving up all control and plunging into faith with a trembling heart.

fake ghosts

It was dinnertime at my family’s house. The topic had turned to one of my investigations, and my stomach was already in knots. I knew that we were entering dangerous territory. Whenever this subject comes up, I feel one of two things: fear that I will be ridiculed (but in the nicest possible way) or defensive (because someone will brush off what I am saying as ‘unscientific’ or ‘impossible to prove’). The worst outcome is polite interest for a few moments, followed by a change of subject. In that case, I know that I have been treated as the eccentric who needs to have her silly beliefs validated every now and then.

You can imagine my surprise when a relative of mine told me that he had seen a ghost in his house, on the stairs leading up to the third floor. At first, I was sure he was joking; but he was dead serious and very detailed in his description of her. He told me the story, and it was interesting. I decided to ask him questions and take him seriously, and for quite a few minutes he answered me and speculated as to the cause of the haunting. And then he smiled and tilted his head, and I knew: once again, I had been the victim of a joke. No big deal, right? I shouldn’t be so sensitive. He does this to everybody. No harm, no foul.

There was, however, harm. Every time someone laughs at me, condescends to hear a story or two and then quickly changes the subject, engages in debate with the intention of demonstrating to the world that I am gullible and ‘unscientific’, or simply behaves as if I were someone slightly ‘off’ or a tad weird, there is harm. The damage consists of the intention to degrade a person’s experience of reality. If I were to tell certain people that I sensed danger as I walked down a particular street and so decided to switch my route, no one would question my grasp of reality. I would be praised for making a wise decision and avoiding possible trouble by following my gut instinct. If, however, I tell certain people that I walked into a particular room and felt the strong presence of a spirit, I would be ridiculed—in the nicest possible way. Or, I would be politely rebuffed as a harmless eccentric. In the first case, following my gut instinct reaffirms my solid grasp of reality, even though there is no direct evidence that a particular, dangerous individual was following me. In the second case, I am judged for having the exact, same experience but in a different context. After all, I cannot ‘see’ the person I sense in the room, but I know that someone is there, and I adjust my behavior accordingly.

Part of the problem is our vocabulary. Paranormal investigators have a language, and that language is often mocked by the dominant culture. It is not scientific language; it is not religious language; it is not academic language: it is a linguistic ‘no-man’s land’ where no discipline or area of study can claim it. It belongs, perhaps, to the language of renegade Spiritualists from decades past, or to the more recent New Age lexicon so derided by pretty much everyone. Our language, therefore, has a kind of hippy taint to it, or the vague whiff of fraud associated with nutty mediums and psychics. There isn’t much we can do about that association besides change our use of language to a reasonable degree.

“Ghost,” “spirit,” “discarnate entity,” “specter” and the like all make us look like we’ve wandered into the marginal territory of psience. Even naming our teams is problematic. It takes hours, days, and weeks even, of thought and debate to find a name that is respectable. The “Paranormal Housewives” is a silly name, admittedly, but one that I am terribly fond of, because the ladies on the team are quite serious. The name belies who we actually are, and the contrast embraces the stereotypes while simultaneously fighting them. So, if we are to find a better way, what would that look like?

If we stopped using the old terminology, we would simply say something like this:

“I feel someone in the room.”
“I think there is a woman here with us.”
“I am picking up the presence of a man in his early 40s, beard, glasses, very thin.”
“I believe, based on the data we have collected, that there are several people either living in or visiting your house.”

If we avoid the words ‘spirit’ or ‘ghost’, we restore people to their former status. Yes, I realize that I have stated before that we don’t know who or what we are dealing with in many—if not most—investigations, and sometimes a ‘person’ is something else entirely, something not human; however, I wonder if our results would be more specific and informative if we treated the ‘presences’ as fully formed people? If they do turn out to be fragments of a consciousness or the energy of a residual haunting without intelligence, or God forbid, something nasty from the underworld, at least we will not have run the risk of speaking to a person as if he were something DIFFERENT from us, something “other” that shares nothing with our human, physical condition.

Often our results have an intimate relationship with what we seek. If we seek full human beings that we happen to not be able to see, perhaps we will find more actual people willing to communicate with us. It’s certainly worth a try. I think that that the PHW are particularly good at treating people well and with respect. Our attitude towards all the people in a house—both visible and invisible to us—is probably the reason that we have so much solid evidence for the so-called ‘paranormal’ (another term that has outlived its usefulness).

I can’t stop anyone from displaying a bad attitude towards me because I seek to know people who have changed their ontological status from material bodies to something else (and no, I don’t pretend to know what that ‘something else’ feels like, but I doubt that it changes your level of humanity and probably increases it). We will always run across those who believe in a cop’s ‘sixth sense’ but thinks that a person who has contact with someone without a material body is a nut job. I don’t do this to defend it to the critics or try to convince someone who has a vested interest in defending their world view. It’s scary to work on the margins of reality; it’s so much easier to stomp your foot on the ground and declare that if you can’t use your five senses to perceive it, then it ain’t there. No how. No way.

Until the haters have their own, mind-boggling experience, they will keep it up. Or, they will simply refuse to believe that what they have experienced could possibly be the portal to a much larger truth; how very unscientific of them.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PHW

OUIJA

Ouija_Board
(This is a scary story that I wrote. It’s one of my hobbies. I welcome all comments and hope you enjoy it.)

January 14th, 1984
I have never heard of mandatory therapy. Even stranger is Dr. Joe’s insistence that I keep a diary every day. When your house is infested with demons, you can’t really blame the family that lives there for the death on the property. None of that was my fault. There are forces greater than yourself that work in ways you barely understand. Even the most terrible thing you have ever done might be for the good. Mother taught me that nothing is as it seems; the best in us has a dark side, and the worst has a silver lining.

My job here is to convince Dr. Joe that I am blameless, because I don’t think he understands what Mother understood. He assumes that everything works a certain way, that there are healthy people who see time and events as linear and coherent, progressing towards something perfected; on the flip side, he thinks those who see time and events as jumbled, senseless and circular, belong in a cage, hidden from the world. I have to convince him with these words that I belong where I am, on the outside, where healthy people shop, eat out, fix up their houses, buy cars, raise kids and work most of the day. In order to do that, I have to tell my story, and I have to start here:

January 15th, 1984
Dr. Joe knows some things about me, but he doesn’t know everything. He knows I’m 16, very pretty, blonde and blue eyed. I listen to K-ROQ non-stop. I have a great tan from my afternoons at the beach. I work at a bakery and I dropped out of school. My mom is (was) an addict who spends all day locked in her room, and my dad took off a long time ago. My mom’s psycho boyfriend stays with us most of the time. I can’t remember his name. They come and go every few months . . . her boyfriends, I mean. My brother is 19 and a total nut job. He’s been in and out of a state hospital whose name I am supposed to keep secret. They say he’s moderately schizophrenic and has some personality disorder that makes him potentially dangerous. No kidding (read that in a sarcastic manner, Dr. Joe).

I like to spend my abundant free time reading about the survival of the soul after death. I always thought that religion was useless because it can’t prove anything; how am I supposed to believe in Heaven, when I can’t even imagine it? I used to ask Mother what Heaven was. She said, ‘imagine how you felt when you picked up Puddy Tat for the first time, and he cuddled with you and fell asleep in your arms. Heaven feels just like that, all of the time.’ I wanted to go to Heaven right then and there, but I didn’t understand that you had to die first.

Now I want proof for everything. Leonora Piper was a very famous medium, and she said the afterlife was a big reunion with all your loved ones who died before you, and other people say you have lots of lives and you live them all at once, even though you really only perceive one life at a time. Thinking about all this hurts my head, but I have to think about it. It’s important to know where you are, and where you are going, and why you are here. I am still very confused about the ‘why’ question.

I read about one book a day. I don’t have much else to do and no one to talk to. For the last few years, Mother has been totally useless and mostly absent, and my brother is either locked up or about to be locked up because he’s raving about Armageddon on some street corner and intimidating passers-by, or he’s begging for money on the freeway on-ramp holding a sign that says he needs to support four kids and a wife with cancer. That’s one thing I can say: we’re all liars in this family.

January ? 1984
I like starting paragraphs with the sentence “the trouble started on a Tuesday . . .” because it sounds so official and cool. The really awesome thing is that the trouble really did start on a Tuesday. I left Dairy Queen after a fight started in the parking lot between the surf Nazis and some Mexican rocker kids from the Valley. I headed home that day, because the Santa Ana winds were throwing sand in my face at the beach and it hurt. Not only that, but the waves were spitting sea foam and stuff was flying down the beach and it was freaking me out.

Our house is an old Craftsman, built in 1927 and on the Register of Historic Places. We got to live there because we are the official ‘caretakers’ and my dad, before he took off, was a member of the Historical Resources Board. The agreement was that we keep the place vintage and don’t do anything stupid like install vinyl windows or ‘update’ the bathrooms with the latest crap from Angel’s Hardware. Every now and then, we’re supposed to open up the house to the public—on Tuesdays, to be precise—and let them wander through to see what a real Craftsman looks like. There’s like hundreds of them in this crappy beach town, but whatever, I guess ours is special. Our house backs to an alley and behind the alley is a field dotted with trash and transients. I always wonder who is going to scale the fire escape behind Mother’s window and commit unmentionable crimes. The houses around us are old and falling apart. They just peel and rust under the beach sun and the salt air, and from behind the bars the occupants watch the weeds grow in the front yards while they smoke, drink and wait for the beach report.

As I was saying, the trouble started on a Tuesday. I was alone or with Mother, which is really a way to say the same thing. It was highly unlikely that any random strangers would want to see our historic house, because in the last year we had precisely three people show up on a Tuesday, and they showed up together the week before Christmas. I headed to my room at the top of the stairs. Even though I’m a teenager and you would probably expect my room to be covered in Miami Vice posters, you would be wrong. I have an Eastlake bedroom set and my walls have Victorian prints of ladies of leisure enjoying English gardens. I keep my room spotless. My Persian rug is clean and I vacuum the draperies once a week. How many other teenagers can say that?

Mother’s room, on the other hand, is a complete disaster. She sleeps on a mattress on the floor and covers her windows in towels. She has bottles of cheap wine and drug paraphernalia spread out all over the entire room, and for some reason, she sawed the legs off of a lovely side table from the 1940s. We don’t live in the rest of the house. It looks like a museum and it creeps me out. We don’t even use the kitchen except to microwave popcorn or make a ham sandwich. Everything in the kitchen is from the 1930s, and when I’m in there, I feel confused about living in a 1920s home with a 1930s kitchen in the 1980s with furnishings from the turn of the century and a blue-ray player in the common area. It scares me.

Mother came running into my room screaming about something. She had bruises on her face and arms, and her hair was literally standing on end. “It shook my bed and scratched me!” were the only words I could make out. She pulled up her shirt and showed me three, long, jagged scratches down her lower back. She was so thin that I could make out the topography of her spine and ribs as if she were an anatomical model. “It’s talking to me all the time, telling me terrible things, it’s going to kill your brother, just wait!” she wailed on, making a bit more sense as she continued. “You brought it here, this is YOUR fault, you have that damned Ouija board in your closet, don’t you?”

I do have a Ouija board in my closet, but I was eleven the last time I used it. I highly doubt that demons wait around five years before they decide to torture an old alcoholic and her loser kid. But I have to say, something had changed in the house and things started happening. Bad things. Before, this house was filled with light and was always quiet, like a church. After Mother’s breakdown, the house filled up with shadows that moved around from the corner of my eyes. It was cold in the living room, freezing cold, and sometimes that cold would travel to other parts of the house. Old houses make noises, I know, but do they growl? Sometimes I heard what sounded like a cocktail party or something coming from the dining room, with clinking glasses, women laughing in a delicate way, and men telling stories or giving instructions to the servants. Do I really have to tell you that nothing was ever there when I wandered halfway down the staircase?

I started losing things. I never lose things. My keys disappear at least once a day, and I would find them in the strangest places. Yesterday, I left them on my nightstand and I found them later on top of a burner. My latest copy of Cosmo vanished from my room and ended up in the freezer. I swear. I am not making this up. What really freaks me out, though, are the scratches on my back. Just like Mother, they appear in threes. I don’t like to think about things like devils, but I’m really not sure what else to blame. Why us, though? We barely have a life here.

May 1985
My brother came back from wherever he was yesterday. His eyes were both wild and glazed over, giving him a weird, Manson look. He’s skinny and bony like Mother, and it looks like he’s worn the same green tee shirt and ratty jeans for the last several weeks. He wears these brown leather sandals and his hair is long and messy, all blonde curls that smell like the beach. He looks like Jesus from a kid’s play at school. His nose seems thinner and kind of beaked, and his lips are chapped, like he’s dehydrated. He has cheekbones now and his eyes are hollow, so he looks older than 20. Or 23; honestly, I have no idea how old he is. He reminds me a little of Mother’s boyfriend, who hasn’t shown up—as far as I know—since she freaked out.

“I hear you guys are under demonic attack,” he smirks, turning every sentence into a joke or a weapon. I remind him that he preaches about Armageddon on a regular basis, so who is he to make fun of us? He laughs, tilting back in a very expensive chair in our very formal dining room, and says he doesn’t remember his preaching, but that other people do. “Shit, I don’t remember half of what I do or say. That’s why I keep ending up at . . .” Shut up! I yell at him, “don’t say it.” And he doesn’t, but he keeps winking at me and making me feel really uncomfortable. “What are you going to do about Mother? Are you going to move her off the shelf?” he whispers, as if she could hear us from upstairs behind a closed and locked door. My brother says things like that, designed to throw you off and make you wonder what’s happening in his head. “Nothing,” I say, because there is nothing to do. Demons or no demons, we can’t afford to move.

“Actually,” he whispers, “No joke. I see them everywhere, all over this house. It’s serious, this time. They’re not joking around anymore. They want your soul. They already have Mother’s, and they took mine years ago.” He starts laughing, and it’s a jarring, crazy sound, something out of a Halloween maze where they try to scare you at every turn in the labyrinth.

February? 1987?
Sorry, Doc Joe, I know you wanted this a long time ago—three years ago, right?—but I just couldn’t keep going after the Incident. I know you know all about the Incident, because that’s what keeps me in mandated therapy. It’s fine, I know there’s no rush. My life is much better now than it was back then. It’s much easier to be 19 and independent than 16 and still hoping for guidance and care from your Mother! But, as you know, Mother has been very hard to find these days. In fact, I can’t say when I saw her last. I try to remember, but it’s like pulling a car out of the mud or trying to remember what Rocky Road tastes like after 43 years of vanilla pudding.

I don’t miss her. My brother doesn’t miss her, either. He is still battling the mental health system, and losing most of the time. He kept a job for six months, making something in a shop, I forget what, but eventually even that required too much discipline for him. He shaved his head and gained twenty pounds, and I guess decided to go full-on white supremacist or something, judging by his Nazi tattoos and general aggressive vibe. He traded out the Jesus sandals and green tees for jack boots with studs and tight, white tee shirts that outline his little gut. His shredded jeans are probably the same ones he was wearing three years ago. OK, I know, this isn’t supposed to be about David. It’s supposed to be about me.

Me. Well, the last time I wrote, there was that demon problem. They might have chased her out of the house; I’m not too sure about that. She was delicate already, with that shady boyfriend who was such a loser that he wouldn’t use the front door. He used to come up the fire escape stairs and crawl into Mother’s window. I would see him and throw food or balls of paper at him and call him names. I know that wasn’t very mature, but what kind of guy doesn’t care enough about his girlfriend to actually knock at the front door? Plus, he looked kind of like a really ugly Fonzie and brought her drugs; so there was nothing to like.

Mother didn’t come out much as it was, but after the scratches, the whispers, the shadows and the eerie conversations taking place at 3:00 AM in the living room and dining room, she hardly ever cracked open that door. It didn’t make any difference, though; they still attacked her, scratching pentagrams into the skin on her back, throwing items around her room, laughing like hyenas, and worst of all, sending her into fits that made her arch her back and foam at the mouth. I saw all of this, and a couple times I ran away, but sleeping on the beach, freezing cold, and fighting off the meth heads and perverted bums was even worse than dealing with demons. So I always went back.

I told Mother not to react to them so much, not to talk to them, argue with them, scream at them or curse them out. She just couldn’t help it, though; and pretty soon her relationship with them became so all-consuming that her skanky boyfriend finally flew the coop and never came back. David watched us with amused detachment. That’s what I hate the most about David, to be honest. He just doesn’t care about anything. He used to take Polaroid pictures of Mother’s terrible fits (we eventually started to call them by their real name, possessions) and stick them on the fridge with magnets. The photos had strange foggy areas in them, and on some of them, I swear you could see faces. David called it his art project, and pretty soon he was recording the voices as well, and playing them back for Mother and me to hear. We didn’t want to hear those voices from Hell, but neither one of us had the courage to tell David to stop. People can be scarier than demons, you know?

I suppose that I started to hate David at that point. He was always in control of the house. He never cleaned up after himself or made his bed. He came and went at all hours of the day and night, never sticking to any kind of schedule. He didn’t bother to look for work or go to school. He just used the house as a rest stop between his stints at the State Hospital. He became obsessed with the demons in the house, and started to call them by name, which I knew was dangerous. He said that they talked to him on audio and through the Ouija board, but who’s to say they weren’t just voices in his head. How would David ever know the difference?

Tuesday, 1988
The Ouija board was his biggest mistake. As soon as he brought it out, I knew something terrible was going to happen. OK, Dr. Joe, here’s the part you really wanted to hear: it was Tuesday night, the worst night of the week. It had been cloudy for fourteen days in a row; I know, because I counted. I thought I was going to lose my mind. Mother was kind of there and not there, if you know what I mean. I was the only one cleaning up the house and fixing the little things that go wrong on a weekly basis in old houses. I had that fuzzy, angry feeling that can’t find any direction or outlet. I tried redecorating the living room with the funds we had from the Historical Resources Board, thinking that just maybe that would clear out the ghosts downstairs. I tried writing some poetry, walking around the neighborhood, even taking a couple of art classes at the local college. It was better than nothing, but it didn’t erase the hum in my head, the nervous energy, the uninvited, dark thoughts that I blame on the demons. No, that I blame on David for bring in to the house.

David was playing with the damn board on the dining room table. He put a big class of Coke right on the wood and didn’t care that he was going to leave a ring on the Louis XV walnut table that I had spent hours polishing and waxing. Instead, he started calling out words that the demons were spelling out. I won’t repeat what they said, because that gives them power, and that’s the last thing that they need. David stopped eating and showering and barely had the will to get up and use the bathroom. He was spending almost the entire day playing with it, listening to the voices on his audio clips, organizing his creepy Polaroid photos and writing in his journal. Who knows what he was writing; it was probably the story of his pathetic life with the paranormal. I tried telling him to stop, but he ignored me. Finally, I started yelling. That I do remember; I could hear my own voice, but it sounded distant and metallic, like something from outer space.

At that point, I was watching myself yelling at David. I wondered if I was my own ghost. Mother appeared at the top of the stairs, and I screamed at her to get back in the room or the demons would kill her. She made an ‘O’ with her mouth and turned around; she walked back into her room and I heard the sound of the door locking. My second me, the one that had moved back into the living room, was watching the original me gesticulating and pushing David, who stood up and poured his Coke all over the Louis XV dining room table, smiling at me with those infernal eyes. Then he slapped me. I don’t remember anything else for awhile. I was in the kitchen, drinking glass after glass of tepid water and then throwing it up.

It’s hard to know who walked back into the dining room, because I had been two people, and I wasn’t sure if I was back to just one yet. The first thing I saw was the scarlet, blood-soaked white tee shirt and then the disjointed position my brother had assumed in death, because I knew he was dead. Dead people, as it turns out, have their own body language. You know that there’s no soul left from across the room. He was a stiff, awkward shell of David, covered in blood and bits of something gooey.

It situations like that, it’s hard to know what a normal reaction is. I wanted my Mother more than anything, I wanted her to tell me that it was OK, that we could live without him, but her door was locked and she wouldn’t answer. I ran to my room and looked out the window. She must have disappeared down the fire escape. She didn’t come back. To this day, I don’t know where she is; she has never once visited me or even called. I know she’s alive, but I guess she’s too scared to look for me. She didn’t love David, so I don’t know why she would be so upset that he’s dead. All she did was complain about him, and she agreed that he was a loser that needed to get a life.

I kinda found God after that. We were all sinners in that house, and the Bible tells us that Satan loves sinners. He finds your weak spot and exploits it until you have no energy left to fight him off. The he does whatever he wants with you. Mother and David are responsible for bringing in the demons. Satan loves alcoholics and crazy people. He is also a liar, of course, and on some level, so am I. When we’re forced to tell our stories, we all lie. Not on purpose, but because we think that if people really knew us, we would spend eternity alone. That’s why the demons picked on me. They like scared people most of all. David used to say he didn’t believe in demons or Satan or God or anything that had more powers than he did. I bet David believes now that he’s burning in Hell.

August or October, 1989
Dr. Joe will let me out sooner if I tell the truth. He says it doesn’t matter how many years I need to tell it; because, as he always repeats in every therapy session, “the truth shall set you free.” I don’t think time is what we think it is. Sometimes years seem to pass, but it’s only been a few hours. Sometimes we think that something just happened, and it was thirty years ago. When you’re stuck at the State Hospital, time is completely meaningless. The routines, the repetitions, they destroy any notion of forward progress. Here, all we do is go in circles. When Dr. Joe says that I can leave as soon as I tell the truth, my hope is that time will start moving forward again. Maybe, that way, I will get the old Craftsman with the picket fence by the beach. Maybe then, I’ll have beautiful things and a family that loves me. Maybe then, people will have forgotten what I did to David in a fit of rage over that stupid Ouija board. It was my turn, and he wouldn’t let me play. He wouldn’t let me talk to Mother.

I just wanted my turn. The ghosts had started to talk to me, they were letting me into their secret world . . . they let me talk to Mother sometimes, and that was all I wanted, so that she could tell me that she loved me, that she was OK, and that it didn’t hurt when the car hit the tree and sunk in the lake. I don’t even remember what Mother looks like anymore. I keep seeing her under water, her hair like sea grass, her eyes open, cloudy and fixed on nothing, her mouth frozen in a little ‘O’, like death caught her by surprise.

Dr. Joe tells me that drugs and alcohol can make a person violent and irrational. He tells me that I don’t need to blame demons or ghosts for what I did to David. He wants me to be free of guilt. Even if he lets me out tomorrow, even if I confess that’s it’s 2015 and I’m fifty years old, even if I, as he says, ‘accept reality,’ it doesn’t change one, very important fact.

David talks to me every day. How they allowed a Ouija board in here is something of a mystery, but I guess he wants me to finally have my turn. David is waiting for Dr. Joe to let me out. The ghosts swear that I’m talking to Mother, but I’m not so sure anymore. I don’t think Mother would want me to hurt anyone. David says that as soon as I get my pretty house and sit down to have quail at my Louis XV walnut dining table, he’s going to dash my brains out with the jar of his ashes. He says that‘s what I deserve for covering him in Mother’s remains and keeping him forever from the Light.

He’s probably right. First thing tomorrow, I’m going to tell Dr. Joe that it’s 1965, and as it turns out, I died a long, long time ago. That’s the only truth that can set me free.

Kirsten A. Thorne
Kitty Serious

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