Halloween is a time for eating too many chocolates, bobbing for apples, for fancy dress and for the odd adolescent to egg houses. Well, it was in my day. Halloween has gone LARGE since I last fully engaged with it. In Southport there has been a week long parade, festive lights turned orange, social media is full of photos of impressively carved pumpkins (a lot of people I know can weald a knife…scary in itself!) and my neighbours have housed a creepy skull and scythe outside their front door. At last glance, a severed hand had also been posted through the letter box by another cheeky neighbour I believe. All to amuse the kids…Big and small. I know friends of mine who are already planning how to hide themselves in their homes ahead of the onslaught of trick and treaters on Monday evening. And that this year is not the year for clown masks because things have become a bit more sinister…
Now I am all in favour of any festivity which breaks up the over-amplified 3 month build up to Christmas that is forced upon us by the shops and TV adverts. And I am also a lass to jump at the chance to don fancy dress but lightness and frivolity aside Halloween is an opportunity for us to remember those that we have lost and to say farewell to the ghosts that continue to haunt us.
Many of us are haunted, not by ghosts or ghouls hidden under white sheets but by the loss of loves and opportunities, and haunted by our mistakes, failures, fears, doubts and anxieties. Haunted by the comparisons of other people, of other people’s lives, and of other people’s Facebook newsfeeds. This weekend I am, in fact, being re-visited by a ghost of the past. A kind and friendly ghost offering to share a bottle of red wine but a blast from the past nonetheless. From a time when I was depleted and lost where I actually felt a little like a zombie just moving through life aimlessly but without the gurning and eating of people. Sometimes we are revisited by ghosts for a reason. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to take stock and see how far we have grown without them or it could be a chance for them to re-enter our lives again. I have yet to see what this ghost is here for – trick or treat?
We all can get caught up in the past and remain trapped by the ghosts of past emotions, lost hopes, and daydreams of what could have been. To listen to a song and be taken back to an old boyfriend (Celine Dion, at aged 14), to eat a meal and remember a moment from childhood (Nana’s shepherds pie), or to revisit a special place you once shared with someone. To gaze at old photos – the snapshot of smiles and shared moments – moments that faded some time ago but that we can still hold dear. Sometimes we choose to revisit painful memories – the break up fight or the argument with the old boss or the old friend – remembering the harsh words and the anger. Holding on to the principle of being wronged – finding another way of holding on to the past, to those people and becoming stuck in the gap between the past and the reality of the present moment.
There’s no harm in reminiscing and looking back and it’s easy to seek comfort in happier times when the day- to-day is challenging us. Looking back to learn our lessons can help to guide us forward but holding on tight to happy memories and old hopes prevents us from opening up and moving on. This time last year I was in India – free as a bird with another month of adventures as yet unknown. People I know are back there now in the safety of the ashram, with the support of kind souls and secluded from real life. And I can look back and easily wish I was there again, re-living those moments. It would be an escape – a temporary happiness. But I have moved on and instead, I wish to embrace the changes I have made and to continue to move forward. And to do so, I need to let go of the people and places of my past. Letting go is hard. It requires an active choice to be made each time your mind or heart wanders back to the past for the comfort of those attachments – positive or negative. But to truly move forward, to grow, we have to accept that we need to change and cannot stay as we are, and cannot stay in the past. So this Hallows Eve I will thank the ghosts of my past for their time, love, lessons and laughter and look forward. And know that I am guided onwards by the strength of my soul.