Haunted home


If a woman has artificial flowers in her house, flowers that need dusting twice a year but never die, she is closing herself off from any understanding of death.
—May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude


Yesterday I woke up at 4 am to wild flashes of lightning through my window, the shade pulled all the way up. There has been steady lightning here at night without the accompanying sounds of thunder, and very little rain. The July monsoons have mostly left, but the remains linger. The roses from April are back, but less abundant and more wilted. A few butterfly bush blooms from May are here again, but they look a little lost and confused amongst all their dead comrades.

The spiral of time is melting into a muddy-colored puddle.

And the peace I felt here is starting to feel like vines growing around my shoulders and over my mouth. The kitchen is the darkest room in the house—the most central room in the house, how apt. There used to be a kitchen window, but an add-on was built by the previous owner, so where there used to be a window is instead a hole looking into the wall of a hallway and upon that wall is a rainbow-colored zebra.

Paintings on walls and windows looking into halls will never be able to light up a room.

The dark rooms are seeped with sadness and the walls here are too thin. But apparently thick enough to be unable to hear a person’s cries for help.

Things feel like they’re dying here. The dogs are getting old and creaky. The parents constantly discuss and plan their upcoming retirement. The little brother’s ashes sit in an urn, out of sight.

Shit.

I cut some perky yellow roses the other day and put them in a vase and the next day they were completely hunched over.

Same. I don’t like being inside this house either. I’m sorry for doing you dirty.

Part of me knows this is good. Being uncomfortable is good. Up until recently, I couldn’t imagine myself actually moving out of my parents’ house again. I definitely hadn’t planned to live with them for the past two years, but I lacked the courage to leave. Except when my desire to leave was motivated by shame, feeling like a pathetic 27-year-old loser who couldn’t get her fucking shit together.

I finally, though, gave myself enough kindness and grace to examine this lethargy around moving out. And I realized I’m carrying lots of trauma from the past, making me feel unsafe out in the world.

As if to validate the reality of these fears, two weeks ago I finally set an energetic intention to move out *soon* (no deadline yet, but the intention helps put the heat on), and that very night I had a bad dream about it.

I dreamt that I found this amazing old two-story home for rent in a valley in Idaho, overlooking a river and a field of horses. The rent was only $500 a month, and it sounded too good to be true, so I asked the realtor to explain the pricing to me. She started pointing out a lot of flaws with the house, including the fact that it was cluttered with the previous owner’s possessions, an old man who had died in the home and no one came to claim his stuff. Haunted house? I can handle that for $500 a month. Easy.

And then the day after I signed the lease and moved in, my neighbor broke in and stabbed me repeatedly with a butcher knife and then I woke up. The end.

It’s what happened the last time I moved out. I mean, I didn’t get physically stabbed with a knife, but definitely did emotionally. Everything was magical in the beginning, everything was working out perfectly, it felt too good to be true, and my happiest adult memories were made. And then everything went to shit. Everything broke down, and my most traumatic adult memories were made. I didn’t feel safe in my own home but I had nowhere else to go and I’m still trying to process everything that happened because writing it all out sounds like the suffering olympics because there was just so. much. shit. And I hate that.

But now I know. I’m afraid of good things because I think they’re going to turn bad. I don’t trust myself to create a stable home environment away from my parents. I’m projecting fears of the past onto my future and it’s keeping me stuck sitting at a desk in a room in my parents’ home like Emily Dickinson. I resonate with her so much, I feel her in my soul as if I reincarnated with bits of her in me, I love her deeply—but I don’t want to live like her in that sense, with my parents, for the remainder of my life.

I don’t have a specific location in mind for when I leave. I want to get in my car and drive. Pretty much every day in my journal I find myself writing, “I just want to be free. I want to slim down and have independence.”

Slim down, minimize, zig while they zag.

Like the very first concert I ever went to (Skillet, in 2009), me and my friends were all in the mosh pit and I quickly learned how to move with the crowd so I could move through the crowd. I felt like a little water bug: flow with the mass and then dart through the narrow gaps to get to the front. Until some skank bitch yanked on my ponytail to jerk me backwards so she could take my spot at the front (but that’s beside the point . . . I just feel sad that there are people in the world who must resort to such measures to get ahead in life . . . but I digress . . . lol).

Life is not so slim and zippy lately. It’s heavy and slow. I feel tied to the crowd.

There are so many packages being delivered to the house. Several packages a week. New ones arrive before old ones are even completely opened and unpacked and dealt with. Boxes everywhere. Boxes to fill the hole created by the death of a son.

The amount of stuff in this house is at a level that makes me feel pinchy and claustrophobic. Even my room started getting uncomfortably full. Which is weird because I’ve long been a minimalist vagabondy type person. Nothing makes me happier than sauntering alone through the world with a single backpack.

Plus I hate shopping, so I’m really confused as to how the fuck there came to be so much shit compiled in my room. Are people giving me stuff? I really can’t remember. Very rarely are the boxes on the front porch addressed to me.

But the fact remains: there is too much stuff and I find it difficult to leave the house.

The reason the stuff accumulates and life stops flowing is due to trauma. Everyone’s favorite buzzword. Trauma traps your emotions leading you to re-live that shit on a loop, causes health problems, leads to addictions.

Finally starting to admit that the past got me fucked up and I was too wounded to deal with it, has helped me to slowly untangle from the pile of stuff everywhere. I find it an easier task now to compile things to donate, shred papers, let go of attachment. I even have a budget and am contributing to my IRA and savings each month. Pretty adorable of me, I know.

I don’t want to be stuck with stuff. I want to be free flowing.

A frozen, stuck-with-stuff life terrifies me.

When my brother Zach died last year, we fought over . . . the remains. My dad wanted his ashes stored in a mausoleum in Idaho. I told him that was creepy as fuck. His ashes, for now, are stored in a purple urn, somewhere unknown in the house, as I freaked out at the idea of them being on display. My mom asked us siblings if we wanted little mini urns with some of his ashes. I told her absolutely not.

I’ve been an ornery bitch throughout this whole process.

I’ve always found “death stuff” to be fascinating in a general sense: open caskets at funerals, this dead body display we saw at a museum in Portland when we were teens, skulls and bones, walking around cemeteries at night like every other anemic insomniac writer chick.

But when it comes to my brother, when it’s fucking personal, I hate everything. Associating this shit with my brother sucks.

We’re not supposed to cling to the remains of death like this. Not when it’s done as a coping mechanism for pain.

These two concepts are colliding.

My brothers ashes being trapped inside an urn, and me feeling like I’m slowly being buried alive at my parents’ house.

I love my parents, I truly do, but I need to be free. I’m trying.

I’m not ready to settle down like a coffin in the ground or an urn on display. I want to be unfettered like ashes on the wind. Under a tree or in the river. I want to explore the earth before my body becomes a part of it. I’m not scared of death personally. I’m scared of other people’s fears. I can feel their fear like a palpable substance in the air. I’m scared of a frozen life. Gone too soon. Trapped by hasty decisions and restrictive belief systems and heavy fear.

Ghost house, get out.

I think I’m afraid here because Zach didn’t get to live enough life. And now they want to store his ashes in the same house where he died. I just . . . want him to be free. And I want my parents to be free.

Grief can bury us while we’re still alive.

I feel more myself again after facing my fears and traumas. Meditating, journaling, crying. The usual. Whatever it takes to get the weight off. I feel more like the me who hopped on buses and trains, slept on benches and in parking lots, dumpster dived for groceries, hitchhiked.

I don’t have to sit at a desk in my parents’ house for the rest of my life like Emily Dickinson. I really did accept that as my fate for a while. But the fire is coming back. The heavy greasy lethargic layers are peeling, healing.

This poem by Laurie Halse Anderson, from her book Shout, perfectly sums up how I’m feeling now, so I’ll leave you with it:

slowly
I can’t stand this
bled into
I can’t stay here
trickled through
I should leave
swelled into
I want to leave
rose into a tidal wave of
I’m going


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