My emotions come at me in waves. Often I’m strong enough to withstand them – to hold the ship steady – but every now and then they catch me with my shields down. I’m swept away.
That happened the other day when the movers came in to pack everything up. Seeing my whole life packed into boxes. That was difficult.
But the hardest moment came after they had gone. When I was left all alone in an empty apartment, the place we’d called home for the past four years.
And I could see it all at once. I could see the first time we brought my eldest son home from the hospital. I could picture my youngest taking his first steps across the living room floor. All the heart to hearts with my wife, sat exhausted on the sofa after a long day.
The ghosts of my past were everywhere to be seen.
Yet, my present had already packed up and left. Waiting for me in Singapore while I see out the remaining 3 months of my contract here in Hong Kong.
It was then that the sheer enormity of the decision we’d made hit me. It was then that the real ghosts of my past started screaming. Telling me I’ve made a huge mistake, that I don’t what I’m doing, that I’m weak for not having put up with everything.
Here we go again, I thought. The voices in my head that never let up. The voices that have haunted me for so long.
Part of me worried that maybe, underneath it all – behind the politics, the toxic work culture, the endless days of quarantine – the real reason for leaving is a futile attempt to try and outrun these ghosts. Hoping I would somehow be able to leave them behind when I leave myself.
For the longest time I thought the voices telling me to leave were those ghosts. So, I figured the path to salvation was staying put. I figured I had to stay the course.
But I know that’s not true. I know it was my ghosts that kept me frozen in fear for so long.
The funny thing is, now that the decision is made, it seems, in some strange sense, the louder they scream the surer I am. Yet, they still scream, they still kick.
Thankfully I know my ghosts well. l know, more often than not, they appear in a desperate attempt to mask some deeper pain beneath the surface. I also know that trying to outrun them is a mistake.
So, I think, a better question isn’t how to stop your ghosts from appearing, but how to see through them when they do. To do that, you have to hold them in your heart.
To see through the ghosts of your past you have to accept them as they are.
After torturing myself for a while that day I sat down in middle of that empty apartment and took some time to let my ghosts be. Slowly but surely the voices started to quell.
Slowly but surely the real pain my ghosts were masking began to surface: Grief.
Of course, the only way to process grief is to let your shields downs. The only way to process grief is to let your emotions sweep you away. So, that’s what I did.
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