I look around the neighborhood at the eerie ghosts hanging from the trees, and I remember the time I, too, decorated the house in all its terrifying glory. The year was 2013 (of course it was), and I uncharacteristically decided to celebrate Halloween. I love decking the halls for Christmas, but like a lot of kids who went to parochial schools, I know scouring the streets for the perfect glaring witch is a little taboo. Yet, the year was 2013 after all, and I felt called to put my childish notions aside and invest in some smiling ghosts, a few cowboy skeletons, and some freakish bats for good measure. Competition incites me, and you should have seen the house across the street. I had to throw my contribution in the cauldron. The decorations would be friendly, respectable, and a little scary, just like me.
In the bed of our cypress tree, I stood in the middle of our front yard, reaching to the highest branch and securing the last friendly ghost. Suddenly, I felt something biting my foot. The process of making sure the ghost would not fall down took longer than I anticipated, and I continued to feel something biting me, but I thought, just one more second and I'll be done. I can do this.
And I did. The ghost hung confidently, smiling at me. And that's when I looked down and realized I had been standing in a fire ant hill.
At first I was in pain but amused. Wow, so many bites! Who knew they could attack with such speed and determination? Let me take a picture of this and send it to my family. How funny! And then I felt like the venom moved up my body, and I could hear my heartbeat in my ears. I started to feel excruciating pain in my belly, and I saw big red welts all over. The cramps felt like I was giving birth. Holding my cell phone, I lay down on the kitchen floor because the cold tile provided the most relief. I called my husband and told him to come right away. And then I realized that may not be soon enough. I looked up and saw my toddler waddling to the living room, like "this show is a little too much for me right now." I called 911 because I was afraid of passing out with a kid in the house. Soon, the paramedics were giving me oxygen and carrying me into an ambulance (another first). My husband took over child care, and I headed to a premier trauma center. As I tried to find a comfortable position on the hospital bed, a doctor explained he would need to monitor me for the next four hours. I thought, "Wow, that's the longest time I haven't been with my kids. Four hours to myself? What a blessing in disguise (moms with toddlers/babies, you can relate)." I took the medicine they gave me and just tried to breathe deeply. Man, I really shouldn't have decorated for Halloween. Those Baptists were right.
Of course I did decorate again, with more emphasis on the "friendly" ghosts. But I made sure not to stand in ant hills and if I felt pain, I respected my body enough to listen. Which I think was the point. I should have listened to my body instead of pushing through the pain.
Right now, I face the need to let go of something a lot heavier than a smiling ghost, and I am trying so hard to remember the lesson of 2013. I don't have to stand in ant hills. I can choose to take care of myself. I can feel pain and respond instead of buckling down and carrying on, disregarding the signals my body is clearly sending me.
But you know something scary? I don't want to.
I want to "finish the job." I want to keep standing in the ant hill because I'm committed to the process.
"Let go of the ghost, Elena." I hear my head
But my heart responds. "I don't want to. I can do this."
My head counters, "You don't have to do this. This is not good for you. This is hurting you."
"Letting go will hurt more. It will mean that I didn't do it. I didn't hang in there until the bitter painful end."
"So what? Do you want to stay sane and healthy? Let go."
That's where I am. I do not want to let go because I am attached to something even though it hurts me. I don't know how to let go.
Then deep in my heart I hear... Just drop the ghost. Take that leap of faith and let go. Let go with love.
Let go with love.
You see, usually it's a battle. It's my heart versus my mind, which is not a fair fight. I have a big heart. It's hard for my mind to keep up. But I know that in the end I will have to let go. I can help my heart by letting go with love. With so much gratitude. Without anger or vengeance. I will let go into God's hands, and let go with love and hope and peace.
I talk to my friends and family. They can help me drop the ghost. But listen, I am going to fight like hell to hang on. And then I will breath in, breathe out, and just drop it. Because this time, I don't want to go to the trauma center. I am for preventive medicine. I am for taking care of myself right now, "in this moment," so that I can be there for my kids. And so they can learn to let go when it's time, too.
Pray for me (and not just to stop decorating for Halloween). Pray for me to have the wisdom and strength to do what is right when I think, "One more bite ain't going to hurt." It is, and there is no reason for it. I just need to let go, and I don't want to. And that is really terrifying.
But I will let go,
once and for all and one moment at a time,
looking toward the future.