Ghostly Memories and Tangible Experience

Okay, so, I didn’t give you fair warning but you should know… sometimes my inspiration comes from shows like Grey’s Anatomy or This is Us. What can I say? I’m a sucker for TV drama. As it so happens today’s episode of Grey’s left me feeling particularly inspired for two reasons: one, the speech Avery gives on Grey’s behalf and two, Grey’s closing narration.

Face to Face with Darkness:

In Jackson’s speech he says,

“The most amazing thing about Meredeth, though, is that she takes all that pain, all that loss and she turns it into drive. Drive to save lives, to make things better. And despite all that she’s lost she continued to find joy in her work, as a surgeon, as a teacher, as a mother and she managed to share that joy through her spirit of discovery and of possibility and of hope, right in the face of darkness.”

His speech resonated with me on a deep, painful level. Because I have hoped for so long that I could be someone who faces her own darkness and turns it into a drive to help others and make life better. And, damn it, I try. I love my students fiercely. I tell them every day that I believe in them. And the students that struggle the most, that don’t have anyone else to believe in them, I tell them more than once. But, even still, it isn’t enough. I’m capable of more. I can give so much more. But, I haven’t come face to face with my own darkness and it lurks over my shoulder. It steals my ability to be vulnerable, to show my kids that it’s okay to trust. It whispers in my ears about inadequacy and unworthiness. It steals my drive, tells me that what I do doesn’t matter. The thing is, I let it, because I’m scared. I’m afraid of what might happen if I acknowledge my own darkness, if I acknowledge where it comes from and where it lives. It runs deep. I am enveloped, submerged. I am buried under 29 years of abuse, loss, abandonment, and violation.

Everything Always Comes Back to Therapy:

Today, my therapist asked me what might happen if I just said the things I want to say but can’t because I won’t let myself, if I just talked about the pain that I’ve given free rent in my mind and body. I told her I was afraid that I’d stop being able to function. Because I’ve been there before. I have felt pain so immense, so soul-crushing that I couldn’t bring myself to leave the solace of my bed for weeks. It’s the kind of pain that makes you wonder if there is a God because surely no kind, loving God would ever make a person feel something so excruciating. So, I avoid…

The thing about darkness, though, is that for a while it remains immaterial, easy to ignore. Just sort of silently lurks, content to wreak havoc on sleep patterns, appetite, relationships, and motivation. Nevermind that it still illicits a somatic response. But, through acknowledgement it becomes even more tangible, real. It becomes matter, comes to matter. Which brings me to my Meredeth inspiration:

“And that history and memory and the ghosts of our pasts are sometimes just as tangible as anything we can hold in our hands.”

That, right there, that is my fear! I already hold my memories, hold my traumas in my body. They are already tangible to me. They are with me every day whether I want them or not. But, as long as I don’t speak them into reality, then I can pretend they don’t exist. They remain manageable. At least that’s what I tell myself.

The Cold Hard Reality:

We both know it doesn’t really work that way, though, don’t we? They’re already tangible. They already exist. They already hurt me and affect me. The traumas which I have endured are written on my body, etched in my flesh, branded on my heart, woven through my synapses. I am irrevocably changed by the things I have endured. Unless, and here is the revelation, I can find the courage to come face to face with my darkness, to speak it into this world, to release it from my body. Somehow I have to let go of my shame (or maybe not my shame, perhaps it’s shame that belongs to someone else). I have to give up the paralyzing fear that silences me. I have to decide that it’s okay to feel whatever emotions come with my story. Because I want to turn my pain into drive. I want to make a difference. And I don’t want to drag my darkness along for the ride. Besides, if they’re already tangible, if they already hurt, what have I got to lose?

But knowing that, acknowledging it to be true, doesn’t quite give me the courage, doesn’t quite dissolve the barrier between my vocal chords and the real world. So, where is courage found? Where is it hiding? Is it already within me? How do I lure it to the surface? Make friends with it, convince it to stay a while?

2 thoughts on “Ghostly Memories and Tangible Experience

  1. KD. I hope sharing this with you will inspire you to continue searching. The abuse began at a young age for me. I was groomed as a very young child. Everything had to be kept a secret and I was very good at keeping the secret. Life for me was painful and no one ever knew it, but I survived in part by the kindness of teachers. Yes lady, teachers who never knew of my pain helped me to keep moving forward day by day. They did not know my pain and I did not know their’s but I found a reason to keep living through their kindness.
    Teachers can be so instrumental in the lives of others and it is likely that you are making a difference now that you will never know about. Be the mentor you wished you had and I think you will not only give much, but you will find a comfort in what you receive.


    1. Thank you so much for sharing a part of your story with me. I’m sorry that you went through such pain as a child. This world can be harsh. I’m glad that you had the kind of teachers that were able to help you persevere. I wish you had been able to break the silence sooner but it’s good seeing that you’re there now, sharing.


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