Who ya gonna call (or, fuck the darkness)

So. This week I went to see the new Ghostbusters. As a lifelong watcher of the Ghostbusters (my brother is the world’s biggest Ghostbusters fan. No, really.) and a fan of funny, smart ladies, I was SO EXCITED to see what they had done with it.

Have you seen it yet? Go. I’ll wait.

I love that there were cameos of all of the original players. I love that Sigourney came back, because QUEEN. And I love (love love love love) Kate McKinnon. Seriously. And that end sequence? I know that the proton packs weren’t designed that way…. but it was spectacular and the music was epic. Loved it!

I always get super excited with film – I used to ask a battery of questions, but was told that it was super annoying, so I stopped. But this one?! I had to ask the gent that I had seen the movie with…. Do you believe in ghosts? It was a short convo – and he never asked me back, but I’m going to answer that question I posed, right now.

Yes, I believe in ghosts. I didn’t believe until I was 24, because I was aware that there were scarier things in the world. I liked fact, and as a history buff, during my trip to New Zealand and Australia, I made sure to make time to visit Port Arthur.

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Port Arthur, for a short introduction, is a small town in Tasmania. It’s a former convict settlement (1833 to 1877), and now is one of Australia’s most impactful heritage sights. It is a naturally secure site (a peninsula with a 30 metre wide isthmus, and apparently surrounded by shark infested water), so it was sold as an inescapable prison. It was for only the hardest criminals being sent to Australia, and had some of the strictest security measures in the British penal system. In addition, Port Arthur practiced the “Separate Prison” method – a movement from corporal punishment, to psychological. With over 200 rules for the prisoners inside the Separate Prison, it became the example for prisons around the world.

The Separate Prison, by the by, is also the reason that they needed to build an insane asylum right next door.

It wasn’t just the Separate Prison, as I learned. There was a tiny settlement (complete with an unconsecrated church, the reverend’s house, one charming home containing a human dissection room in the basement, another different prison (a level down from  the psychological torture – don’t mess up here, or you’ll end up there) and several other small dwellings. The Isle of the Dead is also a draw – the burial ground of the people living there, the site of the cushiest job at the prison, and apparent tourist attraction for the Devil himself. Port Arthur has a bloody, ruthless, and terrifying history – unfortunately, until as recently as 1996. I’d highly recommend looking into it, if that’s your bag.

I was so excited for a ghost tour onsite. Armed with our tiny backpacker flashlights,  my friend and I took the darkened forest path along the ocean from our hostel site to the historic site. We had recently taken a similar tour in Fremantle – while it was startling, it wasn’t scary. We expected more of the same, as we teased one another in the dark. Maybe a freaky walk back, but nothing we couldn’t handle. The darkness fell quickly – by the time we reached the site, the stars were coming out.

To put it mildly. Port Arthur was absolutely NOTHING like Fremantle. At all. We begged a ride from our tour guide after the tour, because neither one of us could imagine walking back on the path. We couldn’t, even together, holding hands after our decade of friendship, face the darkness and long walk home.

While I won’t go into all of the specifics (if you wanna know, you’ll need to ask), I will recount my first experience with a ghost. We went to the roofless church (it wasn’t ever finished, or dedicated to a specific faith), and then we walked into the reverend’s home. Our tour guide refused to open the door because of an experience she had there before (at this point, I was taking her reluctance as melodrama) and one of our group opened the front door. The group filed into a sitting room, on the front right side of the house. The only light came from a light illuminating the path outside, and three lanterns in the room. Our guide stood in the middle of the room, telling us the story of the man who used to live there. I stood in a corner, with my back mere inches from the wall (I jump and scream when grabbed from behind – this way, nothing could sneak up on me), listening intently to the story of the unusually tall man who used to try to bring God to the criminals of Port Arthur.

In addition to being a jumper/screamer, I’m rather short. And, sometimes, I can sense someone standing behind me before I am really aware they are there. It gets electric, especially if they are taller than I am. It’s nothing ominous – just a shorty sense. As she was standing there, I started to get tingles up my back. Like someone was standing there, breathing on my neck. Quick shoulder check – nothing. At the time, I specifically remember thinking that I was being too imaginative. Or maybe… he was behind me? Nah. Definitely imagination, I decided during the story. Ghosts aren’t real.

Within an hour, I knew that I had an experience with ghosts. The first one was the only peaceful one, but I knew it wasn’t my imagination.

However, once we were back at the hostel (thank you again, tour guide whose name I no longer remember!!) safe in our pajamas and sleeping bags and were able to speak, we decided that our imaginations had run away with us. Even though I had unexplained bruises (thank you, Separate Prison) and she had freaked out in the dissection room, we decided that our imaginations had ruled us, not our intelligence.

We had another day on the site (I KNOW. This is how much of a history nerd I am!!!) and we decided to check out the sites that we were able to (human dissection room is closed during the day, folks) to see if we had the same experiences during the day time. Given that we each had difference experiences in different places (I got the tingles, and my ribs squeezed, and she didn’t) – we thought that, if it were truly ghosts, they would affect us the same way in the sunlight.

IMG_1095This is the front room of the reverend’s house. That was my corner from the night before. I carried both a film and digital camera. I knew my cameras. Intimately. They were as necessary to my trip as my big red backpack was. And both cameras showed that orb after the fact.

Neither one of them ought to have. And I got the tingles as someone, long dead, stood behind me in the room – even in the daylight.

So, what’s the point behind my ghost story?

I am still in the darkness. I have flashes of light, moments and hours of bliss, as unexplained as that orb. As I told my brother earlier this week, all I want to do is lie down and give up. I have been strong for years. I keep getting knocked down, and I have to keep getting up. I don’t have another setting – I honestly can’t imagine giving up. Call it Irish stubborn, call it Aries determination, call it martial artist training – I don’t have a “give up” setting. I only know strength – for myself, for my loved ones – I only know how to be strong and to keep standing up.

My desire to just give up, and lay down, and stop trying, is indescribable. I know I can’t, but I really want staying in bed all day to be a viable option. I think the hardest part, especially for the people who know me the best, is the silence. I am not good with vulnerable at the best of the time. And right now… I just need to open my mouth or let someone touch me, and I’m a mess. My tears clog my throat with my honesty, and I am crying way too easily. I know enough to know that I’m scaring the shit out of the people closest to me.

However. I know I have to stand up. Kneeling in submission is not an option. And, just like I felt that ghost all those years ago, I feel the love and support of the people in my life. It’s like a million invisible hands in between my shoulder blades. Urging me forward, into the open, into the light. Reminding me that my imagination is wild, and that the darkness isn’t forever. That, even though right now I’m in the darkness, clinging to the side of the well, things will change soon. It can’t be as bad in the daylight.

So, baby brother. The man I scared the shit out of this week. I’m standing. I’m here for the fight, and the long haul.

Fuck the darkness.

I wonder how Rosaline felt?

I’ve always hated Romeo and Juliet.

There. I said it.

It’s the play that introduced me to Shakespeare – I honestly don’t recall not knowing it. It’s the first play I studied, the only play that I can remember rhyming couplets for, and I hate it. I thought the idea is ridiculous – I think that Romeo is a player, that Juliet is an airhead, and that they both need to learn to communicate (now, I have to wonder what my tenth grade teacher would have graded for a paper with that opinion….)

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I fell in love with Baz Luhrmann’s version of Romeo and Juliet when it came out. I don’t think I’ll ever look at a fish tank the same way. Need a reminder?

But I only ever liked watching it until the balcony scene. And I’d take County Paris (aka Paul Rudd) any day over Romeo. Especially when that Romeo was played by Leonardo DiCaprio. But it always seemed ridiculous to me, even as a girl. Even when I was a girl in love for the first time… I couldn’t imagine anything like this. Who falls in love at first sight? And what kind of idiots get married after only speaking for twenty minutes? Rosaline got off easy, I thought, escaping an idiot like that.

I was either born jaded or pragmatic.

I can say this, about the Bard’s play. When I was 18, I had one of my most memorable kisses to some of his lines.

I went to South Korea with a TaeKwon Do group when I was 18. If I had to do this by memory (and I do at the moment), I’d say that there was 25 of us. No one really knew me – I had never competed, and when I went for my first black belt I was a stranger. There had been glimpses as I received my instructor’s certification, but in this group that I found myself in, I was a stranger (minus my Master, her son, and another woman from my hometown group). I gravitated to the only person I knew outside of our group – a man from High Prairie. I honestly don’t remember how we met, or his name. But there was a small group from High Prairie with him, and I happened to hit it off with a fellow by the name of Jordan.

With this being so many years ago, I don’t remember much about Jordan, either. I remember his crooked grin. His height. I think there may have been a tattoo? He definitely had spiked hair, and I was definitely senior to him belt-wise… but that’s all I really remember. Anyways. We hit it off. Lots in common. We talked a lot in Seoul. One of the first nights we were there, we left the group as we were walking back from our nightly excursion. I think that we had decided that Seoul was a safe city (if you’ve heard me talk about this trip, I’m still shocked that we all made it back alive and unstabbed), and we snuck into a park near our hotel. We found a fountain under the strange trees, and for whatever reason, Romeo and Juliet came up. He asked if I knew the party scene, I said yes. He asked if I knew the lines that lead up to the first kiss (can you see where this is going? I was so young) – of course. I recited “Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake.”

And of course he knew the next bloody line and of course I got kissed in a strange park in Korea. I wouldn’t know Jordan if I saw him on the street now, and I don’t know where he is in the world, but I remember that kiss.

Anyways.

Right now there is a lot of darkness. I tripped and fell headfirst into the well and I’m surrounded by darkness. I don’t sleep a lot. I lay away and think about all of the circumstances, about my next steps, and freaking Romeo and Juliet. I’ve been alone for a long, long time. And part of my brain thinks that the darkness wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t alone in it. Because, while I have amazing friends and family and an epic support system… when the night comes, I’m still facing the blackness alone. I know that it takes time and it happens when you aren’t looking… but man. I’ve looked, and I haven’t looked. I’ve worked on myself, I did the thing, I bettered myself… and it’s been 3 years, with minor bumps on the way.

3 years alone is a long, long time. 3 years without being able to whisper secrets and inside jokes is… harder than I can possibly put into words. I’ve been crying a lot this week. In rose bushes and in rocks beside hot tubs. In a front garden, hidden by trees and rocks. Even into my cat’s fur. The darkness frightens me, and being alone in it… doubles it. I drank a lot of Irish whiskey to help me sleep last week – after telling a friend I was done drinking the pain, I haven’t done it once this week. My dreams are unsettling, and I’m sleeping less than 5 hours a night.

I always though that Roseline, Romeo’s unpictured infatuation, got off really, really lucky. Nights like tonight I wonder – maybe she was trying to be proper. Who wouldn’t want the romantic knight of Verona, from one of the best families in town? Maybe she was bashful, and followed the rule book, and returned Romeo’s infatuation in her own quiet way. And then had to learn to survive without her love. That’s the key, right, to survive the play without being stabbed or committing suicide or poisoned or being baked into a pie (no, really, that happens in Titus Androcius). Maybe Roseline got Paris, in the end, but maybe her heart was just broken. Where can you go when your heart has been broken, and there doesn’t seem to be a salve? How many times can it break, before you finally just need to brick it shut and hope for the best?

I have a very wise friend, someone I’ve known since kindergarten. As I’ve been descending into the darkness, I’ve been confiding my terror and sadness to her. “It’s a tunnel,” she tells me, over and over again. “All of this is a tunnel, blocking you from the light. You’re halfway through the tunnel and the light is far away, but tunnels end. This is the purpose of tunnels. They. Have. To. End.”

I can’t wait for my tunnel to end. I’m ready to leave the darkness. Ready to be one of the lovers, rather than wonder about Roseline.

Serenity.

Nope. Not that serenity.

I’m talking Serenity.

Home to Captain Malcolm Reynolds. To Jayne Cobb, and Inara Sara, and Kaywinnet Lee “Kaylee” Frye. To Sheppard Derrial Book and Zoe and Wash Washburne, and Simon and River Tam. My first real step into geekdom.

There is a scene in the pilot that is replaying in my head lately. Without giving it away, near the end, Sheppard Book is on his knees in front of Inara.

Book: I’ve been out of the abbey two days. I’ve beaten a lawman senseless. Fallen in with criminals… And I’m not even sure if I think he was wrong.
Inara: [softly] Shepherd…
Book: I believe I just… I think I’m on the wrong ship.
Inara: Maybe. Or maybe you’re exactly where you ought to be.

Right now, I am so lost. About everything. Even this space. A place I created to simply write and celebrate my geeky existence. And now I feel like it needs a theme or that I’m giving it one that’s based in my anxiety. I think I’ve written 15 drafts in the time since my last post, and I can’t bring myself to hit publish.

I am so conflicted about my life right now. There are moments when I look at what’s happening, and I don’t recognize myself. I’m anxious, and fearful, and waking up with dread in my heart. I feel like a stranger in my bones. Like Book (all of the Firefly characters, really), I feel like I “been out of the world for a spell… like to walk it a while.” I feel like I’ve created this life – a good life, a life built on my own back with so many amazing things! – and now I am searching for an escape from my life.

Like the wise Sheppard said… I believe. I just think I’m on the wrong ship.

One thing that keeps me (mostly) sane is my belief, shockingly.

I’m not a church goer. At all. I don’t have a secular belief system. My relationship with God is complex and simple, gentle and terrible. I’m not Mal – I do believe in God. I also don’t believe that my God has abandoned me – I feel that presence all the time.

Like tonight. It wasn’t a great day at work, and I went to the kiva (I love Noorish. Have I said that lately? I fucking LOVE NOORISH.) for my karma shift. As I was walking up to the building, I noticed a familiar shape next door to Noorish. Sitting outside the Cuban cigar shop, smoking a cigar and bullshitting with another firefighter, was JM. He was facing away from me, and I knew it was him before I even got close – I know that shape so well I could draw it by heart (you know. If I could draw.). I caught the eye of the other man (who was, at one point, a dear friend of mine) and he couldn’t place me – I was so relieved. I ducked behind the building, walked into the kiva, knelt to the floor in front of the alter, and started to weep. Cherry on top of the freaking day. I seriously think that breaking up requires the division of neighbourhoods. “Oops, sorry, Garneau is actually MY place. You are required to stay a kilometre away from Noorish at all times. It’s my safe place.”

But, as I lay there, head on the floor, weeping in the candlelight… I knew I wasn’t alone. I could feel it, almost like someone had laid their hand between my shoulder blades and started rubbing my back. I WAS alone – I was opening the kiva tonight – and I just knew it was God. It didn’t take me long to stop crying after that.

Yes. I realize this sounds insane. It’s happened to me a few times there – whether it’s just plain energy, or the tears that follow a heart opener, or singing as I’m cleaning and feeling a presence. Full stop. I know who it is. I know that I’m safe. That it will be okay. No matter what shit comes, I know that I’m not alone.

Even tonight, where I feel like I’ve fallen into a well. I can hear the voices, and the laughter of the people outside of the well – I’m clinging to the rock, just at the edge of the darkness, shaking with effort trying to crawl back into the light and out of the well. The darkness is licking my feet – and it would be so easy to let go and fall back into the blackness that used to rule my world. But tonight, as I laid there and cried about my loneliness, and about my shitty day at work, I knew I wasn’t alone. Maybe I am clinging to the wall of the well, but I’m certainly not alone.

Which is something else I share with Book, I guess. Maybe I am on the wrong ship. Maybe my path isn’t what I thought it was. Maybe I’ve chosen the wrong career. But I am not alone as I battle. Which, let’s be honest, is pretty comforting. Almost as comforting as the wine.

Two choices, I suppose. Choice the first. Succumb to the lost feelings of the black. Let go of the wall, tumble into the well, trust that I can climb back out once my arms have rested. Choice the second. Trust that I’m exactly where I ought to be. Trust in my ability to  be strong enough to lift myself out of the well. And trust that, even with my misgivings, I am on the right path.

Shiny.

I’m going to go to Stettler tomorrow and be bad guys. (Well, not really bad guys. My best friend is pregnant and doesn’t really drink even if she’s not pregnant. And the rest of us are too old to get into *much* trouble). But I can’t end a blog post about Firefly and leave that line out.