By Julie E. Richardson

Photo by Steinar Engeland on Unsplash

I was scared of the dark as a child. The sense of unknowing that came with a dark room was too much for my little heart. I’d peek in my closet for monsters; look under my bed for ghouls. I still lay awake sometimes listening for the things that go bump in the night. Only now it isn’t the creatures of a 9-year-old’s active imagination that dart through my subconscious — it’s the real ghosts of living.

Heartache. Loss. Betrayal. Failure. Disappointment.

We don’t get to multiple decades of living without acquiring such ghosts. Sometimes they know their place and are content to exist as a piece of what made us who we are, but having been made peace with, they don’t control us. Other times they rage angry, taking up conflicted residence in our souls and refusing to be discounted. I don’t profess time or energy for such ghosts as these last ones. Still, they’re insistent. But what I’m learning, albeit slowly, is that it is possible to tame the ghosts so they don’t riot at will.

Photo by Alex Ronsdorf on Unsplash

As I wrestle with the ghosts of my first 40 years, here are two things working for me so that I can live more fully into the next 40:

1. Out those suckers. Ghosts like the dark. They know we’d rather they stay put instead of being on public display in our workplaces and social circles. So shine a little light on ’em. Call them what they are. No need to overshare here, if it isn’t appropriate to do so. You can name a ghost without giving it a parade. And it might be as simple as saying to a trusted person, “I am rebuilding my life following a bitter divorce, and I need your patience with me while I work through it.”

2. Make friends with them. Or at least call a truce. We all have regrets. Brokenness. Parts of ourselves we wish weren’t so. Not a one of us is perfect. But when we isolate the imperfections as something to be ashamed of as opposed to embracing them as part of — and not the entire whole of who we are, they lose their power over us. We are so much more than our missteps, our secrets, our dark memories. Owning who we are as our whole, beautiful selves means letting those ghosts of the past just be. Mostly, the trick is to not let the ghosts of what has been dominating the landscape of what might be. We’re stronger than they are, and so much more is possible beyond them.

Julie recently wrote a book  — you can see more about it here. Or read her blog here.