Monday, March 28, 2016

Breaking Mirrors or Inviting Darkness

Breaking Mirrors or Inviting Darkness
I don’t recall breaking a mirror, but something seemed to have ushered in a seven-year period of bad luck for me.  During the timeframe roughly between 2006 and 2013, my soul took a journey into darkness. Bad tidings led me to adopt an over-riding sense of negativity. I lost faith.
In myself.
In the world around me.
And in my lifelong perception that people are generally good.
I lost my way.
Always an avid reader, I could no longer read any book through to the end. Fiction could no longer provide an escape from a reality that grew increasingly uncomfortable...unacceptable...unlivable. Nonfiction -- self-help, theology, philosophy -- failed to fill the ever-widening hole opening up at my feet.
I wasn't suicidal, but I did feel as though I'd lost my purpose. And without purpose, I couldn't help but question how I might ever find a way to, if not move forward, at least trundle on.
My natural inclination to believe that goodness can always triumph over evil faded by degrees, month over month, year over year. Horror became my genre of choice. I started to make headway in publishing horror-themed poetry, and to believe that I'd found a new way, a new purpose.
Certainly, my foray to the dark side did not cause all the dark happenings in my life over that time period. But it did invite more darkness in. Of that, I'm convinced. I could feel the darkness closing around me. It invaded my dreams, giving me nightmares that had me howling my way out of sleep. Or it had me lying awake at night, cuing in to a knocking sound under my bed, one that hadn’t always been there, but that came into being during this seven-year cycle, and then grew in persistence.
At first I figured the knocking was a result of movement on the mattress … air blowing from the furnace … the air conditioner. But it was consistent, summer and winter, and whether I was laying still or thrashing about.
My obsession with paranormal "reality" shows led me to consider the nightly knocking might be a warning, the first physical sign of demonic activity accepting my unintended invitation.
I put a dream catcher on one side of the bed and a rosary on the other. I started a nightly ritual of Hail Marys and general prayer. I tried to invoke the “saints” of my lifetime, John Paul II and Mother Teresa, without really knowing how to call upon any saint at all. Raised Lutheran, I’d converted to Catholicism years ago, but then lost faith in religion in general, when I’d grown unable to look past the very human flaws in religious leaders I’d been looking to for guidance.
Near the end of 2012, I decided the world was leaving me behind. I felt I needed to prepare to be left behind completely. And so I decided to wrap up my writings -- at least those that could be brought to closure, in two little packages: a book of general poetry and a smaller book of dark poetry. I self-published both in December of 2012, dubbing the dark book as “apocalyptic poetry" to align with the culmination of the Mayan calendar and prophecies so prevalent in popular culture at that time.
Just before finalizing the file and releasing it for public perusal, I added a closing poem about rising from the ashes. I suppose I was looking for a way to lift myself from the pile of ashes my life seemed to have become.
I stopped writing poems of horror. I focused exclusively on writing stories about family, hope, faith, and brotherhood. I'd returned to my good versus evil roots, but put the ownership of the goodness on real, non-magical, human characters. I focused on people who did not need super powers to do what had to be done. They needed only a strong sense of right and wrong.
The darkness didn't lift right away. I hadn’t really expected it to, though, of course, I’d hoped that it might. Nor was I discouraged by the fact that my "seven years of bad luck" culminated between 2012 and 2013, rather than being eradicated, with four deaths … four funerals … four eulogies.
Four goodbyes.
Somewhere along the way, I also said goodbye to the darkness.
In January of 2014, my luck began to turn. There was no dramatic shift, no grand parting of the clouds. Just a gradual lifting.
I found purpose again. The nightmares stopped. The knocking sounds went silent.
And then, in the summer of 2015, I bore witness to a miracle, when my next-door neighbor survived and subsequently recovered from a traumatic brain injury. He came out of it both physically and mentally intact, defying all medical expectations. During the darkest of nights, first when mere survival was thought to be impossible, and then when the family was told to prepare to find him to be a very different person after a long and challenging recovery, his wife never once lost her way or her faith. She never invited darkness in. She clung to the light. And her husband was returned to her, quicker than anyone could have imagined, and whole.
And my own, personal experiences were validated.
For many years I’d spoken of my own brushes with miracles, most notably the one that spared me from the toxins of a ruptured appendix … the car accident that totaled my vehicle and yet left me unharmed …, and the small group of potential witnesses who – I remain convinced – enabled me to have a chance encounter with a serial killer without falling victim to him.
During my seven years of bad luck, I’d let go of those stories to zero in on horror, instead.
Fortunately, I was not completely blinded by the dark path I’d begun following. I suppose I had not totally turned away from the light, and I allowed it to show me the way ahead, both the wrong one and the right one. And then, after stepping back onto the right path, I found validation in my neighbor’s miracle.
Today, my life is far from perfect. It is not all roses and sunshine, and I continue to pray for small doses of heavenly intervention. I still have my share of clouds hovering above me. But I am not blind to the sun shining through. And the more I look for that sun, the more visible it becomes. 
I still believe in the powers of good and evil. I am confident in the existence of angels and demons; I know they are out there, protecting us, enfolding us, and seeking to lure us to the darkness. But we are the masters of our own destinies. It is up to me to find my path, and then to stick with it, brambles and all. It is up to me to lend strength to the light. 
On my path, there will be no more inviting darkness.

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