Wrestle with your ghosts

Photo by Elīna Arāja from Pexels

I woke up seeing ghosts this morning. Not the sitcom, but real-life versions of people who had passed on.

Ghosts are trendy.

Psychologists say:

“A full third of Americans believed that there were spirits or ghosts that made their presence known to people, and a one-fourth believed that certain people had mental or psychic powers to bend spoons and make objects move.”

The ghosts I see aren’t the paranormal kind. They are people who leave haunting memories, both good ones and some with horrifying results.

One was a teacher my daughter adored. She had a presence of joy that permeated her interactions with people and within her classroom. According to her partner’s post, she loved Jesus.

Another friend, we’ll call him Bill, succumbed to his demons by taking his own life. I’m not sure if he was a person of faith, and any dispute about where he is now is not the intention of discovery here.

His partner sent a message saying he struggled with depression and didn’t ever feel he was making a difference.

I’m frustrated, in awe, and a little bit angry. How did he just give up on life? How did he not know his work mattered to me? I thought I told him so in our conversations.

He was helping so many people.

How does a gifted man who re-engineered his own cure when doctors couldn’t help him take his own life?

Likely, we’ve all had bouts with depression, but the depression Bill was dealing with is of a deeper level than I can comprehend.

How dark does it have to be to claim one’s own life? I hope I never find out. I may have been close once. I wrote about those thoughts here. The next day people called and challenged me. One said, “You’d better call or text me in the middle of the night if you ever feel like that again.”

We need to know that the work we do matters. All this talk of not caring about what others think is valid to an extent, but possibly only if we know we make a difference to someone.

As much as the creator economy tells us to keep our heads down and not care what others think about us, it’s becoming clear that knowing that you matter is essential to your being.

If I had known of Bill’s struggles, I would have told him that he made a difference to me and his work matters.

If I had done this, would he still be alive?

We speak of reaching our true fans in the creator economy — and touching just one true fan.

The comment is demoralizing and honorable at the same time. We are faced with other questions:

  • Is one true fan enough?
  • Would it have been enough for Bill?
  • Do you need to know you matter?
  • We hope we matter but is hope enough?

We wonder how people will think about us after we die, but wouldn’t it be better if we asked these questions while we live?

Psychologist Bella DePaulo Ph.D. suggests these:

1. How important are you to others?
2. How much do others pay attention to you?
3. How much would you be missed if you went away?
4. How interested are others in what you have to say?
5. How much do other people depend on you?

It is support from friends, even more so than support from a spouse, family, or co-workers, that is most likely linked to the feeling that you matter.

This is true regardless of gender.

Leave a legacy that matters

Our legacy is what and who we leave behind. Better to consider the spouse, partner, or kids while we’re living.

Time travel with ghosts and make friends with them if you can.

Live with your ghosts during life so that you don’t leave others with spirits when you’re gone.

Time travel, not just forward to see what comes of your life, or backward to “fix” what you think needs fixing, but some of both. Dance with the ghosts of your present and your past to shape your future.

I’m convinced that ghosts travel with us throughout life, and they don’t have to be scary. When we bring them out of the dark recesses, they may even become friends we can have conversations with.

If people bring only toxicity to your life, you are free to leave them off so that they don’t poison the work you are meant to do. You must deal with their impact on your life.

You may have to revisit these spirits on occasion to keep them in proper perspective. Unfortunately, dealing with ghosts is not always a once-and-done interaction. They creep back up again from time to time.

Whether it’s someone like Bill or someone who has a positive influence, or someone who has hurt you terribly, there’s always a ghost in our past that travels with us. And when it’s not a person, our own insecurities — our thoughts and fears haunt us too.

What ghosts and fears are you traveling with today?

What will you do about them?