Campfire Stories

Good ghost stories begin at a campfire; try to prove me wrong. When I was a kid, my father, brother, and I would venture off into the wilderness of Kentucky’s sprawling forests for days on end. We weathered bitter cold and scalding heat. We forded rivers and climbed rocky precipices, but at the end of the day, there was always a campfire. At times, we dug out our own fire pit; other times, our campground had already been worn and established previously by some other anonymous campers, linked almost spiritually to us by the left behind campfire that they had sat around.

When everything settled down for the day, we would boil ramen in canteen cups over the beds of breathless coals. My dad would lean forward, perched on a fallen tree or convenient rock, and begin to weave his tales. He would reach up toward the stars, gesticulating with eyebrows rising and falling with the action. Shadows danced on his face as legends of heroes, monsters, triumph, and mysterium fell from his silver tongue, and even once the story had reached “the end,” the contents would still be swirling in my head as we wrapped ourselves in our sleeping bags for the night.

I value those moments, those memories, more than most people know. My love for stories and how they evolve was born around bonfires, but I never assumed the ghosts in my stories would be me.

I found myself sitting around another fire not too long ago after receiving an invitation from a friend of mine. The group comprised of some of my closest confidants and I sat outside, around a fire pit as we drank and exchanged pleasantries. We had gathered for no special occasion other than the desire for each other’s company, and folks chatted across the flames to one another before we settled into a little social, get-to-know-you kind of game.

Essentially, a topic would be raised like “What is something that you feel like you have in common with each person here?” and the speaker would answer the question one by one. We are a lovely bunch, if I do say so myself, and these unprovoked acts of love bombing are common. This particular bout hit me sideways, though.

See, it is worth mentioning now that I am recently divorced, and being a twenty-something year old divorcee isn’t exactly how I anticipated labeling myself at this point in time. It is an event that left me with a emotional cocktail of doubt, distrust, fear, anxiety, anger, and alienation. Emotions like these come in waves at times when I least expect them to hit me, and as I sat around that fire, surrounded by pillars of love and affection, that alienation struck me hard. Most in our group are married couples, and since my separation from my ex, I have felt an acute rift between myself and my married friends.

It is in this way that I feel like a ghost most of all. I often feel like I have been forcibly expelled from some exclusive club and exiled to a party of one, only able to look into what I previously had through a veil of foggy isolation. It hurts. It’s not fun, and while some in my circle of peers praise me for my leaps in healing and self-help, I often feel like little more than a fraud, cast on the wayside like a spent cigarette butt. My friends would obviously beg to differ, but no amount of consolation really feels like enough to really justify not feeling so perpetually ghostly.

This is a common experience for people in the middle of a great loss or intense grief it seems. We feel like yesterday’s news, today’s burden, and tomorrow’s next salacious piece of drama. Despite all of that attention, we still remain feeling intensely unrecognized, and that is the ghost story that I want to address.

It is okay to be a ghost, if even for a little bit. No doubt, future posts will detail more of my situation and how I got to where I am, but that is not inherently the point of this blog. Whether you see these posts like exhibits at a zoo or a cautionary tale, my true intention is to shine light on the fact that there is a whole world full of ghosts. We pass by nearly without a trace. Sometimes we haunt particular places and people. Sometimes we feel like we are being haunted ourselves, but at the end of the day, our state exists from a feeling of business left undone.

Sometimes, the paranormal world that I live in seems so distant from the world that others dwell in. Others just seem to have their shit together in ways that I can only feign, and I have to constantly remind myself that everyone on this planet is just guessing at how to make their best life. Despite knowing this, I often find myself reminding my dumb-dumb brain that I am not so special that I could be universally the worst at this whole life thing.

The ghost story of my life is a strange one, despite being relatively unimpressive at best. Yes, most of my savings was blown on my ex’s desire to buy her “heart horse.” Yes, sometimes I’m too exhausted to do anything other than tearfully eat pizza in the shower. Sometimes, my story falls into tragedy. Every once in a blue moon, I get a victory that I can revel in. In light of all of this I, as your specter speaking to you from the other side, have this to say: It is all important, because the dramatics of a ghost story are vital to its efficacy. To all those who made you think that each second of every day was not a valuable commodity in the narrative exchange of your life, fuck ’em. They don’t understand that sometimes being a ghost is the most lively way to live.

Sitting around that campfire, feeling lonely and bizarre, I began to realize that their affection was not “othering” me. It was evoking me as a ghost. I was being channeled, summoned into the world of the living and forced to recognize the fact that I am different from them, and that is not a wholly terrible thing. It is an uncomfortable thing for sure, but not bad. They were attempting to reach beyond the pale and pull me into their seance.

To you, dear reader of my very first post, I want to say that despite how transparent you might feel at times, no matter how incorporeal or terrifying, the unfinished business that has lead to this state is not the unfinished business of the past but of all the opportunities of the future. They are yours to take; this is your story.

And to the friends who surround me in support, you consistently make this ghost feel a little less invisible every day.

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