On Hauntings and Awakenings

I’ve always imagined hauntings to be a great chain-rattling affair with dim-lighting and a heartbeat racing so fast it feels close to bursting. Hauntings are most often written as spooky, unsettling moments that drive main characters out into the street or tumbling off their balconies, succumbing to their insanity. But that’s not my haunting. And it has nothing to do with ghosts.

I was haunted by the word ‘awakening.’

Of course, I’d heard the word before in history classes and church services referencing the First Great Awakening and (to a lesser extent) the ones that followed. But it wasn’t until my senior year of high school as I held a glossy edition of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening that the word began to follow me.

Back then, the book’s major themes of marriage, feminism, motherhood, love, and adultery weren’t on my teenaged radar. I was busy battling mental health disorders that I couldn’t name or pinpoint at the time. I gobbled up The Awakening while hoping I’d be on the receiving end of my English teacher’s prediction that we’d experience our own awakenings while reading the book. Off the top of my head, I could tell you now that The Awakening is about some married woman (Edna Pontellier) who experiences a series of awakenings that disrupt her life. The book does not end well for her.

After we discussed the book in class, I left that day upset at Edna Pontellier. Upset that I had read the book. Upset that I had not experienced my own awakening as promised. Upset, I boarded the school bus home thinking about awakenings and the new word I had learned, epiphany; when I would have either of them, and everything that frustrated me in my life. I was too young to recognize that I was having my own awakening, my own epiphany, in that very moment. The Awakening followed me day after day until it was stripped down to its rattling bones, taunting me with what I longed to have. That was in 2002. Can you imagine being haunted by a single word for nearly two decades?*

I had many moments of brilliant realization over the years, but this past week, I had a true awakening. There was no sun breaking through the clouds to beam down providence on me. I didn’t feel as if I had been dragged upward from an ocean that I was drowning in. It was a thunderclap of anger. It disrupted my entire being, froze me mid-thought, and forced me to address the spidery cracks rooted through everything around me.

I’m still processing it. I have to sit with the radical shift that’s going to come of it and a lot of changes that I want as a result. But one major theme that’s come from this moment is the recognition that I deserve more—that we all deserve more—and it shouldn’t come at the expense of a person’s livelihood.

I don’t have much encouragement to offer. Like I said, I’m still processing that thunderclap that shook me out of the only comfortable skin I know. And I’d be lying to you if I offered you a way forward or any other advice right now. I don’t have it. Like many others, I’m figuring things out. One day at a time. Hoping it doesn’t take me a decade to get there.

What I Read:
The Girl with the Louding Voice
Abi Daré

Mikhayla Robinson

Twisted: The Tangled History of Black Hair Culture
Emma Dabiri

Umma’s Table
Graphic Novel
Yeon-sik Hong


*If you have anxiety and OCD/intrusive thoughts like me, I’m sure you can imagine the negative extreme of this. Ya know, that one word/phrase/memory from 1997 that keeps you up at night.

photo courtesy of Alex Conchillos on Pexels.com

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