On Monday, I drove out to Northampton with my son and a new friend and her daughter. A and I had recently discovered a shared enjoyment of knitting, and since Noho has one of the biggest yarn stores around, I figured we could take a road trip with our kids during school vacation week. Despite it being a tough trip attention-wise for two 9-year-olds who aren’t crazy about sticks and string, we had a fun day.
But was a long day, and there was a two-hour return trip to push through on the Mass Pike. Even though we were both wiped out, conversation rambled easily from subject to subject. We somehow got on the subject of astrology — we call b.s. — and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which we’ve found to be very useful throughout our lives. I’m an INFP — introverted, intuitive, feeling, perceiving — or “The Healer.” It seems to me that INFPs are the most, shall we say, “woo-woo” of the 16 personality types, somewhat spiritual and otherworldly. Throughout my life, friends and strangers have claimed I’m an old soul; my English/Irish relatives say I’m fey and remind me that one of my Irish great-grandmothers had The Gift of Sight.
Now, anyone who knows me really well knows that I’m hardly the one to sit around gazing into crystal balls, and indeed, my husband would roll his eyes were he to read this and remind me that I’m nowhere close to figuring him out after 15 years together. But I do often sense things that most other people don’t notice, and in my routine life, it comes in pretty handy — from avoiding bad work situations to making new friends. When I started dating my husband-then-boyfriend, he showed me around his apartment where there was this one room downstairs that felt like it was cloaked in grief. I avoided that room while he lived there because the feeling was so oppressive. I simply mumbled something about the decor not being to my taste; “I sense dead people” isn’t a phrase that bodes well for a budding romance. Months later when we decided to move in together, he mentioned that his landlady might have a tough time renting the place out because the tenant before him had committed suicide.
“In that room downstairs,” I said.
Yup, that Woo-Woo Thing.
Another weird thing that happens to me, which I’d also mentioned to A during our drive, is that people like to tell me their secrets. I often feel like the village priest, which amuses me because I’m also a professional writer, and you know writers … they’ll sell out their grandmothers for a couple lines of copy. Sometimes I get very inappropriate confessions, like the one from a new neighbor who told me within five minutes of meeting that she was battling a very itchy yeast infection. Most times, though, people tell me wild and amazing things, usually unprompted.
This trip was no exception. We’re about ten minutes away from her house, and A says, “We have a ghost.”
“You’re kidding,” I reply. I’m not sure where this came from or why it came up, because we’re not on the subject of paranormal phenomena. I glance in the rear view mirror at O, who looks back at me a little saucer-eyed. O won’t read Harry Potter and refuses to walk past those moaning skeletons in store aisles during Halloween season. Anything remotely spooky or mysterious scares him, ergo the wide eyes.
“We really do!” her daughter pipes up from behind me in the darkened backseat. Their television turns off and on by itself. They hear footsteps coming up the stairs at night. Pots and pans bang around and they’ve seen a glowing orb in the kitchen. I glance in the mirror again. O’s pale face reflects back at me. Crap.
“Oh, I don’t believe in ghosts,” I say authoritatively. But I’m lying. I do (sorta, kinda) believe in them. And I don’t believe in lying, either, except when it comes to preserving my son’s mental health. Do I really want to spend the next couple years checking closets for ghouls and assuring him that the creaks he hears at 2:30 a.m. aren’t from restless spirits? He just doesn’t want to Go There, and that’s okay with me, even if I have to fudge around with my true feelings on the matter.
Somehow, though, I furtively convey to my friend that I’m not exactly doubting her. So even though we’re all beat, she invites me inside to check things out and although I’m exhausted and asking myself, “Do I really want to chase ghosts tonight? I’ve got a bag full of new yarn in my trunk, a kid who needs his PlayStation, and a glass of wine with my name on it at home,” I’m out of that car like a shot, with assurances to O that I’ll be back in a few minutes.
A leads me all around the house, a late-model Colonial, and dear reader, I don’t feel a thing. Maybe it’s a little chilly, but it was also pretty cold on Monday night. Later on at home, I kept thinking about ghosts and pots and pans that move by themselves, and I idly wondered if a loud creak in our cozy Cape heralded the visit of an annoyed and restless spirit. Still, that part of myself that feels things remained unmoved.
Then it struck me last night. I used to be terrified and hyper-aware of things that couldn’t be explained by rational thought or science. Now I feel like, eh — big deal. You know what keeps me up at night? Events that can be explained away by cold facts: a world where a soldier can be walking on patrol with a buddy one minute, then bleed out from a sniper shot the next. Or your child is playing with a friend in the livingroom, runs into the bedroom to get a toy, and cracks his head so hard on the corner of a wall, he loses his vision for a few minutes. How can a ghost or poltergeist compare? I think they’ve lost their hold over me.
I realize this post is over the place, but I’m curious: do you have That Woo-Woo Thing? How do you use it? And what do you think of paranormal phenomena? Crazy stuff or a possibility?