Andddd… we’re back for another week of LJ Idol! This week’s topic is “In Another Castle”. Not being a fiction writer I wasn’t sure at first where I’d go with this. A few people got me brainstorming some ideas and I’ve decided to write about one of my FAVORITE topics…the paranormal. So without further ado, below is my take on this week’s topic.

(and remember to look for the link to vote on Tuesday!)

– M


It was a warm, breezy fall evening like any other in my hometown of Bradenton, Florida. My neighborhood best friend and I were doing what we had done on many a school night; sitting in the front yard of my home and chatting about boys. The darkness was starting to set in and soon it’d be time to go inside and get ready for the following day. I glanced somewhat nervously in the direction of my back yard.

I had always felt a little apprehensive about going back there at night. I didn’t have any clear reason to be apprehensive but I always felt as if I wasn’t alone.  On this night my apprehension would be replaced by pure terror.

I expected to see the pitch blackness deep in the back of the yard. The yard was filled with large shade-filling trees that rarely let light in. I didn’t expect, however, to see a white figure moving in our direction. I can only describe the figure as a contained mist. It was loosely in the shape of a person but there were no clear distinct features and no sound came from the figure’s movement.

I must have stopped mid-sentence because my friend turned to look in the direction I was facing. Her exact words were “Wha-what is THAT?!” Knowing that I was not the only one seeing the figure sealed the deal. I jumped up and said “I don’t know, but I’m not sticking around to find out!” I made a beeline for the front door with my girlfriend hot on my heels. We stopped before going inside and looked at each other and I asked her, “Did we really just see that?”. She responded with an urgent “Yes!” and we bolted inside. I locked the door and immediately ran to the french doors that lead to the back yard and locked them as well.

I wasn’t sure what we had seen, all that I knew is that I was shaking from fear.  Up to this point in my life I had no interest in the paranormal. I had no reason to believe that there’d be a ‘ghost’ in my yard. I had always figured that my uneasiness with the back yard was due to my fear of the dark, which still, to an extent, exists today.

My girlfriend recounted to me what she had seen and it was most certainly the same thing that I had witnessed. My mother was in the shower when we ran inside so we sat quietly in the living room waiting for her to come out. I’m fairly certain that she told me we were being silly as we told her the story and told me to get ready for bed.

The following day at school I confided the experience to a couple of friends. One of my classmates overheard and said that he believed we were seeing spots because a car must have driven by and the headlights blinded us. At that point in time I would have liked to believe nothing more. Unfortunately there were no cars driving by at the time and our back yard backed up to a creek… not a road.

My childhood best friend lived just two houses down from me. We could see one another’s back yard from our own. There were no dividers and no fences. About a week or two after my experience my friend said to me “Were you in your back yard late last night?” She didn’t know that I was terribly afraid of being in the back yard at night (I was too embarrassed to tell anyone I was afraid of the dark back then). I explained that I wasn’t and she got a confused look on her face. She told me that she had been in the back yard with her boyfriend late the night before and had seen what she thought was me walking around in a white night gown. I told her she must have been mistaken and she said that she was so sure she had seen me that they had even called my name but that “I” hadn’t responded. This was a huge validation for me.

To this day, even after I’ve learned and experienced so many different things, I cannot say exactly what we saw that night. I have since learned that my mother had a stepsister who died of a flu-like virus (Hong Kong flu) when she was only 12 years old. She had frequently stayed the night in the house that I grew up in but had lived (and died) in a house on the next street over. Coincidence? Possibly. Uncanny? Definitely.

That was my first experience with the “paranormal” and it has never left me. From that moment on, I knew that I wanted to find an explanation for what I had seen… be it supernatural, scientific or natural. Over the 21 years that have passed since that first experience I’ve encountered many more unexplained events that have led me to be a firm belief that we are not alone in this world. I’ll never stop looking for the next experience. Will it be in a cemetery? Probably not. Will it be in an old abandoned building? You never know. Will I be prepared when it happens? Definitely not… but I can’t wait.


One Step at a Time

I managed to survive the first week of the LJ IDOL writing competition! This week’s prompt is “The Missing Stair”. Below is my interpretation. If you enjoy, please consider checking back on Tuesday when I post a link to vote for me in the comment section. Thank you for reading!  – M

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In my, not so humble, opinion I feel that society is on a steady decline. We are a society of judgments, hateful remarks, ‘brutal honesty”, and the neverending need to be ‘better’ than someone else. We laugh at others mistakes, we extort others faults and the term ‘bullying’ is as prevalent in our vocabulary as the word potato (probably even more so). We tend to let others opinions on politics, religion, lifestyle that are different than ours to dictate the type of person that they are in our minds and determine whether or not we’d like to allow them into our lives. People are no longer thought of as human beings…they are labels created by very small stereotypical parts of their personalities.

If you are like me, you want no part in being a part of a society of that nature.

Self-reflection can be one of the most difficult and life-changing experiences that we can/will go through. At times, it is unavoidable but it is the times that we choose to become more aware that we will truly see the benefit. It’s also the first step in finding true happiness and contentment in your life.

“I know who I am.”

“I know what I like.”

“I don’t need to reflect to know about myself, I’m who I am and that’s that!”

“I’m not being judgmental or hateful… it’s just my opinion. So what?”

I certainly was (and still, on occasion, am) someone who thought I knew myself inside and out. I liked what I liked. I had opinions/judgments on topics and people that came naturally so why would I even consider researching where these ideas came from?

The reason is that I started to see how I wasn’t much different from the societal norm. I couldn’t figure out why I felt the need to remark on someone’s appearance or behavior when it was less than a positive response. I couldn’t understand why I was letting other’s choices create negativity, stress, disdain and anger in my life when their choices honestly had no effect on me personally. It was then that I realized, if you are not part of the ‘solution’ then you are most likely part of the problem. I don’t want to be the societal norm..and I certainly don’t want to be a problem, do you?

It was around this time that I began to study Buddhism. I submerged myself in books about finding true happiness and understanding the workings of the mind. I listened to Eckhardt Tolle describe the ego. I took in teachings from the local Kadampa temple. I learned so much about self-reflection and understanding why my thoughts were going in the direction that they were.  It is quite a liberating experience to be able to step back and look at your thoughts as impermanent rather than defining fact.

Stepping out of your comfort zone is difficult. Considering the idea that you may be on equal ground with others that are different than you, may make you feel vulnerable. Is feeling vulnerable for a short time a worse feeling than the feelings of stress, anger, resentment or critical judgments? I don’t think so. We all have felt these emotions at one point or another… and some of us feel them on a daily basis. The natural and easiest response is for us to blame others for these feelings being stirred up within ourselves. Is it really another person’s fault that you feel a certain way? Truth be told, no. This is where self-reflection can change your life. It certainly has mine.

For example, we all know someone who will take a photo or post a meme of a stranger who they feel is not dressed appropriately for their body type. This sets off a long “discussion” of insults… each person trying to come up with a better insult for the person in the image. As a poster or participant in the conversation… what could the tangible reason be for saying or posting hate-fueled material? What has the stranger in this image done that was so deserving of your negative reaction. YOU do not know the stranger’s circumstances. YOU assume he/she chose their attire because he/she felt it was attractive. YOU do not find it attractive. It would seem the person with the actual problem in the matter is YOU.

Anytime that you realize you are feeling a negative emotion toward someone else for ANY reason, step back and consider why you are feeling that emotion. More often than not, you will find that you have no real tangible reason to feel the negativity toward the other person.

Can you imagine how many of today’s societal problems could be solved if more people examined themselves before acting upon their instinctual emotions?

I am far from perfect and I still have my moments when I forget to stop and reflect before acting but they have become much less frequent. Social media (Facebook in particular for me) is a breeding ground for negativity. It is easy to get sucked into a conversation about a current event, celebrity, “friend’s” behavior, etc. and find yourself expressing judgments, hateful insults, self-righteous banter, etc.  If you notice that you often find yourself in the middle of a debate, feeling frustrated with other people, especially people you don’t know personally, it may be time to ask yourself why you are putting yourself through those emotions. A few things that I’ve found helped me on Facebook are:

– Blocking certain people from my News Feed. I do not necessarily want to not be friends with them but their posts often leave me feeling less than happy.

– Removing Celebrity Gossip pages

– Removing local and national News pages (you can still be in the know by watching the news or reading the newspaper online. Avoid the comment threads!)

– Removing pages created solely to mock or evoke negativity. A perfect example of this is People of Walmart. Some pages are harder to recognize as negativity breeding grounds. Gawker, for example, is a ‘news’ site, however it is put together as editorial matter based on opinion. I found the writers to be very negative in their views..even when I tended to agree with their basic points. Basically, if a page makes you laugh at someone (who isn’t a comedian), feel angry, frustrated, irritated, etc. remove it. Learn your tolerance points!

– Following pages that post motivational and inspirational stories, news, etc. 
A GREAT one is The Optimism Revolution!

– Remembering that each and every one of us wants the same thing in life… to be happy! We are on this journey together, though on different paths and at different distances. No one received a rulebook straight out of the womb and each one of us has to make the rules for ourselves as we go. Show compassion to those who seem to have run into a roadblock… don’t worsen their conditions with negativity.

Becoming fully aware of oneself is like climbing a seemingly neverending staircase toward the well lit “PURE HAPPINESS” door at the top. Each day offers you an opportunity for a new stair to take one step closer to the door. Have you taken your first step or are you still missing the stair?