On January 13, 2014 and a Monday to boot, I faced a demon I’ve had in my dreams and my life for over 5 years.
This was a spontaneous decision to go to this place on this day although I had wanted to do it for a long time. I faced the outside of the door, more than a little apprehensive on what my reception would be. Unannounced, with no appointment but a steeliness in my heart, my hand reached out and opened the door. My feet crossed the threshold.
I was back in the building where I spent 15 years of my life, giving it my all and then, when I left, felt like a failure. The first thing I noticed was the silence. This place was always full of noise when I worked there. The next thing I noticed was a face peering at me from the front desk; older and maybe even wiser. It took a minute for him to register who I was. He jumped and said my name with a bit of a shout, and had big smiles for me. I barely remembered what we talked about. We giggled a lot.
This wasn’t what I came here to do.
I asked the lovely receptionist (who was my work-husband on and off for 20 years) to see if the Executive Director was in and would he see me. As he made the phone call, I started to notice other things.
There were ghosts. Everywhere. I knew that the clients I’ve known here, loved and stuck my neck out for were mostly gone now. Their presence was obvious, though, almost like a breeze in some cases (Hi Marie, it sure is great to see you!) to waves crashing from an ocean to a shore; strong, really loud and hard to ignore (Well, looky you! WELL THERE YOU ARE!! I knew you would come back. Why did you leave? Why. Did. You. Leave. Us?)
I wasn’t sure this was a good idea anymore. What was I expecting? It’s been a very long time since my sudden departure. I waited at the front and saw a former staff member, one of my favourites. I shouted her name and she turned around peering at me too. The smile on her face was huge, the hug she gave me was huge and my heart was huge just seeing her again. We only had a moment to chat before the E.D. came out.
His face was all lit up, grinning from ear to ear, obviously glad to see me. I was so happy to see that grin. At least he didn’t have a lawyer with him. 🙂 We made our way to his office, ghosts still clamouring for my attention.
Some of the ghosts? There was “Bill” who came to see me everyday no matter what. Actually there were a lot of “Bills'”. And “Tim” who nobody seemed to like and he scared them because he was a bit crazy but I could see who he was back then, a frightened, rejected man for most of his life. He would visit and I tried to get him to be a bit more sociable. Sometimes it worked and lots of times it didn’t.
All through the halls, they spoke to me.
We arrived at the E.D.’s office and I sat in the familiar seat. He was very animated and very glad to see me which he told me over and over. I was feeling a lump in my throat. I had to get the words out.
I explained I was here because I needed to say something about when I left so many years ago. I wanted him to know how bad I felt about what I put him and the staff through, especially the last 6 months I was there. I realize now how ill I had been and that there was no choice but to leave. I didn’t hold anything against him or the organization. It was a huge part of my life and who I was. Unfortunately it was too huge to bear. I couldn’t save everyone.
I also told him how much better I felt mentally. My life is still a bit off-balance but I am now progressing rather than going backwards or stagnant. I also told him how often I dreamt of this place (almost every night). He wanted to know if it was good or bad dreams and I admitted to both, mostly bad.
He was so shocked that I, or anyone for that matter, would come in and say these things. He also said that an apology was never needed nor did he ever harbour bad feelings towards me. He could see my strength and I could feel it too. He thought I was brave! HA!
He explained how it had been for him and the rest of the staff:
He told me I had been such a fixture there, the staff and clients all felt a strong connection to me and could see me struggling every day. It was awful for all to watch and he had no idea how to explain to me what was going on and what they were seeing. Me, who could not see anything at all wrong with the way things were and it seemed pretty hopeless to get me to understand that things were not right. He ended up putting my health first and making me go on disability.
He didn’t know what a nightmare it was for me after I left.
Now, watching his face and laughing with him and listening to the funny voices he still did that always made me laugh so much, I knew that this part of my life has some closure.
He escorted me to the clinic where I found some more long-lost staff and we hugged and told stories. Most of the staff I knew were no longer working there but, to the people who still did, I showed off pictures of my granddaughter, my dad and my kids. They were all so amazed at my Carly and how beautiful and grown up she has become. I was treated like much-loved and sorely missed royalty. They were eager to hear about what’s going on in my life and what’s in store for me next. I felt so…special.
The ghosts were following me to the door, waving goodbye.
I stood outside those front doors for a minute wondering if they would follow me. They stayed on the other side. But they will have a better, less guilty place in my heart.