Thursday, November 1, 2018

Thanatophobia -Or, Random Thoughts from a Writer of Ghost Stories

 Thanatophobia: fear/phobia of death.

Today is the first day of November, and where I am sitting, the sky is gray and cloud-covered, the trees are somewhere between blazing with color, though a bit dulled by lack of sun, and being totally leafless. I'm grateful yesterday was sunny for the kids running around the neighborhood in their wildly colorful costumes, but by comparison, today looks very bleak.

And that's okay. For someone who writes about the paranormal, today is a treasure trove. It's the time of year when shorter hours of daylight and longer hours of darkness give rise to ideas about ghosts, feelings of uneasiness, and a general tendency toward the brooding mood of autumn sliding inevitably into winter.

This is also the time of year when mortality shoves itself into my face. Do you know that feeling? I write about being visited by the dead. There are times I wonder if, when I myself am among the dead, I'm going to go visit people who are still alive. Will I pop in to see how my grandkids are sleeping through the night? Will I visit my adult children to see how they're holding up with such grown-up concerns like mortgages, car payments, college costs, and retirement savings? I sometimes wonder if, when I'm on the other side of the veil, I will still be able to visit my beloved Door County or even have the ability to will myself to Ireland and Greece and other places around the globe I would love to revisit or see for the first time.

There are times I wonder if music will still matter to me, or if I will be able to pop into a movie theater and see the stories that are being filmed after I've stopped buying tickets and a bucket of popcorn. Someone very close to me passed on before the last Harry Potter movie hit the big screen, and I've often wondered if he didn't find his way into a theater to see how everything turned out.

And books! What magical stories will be delighting readers when I've stopped hitting my local library? As they say, So many books, so little time.

I suppose this particular posting must seem maudlin and depressing. It's not meant to be. When one spends a lot of time writing about the dead (and maybe how they died), one cannot help reflecting upon mortality and how much time is left to wander this planet while still alive and breathing.

I once read that all writers (quite a sweeping generalization, but I know it applies to me!) are hypochondriacs. Because that is true for me, I sometimes wonder if I don't have some kind of vile disease wending its way through one or more of my internal systems, looking for a place to lodge and fester and eventually choke the life out of my body. Since this does not seem to be happening, at least not yet, I continue to write my stories and try to find ways to reach out and entertain what readers I have. But every time I get a strange pain in my side, or a suspicious headache, or cramping sensations in my muscles, that little thrill of anxiety shoots through me even as the pain is already subsiding. I wouldn't say I'm totally terrified of death. I'm not, actually, although I admit I hope to die in a really peaceful way. So I don't think that I actually have true thanatophobia.

In the end, death itself doesn't worry me a great deal. But all the goodbyes? That's another story.

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