November 1, 2011

Trick or Treat, or How I Spent my Pagan New Years. ~ Valerie Mitchell

Linda Wood

I love Halloween.

It’s my favorite holiday by far, and not just because you get to dress up in a costume. I love its pagan roots, they make it interesting and fun and there’s no mention of Jesus anywhere.

I love Halloween so much that I got married on it 13 years ago.

That didn’t work out so well.

About a year ago we decided to split and the past year has been an agonizing wave of emotions. I love the guy, but we don’t fight well. In fact we fight like two warriors in the Thunderdome. To the death. And to the death is what we got.

This past year I’ve gone through all five stages of grief, I’ve gained weight, I’ve lost weight, I almost lost my job, I’ve cried, I’ve screamed, I’ve partied, I’ve sulked, I even went to a counselor. Twice! I let it all hang out. It was as exhausting as it was enlightening as it was heart breaking.

In the end I figure I spent the last year searching for answers to questions that only I knew the answer to. I was the dog chasing its tail. It made me dizzy and got me nowhere.

I felt that this past Halloween should have some significance and I should mark my moving on with some sort of ceremony. I had one 13 years ago when I started the marriage, figured I could have one this year to mark the end of it. Seemed even more perfect considering Halloween, or Samhain, is the pagan New Years. Out with the old, in with the new never felt so right!

I decided to write down all the things in my marriage I had viewed as negative or bad. Wrongs my ex did to me, things said, things broken, words spoken, feelings skewered. I wrote them all down on pieces of paper starting from the beginning of our marriage. Sadly, it was easier than I thought it was going to be as I quickly realized these were the basis of many of my stories over the years. I knew the wrongs so well because I focused on them so much. But it was time to move on, it was time to let go, it was time to forgive so I wrote down everything I needed to release, everything I needed to disown.

After writing down all of the bad stuff, I wrote down all of the things I like about myself. I tried to think of moments throughout my life when I felt proud of myself or when people said kind things about me. If I smiled when I thought of it, I wrote it down.

There I sat with two piles in front of me, one representing my past with pieces of paper with words of sadness and anger on them, words of pain and contempt. The other pile, about half the size, represented my future. I am my future. I am what I make of it at least. But I can’t build upon that pile of papers until I clear away the pile from my past. It was clear I was allowing the past’s negatives to squat on my future’s possibilities.

I carved two pumpkins, one had a heart cut out of it and the other one stayed intact, only its guts were removed. I took the gutted pumpkin out onto the balcony and I fired up a mini bonfire in it. In it I threw those pieces of paper from my past, forgiving my ex for his trespasses, relieving myself of the baggage, allowing myself the freedom to heal the deep wounds. My year of mourning was over!

In forgiving him, I forgave myself.

The pot of gold.

And man, let me tell you, mini bonfires in pumpkins are FUN!

So that’s how I spent my Halloween, or New Years, burning up the negative to make room for the positive. Knowing that from those ashes will come new life.

Going from trick to treat, from unlucky 13 to lucky 13, from old to new, from dead to living.

Happy New Years!





 Valerie Soraci grew up in a suburb of Chicago and left as soon as she could, vowing never to return. After studying philosophy in college, most specifically animal and minority ethics, she followed a boy out to Colorado and set down roots in Boulder. She’s been stuck here ever since. Now, with two kids under foot and some cats thrown into the mix, she’s setting out on a new chapter in her life as a single mom. Politics, animal and human rights, making art and having fun interest her as do finding ways to make positive change within and around herself.

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