One need not be a Chamber — to be Haunted —
One need not be a House —
The Brain has Corridors — surpassing
Material Place —
Thomas Wolfe titled his popular autobiographical novel, You Can’t Go Home Again. And his phrase has entered popular speech as an axiom, a self-evident truth: you can’t go back and reclaim the dreams, “you can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood …. back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”
Oh, no? If only we couldn’t go home again, Tom Wolfe!
For me, the rank breath of insecurity, discouragement, frustration, anger — any of those unsettling emotions —-swiftly transports me “back home.” I have never left. Here time stands still, and the house is haunted, not by cute little Casper-like white poppets, but by — what? Gray clinging veils of — nothing at all, a swift motion glimpsed from the corner of an eye, perhaps. But it takes time, lots of it, and work, also lots of it (psychotherapy is neither instant nor easy, despite facile criticisms by those who don’t know) to recognize this place as what it is —
Childhood’s haunted house.
Once it’s recognized as such, I regain choice. Do I remain there, in what was? Or can I leave home yet again and return to my own chosen Home, the one I’ve spent so many years renovating as a place of sunlight, not shadow? Of space, not confinement? The choice is no contest. But the recognition that (pace Thomas Wolfe) once again I Have Gone Home Again has to precede it.
No wonder that many years ago, I was so struck by this passage in The Inner World of Choice, by Jungian analyst Frances Wickes, that I copied it into my commonplace book. It is her transcription of the dream of a five-year-old child:
“I dreamed that the world outside is all waves. Angels told me to die of my own accord. But God said, ‘Don’t do that.’ If you die of your own accord when angels tell you, you step out on the waves and don’t get anywhere. But if you die when God tells you, he takes you and cleans away all your ghosts, and you can walk out on the water and come back and live all over again.”
Tom Wolfe of course is the far greater writer; but for wisdom, I choose the five-year-old child who knew about childhood. And ghosts. As did that grownup child Emily Dickinson.