This year, someone took Halloween too far. There I was at a late-night pilates class in a pavilion in the middle of a village rec only accessible by path – gorgeous when stretching and looking out of the glass-fronted facade over the grass and the trees outside.
Trick or treating happened for our kids for the first time ever, we then got them into bed, I drove off to pilates as my husband went off to play footie and the babysitter arrived. I walked the dusky path through the rec to the pavilion. Then towards the end of the class – nearing 10pm, some fully grown man with a gruesome clown mask on banged himself into the glass facade of the pavilion, and edged himself slowly towards the glass door.
It was an incredibly terrifying experience. But I am so proud of the group of mums I was with who found the keys, the teacher managing to lock the door, her hands shaking, as he slowly made his way towards us – in our full view. Then as he walked away our amazing amazing teacher wisely decided to proceed with the class. “No-one gets in the way of us toning our thighs, ladies!”
So with everyone shaking, and with me having called Jan to divert him from footie to walk us back down the path, the evening only ended after everyone got back down on their mats, toned their thighs, shaking from head to toe but having calmly completing the class and not surrendering to fear.
Surrendering to fear…
I’ve never been a massive Halloween fan, not particularly because of being a Christian, just because I’m not into spooky things and culturally it’s just not a holiday I’ve ever fancied celebrating. We went to a Light Party at church this weekend but on actual Halloween night, after consulting wise buddies I love and respect, I accepted the kid’s request to trick or treat along our lovely road and joined in the fun.
It’s all cool, you know. Harmless fun. It’s a great occasion to bring neighbours together and the kids had a blast going up the road getting a years supply of sweeties, and I had some giggles with neighbourhood parents along the way.
And then that one guy, that stupid fully grown guy who is a grown up and really should have known better, body-slams himself into the glass facade of the pavilion to knowingly violate and terrorise the evening of mums doing pilates… a normal man with a gruesome clown mask on, on Halloween night.
Most people manage to have innocent fun, and do it responsibly. But it just made me thing about the crux of what we’re supposed to be celebrating. The thing is, there’s a lot to be afraid of in life. There is a lot I am very, very afraid of. Things in the past, bereavement, loss, suffering, then my job reporting on war crimes, crimes against humanity, seeing them unfold and documenting them as a journalist. The agony of an unjust world. Sexual slavery, bonded slavery, slavery.
Refugee kids flee war and shunned from civilised countries which should rush forward to protect them. They are left in the cold as the temporary accommodation they cobbled together for themselves, in a shit heap in Calais, is set on fire and they face armed police and a no chance of a safe place to sleep this very night. This is no fantasy. It’s real life.
Climate change, as we exploit our natural world and deplete our natural resources so much that we condemn our children to a land which cannot provide for them. The real world is so desperately frightening that if you bothered to find out what was really going on in the lives and on that land within a 5 mile radius of your house, you’d never sleep.
All this terror is real. And we fabricate this night to dress up as fictional things to sugar coat this crazy soft version of all this scary real shit that is going on under our noses, fuelled by our ignorance and greed?
So when that guy body-slams against the glass of a pavilion and tries to terrorise my pilates class, and the strong mums inside decided to carry on and get back down on their mats and tone their thighs in defiance, I made a decision.
I’m done with being scared. Screw that stupid clown guy. Yey to the strong mums who were shaking inside but didn’t give in to their fear and continued the class. You know, I’m tired of being I scared about life and about the future of humanity. People are so stupid and the way we live and treat each other and animals and the living world is so unconscionable that we are condemning ourselves to death through our own ignorance.
But to live in fear? I can’t do it anymore.
So what’s the opposite? Today I’ve realised it. It’s what my vicar said at church on Sunday. It’s about joy.
I feel genuine joy that I am surrounded by wise friends who I can chew over life decisions with. I acknowledge this as a huge blessing and am joyful. And I’m so full of joy that when I was in that pavilion with the stupid clown guy outside I saw the true beauty and strength of the women in the class. Other mums like me trying to strengthen their core muscles, and the irony was that they were being terrorised to their core by this clown and their core wasn’t shaken. We stood in solidarity together, we loved and protected each other, laughed and shook with fear for a little while, and then repaired each other and carried on defiant.
I feel joy that I have a husband I can call and who will come to me when I feel frightened, and in whose arms I can fall asleep. I feel such total and utter joy, gratitude and thanksgiving that my children know peace and security, who have food to eat and a safe place to lay their heads. I never ever want to take that for granted.
Death and despair already do a scarily good job of haunting our daily lives, hunting us down and dogging our footsteps until the end of time.
But even though Halloween seems to be all about ghouls and spooks, skeletons and pumpkins – scary but not too scary – nevertheless it can also be a lovely community activity. This year it truly was an occasion to bring our neighbourhood together, with kids and parents out in the street having fun and giggles together.
So next year, I’ve decided not to shy away from Halloween.
I’ll love and respect those who celebrate it however they choose. What will I do differently next year? Make it my own celebration. I don’t want to celebrate darkness. I just don’t. I want to make it an explicit celebration of all I love and hold dear. Dress the kids in light and hope. Drench them in celebration of what I love and hold dear. Light, love, life, hope, generosity, peace, friendship, gratitude and joy.