Bats in Our Belfries

batsUp in the attic of our minds, floors sag under the weight of decades of dreams and disappointments. Tables splay and cant. Trunks split, spewing their viscera across the floor. Each night our gremlins scrabble up the stairs and squabble over the favored delicacies of hope and guilty regret. They gorge themselves and when replete, drag their bloated bellies back down the stairs. Bilious, they prance and shriek until they rip us from our quiet sleep into half-remembered nightmares.

Isn’t it time you take your journey seriously and do whatever’s necessary to banish those rude monsters? If you’re ready, come with me up the stairs to that attic. Roll up your sleeves, tie back your hair. Mind cleaning is hard work, and you’re gonna’ get dirty. Start by smashing that phonograph that continuously plays the discordant melodies of your bad choices, the ones that keep you from loving yourself. Check out that coil of guilt kicked into the corner. Gremlins crave guilt like junkies a fix. Heave it out the window.

Over on that old dressing table–yeah, the one you had as a teenager–there’s a pretty little charm bracelet. See it? Every gaily dangling charm is a shard from a shattered dream. How often have you picked up that bracelet and fingered each charm like it was a rosary bead, driving yourself deeper into the dark place you no longer wish to dwell? Trash it. Smash it. Throw it.  Out. Out. Out.

Continue from room to room. Search and destroy. Collect and eject. Leave no disappointment unturned, no regret unchallenged.

Wondering what’ll become of your nasty little tormentors when the job’s done? Let’s try to picture the scene. Slavering for their usual feast, the creatures elbow each other aside and charge up the stairs. They jerk open the door and find–what? Once sagging tables now stand straight and bare. Sunlight from a clean window bathes the room. Hollow trunks sneer at the intruders.

“Burgled,” they shriek. “Our supper’s scuttled.”

The creatures yowl and kick trunk lids until the truth oozes into their tiny lizard brains. The diner is closed. “What the hell!” they wail and scuttle down to the street.

Now that your work is done, come out on the porch with me. Sit in a rocking chair. Let your mind relax and wander with mine back up the stairs to the attic. Together we push the door open and gentle memories swirl around us in the fresh clear air. Faces of our loved ones float so close we reach out and touch them. Listen. They’re singing. We join them in perfect-pitch harmony as our arms wrap tightly around them, and we dance in the sunlight together.


  1. Phyllis says

    The Eastern cultures have symbolic cleansings from hanging their worries, troubles, fears, etc. on a tree outside their temples to let the breeze take them away. Other cultures burn them for the smoke to take away. I think we are the only culture that likes to hang on to them, when we should, in fact, “let them go.” Nice reminder, thanks!

  2. Theresa says

    What a deeply beautiful post. This reminds me a bit of a scene from a movie, Labyrinth, where there’s a crazy hoarder lady in a trash dump, piling “precious” possessions onto the heroine as a way to keep her distracted from her quest. So it is with us real people sometimes, I think. We cling to that stuff in the attic to distract ourselves from the work that needs to be done right now. Thanks for the powerful reminder. In the movie, the heroine makes friends with the gremlins, though. Perhaps we can turn ours into story fodder?

  3. Susan says

    This is SO my THING! I purge at least once annually as a result of the first freedom I experienced moving into a smaller home and needing to start what seemed like agony. But no, the lightness that came with letting go was exhilarating. Family heirlooms held a heavy load of energy, which I did not feel was mine. And it wasn’t. Your description, Ann, is so rich and compelling, who could doubt the value of this action?

  4. Grampa Crazi says

    I agree,,,,,,,,keep the good,leave the bad,get over yourself,get on with your life,,,
    still,those grimlins cain’t resist this,,,,,,,,,,,,”new day, new habits”,,,,I don’t have any bad memories from my past,,only pictures of me being stupid and too self involved,,,but I expected that,,I’m praying to get better,,,its important how we FINISH !,,,grimlin fodder be damed,,,tomorrow we all get another chance ,,,,,,,,hand me the dice.,,,,,,thems some beautiful words Anne,,I think theres a folk song there somewhere,you gittin sleek ,and slick,and tho the brain is not a muscle,,,it do get stronger with use,,,,,,,,,sometimes.

  5. Loraie says

    Being an old Geezer myself, I agree. Time to de-clutter!! Don’t need most of those gadgets in my kitchen or my knick-knacks that just collect dust and cat hair! Now that I have time, I’m going through my “stuff” and getting rid of the things I bought at the time that I just had to have– like the salad spinner, and the monkey soft boiled egg holder thingy. I don’t have the luxury of an attic but storage room same thing, bye-bye. It’s been two years and don’t miss anything. Oh well, maybe my piano snowman who sings and my Santa who dances. Ah heck who am I kidding?? Love you – Keep up the good work.

  6. Lynne Billings says

    When I moved from “the big house” to my smaller retirement house, I got rid of everything but what was fitting for the new place. Family, friends, garage sales, and donations were perfect for unloading the huge amount of unwanted items. The day I moved I also left behind all the memories I didn’t want to keep. It is a new day each day with no regrets! Love your writing.

  7. Roxanne says

    Ann, I love this format! The quote at the beginning followed by your lovely and expressive prose is wonderful. I also like your use of metaphors, especially “fingered each charm as if it were a rosary bead,” We can be selective about what we allow into our lives and just as importantly, what we don’t. Thanks for the great reminder.

  8. David says

    I wish I could 86 those gremlins from my dreams. 8 1/2 years retired and i am still breaking glasses in the ice, unable to add up a check, forget how to make a drink! Well reasoned essay. Thanks.

  9. Julaina says

    I should paste your words in every room of my house to remind me to throw away the clutter. Ann, you are an inspiration. You touched me deeply on this one. Thank you.

  10. Sally Kimball says

    Your story is wonderful and very inspiring. Great confirmation of what I’ve done the last 3 years. Keep writing those wonderful stories. Can’t wait to read more.

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