It’s been a difficult year. The pandemic, changes on the home front, and some lingering orthopedic injuries have left me in a funk. My mental health hasn’t been all that swell for a while, and has been complicated by some poor choices I’ve made regarding food and alcohol, so I’ve been looking forward to Halloween, to dressing up, and to connecting with trick-or-treaters. With my background in costume design, it felt like October 31st would be a fine moment to reassert one of my proficiencies whilst scaring the bejesus out of the teenagers in San Francisco’s West Portal neighborhood, a true win/win.

Rituals and traditions help me feel grounded in my life, and anchor me to a sense of something sacred. It might seem strange that donning the disguise of a frightening harpy could assist me in feeling connected with my higher purpose, but it truly does. Halloween reminds me of some of the best parts of my childhood, and it helps me feel linked to my mother’s Irish kin and the traditions that came with them to America during the diaspora. The holiday also supports my sense of playfulness and experimentation. In these days where I am struggling so much, a chance to foster my creativity feels like a pathway to healing.

On Halloween, I carved my Jack-o-lantern late in the evening, after passing out almost a thousand pieces of candy. Although I typically try to make a scary face with jagged teeth and pagan horns, this year I had planned to sculpt a bit of goofy cheer into my squash. There’s just too much pain in my life right now for me to appreciate a frightening visage adorning my mantle. But, despite my best efforts, what I got was a pumpkin that looks sick, terrified, and overwhelmed. When I placed it in my living room and lit the candles, I could not stop giggling at my ridiculous creation, with its lolling tongue and Band-aid patched grimace. It perfectly encapsulates how I feel these days.

I’ve long had a sense of Halloween as a liminal holiday where the veil between the worlds is the thinest, a time when the subconscious can bubble up to the surface. It’s no wonder my Jack-o-lantern reflects my fears and worries back at me! Halloween is also portal to the dark months, a season when introspection can reign, if we let it. Neurodiverse individuals like me experience more anxiety and depression than neurotypicals, and many of us also must cope with the lingering effects of trauma related to our efforts to navigate NT spaces and cultures. I hope that these darkening days will give me the space to turn inward and recover, so I can continue to bring my weird sister gifts into this world.

For now, I will just have to sit with the fact that these are difficult days. I don’t want to delve into the details, although I will in the coming months. Instead, I will bake soul cakes and connect with the activities, people, and rituals that help me feel all that’s hallowed in this neurodivergent life

May you feel the sacredness of the season. Blessed be!