I love turning pumpkins into Jack-o’-lanterns. I love going to the greenhouse down the street and picking out just the right pumpkin — it has to be symmetrically round and have some of the stem left. Even better if the stem is a bit twisted.
The fun part is deciding how it will look. I get an erasable marker and draw the triangles for eyes and the jagged mouth, then cut them out with a serrated knife. I love putting the candle in the scraped-out pumpkin, turning off the room lights and striking the match.
I love seeing the Jack-o’-lantern come alive and glow for the first time. What fun!
The only part I don’t enjoy is scooping out the sticky, stringy goo and scraping the inside lining clean. Something about the scraping part bothers me. Maybe it’s because I feel that way inside sometimes.
Often, I’ve felt like a scraped-out pumpkin.
There are those times when it feels like something or someone has taken a sharp edge to the lining of our soul. There’s an empty, dark space at our core. And our insides start to ooze, just like the inside of the pumpkin after it’s been cleaned out.
We ooze pain. We ooze self-doubt. We ooze sadness. Uncertainty. Fear. Insecurity. Clinginess. Depression. We ooze all sorts of things.
Can you identify?
There are those common, everyday, oozing aches that are part of being human. Our insecurities get in the way of giving and receiving love for the one-zillionth time. We get hurt. We feel alone. We lose sight of what makes each of us so marvelous and amazing in our own way.
And we ooze.
Also, there are other times that hollow us out in more significant ways. An illness strikes. A relationship ends. A job goes away. A family struggles. Someone dies. And on and on and on. Those times can really leave us feeling empty and dark inside.
A lot of people have tried to make sense of why life is so full of pain. I don‘t know about you, but I find the many explanations inadequate.
Truth is, we don’t really know why pain is such a part of life. It just is. But we do know from experience how it works and where it leads.
We also know from experience that when we get hollowed out, we’re left with an open space and a decision: Do we leave the space empty? Or do we fill the void with a candle and light it?
Do we stay dark, or do we choose to glow?
Now, this sounds very Hallmarkish, I know. But I also know that it happens to be true — painfully and terribly true. The most beautiful that I know — the ones who really glow — have been through some of the most unimaginable things.
And no, they didn’t choose any of it or want any of it to happen. Far from it. But they got through it and they healed. With the help of others who have also been scraped out, they learned how to stop oozing.
And in time, they learned how to glow. And they’re willing to help others do the same.
The hollowing out process creates an unexpected opening, a sacred space. We’re transformed in significant ways. And there is no going back. Once our goop has been scooped, it can’t be reattached. The hollowing-out process leads us to a new place.
And to a decision.
That dark, open space at our center — what will we do with it? Will we leave it that way? Or will we choose to do something else?
We can choose to place a big candle in our center, light it and glow.
Sometimes, we have to sit in our darkness for a while before we have the energy and courage to reach for the matchbook. But that’s OK. It’s part of a process.
It’s OK if our hand is still trembling as we strike the match. There are others offering a hand to steady ours as we light our candle.
And they take a step back to see how we glow, and they smile and say: Wow! I know that was rough, but I really love how you look now.