I loved Dickens’s A Christmas Carol when I was growing up. Not the book, oh no. I tried to read that, but couldn’t get into it. The film with Albert Finney and the children’s book were firm childhood favorites. I loved the power of the Ghost of Christmas Future, showing Scrooge what life would be if he didn’t change his ways. The vision inspired him to do exactly that, giving him the chance to change his life for the better. That was powerful!
I had seen my possible future at about thirty when my grandmother died of liver problems. At the time, I was almost resigned to the fact that this would be my fate. I thought I was unlikely to live as long as she did anyway. But the knowledge that alcohol killed my grandmother didn’t change my behavior.
Twelve years later, and the story of my life was somewhat different. At about six months sober, I took my son camping. I don’t remember the dates exactly, but I know it must have been after I stopped drinking.
We were camping in the campsite behind a pub, and I went to bed sober.
I woke early to practice yoga, enjoying the distant sound of the sea at my favorite beach, just half a mile away. After my practice, I sat outside the tent taking in the stillness, the views, and the gorgeous sea air.
I noticed a figure walking towards me through the campsite. We were the only people in the campsite, so this was odd. As the figure got closer, I noticed it was an old woman, stumbling slightly as she walked. She came to me and asked me if I had a cigarette I could share with her. I very proudly told her that I didn’t smoke anymore. She’d spent the night sleeping on a bench and didn’t know where she was going to go next. It was obvious that she was drunk, even at that early time in the morning. I was very concerned about her.
She turned down my offer of a cup of coffee and some food, telling me she was going to go in search of a cigarette. Given the early hour, I didn’t rate her chances, but there was nothing else I could do to help.
As she stumbled away again, I watched her. Within a few minutes, she was out of sight. It felt quite surreal to have had that conversation at that time of day, in the quiet coastal area I was in.
As she disappeared, I almost questioned if she had been real.
I know she was of course. But it felt very much like she had appeared as a message to me. I could see very clearly that this was my likely future, should I revert back to my old ways. Not immediately of course, but I saw myself so vividly in this sad, drunk, lost woman. In a very Dickensian way, she was the Ghost of My Possible Future.
We are often told by spiritual guides that everyone who comes into our life is a lesson for us to learn. I firmly believe even the most transient of meetings can teach us a valuable lesson. This woman had a big impact on me for some time to come. She was a bleak reminder of where my life would head if I didn’t maintain my sobriety and yoga practice. I had forgotten about her until yesterday. As I often do, I visited the beach again. For the first time in a long time, noticed tents in the pub campsite. I sent a silent prayer of gratitude to her. She had a bigger impact on my first year of sobriety than I appreciated at the time. I do hope she managed to find some peace in life.
Gratitude, lessons learned and appreciation of events often take place after the event. We tend to see with greater clarity in hindsight. If I met her a year earlier, I may have seen myself reflected back in a way that I would have found too uncomfortable. I might not have appreciated her so much. I am so glad that I was in a place in my life that I was able to look at this woman with compassion, and then gratitude.