Ghosts, Magic and Love


I left my twelve-year marriage two years ago this week.  The decision was a long time coming, yet the final countdown involved a weekend at an abandoned haunted asylum hunting ghosts in the dark with a religious philosophy professor and his wife.   We found our way to a room where four people allegedly committed suicide, and the rest of the evening passed in lofty dialogue about metaphysical issues regarding life after death, Heidegger’s philosophy, long-term commitment (the professor and his wife were in their thirtieth year of marriage) and how exploring mysterious things like ghosts could be a transformative, contemplative endeavor.

Something about that dark evening unveiled more than academic discourse on the paranormal.  Of course, I longed for more events like this; opportunities for esoteric contemplation in strange spaces with educated folk.  This creative little moment in the suicide room was not about death. The evening showcased how beautiful inconsistencies can morph into living possibilities. I wanted to be a girl brave enough to emerge from this metaphorical darkness, from this site of death, to a space empowered by art, story, and philosophy. It was baffling that little odd conversations in creepy buildings carried such hopeful weight. I had heavy things on my mind — a decaying marriage, for example — and such magnitudes were pondered best in complete darkness with tragedy and philosophy as a soundtrack.

I came home from the haunted trek to a strong cup of joe at my local coffee house.  A type of exhaustion moved in my bones that weighed heavier than the lack of sleep.  I sat down to write a letter to a friend, a fellow ghost hunting professor and W.B. Yeats enthusiast, to unfurl my marriage dilemmas. (Yeats, the poet, held spirits in high esteem.)

"The Great Wheel" by Edmund Dulac from W.B. Yeats, A Vision.

“The Great Wheel” by Edmund Dulac from W.B. Yeats, A Vision.

I looked up above my table to see some artwork that had escaped prior notice.  On the wall hung an eerily similar image to something Yeats used in his esoteric work, The Vision. A tapestry hovered mere inches above my head and carried the inscription: Don’t Look Back Or You Will Petrify.  The friend to whom I wrote the letter had Yeats’s version tattooed on his upper arm. The synchronicity of this event and the fear of remaining petrified in my marriage thrust me out of my inertia.


Imaged designed by artist Woodie Anderson

I went home and sent an email to my husband three thousand miles away with a simple utterance: I can’t do this anymore.  I admit that ghosts, a dead poet and a tattooed professor played significant roles in my decision to leave. Mystical happenings dealt a hand, as well, yet a real abyss loomed that included no job, zero financial assets, and a lifetime weighted down with insecurities that made me feel flawed and unlovable.

I had no idea how I would make this life jump work. A friend said, “Don’t worry about it.” She seemed to have great faith in my journey, and she forwarded me her favorite Rumi saying: As you start to walk out on the way, the way appears.


Recently, I came across another woman who shared her story of love, loss and rebirth. “I got married wanting someone to witness life with me,” she said. I knew exactly what she meant. During the final drought days of marriage, I would lay in my bubble bath and cry myself dry. I felt invisible, as if no one recognized what I was becoming at the time: an emerging writer who was building faith in her own story. But there was the ghost hunting professor. I felt I could unfurl with him, and he became one of my most significant life witnesses. I just wanted someone to see me, and he did.

The woman at the party revealed that she used to lie beside her ex-husband and cry herself to sleep. “By then,” she continued, ”I had realized that having a life witness wasn’t enough. I wanted someone who could dream a life with me. Once I realized that, I understood that the moment you know certain things about yourself, these are things you can’t just un-know.”

Martial lonesomeness can be the most caustic form of solitude, and revelatory freedom emerged when I opted to be alone over suffering tethered loneliness. In the two years since untethering, I have learned things about my life that I cannot un-know. I cannot un-know that I loved my ex-husband, a profoundly compassionate and sincere individual, and I still honor my time with him.  I cannot un-know that another man, that professor, shook my heart tender and revealed my deep capacity to love in the absence of expectations. I cannot un-know the feeling of feet touching an earth tilled through talent and hard work. In my case, this dirt I plow is writing and digital storytelling, two things that would have not materialized without ghosts, magic and the end of my marriage.

I had a mini a-ha moment when my friend shared her story. It is no longer enough for someone to merely see me. I want to ferry through life with someone who can conjure a new world with me. I cannot un-know what I now know about myself.

Love and personal transformation is not about the witness. The journey towards love is learning to dream a life for yourself, the ability to tend to your ghosts, and then allowing someone to walk the way beside you who understands your form of make-believe magic.



Deonna Kelli Sayed is a Love, Inshallah contributor and a editor.  She is a published author. Her work is also found at and Muslimah Media Watch. Deonna is happy to report that she now feels like a “real” writer, and one who is currently working on a memoir with support a Regional Artists’ Grant from the North Carolina United Arts Council. To learn more, visit her website, and join her on Facebook and Twitter.

7 Comments on “Ghosts, Magic and Love”

  1. Yasmine says:

    Deonna, I loved your story in “Love, InshAllah,” and I have loved following the continuation of your stories in the two years since the anthology came out. You write about home, love, loss, life in such beautiful and honest ways, and it’s an honor to follow your journey. Thank you for sharing with us.

    I especially appreciated your and your friend’s points about witnessing life with someone vs. dreaming life with someone. Such an important distinction for me to remember.

  2. Reblogged this on Deonna Kelli Sayed and commented:
    My latest column at

  3. RevKathE says:

    I always love to read whatever yuu write. Your thoughts are deep and resound in the very core of my being. I love that you share with us your fears and triumphs. I miss PoMu and am looking forward to your memoir. Please never stop writing

  4. Lydia says:

    Thanks Deonna for your honest statement, so beautifully written, so clear and touching. I wish you well — dreams, satisfaction, and many joyful moments.

  5. I love this “Once I realized that, I understood that the moment you know certain things about yourself, these are things you can’t just un-know.” That is exactly how I felt when I “found out” I was Muslim…you are right…there are just some discoveries that change you to your core!

  6. […] as some former baristas) as being an amazing source of support. In fact, I made the decision to leave my marriage while writing a letter over a Red Eye at one of the front […]