Lessons from monsters under the bed

MonsterHands up anyone who was afraid of Monsters under the bed when you were a kid. Even to this day I don’t like to have my hand hanging over the side of the bed in case … well, you know. Something under the bed might pull me under or bite it off. It’s easy to be a kid and be afraid of Monsters. Expected even. Not so much adults.

My grandkids love the movie, Monsters University, fairy tales and stories with a Big Bad Wolf or Evil Witch. I must have read Three Little Pigs at least 876 times to my granddaughter and if I read it again tonight, she’d be quite happy. Sitting safely beside Nana—discussing the inferior construction of the pigs’ accommodations (she is relieved her family lives in a brick house) and speculating on why the Wolf is so intent on gaining entry—the possibilities of what could befall the pigs can be considered, as well as the fear of having a Wolf show up at her own door addressed. As she has gets older, tales of monsters, supernatural creatures, and evil villains transition from being real to assuming a metaphorical role in the story. As adults, movies and books about hip vampires, werewolves & zombies, wizards, and mythical godlike beings still capture our imagination, and give us that little thrill of irrational fear. When a full moon fills the sky, and the leaves in the trees whisper the secrets of the dead as they rise in the graveyard and lurch toward the sleeping town to … oh, sorry.

For adults, the scariest Monsters are often the ones that live inside our head and far from being metaphorical, they can be a destructive reality. The Monsters have many agendas, the overall one that they all agree upon and work in tandem with remarkable solidarity, is to pull you under. And not under the bed or in the closet where the storybook monsters live—no, the real Monsters take one’s life away, devour every morsel of purpose & speck of happiness before lumbering away to shred the day’s accomplishments and gobble up whatever endorphins might be left.

Monsters I have known

No one is interested in what you have to say Monster
This Monster had help from a person who said this to me as a teenager. It was years later when my pre-teen daughter insisted she had to have her say, that it occurred to me that I had a responsibility as a parent to encourage her to speak up for herself. It was many, many years before I extended to myself the same courtesy and still struggle to do so. I hear the Monster in my mind say, “No one wants to hear what you have to say”.

You’re an imposter and when people see that they will hate you Monster
I’ve been rescued many times from this Monster by both the people who love me, and by eCards that quote (take your pick) Henry Ford, Aristotle, or Eleanor Roosevelt and say some variation of Be Yourself. Just kidding about the eCards. Anyway, the only people who count in your life are those who will love you even if you are an imposter. Because, you know … that’s who you are: an imposter.

You are a worthless piece of garbage who has wasted your life Monster
This Monster has received a promotion from the junior role of ‘You are a worthless piece of garbage’ because a few decades have gone by and (a) my own expectations of where I should be and (b) all the books, blogs and articles I read now say I should have accomplished ‘x’ by now and it’s too late so might as well admit what a loser I am. This is the Monster I struggle with most because of the combined strength of his evil twin Expectations Monster; the two of them together are formidable enemies. Partly because Time itself imposes limitations and it’s difficult to dispute that life is what it is and I am what I am after a lifetime thus far. However, that could be said whether one is 26 or 56 or 76. There is always time. Or not. Because time is not up to us at any age. We could die in the next moment, the next week, or in 20 years. As they say: ‘Tomorrow is promised to no one’. I ask myself, what would you do if you were starting over right now and had your whole life in front of you? Because as of this moment, I do

You can’t do anything right Monster
Really? Not anything? What would it take for this Beast to acknowledge there are things I not only do right, but do them spectacularly well, or maybe even just okay? Which is good too. For me, Perfection is this Monster’s offspring so it’s a lifetime battle I don’t ever see ending. Even small accomplishments bring the Monster running from his routine job of journaling every mistake I’ve made so he can stomp on it and shovel on piles of missteps to obliterate a tiny progress. On the other hand I have done alright, learned a lot, have a beautiful family, good health, and know lots of useless things.

You’re ugly Monster
Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful: hah! this is something I’ve never said. Instead, growing up a skinny scrawny kid, battling zits, pop-bottle bottom glasses, and fine straight hair made me an easy target for others’ barbs and the Monster’s critical comparisons with magazine models and anyone who met the Monster criteria of “beautiful”. Does this Monster only focus on girls and women? I don’t know. I’m thankful to have reached an age that has diminished this Monster’s power over me but am dismayed that how I felt about my appearance affected how I felt about my worth for so long. Is this something uniquely female because of social cues from media and culture?

It’s all your fault Monster
This Monster lurks in his lair just waiting until something goes awry, and then leaps out to bludgeon this thought into my psyche. Even if someone else drops a glass, trips and falls down, or burns her hand on a pot; somehow, by virtue of having bought the glass in the first place, or being in the same vicinity of an accident, the Monster attributes its happening to me. If only I had such power! How this Monster manages to engage guilt and fear to such success is a mystery to me.

But then …

With all the power these Monsters have over me, what is apparent is they are still vulnerable. Monsters can be slain by unconditional love for those the Monster is attacking and deeply wounded by supporting the person battling Monsters real or lurking in the mind. Perhaps that’s the purpose and lesson of childhood stories about monsters in the closet, ogres under the bridge, ugly ducklings, wolf encounters, or desperate deals with evil characters? 

Monster photo credit to Don Burkett via photopin cc

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About Leslie

Trying a little bit of everything: writing, learning Wordpress & basic coding, cooking, playing with grandkids, travelling, gardening, making soap & body treats, and getting older. Not necessarily in that order.