Saturday, August 26, 2006

Sunday Scribblings--Monster

Lately I have been going about discovering the truth in truisms...something that is harder than it sounds. We all go about quoting these pithy phrases to ourselves, "You can’t make another person happy." "To thine own self be true." "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." "The only moment is now..." and then proceed blithely to live in opposition to what we "know" to be true. Maybe this knowledge is hidden in plain sight—drained of all potential through being ever-present, but never really truly understood.

Or maybe I am just an expert at saying something again and again without really experiencing it, and without engaging with the monsters in the closet and in my mind.

Some days the room inside my head feels so crowded with monsters as to push my own self towards the fire escape. There is a veritable monsters’ convention taking place—a reunion of what I most fear, and what I most dread. They take all shapes and sizes, these monsters—but I suppose they can all be grouped (roughly...I think they would take offence to being seen as part of a clump...monsters have a sizable ego too, I imagine) in two basic categories—Monsters of Fear and Monsters of Deception.

The first group needs no introduction—they’re the ones clumped about in dark corners, eyes darting compulsively, chain smoking Pall Malls and talking incessantly about everything to be avoided, which is, well...everything. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the Monsters of Fear are not frozen in fear themselves. How else could they be so convincing? If they were sunshiny and optimistic and confident, they’d have no need of the company their misery creates.

These Monsters whisper all sorts of warnings (for they are afraid to raise their voices, unless they are screaming in terror)—don’t push too hard, don’t call attention to yourself, don’t try that, it might hurt you, don’t try, don’t do, don’t be, don’t say, don’t think. Just be safe and small and maybe, MAYBE the dangers of Life will rush right by you.

Of course, it never really works out that way. I find my Monsters of Fear don’t actually stop the bad things from happening—I still suffer. People around me still sicken and grow old and die. Not writing my books, not striding towards my dream doesn’t make me feel secure—on the contrary. I just feel more powerless, more short, more miserable and afraid.

So why is their song so seductive? Perhaps because it all feels the same, doesn’t it? The group of men lurking underneath the circle of streetlight that slices through the night—doesn’t that seem surprisingly similar to the feeling of putting one word in front of the other, imperfect and revelatory, and then showing them people and waiting for their scorn or their laughter? Don’t both feel as though you will LITERALLY die, as though your self will be annihilated?

I suppose this is where reason comes in. The men MIGHT rape and kill you—in actuality, not as a metaphor. Whereas, readers mocking you, throwing up their hands at your abject idiocy...well, it won’t feel GOOD, but you’ll probably survive to draw another breath, see another day. Clearly, feelings won’t clear up the confusion here, so it’s up Logic to roll up her sleeves and point out the differences. Maybe the feelings never go away, maybe they never change the whole time you are in motion. Maybe the monsters will threaten you with actual death with every new word floating on the white page.

But it won’t be true.

And truth brings me (yay, segue!) to the second group of monsters—those charming hucksters known as the Monsters of Deception. Oh, they are popular, these monsters, in fact...they usually don’t seem very monstrous on first viewing, or second. They seem to be sharing valuable knowledge, to be working for our best interest. They say, concerned, that maybe you shouldn’t be so quick to stand up for your own desires...after all, nobody likes a selfish person. And who do you think you are, anyway, dear—society, your family, the people who love you and KNOW you...they know what’s best for you. You wouldn’t want to disappoint them, would you? They NEED you to make them happy—only YOU have that power. They need to remind you that you are nothing without the people in your life and their approval of you. That you wouldn’t survive a day without them. So you need to be a good girl.

Here is where they join in dissonant chorus with the Monsters of Fear. You won’t be loved. You won’t be respected, or admired. And without all this, you won’t survive.

If somehow, you manage to tie yourself to the mast of your mental ship and avoid these powerful voices, don’t get cocky. The Monsters of Deception aren’t done with you. They’ll attack your methods next. Everyone needs an advanced degree, or the work has no value. You’ll never have enough time, because everyone needs 8 solid hours of time a day to work on their dream, otherwise, it’s impossible. You need to be a millionaire before you can even THINK of embarking on your quest, because otherwise, you’ll surely starve.

And on, and on, and on it goes.

I’ve been hearing these voices all of my life, and I though I’d heard every possible variation on these themes from the many, many monsters in my life.

But there was another one, a quieter one, so potent and so stealthy I almost missed it.

This is the greatest Monster of Deception of all. This is the monster who tells you that if only you hit upon the perfect formula of action, of thought, of appearance, that you’ll be able to keep every good thing in your life exactly the same. So you bend, and you twist, to try and always be the Adored Youngest Daughter, or the Sexy 18 year old Girlfriend, or the Woman Full of All Potential. You try and freeze time, or barring that, try to return to that good time again and again by repeating the same behavior in new situations.

But of course, it never works. Every moment circles and circles away from you. What worked today won’t work tomorrow. The people who admire you today may not do so tomorrow, or even later today. Movement, change, movement. So you end up stuck in a vision of yourself that wasn’t true one moment after it occurred, in a time that is gone forever, surrounded by the ghosts of people who are all different now. And in doing this, you abdicate responsibility for your actions in the present moment—because you want to stay in amber, preserved in your infinite potential, every choice still possible because no road is ever followed.

I used to bristle against the Buddhist idea of detachment, because I thought there were so many beautiful things I wanted to experience in life—and I WANTED to be attached to them, to suck the joy down to the dregs. But now I am learning that you celebrate and enjoy every wonderful aspect of life, but you realize that it will fade and change in its own time, and there is no way to grasp the moment in greedy hands that won’t ever let go.

On trying to learn these things, face these things, there is only one thing to be done. I will dare to steal into the monster’s ball. I will dare to point them out—you, and you, and you, in the hopes that seeing them will dissolve some of their power over me. And in doing this, I find myself falling back on those old truisms, but staring at them with a dawning comprehension. Hoping that for once, I’ll be able to match my actions to them.

You can’t make other people happy. You can’t step into the same river twice. To thine own self be true. We scorn these thoughts; have contempt for their simplicity. But they can be like stones for an oyster—irritations that we can build the pearl of our lives around. Mindlessly, we imagine that these little sentences are end ideas—we stop engaging them.

This is exactly what the monsters would like for us to do. To stop thinking, to ignore reality and the truth that sits, plain and patient, in our midst.

But can’t even a trite truism be a beginning? Can’t we sit with it; with all of the discomfort it brings in its wake?

So take a moment, really look at the thoughts you’ve always taken for granted. Imagine how your life would look if you listened to them, even if you don’t know if you believe them yet. And wait for the monsters to rise to the bait, to shout you down, remind you that you are small, weak, powerless, unworthy, stupid, inadequate.

See the truth they are desperate to hide.

You are enough. And you can change your life.

For more monsters in the closet, go here.



Blogger paris parfait said...

Very powerful post, which shows that you will be able to slay those monsters, to ignore the naysayers and live up to your potential. You will! Don't let other people make you feel small - they have power only if you give it to them. And quite often people who do that are jealous and afraid of losing you, so they try to fit you inside a "box" of their expectations and suppress your desires for more. Nothing is stronger than your own free will. Your writing is beautiful and your voice needs to be heard, again and again and again. So take that, all you monsters!

7:53 AM, August 27, 2006  
Blogger Remiman said...

This article is potent! You reveal a vivid portrait of these all too prevalent monsters. As you point out; facing them squarely and head on diminishes their power.
You have the enviable ability to capture your reader and compell them to finish your missive.

8:29 AM, August 27, 2006  
Blogger DJPare said...

Strong post! Well thought out.

I really liked, "monsters of fear are frozen in fear themselves."

9:48 AM, August 27, 2006  
Blogger Alexandra G said...

This is one of those moments where I curse myself for never getting my printer ink so that I can print something out! I want to print this post out and tape it into my journal. There is so much to comment and reflect on in this poignant post I wouldn't really know where to start, but you are right that we can change our lives, can burst through the doors of this monsters convention and place our inner houses back in order by questioning and really being in dialogue with the truths of truisms, or the nontruths of some truisms. As always, beautiful writing! You should submit this somewhere- a women's magazine?

10:29 AM, August 27, 2006  
Blogger Chelle Y. said...

This was a great post. It's a monster that I have fought my whole life!

12:07 PM, August 27, 2006  
Blogger Chelle Y. said...

This was a great post. It's a monster that I have fought my whole life!

12:07 PM, August 27, 2006  
Blogger Living Part Deux said...

Wow. As I read what you have so eloquently written here, a monster surfaced in my mind - one I have either denied and ignored, or I've blatantly invited him into my life to rule over many of my deepest desires and keep them at bay. The power of communicating ourselves so others can see themselves - now that is power you can claim proudly!

1:30 PM, August 27, 2006  
Blogger Autrice DelDrago said...

I can only echo what Paris and the others have said - it is a very potent post, and does hit home.

4:05 PM, August 27, 2006  
Blogger Ally Bean said...


4:52 PM, August 27, 2006  
Blogger rachel said...

You have written what I have always felt, and never spoken. Could we have been separated at birth??
This weeks task for Sunday Scribblings has been a cathartic experience for me, not in my words but reading the words of others facing their own monsters. The common thread running through it all is fear, whoever invented that emotion is by far the most evil spirit in the universe. I am looking forward to reading more of your blog. thank you for your honest words

6:33 PM, August 27, 2006  
Anonymous krista said...


8:12 AM, August 28, 2006  
Blogger deirdre said...

I hadn't thought of the monsters rising to the bait. I've got to stop feeding them.

This is good. You've exposed the voices that want to keep us small, the ones that need us to be frozen so they can live.

4:53 PM, August 28, 2006  
Blogger Laini said...

"I will dare to steal into the monster's ball" -- I imagine you dancing with each monster, chatting with it, perfectly pleasant and civilized, getting to know them so they're not mysterious anymore, so you can see, up close, how their scary teeth are really worn down and kind of feeble. So you have the strength to evict them, one by one. Go for it!

9:02 AM, August 29, 2006  
Anonymous fern said...

"You are enough. And you can change your life."

What a powerful thought. If only I could make myself believe that. This reminds me of another of your powerful, truthful posts: "The givens". And tonight, like the night I read that entry, I sat alone and wrote. Tonight, I made a list of everything the monsters had been whispering to me lately.
Thank you for making me think, and realize how dangerous giving into those monsters can be.

7:43 PM, August 29, 2006  
Blogger Colorsonmymind said...

Wow-I lost track of all the thoughts I had reading this post. How well written all those monsters and I have the same monsters who pop up in my mind too. I like the focus on truisms. You my darling are really amazing-your strength and determination to go to the monsters ball sends chills up my spine.
Just know I am grabbing your hand and running to the entrance of the ball with you. Your finger will not be the only one pointing.
Love to you

9:21 PM, August 29, 2006  

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