Sweet Dreams Are Made of This — The Monster at the Bottom of the Glass
So I have a particularly hard night last night.
A particularly hard night.
By 04:00h I have officially scared myself, so I call a friend and he pastes me back together.
I realize that while he’s talking, the monsters under my bed have gathered to listen, clustered at my feet on the counterpane. I have my genius idea: what if instead of banishing them back under the bed (I believe the magic injunction is, “go back to the Dark Side where you came from!”), I shared my friend’s hugs with them?
After all, look at them. They did not look so fearful. They did not look so hateful. They looked like extras from a Jim Henson production of a Maurice Sendak book. They were surprisingly small. They were pastel. And they were just sitting there, like, “you say monster like it’s a bad thing.”
“Besides what kind of witch are you,” I told myself, “if you go around spouting pablum about Embrace Your Dark Side all the time but won’t look the monsters under your own bed in the face. Take a little of your own medicine, Miss Clever!”
It’s one thing to say it. Another to do it.
But I take a brave breath and decide I will look at each monster in turn and embrace it and love it. And then maybe it won’t be so scary after all.
I start with the one on the left because he demands my attention first. He is little, round, pale pink, soft, and cute. He is my Fate. I chuckle: no wonder he demands my attention first, he’s a baby! Babies need lots of attention. He’s always scrambling around, I don’t know what he’ll do, I don’t know what he’ll become, and I worry about him all the time. I hug him, or at least, I try — he’s a slippery little devil, hard to catch hold of. Why was I so scared of something so adorable?
He, like all the monsters, is amoral. He is not bad or good or dangerous or benevolent, he is just himself. I feel my anxious mind relax its panicked grip on insomnia a bit.
I look at the next monster. This one is green and armored like an armadillo dinosaur. “Look at that, Heart Chakra Green,” I think. “I wonder who this monster is.” But then of course I know: he’s my Heart! Not very New Agey, completely covered with bony platelets. But, I sigh, it makes sense. I try to embrace my heart but it is impossible because he hides from me. He hides at the foot of the bed and peeks his eyes up at me, or he hides next to the bed and I just catch a glimpse of the top of his armored head, or he hides in the shadows. As soon as he knows I’ve caught sight of any part of him he hides again.
I sigh again.
I look at the remaining three monsters. There is a yellow one, a blue one, and a purple one. I focus on the yellow one, and it’s not difficult, because he marches up and sits right on my chest and stares me in the eye, crushing the wind out of me as usual. He looks like a yellow version of Sam the American Eagle from The Muppet Show. “I know you right away,” I said. “You are Profession.” I’m suffocating and my heart has no room and my insides are getting squashed and I recognize this habit of his because he always does this. He would be much less scary if I could just get him to sit somewhere else.
I don’t know who the blue and purple monsters are because by the time I got done with the first three I was finally, blessedly, asleep.
Then this morning I look into the Arabic coffee grounds at the bottom of my cup and I see the Scariest Monster of Them All.
This little, hunched, defeated, miserable, terrified thing full of grief and rejection and poverty, this little hump-shaped thing covered with long silky black fur, wearing tortoiseshell glasses, and looking up at me with the hugest, saddest, most gigantic eyes of despair I had ever seen in my life.
No, I try to think. The coffee grounds only ever show me the way out of a fix. They only ever show me what I need to know. They only ever help. This is not help. This is bad. This is not the “right” image.
But the thing about the coffee grounds is it is impossible for them to show anything other than the “right” image. If it shows up, it’s “right,” and it’s what I need to know to move forward that day. The coffee grounds always tell the truth. Whether or not I can hear what they have to say is another question entirely.
I wait, hoping the scene will evolve, but it doesn’t. I catch glimpses of books, street signs, friends, the colour and chaos and hubbub of the outside world, the noise and bustle of my head, but at the root of it is this little thing, the saddest scariest monster of them all, who even copied my at-home tremendously-hunched posture and my glasses so I’d be sure to recognize myself.
She just stares with those giant eyes. She needs help. I try to go into the cup to save her, to help her. What can I do?
She’s not a talkative one. She can’t talk. It’s too much. The depth of her grief, her fear, her loss, and her anxiety is way beyond words. She can only look me in the eye, as God has often looked me in the eye in the past, and I know she is always there at the root of things, no matter what visual and mental chaos the world brings me on a superficial level.
I know you are the answer, I say to her. I think of Sadness in the movie Inside Out, who ends up saving the day. I know there is far more power in embracing this terrifying little dark creature than in any number of green jewels, red poppies, or amazing technicolour dreamcoats. I know I won’t get anywhere without her as my guiding force and mentor. I want to love her, and give her what she needs in order to feel right. I want to have a beautiful relationship with her.