Recently, monsters have returned to our house.
The imaginations of my oldest two kids, now teenagers, have long outgrown them. It’s been years since we had to check under beds and sing “God is bigger than the Boogie Man” until they could breathe easy. My what-is-real-and-what-is-not talk is pretty rusty. Also, I feel a little guilty trotting that one out on the same day that the tooth fairy visits.
Our littles, as we call the two youngest, have been more preoccupied with concrete fears. You know, the real terrors of life, like having to wash your hair, or wait your turn, or *gasp* go to bed at nighttime.
I’m sure it’s no coincidence that monsters have returned this year amidst the upheaval and struggle and all too often, pain, of childhood leukemia. B herself does not believe in monsters. Nor does she fear them. In fact, she informs me she is “very, very, very brave.” A fact I can attest to. Sadly, her most loyal companion – Pluto the stuffed dog, is quite frightened of monsters. Little brother has caught wind of this and he too will run to mommy shaking and crying for help. And the darn things seem to be popping up more and more often.
Sometimes a hug, a song, a prayer, maybe even a snack is all it takes to vanquish the monsters. Sometimes the kids actually tell me what to say – they know what it is they need and are so much better at asking for that sort of thing than I. The only certainty is that monsters are not meant to be faced alone.
As so often happens, the invisible monsters and the imaginary friend are helping us deal with real things in their lives. Complicated fears. Deep confusion. Issues small and large that are too slippery for little hands to carry.
The kids aren’t the only ones. I’ve got monsters of my own, now more than ever. A few big and scary ones – like Cancer and Fear of My Child Dying. They’ve all but moved in. I’m learning to simply make room. Because this is our life now.
In the day-to-day it’s the little ones that trip me up the most. The thoughts, feelings, and habits that haunt me, intent on dragging me down. I want so badly to be and do better than I actually am. Most of all, I want to make peace with myself in the meantime.
Every person I meet has their own personal demons, some obvious and others deeply hidden – fear, grief, addictions, illness… Then there is society itself, plagued with systemic monsters of rape, racism, violence, greed, extremism… And what about evil itself, as a force of darkness with its own aims and purposes; is that real? Does it matter how it works? Clearly the world is full of monsters, within and without.
Some days it seems frightening. And overwhelming. And the monsters start scratching at my door even louder – perfectionism, fear, defeat, anger… The harder I try, the worse I make it.
These days it takes very little to push me to a complete meltdown. We’ve been in survival mode for so long. Our whole family feels fragile, on edge. We need a battle plan.
The key to battling monsters isn’t what you might think. It’s not a tough-as-nails hard-charging warrior that crushes them into dust. Rather, it’s a flawed-but-improving, overflowing-with-love simple human being that can make them small again. More Mother Theresa than Dirty Harry. That’s what we need. That’s what I’m going for.
So here’s me, for the next 31 days, blogging in the 31 days challenge about: Battling life’s Monsters.
For myself. For my kids. For the world.
Pretty damn heroic, right? Which is the point. Because writing variations on “I’m just trying to get my shit together” for a month sounded lame.
Here goes nothing…
Day 2: One Foot in Front of the Other
Day 3: Stillness, Meditation and other Weirdness
Day 6: The Assumption of Agency
Day 21: Hide and Hope to be Found
Day 22: Catharsis: The Cheap Alternative to Complete Meltdown