Speed Whippet and Fear of Progress, aka FOP!

After the recent introduction of Speed Whippet, I thought I’d bring him in to talk to the monster who gets hysterical whenever I try to have a regular spiritual practice, or any kind of advanced self-knowledge-y practice like Shiva Nata or keeping a dream journal. I reckoned this monster was scared of me making progress, and christened him Fear of Progress aka FOP. So obviously he appeared as an eighteenth-century glamour boy in a powdered periwig and lots of ruffles.

princepoppycock

Speed Whippet’s technique this time was to stick very closely to the big questions of NVC: what are you observing, feeling, needing, and requesting? The result wasn’t quite as speedy as last time, but this was a major issue!

FOP: ALACK ALACK ALACK (fans self hysterically)

Speed Whippet: What are you observing?

FOP: FIE FIE FIE

Speed Whippet: You’re observing something you really don’t like, huh?

FOP: (calming down slightly) Well, obviously! I’m a fop. I like to keep things exquisitely superficial.

Speed Whippet: She’s going too deep for you?

FOP: Any depth is too deep for me. I am all surface and no soul. A bubble of nothing in a froth of lace.

Speed Whippet: Poetic! So how do you feel about her getting into all this deep soul stuff?

FOP: La, sir, I am undone!

Speed Whippet: You’re terrified?

FOP: Yes!

Speed Whippet: What do you need?

FOP: I need her to stay on the surface! Where it’s all fluffy and pretty!

Speed Whippet: You need to know she’ll be safe from the pain of self-knowledge?

FOP: How unutterably drab and serious you make it sound.

Speed Whippet: And you need to know she’ll still have playfulness and colour in her life?

FOP: You talk as if I were going to let this happen. (draws rapier with a flourish) Never! I shall never let it happen!

Speed Whippet: Okay, so you need TOTAL CERTAINTY that she’ll be safe from the pain of self-knowledge no matter what.

FOP: Not only that!

Speed Whippet: What else?

FOP: I don’t know. I don’t know! How can I even talk about such nonsense? I don’t understand it, I’m just a beautiful fairy with no soul!

Speed Whippet: You don’t understand the spiritual stuff?

FOP: Exactly!

Speed Whippet: So you need to understand what’s going on for her?

FOP: Yes, otherwise how can I protect her? I may look delicate but I’m terrific in a duel. Aha! (flourishes rapier)

Speed Whippet: Okay, so! You’re observing that she’s getting into deep spiritual introspective stuff, and you’re feeling terrified because you need to know she’s safe from pain, and in order to know she’s safe you need to understand this stuff. Which you don’t.

FOP: I don’t! I don’t even know what it is! It’s like asking a dog what’s the problem with going to church!

Speed Whippet: I’m a dog!

FOP: Well, what’s the problem with going to church?

Speed Whippet: …Oh. You get left outside.

FOP: Yes! Outside is all I am! I will always be outside! Don’t let her go inside and leave me here with nobody to pay attention to me!

Speed Whippet: Oh. Oh. Oh. Okay. Wow. You’re feeling terrified because you need attention.

FOP: Do you think I get dressed up like this every morning for my own amusement?

Speed Whippet: Okay, I’m going to ask you to notice something. You spent all morning making her so stuck and terrified that she was literally hyperventilating about keeping a dream journal, and what’s the result?

FOP: Success!

Speed Whippet: What’s happening right now?

FOP: I’m talking to you.

Speed Whippet: And what does that mean she’s doing?

FOP: Oh! Introspection! I shall swoon! (falls on a chaise longue)

Speed Whippet: So your attempt to protect her from introspection has produced introspection.

FOP: Are you accusing me of being one of those monsters? I refuse to be lumped in with all those dirty beasts. Ugh! (handkerchief to nose)

Speed Whippet: She’s spending more time introspecting about why she can’t introspect than she would if you just let her introspect!

FOP: Egad! But at least I’m keeping her on a lower level. At least she’s not making progress.

Speed Whippet: She is making progress. Whatever blocks you throw up, she’s finding a way round them. It’s just taking her longer and costing her more effort and pain, which I think is another thing you wanted to protect her from.

FOP: GAAAAAAAAAAH!

Speed Whippet: Now I know you’re really upset. You’ve stopped using Restoration comedy exclamations.

FOP: STAP MY VITALS!

Speed Whippet: Okay, nearly.

FOP: What do I do?

Speed Whippet: What would you like to do? What are you requesting?

FOP: Well, I can’t possibly be the kind of – ugh! – ‘monster’ who’s the opposite of what they appear to be. I can’t possibly be enthused about all this soul stuff. I can’t possibly be pro progress. Although, thinking about it – I am a creature of fashion, you know, the latest mode, flitting like a butterfly from one thing to the next – and of course, I always think whatever I leave behind is so last Tuesday, and whatever is now is so utterly now. I love change and newness! It’s just that it has to be meaningless.

Speed Whippet: Why?

FOP: Because I exist to distract, and if something’s meaningful it isn’t a distraction, is it? It’s something you distract from.

Speed Whippet: Because it might be painful?

FOP: Yes.

Speed Whippet: So we’re back to your need to protect her from pain. The trouble is, distracting her from everything meaningful isn’t really protecting her. The pain’s still there. It’s still hurting. Just on a subconscious level where she can’t understand it or fix it. It’s like if someone needs surgery, sure it’s painful and scary but it doesn’t make sense to protect them from it, because then they’ll never get better!

FOP: So I really am just a big useless lump of frippery and I should just go away.

Speed Whippet: No!

FOP: How do you know?

Speed Whippet: Because with these talks, if it’s not happy it’s not the ending. What would you really, really like for her, if you could request anything?

FOP: (crying) Not to need to avoid all the time because there wouldn’t BE any pain to avoid! Gad’s teeth, my makeup is running…

Speed Whippet: That’s a great request! And it sounds like you’d like to help her with that. You know, dealing with her pain so she doesn’t need to avoid it.

FOP: Yes, but how when I don’t have any soul?

Speed Whippet: I never asked why you think you don’t have a soul.

FOP: I don’t know.

Speed Whippet: What is it in you that gives you so much compassion for her pain?

FOP: Well, I’m part of her. So – oh. She has a soul. So it’s not that I don’t have one, it’s that I’ve been disconnected from her soul. I’ve always had access to it, but I’ve been refusing it. Wait… (He twirls around elegantly, and his costume flutters around him in a cloud of lace, shifting, settling again into something different… a beautiful pierrot in white ruffles.) A new image! Do you like it?

ppg

Speed Whippet: I love it!

FOP: Pierrot of the moon, the yearning soul… see, now I can support her on her quest, I can go to the depths of the sky with her, I can go deep inside and still be exquisitely pretty on the outside! She can surround herself with images of me, and I’ll remind her to be always longing and dreaming and looking to the stars… And she’ll certainly pay me attention, I mean, look at me! (Holds out his arms, enraptured by his own loveliness.) When I told you I had no soul, you should have told me that I adore beauty! Beauty is truth, truth beauty, how can you love beauty without a soul…

(A silver tear runs down his cheek, the transformation complete.)

LS09 Pierrot

I shall be known as… OVER-PREPARED MAN!

I have a pattern of being underprepared for things and then panicking. I also have a pattern of having DREAMS about being underprepared for things and then panicking. One night, in the middle of one of these, I suddenly started thinking coherently about a way to destuckify this pattern…

‘I’m going to experiment with being OVER-PREPARED MAN!’ I thought. A secret superhero identity!

This is great for me because I have ludicrous fear popcorn about being prepared in case it makes me a boring grown-up. (Even in Brownies I always failed pocket check.) But clearly I can’t be a boring grown-up while playing at being a superhero!

I imagine Over-Prepared Man as very cartoonish (if I were going to do a voice for him I’d use the Tick as a starting-point) and covered from head to toe in a wildly clashing assortment of weaponry, armour and paraphernalia – including, in homage to Alice’s White Knight, a bunch of carrots and a beehive.

White Knight

All you can really see of Over-Prepared Man is his superheroic chin and cheesy KA-CHING! grin. He likes to leap in enthusiastically and shout, ‘This looks like a job for… OVER-PREPARED MAN!!!’

I usually don’t interview Over-Prepared Man so much as take on his mindset when I want to over-prepare for something. Like last weekend, I went on a coaching skills course (which I’ll probably rave about in more detail later) and it was entirely thanks to Over-Prepared Man that I was able to get ‘socially acceptable business-person’ outfits for both days laid out by Friday night AND arrive on time both days, suitably groomed and carrying a packed lunch and a stash of business cards. Let’s just say punctuality does not come naturally to me.

Punctuality is really on my mind at the moment, because I want to start volunteering with Carefree Kids, a local charity that does play therapy with troubled children. Not surprisingly, they’re sticklers for punctuality (just imagine the emotional impact of letting down a vulnerable child.) This is a real challenge for me. I have ISSUES around being on time, because I was savaged by a timetable when I was four (I’m only half joking!) This looks like a job for… OVER-PREPARED MAN!!

I’ve realised that part of the magic of being over-prepared is not having to be exactly the right amount prepared. Not having to do x at exactly y o’clock. Not having to follow anyone’s schedule. Not being timetabled! I can get around my fear of being timetabled if I let myself do each step any time within a big fuzzy timezone. Getting ready to leave any time before I need to, so then leaving is just leaving, not a daunting agglomeration of washing-dressing-eating-journeyplanning-packing-leaving that all has to be done right now or else. And then leaving the house any time before I need to, so it’s not having to leave right now or else.

This also works really well with going to bed. I’m sure I’m not the only person out there who sometimes stays up late because they’re too exhausted to contemplate brushing teeth and finding pyjamas :D (a problem that only gets worse the later it gets!!) Getting ready for bed any time before I need to solves that.

However, today I ran into an extra layer of trouble. I’m an introvert. This doesn’t mean I’m shy or don’t like people – far from it!! It means I recharge by being alone and expend a lot of energy when I’m with people (brilliant explanation here, which wins points both by using a hamster ball metaphor and by saying that ‘introverts give energy on social contact’. I’m giving people energy!) It also means I’m scared of the cleaner. Yes, really. She’s perfectly lovely, I’m just not so good with the COMPLETE STRANGER IN MY HOUSE thing. So today, I was late for a meetup with a friend because it involved these four steps:

1) Leave room.

2) Walk past THE COMPLETE STRANGER IN MY HOUSE AND MAYBE HAVE TO INTERACT WITH HER. Exposure!!

3) Leave house (more exposure!)

4) Commence social interaction.

ALL of these were setting off my introvert buttons. It was only after the cleaner left and I felt able to creep out of my hole that the Over-Prepared Man solution came to me. If I need to leave the house on a Tuesday, I can leave before the cleaner gets here. I can hang out in, say, the library, a cafe, or a pub until it’s time to go to where I’m going!

AND THEN I realised I could apply this to any house-leaving situation. So step 3 (leave house) and step 4 (commence social interaction) would be separated by a nice restful sit down with a book or laptop. Leaving the house would be easier because it wouldn’t be leave-house-commence-social-interaction. And leaving the library/pub/cafe would be easier than leaving the house because I’d already be in public and most of the way to my destination.

It’s all about SEPARATING THE STEPS! And pausing! (Paws!) Get ready (paws!) leave house (paws!) commence social interaction! AND it’s all about doing each step in my own time, because doing it early counts as doing it in my own time!

Wow, I can apply this to so many other things now… How would OVER-PREPARED MAN approach the transcribing work I’ve been not-doing while writing this blog post? I wonder…

I got heraldrybunnied

This happens to me sometimes. It’s like getting ‘plotbunnied’, where you have an intense urge to write a story, except I get an intense urge to make up a coat of arms. This particular bout of knight-in-shining-armoury was brought on by joining Challenge Accepted, which is the ULTIMATE in dorky, mock-heroic, playful, celebratory, self-loving productivity-geeking, and quite literally makes any job a game. I would highly recommend this, especially if you’re at all into fantasy or gaming, but even if you’re not.

So today I made a coat of arms for Monster Talk.

By Zigeuner     English: Picture made for the Blazon Project of French-speaking Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Starting from the middle, we have our monster. This dragon (or strictly speaking, wyvern, since it’s got two legs) is depicted tails nowed. It’s got its tail in a knot! THIS IS SUCH A PERFECT DEPICTION OF TANGLED STUCK EMOTIONS I CAN’T EVEN.

In heraldry, green is the colour of love and hope. So the wyvern is green to show that our monsters love us and can change.

The heart symbolises the loving, safe and judgement-free space in which monster-whispering takes place. This fierce-looking monster is completely surrounded by the white light of pure love. And he needs it too, they always do.

White in heraldry symbolises truth, sincerity and peace, which works perfectly even though the actual reason I picked it is that the only other colour allowed next to green and purple would be yellow. Frankly, this coat of arms looks enough like it fell in a vat of toxic chemicals as it is. :}

And then we have purple. Why purple? Because in heraldry, purple is the colour of sovereignty! Get it?

The blazon of this coat of arms would be, ‘Purpure on a heart argent a wyvern tails nowed vert flammant gules.’ I think.

OFFER!/Squee/Inspiration for bloggers

First off: I have a first-come-first-served OFFER! I am offering two bargains to just one person each! Three monster sessions for £120 (was £160) or six sessions for £200 (was £300.) Contact me to get ‘em while they’re hot!

And secondly: it seems that people are actually talking about my blog on the internets! In a positive way!

The other day, a new client approached me because she’d found me via comments on Captain Awkward, who is this hilarious right-on, emotional-genius agony aunt who I LOVE. So obviously I was thrilled. And then today somebody pointed me at this, which has appeared SINCE then. Apparently my demographic overlaps with Captain Awkward’s quite a lot :D

(NB that there’s a picture of Atreyu at the top of the post, which is so meaningful to me it’s almost up there with Luke Skywalker, Mary Poppins and dogs.)

So that would be one complete stranger posting about how my blog helped them start talking to their own monsters and not going into guilt spirals, followed by two other complete strangers saying that they are all like, breaking huge long-held assumptions down and changing things around in their way of thinking because of my blog! And somebody also linked to Havi, which I’m so happy about because Havi is literally the entire reason this website exists, and if you like my blog your mind will be BLOWN by hers, trust me.

I was also thrilled to find that this very interesting complete stranger had been inspired by, and adopted, the word gendersilly from my blog!

So obviously I’m all squeeing and feeling good about myself, and there is a serious point here as well. (Wait, no. I think squeeing and feeling good about oneself is a profoundly magical and mystical thing that literally makes the world a better place, so it’s VERY serious in the most light and joyful way!! Anyway.) The other point is that, dude. People’s lives. Changing. Because of things I said.

I’m sure everyone assumed this was obvious to me and I knew it was happening, and I did on some level, but I’ve just realised it more profoundly and in a new way because epiphanies are stoopid.

The takeaway (nom!) for anyone who has a blog that they’re trying to use to, I don’t know, say important things or shine light into the world or help others, and who maybe doesn’t get all that many comments on that blog, is…

You are doing much more good than you know.

It’s worth keeping going. (Not ‘you have to keep going otherwise it will be your fault that all that good isn’t getting done.’ That’s just depressing and icky.) It is worth keeping going because, oh, I’m going to quote Superman. You are much stronger than you think you are. All these ripples that you can’t see are spreading out from what you do. Complete strangers, invisibly to you, are happier, or more aware, or seeing new perspectives, or doing things differently right now because of what you do. And those complete strangers are interacting with other complete strangers, who are catching the goodness from them. Maybe walking away just a mite happier than they otherwise would have, maybe changing their whole worldview. Who knows? It’s happening… The world is changing because of you. Sparks of light are rippling out and out beyond what you can see, lighting little stars all over the world… It is SO worth doing what you do. Okay? Believe me. :D

I would like to note that the tags for this post are ‘love and monsters’, which is the title of a really good Doctor Who episode, but then I’d have to add a ‘geek’ tag and that would spoil it. Oh, wait.

The Longer You Leave It The Harder It Gets

You know that phenomenon where the longer you leave something, the harder it gets to do… I thought I’d have a talk with that phenomenon. (My version of it, anyway. Other people’s may vary.) I’ll be calling it Longer for short. Longer for short!

Me: So it’s been a while and I still haven’t done this thing. I’d like to do it now, and it seems like you’re unhappy about that.

Longer: Yes! Just think how much that person must be suffering because you haven’t done that thing!

Me: Okay, I’m confused. I’m hearing that you’re very upset about the consequences of my not doing the thing.

Longer: Yes!!

Me: And yet you’d like me to carry on not doing the thing.

Longer: Yes! LOOK AT ALL THIS GUILT! DO YOU REALLY WANT TO CONFRONT ALL THIS GUILT?! DO YOU?!

Me: Wait, so you exist to protect me from guilt!

Longer: YES!

Me: When you started the conversation by saying, ‘Think how that person must be suffering,’ it sounded to me like you wanted me to feel very guilty. Were you just showing me how big and scary the guilt was so I’d run away from it?

Longer: YES YES YES! I make you run away so you won’t do the thing! Because if you do the thing now, that means YOU COULD HAVE DONE IT ALL ALONG!

Me: You’re protecting me from knowing I could have done it all along?

Longer: YES!

Me: Okay, knowing I could have done it all along seems quite empowering to me. Like, I’ve always been capable. Like Dorothy has always had the ruby slippers that could take her home.

Longer: If you know you could have done it all along, you have to face the GUILT of knowing you could have done it all along! AND YOU DIDN’T! Dorothy has been stuck in Oz all this time and all she had to do was click her heels together, what an idiot! Do you really think she’d be happy to find that out? It means all the pain she went through was unnecessary!

Me: No… Oh, wait. The guilt thing is just a smokescreen. You’re just waving guilt at me to scare me off the thing you’re really protecting me from. Regret.

(Longer, who has had no discernible form up till now, turns into a tall, skinny white bird.)

Bubulcus ibis(2)

Me: Did you just turn into an egret?

Longer: (nods)

Me: You’re a Regret Egret! That’s… inspired.

Regret Egret: You did it WRONG. You did it WRONG and you SHOULDN’T have done it wrong and you have to live with all the pain that you went through because you did it wrong, AND all the pain of knowing that you DIDN’T HAVE TO GO THROUGH THE PAIN!

Me: Oh. Sweetie. You just really hate to see me in pain.

Regret Egret: OF COURSE, WHAT DID YOU THINK? (childlike voice) I HATE IT WHEN YOU DO IT WRONG. I HATE IT I HATE IT.

Me: It sounds like you’re from then. From a long time ago.

Regret Egret: (almost in tears) BECAUSE I DON’T LIKE SEEING YOU TOLD OFF AND PUNISHED!

Me: Oh. Oh, wow, you’re right. When I was little, if I got punished, sometimes I’d pretend I was fine with it. I mean, even to myself. Like I didn’t want whatever they were taking away from me, or… anything rather than acknowledge that I was in pain because I did it wrong. That was you, wasn’t it?

Regret Egret: Yes!

Me: And as an adult, almost 30, I said something that completely shocked me when my friend repeated it back. Basically, that I didn’t want to learn from my mistakes. I preferred to go on making the same mistake over and over rather than admit defeat and learn my lesson. That was you too, huh?

Regret Egret: Yes!

Me: ‘Admit defeat’ like ‘let the people punishing me win’.

Regret Egret: YES!

Me: Even though now I’m an adult and nobody is punishing me, I’m just getting results that I don’t like. When I don’t do something I’ve committed to doing, I worry that other people are suffering and I feel upset and guilty, and that’s a result I don’t like.

Regret Egret: Consequences. The consequences of your actions. Can’t you FEEL the weight of doomy-parenty-teachery AARGH behind that phrase?

Me: Yes, absolutely! AAARGH!

Regret Egret: (finding this cathartic) AAAAARGH!

Me: I’m wondering… what were my parents and teachers trying to communicate when they talked about ‘the consequences of my actions’? What need of theirs were they trying to meet?

Regret Egret: For you to stop being such a nuisance.

Me: (smiles) I think we can go a step back to something more basic and less judgementy. How about the need to know that I could learn from my mistakes? Even though they were saying it in a doomy way, what they really wanted was to help me learn.

Regret Egret: They could have found a better way of saying it!!!

Me: They could, couldn’t they?! Like what… how would you say it better?

Regret Egret: Well, they could have said it how Havi says it! That there’s no ‘doing it wrong’ because it’s all an experiment and all results are useful! So if you get a result that you don’t like, you can be a scientist and go ‘hmm, useful’ and note it down and it gives you clarity. It helps you work out how to get results that you do like. So what we call ‘making mistakes’ is actually vital experimenting, it’s how we learn, I mean you might as well call it making discoveries!

Me: Exactly! Beautiful!

Regret Egret: WELL, WHY DIDN’T THEY JUST SAY IT LIKE THAT THEN?

Me: I guess because nobody had ever said it like that to them. Plus I was really little and they wanted to make it really big and loud and simple and ‘THIS IS DEFINITELY BAD’ to be sure I understood.

Regret Egret: Well, ouch.

Me: Yeah. Ouch for the whole world. Because pretty much everybody’s been brought up like that.

Regret Egret: I’m sorry!!

Me: It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay!

Regret Egret: Now I want to change but I’m still terrified of letting you suffer pain. I mean you’re my baby!

Me: I understand. It’s hard to let your baby grow up.

Regret Egret: So what do I do?!

Me: Well, the thing is -

Regret Egret: Is this the bit where you tell me I’m one of those monsters? Because I was wondering why we hadn’t got to that bit.

Me: (laughs) Maaaaybe. What do you think? You’ve been trying to protect me from regret, right? And -

Regret Egret: And OMG I’ve totally been keeping you in it, because I haven’t been letting you stop doing the things you regret! Or start doing the things you regret not doing! And I can distract you but I can’t stop the pain completely, I mean I can’t make you completely stuck AND make you completely oblivious to being stuck, so it’s always going to hurt! OH NO OH NO I HAD THOSE RUBY SLIPPERS ALL THIS TIME AND I DIDN’T USE THEM AND WE’VE BEEN STUCK IN OZ ALL THIS TIME!

Me: Hey. Hey. It’s okay. Because we’ve been in Oz, right? You don’t want to miss the journey. You don’t want to miss the adventure. If Dorothy had just landed in Oz, taken the slippers, clicked her heels and gone home, there wouldn’t be a story! Or there would, but it would be a very short one that wouldn’t really say anything. Not a book. Not an epic beautiful journey where people experience wild and wonderful things and face deadly terrors and learn and grow and go through transformations and find out things about themselves they never knew.

Regret Egret: (crying) You mean it’s all okay?

Me: Yes. Yes. It’s great that we’ve been on this journey. And it’s great that we’re going home.

Regret Egret: What do I do?

Me: Well, when I’m doing something – or more likely not-doing something – that produces results I don’t like – don’t protect me from experiencing the pain.

Regret Egret: WAAH!

Me: Wait, it’s okay. Instead of holding me back from my pain and my adventure, you can support me through it. Be by my side. Remind me that this is an experiment and there’s no doing it wrong, just results. Help me take a curious, scientific look at those results and see what I discover. And if I’m still hurting about what I did or didn’t do, let me go through mourning so I can learn from it and it’ll stop hurting. You know what NVC mourning is?

Regret Egret: When you don’t beat yourself up, you just let yourself be sad for yourself and all the ways you didn’t meet your own needs.

Me: Yes! No guilt, just compassion. Let me cry, and be with me while I cry. That’ll help a lot, actually. I’ve got a lot of mourning to do and it’ll really help to have someone with me who loves me like you do.

Regret Egret: (sniffs) Will it help if I wear a funny lab coat? And funny little glasses on my beak? (does so)

Me: (laughing and crying) Yes!! Look at you, you totally suit that! Now I think of it, you kind of looked like a tall skinny scientist in a white lab coat already!

Regret Egret: That’s because all monsters have the – have the – person they’re going to be inside them already. You know, the person they’re going to be when they’re not monsters any more.

Me: Yes!!

Regret Egret: Because secretly – that’s what we are. Already. Just with a monster suit over the top.

Me: YES YES YES! Look at you making scientific discoveries!

Regret Egret: Hmm! Useful!

Firework (aka ‘Going to bed willingly is for boring grown-ups.’)

Before we get into this monster talk, I need to explain that there’ve been some changes in my headcast. My beloved Mr. H has left us. I’m silent retreating on the reasons, but don’t worry, we’re all okay! After dragging my feet and avoiding the issue for like, months, it was time, and it felt right. And it seems that other members are stepping into the breach LIKE WHOA. As you’ll see. :)

You’d think a retiring headcast member would just dissolve back into me, but Mr. H was having none of that. He told me he wanted to go freelance. To go out into the world, travel into other people’s minds, and talk to other people’s monsters. So if you want a visit from him, just talk to him in your imagination, and see if he talks back… :)

(This monster believes that going to bed willingly is for boring grown-ups, and looks like a constantly moving, fireworky explosion of random colours. You can hear the hiss and crackle of sparks in her voice.)

Me: So, going to bed willingly is for boring grown-ups?

Firework: YES! It means either you’re an obedient sheep, or you’re so subhuman you don’t even need obedience. You belong to the vegetable kingdom, the fungus kingdom, the mould kingdom.

Me: Whoa! Sounds like you’re feeling really disgusted and angry because you need to know I have – what? Sovereignty? Power? Energy? I think your appearance is a clue, but I can’t quite find the right word.

Firework: FIRE! The spark of life and passion! Movement, colour, light! Everything you allow to be taken away from you when you surrender to bed and sleep!

Me: Wow, that’s really powerful. And it sounds like for you, going to bed is a massively unsovereign experience, an admission of defeat. Life surrendering to – well, to death, almost. Am I right?

Firework: YES! The eternal struggle of all life! The hero life against the villain death! And YOU are giving in! Allowing yourself to be shut away up there in the dark with the ghosts! DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT! Kick and scream! Burn and rage! Always, always!

Me: Oh… wow. I have so much empathy for you and I don’t know what to say. Backup!

(Big Sister shows up wearing Mr. H’s old leather jacket.)

Big Sister: Hi!

Me: Oh, hi!

Big Sister: So… Man, this is hard. Do you know what I’m thinking?

Me: I know exactly what you’re thinking.

Big Sister: I need a joke. This situation needs a joke and I can’t think of a single funny thing to say to save my life. Maybe we should get Little Sister.

Me: No way, this monster is exactly from when I was her age, it’d be her nemesis.

Big Sister: Well, she’s learned a lot -

(Little Sister skids onto the scene.)

Me: Hello!! Are you sure you want to be here? This one’s a bit scary.

Little Sister: Yes, this one won’t listen to grown-ups. Come here, firework.

(Firework floats and fizzles over to her, instantly all attention. They are the same height.)

Little Sister: You’re right, going to sleep is a lot like dying. It’s dark and scary and lonely and nothing-y. I understand. But that doesn’t mean that it IS dying! You know what? If people didn’t go to sleep, THEN they would die!!

Firework: But… I’m afraid if you don’t fight sleep then you won’t fight death, and evil, and oppression, and all those other bad things.

Little Sister: Well, I might not fight death. I mean, it depends. If I’m getting attacked by a big lion, or pushed over a cliff, or somebody is hitting me with a sword, THEN I’ll fight. But if I get to be very old and wise then I’ll probably just fade out peacefully in a cloud of sparkles like Yoda. I don’t think that’s bad.

Firework: No… I suppose that’s not bad.

Little Sister: And as for not fighting evil and oppression!! Look at me in my eyes and tell me that you think I won’t!!

(If a firework could hang its head, this one does.)

Firework: But it’s just… I’m really afraid of… What is a firework afraid of? Going out. Darkness. Silence. Stillness. I’m afraid of the dark.

Little Sister: So am I! I’m really, really, REALLY afraid of the dark!

Firework: Yes, because you and me…

Little Sister: Yes. But you know what else there is? You know what happens if you go THROUGH the dark? DREAMS! And you know what’s in dreams? Light! Colours! Noises! Movement! Fire! Life! More and more and more than there is when you’re awake! Don’t keep me away from it! When people don’t sleep enough, they don’t have enough dreams!

Firework: Oh. Oh. I can’t be one of those monsters? Taking away the very thing I want to give you? Giving you the very thing I want to protect you from?

Little Sister: I think everybody can be one of those monsters.

Firework: WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!! (flares up massively in a frenzy of sparks)

Little Sister: (running off and flattening herself against Big Sister’s legs) YIKES! Don’t do that! Sit!!

Firework: I’m so sorry. I never meant to hurt you. It’s just that this is life-and-death important!

Little Sister: You really want me to be brave, right? And fierce like a firework. And alive-alive-alive. And full of colours.

Firework: Yes!

Little Sister: Well, here’s what we can do. Here is the big brave thing that we can do. It’s very like a story. You go THROUGH the big dark door of sleep, PAST all the ghosts that are trying to scare you, and you come out in DREAMS! Wonderland! Neverland! Narnia! Fairyland! And you go and fly and swim in all the colours, and then you bring a piece of the magic world back with you! That’s what a hero does in a story! And that’s how we can bring more and more and more and more fireworks into the world! Do you want to do it?

Firework: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!

Little Sister: Will I get burned if I hug you?

Firework: No!

(She steps into the light of the firework that is just her size, holds out her arms, and it becomes an aura of rainbow fire around her body, blazing and shooting off brilliant sparks that go singing out into the night. Big Sister and I instinctively drop to our knees before this brilliant child queen, and applaud.)