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.)

A Beautiful Skeleton Made of Swords

Warning: Eating disorder triggers and incredibly harsh monster opinions about fat people. I would like it on record that I strongly disagree with my monster’s opinions on this subject.

I’ve recently been dealing with a monster who refused to let me force myself to do anything. Now meet the monster who believed passionately in nothing but forcing.

This started as a conversation about maybe losing weight in a non-forcing, physically and mentally healthy way for the first time in my life. It ended up being about much more than weight, and one of the most challenging monster talks I’ve had. Every time we thought we’d almost got it resolved, something else would come up. Both Big Sister and Mr. H were flummoxed several times and kept tag-teaming in and out. We got there in the end. :)

(This monster is a beautiful skeleton made of dazzling swords, hovering on razor-feathered wings. Eyes like points of pale blue fire. A heart of cogs turning silently somewhere in the ribcage. Feet that never touch the ground.

I need Mr. H here so much I can’t even.)

Mr. H: Wow. Hey there, Terminator. (Silence) Okay, sorry. You’re not a Terminator. Who are you?

Skeleton: (a voice like steel singing) I am perfection. Absolute purity. Absolute strength.

Mr. H: Well, hi. So you’ve got some problems with Eve losing weight without forcing?

Skeleton: Pure strength of will. Everything she yearns for. To become herself her sword.

Mr. H: For you, forcing is beautiful, isn’t it?

Skeleton: Beautiful because pure. Perfection is what remains when everything else has been cut away. Beautiful because strong. Pure power. Absolute control. The beauty of a black sky full of stars. Pure blackness. Dazzling light.

Mr. H: And what do you mean by becoming herself her sword?

Skeleton: Somewhere in her body is a steel blade. By unearthing it from the flesh, she becomes worthy to wield it.

Mr. H: Man, I love the way you talk! Still not sure I get what it means, though. You’re saying that – losing weight for her is a fairytale quest? To prove her worthiness and find her sword? And when she’s thin, her body will be a weapon? Something that gives her power?

Skeleton: Yes…

Mr. H: I don’t see her as that kinda girl.

Skeleton: Ssssss! Not that kind of power! Not feminine, not fleshly! And not only power, but worth.

Mr. H: Someone who’s worthy to wield a sword is a warrior.

Skeleton: You understand.

Mr. H: Yes. So what you want is for her to be a warrior.

Skeleton: (distressed) She needs her sword. She needs her sword.

Mr. H: Uh – are you gonna smack me down if I mention Freud here?

Skeleton: Not of the flesh! Of the will!

Mr. H: You believe she has a strong will that she needs to find, and you desperately need to know she’ll find it.

Skeleton: Yes!

Mr. H: Because you’re worried that she doesn’t have enough power and self-worth and – nobility right now.

Skeleton. Strength and nobility. Yes.

Mr. H: Oh. This is an Utena thing. Swords, of course. Little one who -

Skeleton: Little one who bears up alone under such deep sorrow, never lose that strength or nobility, even when you grow up. But she lost it. She lost it under flesh. And I need her to find it again.

Mr. H: You think she lost her strength and nobility when she grew up. And you think that because she lost it ‘under flesh’, because she lost it when she grew, in order to find it she needs to get rid of the flesh.

Skeleton: Yes. And the quest will make her worthy. The journey will make her worthy of what awaits her at the end. This is an old, old story.

Mr. H: Oh, I know. You believe that deep down she’s a hero. That’s wonderful. She needs that. I’m just not sure about this question of ‘worthy’. What is it that makes you think she’s unworthy now?

Skeleton: You know that. A hero is not a hero at the beginning. You know that. A hero becomes a hero. Because of the journey.

Mr. H: You’re making so much sense as long as I forget you’re talking about dieting!

Skeleton: (eyes flare) This… is not… a diet. This is holy. This is everything. This is purification.

Mr. H: The Road of Trials. You want her to be purified by suffering. All the things she doesn’t need stripped away. Wait, but stripping away things she doesn’t need is good! That’s healthy. She could really use a sword to cut away the crap.

Skeleton: I am not for cutting crap.

Mr H: You – are her sword?

Skeleton: Yes! Why do you think I look like this? I am the sword that lives inside her!

Mr. H: Wow. Okay, so for you, the quality of will – or the qualities of strength and nobility - are associated with her skeleton. Wait, her skeleton actually does give her strength! Like, literally! And it doesn’t matter how much flesh is on top of it, it still does that! And it gives her nobility, because it allows her to stand up straight. To have backbone. To hold her head up high. And all those things have nothing to do with how much flesh she has either! It doesn’t need finding. It’s supposed to be inside her. It’s already doing its job right where it is!

Skeleton: I… am already doing my job? She doesn’t have to strip away her flesh to find me?

Mr. H: No, she doesn’t! What made you think that she’d lost you?

Skeleton: One day she realised she was weak and cowardly. She had always casually assumed that she was strong and brave, but looking back at her behaviour, she saw so much grovelling and fear. So much hiding and cringing and pleasing and avoiding. All since she started to grow up.

Mr. H: Strong and weak, brave and cowardly are static generalisations. Sure, the qualities of strength and nobility exist, but nobody embodies them all the time. And everyone gets to draw on them sometimes. What Eve noticed was that she’d been acting out of fear a lot. Which is understandable because she had a lot of fear!!

Skeleton: I WILL NOT BE REDUCED TO YOUR PETTY PSYCHOBABBLE! I AM A SWORD!

Mr. H: Sounds like you’re angry and you need to know that your identity isn’t threatened.

Skeleton: …I’m confused. I don’t know what to think.

Mr. H: Is there something that you’re scared of thinking?

Skeleton: That it’s easy. I want her to work for me. She needs a quest!

Mr. H: Oh, you need to know that she has a quest? Oh my goodness, she has so got a quest. Have you looked at her lately?

Skeleton: A noble cause. One that calls for strength.

Mr. H: She has one.

Skeleton: I suppose being thin – does call for strength, but it isn’t really – noble.

Mr. H: Wow.

Skeleton: But then I can’t imagine a fat person being noble.

Mr. H: (briefly gobsmacked) How about Kevin Smith sticking by Jason Mewes through years of drug addiction? Or Fiddler’s Green in Sandman offering his life for Rose Walker?

Skeleton: Any noble fat women?

Mr. H: The Ride of the Valkyries! Warrior angels of the Viking gods!

Skeleton: (head tilt) Don’t let me fall apart! (collapses in bits)

Mr. H: Hey. Hey. None of that. Get up. You’re needed.

Skeleton: (puts self back together, staggers to feet – standing on the ground now) I am?

Mr. H: You’re her sword. And you don’t need to await her at the end of the journey. Think about it. A sword isn’t something to be arrived at when the journey’s over. It’s something to help you on the way.

Skeleton: Unless it’s the Sword in the Stone.

Mr. H: Even if it is. Especially if it is. C’mon, that was the beginning of an epic story!

Skeleton: I still have a strong sense of being stuck in something that I need to get out of. That she needs to undo what was done while she was growing up.

Mr. H: Of course! Stuck! She needs to undo her stuckness! And it’s true that once she’s done that, she’ll be able to experience you much more freely. And it’s true that a lot of her stuckness is around her body, so it’s understandable that you thought it was her body.

Skeleton: Yes! I want her to overcome this so that we can be reunited!

Mr. H: You’re already as much part of her as her bones. Strength. Nobility. Power. In her bones.

Skeleton: …

Mr. H: And if you keep telling her she has to work to achieve those things, she will never notice that she already has them.

Skeleton: I’ve been… keeping her from me?

Mr. H: No. You’ve just been keeping her from noticing that you’re already there.

Skeleton: What can I do? Do I have to change my shape?

Mr. H: No. You’re perfect as you are.

Skeleton: Perfect…

Mr. H: You’re a perfect image of the truth. That she has power in her bones. Backbone of steel. That her power is always in her. Just remind her of that. Teach her to feel the steel in her bones. Strength and nobility and all those fairytale qualities she’s been longing for. Right there. Not to be earned, just noticed. And the more she practices noticing them, the better she’ll get at it.

Skeleton: She doesn’t have to qualify? She doesn’t have to have worth?

Mr. H: Her worry that she wasn’t worth anything was a lot of what stopped her noticing you in the first place.

Skeleton: Oh, no. My fault. But – somehow things don’t seem so good if they don’t have to be earned and chased. The best thing is always just out of reach. By definition. That’s fairytale yearning. Always in thrall most to anything almost. I don’t want her to stop dreaming the impossible dream. I don’t want her to settle for the possible. I want her to shoot for the moon.

Mr. H: I get that. I really do. Does it have to be all or nothing? I mean, while she’s chasing the impossible, can she still enjoy the possible?

Skeleton: I hadn’t thought of that. For me, chasing the impossible means cutting everything else away. Scorning everything else. Being haggard and wild like Don Quixote because you spurn the earth in your impossible quest for the moon. Infinity is so damn sweet, your mortal earth cannot compete. Starving for the other shore, I will not EAT! (Pause) It isn’t really about not eating, is it? It’s about refusing everything but what you can’t have. So the thing you can’t have can stand out all the more starkly in its impossible brilliance. So your dream will be more beautiful than everyone else’s. You strip yourself to rags and your dreams become diamonds. It’s impossible, but at least I’m striving for it! At least I’m closer than you! Go ahead and grovel like pigs in the things you can have. I eat the air, promise-crammed!

Mr. H: You’re right. That’s clearly what it’s about. And I have no idea what to say to that. Backup! Backup!

Skeleton: The nature of a sword is to be always seeking the next battle.

Mr. H: Yeah, but not to scorn all the less good battles because you’re saving yourself for the one impossible best one!

Big Sister: Okay, okay. The impossible dream. It sounds to me like you want to be the impossible dream for her. Which makes sense, because you’re a beautiful, powerful skeleton. That’s the anorexic impossible dream right there. You want her to give up everything that’s not you so she’ll become you. A being of pure power, without flaws or vulnerability.

Skeleton: YES!!

Big Sister: And yet you also acknowledge that that’s impossible.

Skeleton: …Yes.

Big Sister: I’m confused. You obviously love her very much, and you want her to give up everything to spend her whole life striving for the impossible.

Skeleton: …It’s just that she’s so beautiful when she’s striving! So noble! If I had tears, I would weep! Never tell me to be unmoved by this. Never tell me to accept less for her. I am her Will!

Big Sister: I understand. And the striving needs to be only for the impossible?

Skeleton: She’s so much herself when she’s striving for the impossible. So absurd it’s noble, so noble it’s absurd. Quixotic. I want her always to be quixotic.

Big Sister: (smiles) Okay. I see that. And does that depend on her striving only for the impossible?

Skeleton: If she gets too distracted by possible things, she might become – satisfied. Sssss! Satisfied!

Big Sister: Sounds like you’re really scared of that possibility. What might happen if she became satisfied?

Skeleton: She would stop striving and become a fat boring grown-up. More than that, it’s intrinsically disgusting. Satisfied! I need her to be always hungry!

Big Sister: You need to know that her needs won’t be met?

Skeleton: … Yes. All the little needs are too petty, too distracting. And the one great need that obliterates all else must be impossible. To become a beautiful skeleton. To become a being of pure willpower.

Big Sister: A being capable of forcing herself to do absolutely anything?

Skeleton: Yes.

Big Sister: Is there some kind of meta-need that you’re trying to meet for her, by having all her other needs not be met?

Mr. H: Meta-need! If you never met a need, then you might meet her meta-need! (chuckles)

Big Sister: (suppressed giggle) If you can’t say anything useful…

(Skeleton quietly starts hovering in the air again.)

Big Sister: Are you trying to meet her need for hope and challenge?

Skeleton: For extreme, transcendent, all-consuming… oh.

Big Sister: Are you short of a noun?

Skeleton: Yes.

Big Sister: You’re trying to meet her need for extreme, transcendent, all-consuming something but you don’t really know or care what?

Skeleton: You make it sound as if it’s not important. It is ALL-important. She needs to transcend and to be consumed. To the absolute extreme.

Big Sister: You’re trying to meet her need for spiritual experience? Loss of ego? To lose herself in something greater?

Skeleton: Oh. Yes, I guess the impossible dream is a… partial recognition of the truth that infinity is out there. That there’s always more. That you can always go further into it. So the impossible dream is really about.. infinite possibility?

Big Sister: Yes. And I think the word you’re missing there is ‘love’.

Skeleton: Extreme, transcendent, all-consuming – love?

Big Sister: Would that describe what you want? For Eve?

Skeleton: (long pause) I’m not sure. Passion, certainly. And desire. Unquenchable desire. I need her to be always striving! That’s why I’m terrified about this business of ‘not forcing herself any more’!

Big Sister: Because forcing and striving are the same?

Skeleton: Forcing is a part without which striving is incomplete. Striving can be done with wholehearted enthusiasm, or it can be done with gritted teeth and fists clenched in pain. Or any point in between. In fact, striving that comes from pure enthusiasm with no forcing is the smallest part. To strive only when you feel like it would be like having a dog and only ever touching its tail.

Big Sister: That would be a sad, lonely, frustrated and confused dog.

Skeleton: YES!!

Big Sister: Are you feeling sad, lonely, frustrated and confused?

Skeleton: Yes!

Big Sister: Because you need appreciation for all aspects of you, not just one small part?

Skeleton: Yes!

Big Sister: And for her to appreciate all aspects of you – she would have to power through every situation on pure willpower, regardless of her other needs, and then she would achieve total oneness with you?

Skeleton: Yes!

Big Sister: Because – wait, isn’t that the definition of pure willpower? ‘Screw all my other needs, I am going to meet this one need no matter what!’ That’s you!

Skeleton: Yes, yes, yes!

Big Sister: …Whew. Now I need backup.

Mr. H: So how’s that working out for you?

Skeleton: What?

Mr. H: Insisting that she ignore most of her own needs. Wait, is that how you define strength and nobility? The power to ignore your own needs?

Skeleton: YES, HOW IS THAT NOT OBVIOUS?

Mr H: Wow.

Skeleton: To ignore your base, petty needs in favour of a greater need. Come on, this is textbook. I can’t believe I need to explain to you about heroes.

Mr. H: Okay. Yeah. Okay. Backup.

Big Sister: Okay! Other ways to approach the same thing! We have this crazy theory that if there’s a greater need that you really want to meet, you can meet it better, faster, stronger by meeting all the little needs you meet along the way! And that’s fairytale too! When you run into the ugly old woman who begs you for a loaf of bread, and if you help her she gives you magical guidance? When you save the little fish who rewards you with wishes? All the little needs along the way!

Skeleton: But those are – others. Needs of others. Not internal.

Big Sister: A true hero is a hero to everyone, right? No creature too insignificant, too ugly, or too small.

Skeleton: Yes.

Big Sister: Then a true hero must also be a hero to herself. To stop on the road for this creature that seems the most hideous of all, the most worthless. It takes true nobility! True strength. The power in her bones!

(The skeleton can’t cry, but I am.)

Big Sister: She needs you every moment. She needs her sword.

Skeleton: Yes… But won’t she become satisfied? If her needs are met, won’t she stop striving and become just a disgusting lump of flesh?

Big Sister: Let’s see if I can get this straight. As far as I can see, you’re trying to keep her striving by using self-disgust.

Skeleton: Yes.

Big Sister: The thing is, self-disgust is one of the most stuckifying substances known to science.

Mr. H: Like I said – how’s it working out for you? Are you getting a lot of results? Is she striving a lot?

Skeleton: No. Not now. But it has worked in the past. She – she got really – thin. (Pause) Why can’t it work like that now?

Mr. H: It might have worked in the short term, but not in the long term. Especially not now she’s growing and learning so much. She wants to chase her dreams. She’s really into the infinite possibilities. She doesn’t need the self-disgust. It’s just slowing her down.

Skeleton: Slowing her down? But I’m putting so much force into motivating her!

Mr. H: Self-disgust doesn’t motivate her. I’m sorry.

Skeleton: (eyes flare, lightning crackles) AAAARGH!

Big Sister: I’m going to ask you to do something very counterintuitive. Stop trying so hard. She doesn’t need you to put force into motivating her. She just needs to know you’re there. Her sword. In her bones. That’s enough.

Skeleton: That’s enough?

Big Sister: That’s everything. Try it for a while, see if it works. Are you willing?

(long pause)

Skeleton: Let her come to me.

Big Sister: Eve? Are you okay to come out here?

Me: (slightly nervous) Yes.

(I step out in front of the beautiful skeleton hovering on its razor wings. I look up into those eyes. I’m awed and afraid.)

Skeleton: Do not be afraid. I am your skeleton. I am your sword.

Me: I’m ready.

Skeleton: I am your power. I am your strength and nobility. Embrace me.

(I hesitate. It is, after all, made of swords. Sharp blades.)

Skeleton: The power to revolutionise the world.

(That does it. Slowly, I step forward, touch the bladed ribs, put my arms around the skeleton, unharmed. And the skeleton embraces me. For a second I think it’s sinking to the ground, then I realise I’m rising into the air. Weightless. Its wings beating around me. I’m crying.)

Me: I love you. My sword. My sword.

(The skeleton lets me go and I’m turning in the air, the skeleton behind me. I close my eyes and I know to lift my arms up, outstretched, I know the skeleton is doing the same, and we merge. My wings of sparkling steel are beating in the air. I let myself sink slowly to the ground, let the wings fold into me and open my eyes. I start to grin because I know my eyes are burning with blue fire. My sword is in my bones.)

Secret Diet Ninja and Gender Monster

Warning! Potentially triggery for weight stuff!

The other day I had an amazing talk with a beautiful skeleton made of swords. It had to do with maybe losing weight in a physically and mentally healthy way for the first time in my life. I’d really like to blog it, but Secret Diet Ninja has a problem with that. Nobody can know I’m trying to lose weight!

Secret Diet Ninja kind of looks like Zhang Ziyi.

I’m attempting to do this by myself because I want to give my headcast a break after the exhausting time they had with the skeleton made of swords.

Me: Hi there. I hear you really want to keep this weight-loss thing secret.

Secret Diet Ninja: Yes! If people know, they’ll freak out!

Me: Why?

Secret Diet Ninja: Because they’ll assume you’re going back into your eating disorder and want to save you from yourself! They’ll have a million concerns and pieces of advice and suggestions and questions and you’ll either crumple under the pressure or lash out and hurt people! Nobody will trust you to do this in a healthy way because you’ve never given them any evidence that you can! And even if they do, they still won’t accept it because you can have health at every size and the only reason to lose weight is to conform to the patriarchal beauty standard or to avoid dealing with your internal-sexist body issues, both of which make you a bad feminist! Also, you will be insulting all the fat people you love!

Me: So you don’t want me to lose weight?

Secret Diet Ninja: No, I totally want you to lose weight. I just want you to keep it secret so you can’t be hurt by all this pressure. Remember how horrible it was then? When you had people crying and raging and threatening and begging you to eat, and the only way to resist was to become like stone and tell yourself nothing mattered but being thin? I don’t think you’re capable of doing that any more.

Me: No, I wouldn’t want to.

Secret Diet Ninja: So you’re completely vulnerable to them!

Me: Now is not then. People behaved like that because I was starving myself, not eating a sensible healthy diet.

Secret Diet Ninja: Yes, but some of your friends remember that time and will get all of their stuff triggered and will be incredibly worried about you!

Me: If that happens, I think I’ll be capable of remembering that that’s their stuff.

SDN. Bollocks. You’re terrified.

Me: And that’s my stuff coming up in response to their putative stuff. I’m also capable of remembering that.

Secret Diet Ninja: I just don’t want you to go through all this pain! And what about all the feminist stuff? You actually have no comeback to those arguments! See, this is just like then because losing weight is still a shameful wrong thing that has to be done in secret!

Me: I do have a comeback. I have the feminist beliefs that everyone has a right to do what they want to with their own bodies, and that it’s not okay to shame a woman just for doing a patriarchy-approved thing, because maybe she wants to do it for her.

Secret Diet Ninja: I still don’t think you’d last five minutes against a real feminist with real political opinions and knowledge. You’d be backed against a wall squealing in protest and begging them to please stop saying the scary words.

Me: That was verging on shoe-throwing. You just implied that I’m not a real feminist and I don’t have any real political opinions or knowledge. Please talk to me in a way that I can hear.

Secret Diet Ninja: I’m really worried that they’re going to scare you.

Me: (nods, feeling a rush of affection for her) I hear you.

Secret Diet Ninja: So you promise me you won’t say anything? I mean, if you just tell everyone that you’re giving up sugar and following a hypoglycemic diet for your mental health, they’ll never suspect anything! And you can say you’re going vegan too!

Me: Well, all of those are things I might be interested in doing for real. I’m uncomfortable with using them as a way to lie to my friends. Also, there’s going to be a lot of really interesting monster-talk material that I can’t publish on my blog unless I’m honest about the fact that I’m losing weight. Which is a problem because I need things to publish and I think people might find this stuff helpful.

Secret Diet Ninja: It’s simply not worth it for the emotional agony you’re going to go through.

Me: Would you be willing to listen to a list of things I could potentially do to make this easier on you?

Secret Diet Ninja: Okay. I’ll listen, but it’s not going to work.

Me: I could read up on feminist perspectives that allow for weight loss -

Secret Diet Ninja: There won’t be any.

Me: I think that’s unlikely, but if you’re right, I’ll make some up.

Secret Diet Ninja: They’ll suck because it’s impossible to be a feminist and lose weight. You will basically be a walking statement that women are not allowed their bodies. Opening your mouth and trying to contradict that will make you a walking joke.

Me: Ouch. I have lots of pain-from-then around the concept of being a walking joke. From a time when I talked a lot about high ideals and massively betrayed them.

Secret Diet Ninja: That is exactly what you’ll be doing if you talk about feminist ideals while losing weight!

Me: I don’t know where you’ve got this. This is not my idea of feminism.

Secret Diet Ninja: Yes it bloody well is!

Me: YOU KNOW WHAT, FUCK THIS BECAUSE I AM NOT A WOMAN! (deep breath) Whoa. Whoa, gender monster on board. Hi, gender monster.

Gender Monster: WHY ARE YOU LISTENING TO THIS CRAP ABOUT WOMEN’S BODIES THIS AND WOMEN’S BODIES THAT WHEN YOUR BODY IS NOT A WOMAN’S BECAUSE IT BELONGS TO YOU!!

Me: Hold on a sec. (To Secret Diet Ninja) I’m sorry. It looks like something urgent has come up here. Would you be willing to take a break while I deal with this?

Secret Diet Ninja: Sure, but promise me you’ll come back to me so we can finish our conversation.

Me: Of course.

(Secret Diet Ninja spins around and melts into the shadows)

Gender Monster: UGH UGH UGH THERE IS A WHOLE OTHER CAN OF WORMS HERE!

Me: It’s okay, you don’t need to shout. I’m listening.

Gender Monster: If you make this public you’ll have to have a million conversations about you as a woman and your womanly woman’s body and the political implications of what a freaking woman you are! And all of your gender stuff will be triggered so horribly you might as well be fat!

Me: Oof. Okay. You know what, I’m done making this hard for myself. Backup!

(Mr. H and Big Sister skid onto the scene cartoon-style.)

Mr. H: We thought you’d never ask!

Me: (laughing) Thanks, guys!

Big Sister: Soooo. Hi, by the way. So you believe that if Eve has a conversation about feminism and losing weight, she has to have it from the point of view that she’s a woman?

Gender Monster: Yes, because it’s not like she’s got a coherent genderqueer identity that she can actually assert instead. She’s not trans-anything, she’s just… all over everything.

Big Sister: How is that not an identity?

Gender Monster: Well, she’s not ready to pick a label for it. And she’s also quite shy and embarrassed about it and not sure she has a right to it, and worried that people will disapprove of her for denying she’s a woman. So yeah.

Big Sister: So it doesn’t sound like you think she has to talk about herself as a woman, just that she’s scared not to.

Gender Monster: Yeah. And it hurts her every time she does, and I want to protect her from that by making sure she doesn’t have the conversation. And I have a huge investment in her losing weight because that means her body will feel more like the genderfree, anything-you-want-to-be zone that her spirit is. And she’ll feel better in male or androgynous or gendersilly outifts and she’ll dress up more and I really want that for her!

Big Sister: So even though you came in here screaming at that ninja, you’re actually on the same side. You both really want Eve to lose the weight, you just don’t want her to talk about it.

Gender Monster: Yes.

Big Sister: Because you believe she’ll be forced to talk about it in ways that are painful for her.

Gender Monster: Yes.

Secret Diet Ninja: (silently reappearing) Yep.

Big Sister: Okay! I think it’s time for- ‘The Big List Of Ways That Eve Can Be A Sovereign Being And Not Get Forced To Talk About Painful Body Stuff!’ Ready?

Gender Monster/Secret Diet Ninja: Ready.

Big Sister: Okay. She can state her needs clearly up front. She can give people empathy for their worries, and reassurance that she’s going to do this healthily, and then explain that because of her eating disorder history, she has Ludicrous Fear Popcorn of being pressured to eat or questioned about what she is or isn’t eating, and she needs to feel absolutely safe from this. She can state that she doesn’t want advice, suggestions, or questions about her eating behaviour or the motives behind it.

Secret Diet Ninja: What if people want to talk about why she doesn’t want to talk about it?

Big Sister: She can say she also doesn’t want questions about her need for safety.

Secret Diet Ninja: What if people are desperate to be heard and furious at being silenced? What if they respect her needs on the internet and then bring it up face-to-face when she’s even more vulnerable?

Big Sister: Well, she could pre-empt that by saying, ‘If you’re very concerned and really need to be heard, please tell me your concerns in a medium that isn’t real-time and doesn’t require a response, e.g. email rather than chat or face to face.’

Secret Diet Ninja: That would be just about okay as long as there was absolute permission not to respond. But what if people still bring up concerns in chat or face-to-face? She can’t just order people to behave a certain way and expect that they’ll all follow it! What if they don’t want to? What if they forget? What if there’s some complicated food-eating situation where they can’t not mention it?

Big Sister: Would it be a problem if they just mentioned it? Like, ‘oh yeah, you’re trying to lose weight’ with no judgement implied?

Secret Diet Ninja: No, no problem at all. It would just be a huge, terrible, colossal problem if she felt she had to justify or defend herself.

Big Sister: Okay, that brings me to a really important point. She doesn’t have to justify or defend herself. Ever.

Secret Diet Ninja: Really? Because that’s 90% of what I’m terrified about. What does she do if she’s on the spot and someone asks her a probing, challenging question with a tone of obvious disapproval or urgent concern?

Big Sister: She can say, ‘I get that you’re not happy’ or ‘I appreciate that you care’ and then, ‘I’m not going to justify or defend myself. I’m feeling terrified right now because my eating disorder triggers are going off and I really need to feel safe. Would you be willing to change the subject?’

Secret Diet Ninja: What if they refuse?

Big Sister: She can suggest they email her about it later, or she can say, ‘If you’re not willing to change the subject, I’m going to need to leave this conversation.’

Secret Diet Ninja: What if they accuse her of being a coward and ducking the question because she can’t admit they’re right?

Big Sister: She doesn’t have to justify or defend herself. If people start throwing shoes like that, she has absolute permission to just focus on getting herself safe.

Secret Diet Ninja: What if she accuses herself of being a coward?

Big Sister: We’ll have a talk with the You’re a Coward Monster.

Secret Diet Ninja: Wow, you really have an answer to everything.

Gender Monster: What if she tells people she’s losing weight because of gender, and they react by telling her how to do gender? Like, ‘Weight shouldn’t have any effect on how androgynous you feel.’

Big Sister: If someone is telling her how to do gender, she’s well within her rights to say, ‘Don’t tell me how to do gender’!

Gender Monster: She wouldn’t say that. It’s too confrontational.

Big Sister: Then she could say, ‘I guess everyone’s different. This is my experience of my gender and it definitely is like this for me.’ (Long pause) Any more what-ifs?

Secret Diet Ninja: What if people are angry with her for thinking they might react badly when she should know they would never do that?

Big Sister: She can explain to them that she knows that really and she appreciates it, she just has a ton of Ludicrous Fear Popcorn. And that this isn’t about them, this is between her and her. (Long pause) Anything else?

Secret Diet Ninja: Nope.

Gender Monster: All done here too.

Big Sister: Great! Next question: are we okay to tell the world by blogging this conversation?

Gender Monster: Bleh. Don’t wanna think about that now. Too tired.

Secret Diet Ninja: Yeah, that’s a question for another time. Let’s leave that for now. We need a rest.

Big Sister: Okay, bye! And thank you!

Needless to say, we did decide to blog this conversation. :) And I had SO MANY revelations in the wake of it.

Like the fact that my Ludicrous Fear Popcorn of being argued out of things goes back to early childhood, when it was totally rational and legitimate to assume that I was doomed to lose an argument against adults on whom I depended for survival.

And the fact that I’ve had a label for my gender since forever. It’s ‘silver‘. This is my birth gender. And the fact that it doesn’t explain anything is perfect.

Sad Rage Basset

Sad Rage Basset is sad! And full of rage!

Basset Hound Zazzle card
Card Image from Zazzle

Recently I’ve been filled with rage at doing anything at all that wasn’t exactly what I felt like doing in that moment. This rage attached itself to my current obsession with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I just wanted to throw off all responsibility and run away to the stars, or failing that, get very drunk.

I DEFINITELY needed one or two members of my headcast to act as negotiators on this one. Mr. H is my go-to guy for dealing with fierce, angry monsters, and also the one who’s best at getting through to me when I’m in a horrible mood, for reasons I have yet to understand. So this happened.

Mr. H: So, we’re gonna talk to some rage. That’s cool (cracks knuckles) I’m good at talking to rage. Hiiiii, rage!

(A very large and dismal basset-hound-thing appears)

Sad Rage Basset: (slumps on ground) …Bleurgh. I’m not going to give you the satisfaction.

Mr. H: You’re huh?

Sad Rage Basset: You want me to come in here all huge and screaming so you can amusingly defy me. I’m not going to give you the satisfaction.

Mr. H: (smiles) That’s okay. This isn’t really about me getting to do my comedy turn. This is about finding out what makes you tick.

Sad Rage Basset: I don’t tick. I’m too angry to tick. I – what’s a much angrier noise than tick?

Mr. H: (mad eyes) GrrRRrrRrrrrr!

Sad Rage Basset: (disarmed, almost-laughter turning into almost-tears) Oh God everything sucks.

Mr. H: (sitting down next to Sad Rage Basset on the ground) Wanna tell me about it?

Sad Rage Basset: (plonks its head on his lap) Okay. But you won’t be able to fix it.

Mr. H: You know what’s funny? You sound a bit like Marvin. I mean, I was expecting a bit of Ford here. All the wanderlust and wanting to just get drunk and goof off with no responsibilities. But what I’m hearing sounds more like a depressed robot.

Sad Rage Basset: Depressed definitely. Robot, kind of what I’m fighting. I mean, not that I’m fighting robots -

Mr. H: That would be cool! I’d pay money to see a giant basset hound fight robots!

Sad Rage Basset: (rolls a bassety eye upwards at him) I mean that I’m fighting robotification. And I’m depressed because it seems like such a pointless fight.

Mr. H: So -  it seems it’s inevitable that Eve must become a robot?

Sad Rage Basset: Not LITERALLY! But, aargh!! It’s impossible for her to do just what she wants! I mean, it’s POSSIBLE, but at too much cost! I need this to be taken seriously!

Mr. H: I always take you guys seriously. It’s myself I don’t. (smiles)

Sad Rage Basset: …Not sure if serious.

Mr. H: …Are you trying to get me to -

Sad Rage Basset: I AM TRYING TO GET YOU TO REASSURE ME THAT YOU’LL TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY. Stop looking like that. WHY AM I STILL SEEING MISCHIEF IN YOUR EYES. (slumps again) Why do I get the feeling there’s an important point here that I’m not quite getting?

Mr. H: (pets basset ears) Everything is serious. Everything is a joke. Believe me, you’re talking to a man who’s learned this in some very… weird… ways.

Sad Rage Basset: …okay. I’ll tell you. Ugh, I still don’t wanna tell you. I’ll tell you. The problem is that Eve is stuck between a… rock and a hard place. She has all these wonderful things she wants to achieve, but they all involve forcing and doing things she doesn’t wanna do. Even basic survival involves some of that. Even beggars have to do that, you think they want to get up and beg every morning? There’s basically no hope. And I’m like Antigone, I continue to say No, No, No long after there’s no hope and no reason.

Mr. H: Wow, what a self-aware and literate monster.

Sad Rage Basset: (thumps tail weakly)

Mr. H: What was it Antigone said – ‘I don’t want to understand. That’s all right for you. I’m not here to understand, I’m here to say No and to die.’ Or something like that.

Sad Rage Basset: I’m here to say No and – oh.

Mr. H: What?

Sad Rage Basset: I refuse to let Eve be forced. I refuse to let her force herself. No matter what. I refuse, I refuse, I refuse. And the only way, really – the only way a human being can escape forcing is to get off the planet. That’s what all that wanderlust for the stars is about. It’s not about space adventures. It’s about death.

Mr. H: You want Eve to die?

Sad Rage Basset: Not really. It’s just that I refuse to let her be forced, even at the cost of her life.

Mr. H: Being forced is a fate worse than death?

Sad Rage Basset: Akin. It’s akin to death. If one is forced, one might as well be dead. At least, if one is being forced every day with no realistic hope of it ever ending, one might as well be dead.

Mr. H: Oh. Ouch.

Sad Rage Basset: I think you ought to know I’m feeling very depressed.

Mr. H: I can see why!

Sad Rage Basset: (sighs)

Mr. H: You said earlier, ‘It’s possible, but at too much cost’. What did you mean by that?

Sad Rage Basset: That was something a friend said to her the other day. That sure, you COULD just piss off on a permanent drunken hitch-hike round the world, if you were prepared to face the cost, but the cost would be tremendous. That you’d lose friends and such. But actually, now I think about it that’s not relevant. In order to survive, even in a life like that, you would have to sometimes force yourself to do things you didn’t wanna do. Perhaps especially in a life like that. So close to desperation, so close to the bone. But there’s a certain appeal in that for me because if she was doing it for raw survival maybe it wouldn’t be such a drag.

Mr. H: Okay, so what you really want for her is for nothing to be a drag?

Sad Rage Basset: YES! I want her NEVER TO DO ANYTHING THAT ISN’T PLAY! But I don’t see how that’s possible because UGH UGH UGH!

Mr. H: Even though you’re quoting a book that says that very thing is possible, you don’t see how it’s possible?

Sad Rage Basset: Yes, because there’s always some forcing! Even if there’s not outright forcing, there’s always gentle-suggesting-hinting-nudging UGH UGH UGH! There’s always an expectation that the person will see sense and do the sensible thing. There’s always an expectation that you have to talk to yourself nice and sensibly to work that out. Which is in itself probably something you have to force yourself to do. It’s like a freedom that is no freedom because OF COURSE YOU WILL DO THE SENSIBLE FUCKING THING! Just, where is the darkness? Where is the craziness? Where is the doing things for NO FUCKING REASON? Why couldn’t she have died when she was three? (tearing up) She was so beautiful and so happy. She never needed a reason – (head on paws) Oh, crap. I was being really, really serious and I just accidentally quoted ‘Step in Time’.

Mr. H: (soft voice) Everything is serious. Everything is a joke. It’s okay.

Sad Rage Basset: I’ve never heard you be like this before.

Mr. H: It’s never come up before. Everything is serious, everything is a joke. I promise you. Even if you can’t understand it right now. I don’t even really understand it myself, I just know it in my bones by now. (Sad Rage Basset looks uneasy) Are you… Are you afraid of that? Are you needing seriousness to be over here and jokes to be over there?

Sad Rage Basset: I don’t know. Got a wall. (pause) I just need her to not be patronised! I don’t need stupid fake permission that’s just giving her the space to hang herself! I need her to have ACTUAL PERMISSION! And that includes permission to do the stupid, wrong, destructive thing! So yeah – I guess I need there to be right things and wrong things, you know – Batman and Joker things, right-sensible-grim-forcey-willpower things and wrong-mad-chaotic-Dionysiac-ecstasy things… because doing those wrong things is the only way Eve can have a moment of freedom. And if she doesn’t know it’s wrong, how does she know she’s free?

Mr. H: (long pause) Oh. I see. She needs to give herself actual permission to do absolutely anything. Because right now, she’s dividing stuff into ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ things and only giving herself actual, sincere permission to do the ‘right’ things. And then needing to do the ‘wrong’ things because she doesn’t have permission to.

Sad Rage Basset: Yeah, but I don’t see how that can change because she’s a loving person and has moral standards and she’s never going to think murder is as permissible as patting a dog.

Mr. H: It’s not that it’s not permissible. It’s that she doesn’t want to do it.

Sad Rage Basset: So wait, the feeling of ‘wrong’ is actually a feeling of ‘don’t wanna’? But I’ve somehow twisted it to where she does wanna​? This is challenging my brain.

Mr. H: I think you’ve read her natural reluctance to do un-loving things as being the same as some bossy parent or teacher telling her what to do. It’s totally different. But I still feel like there’s a piece of this puzzle we’re both missing. Hmmm. This is a very intellectual one! Maybe we need backup. Big Sister?

Big Sister: Oh, thanks for the compliment to my intellect! (to Sad Rage Basset) Hi. Okay, the backup is going to back up a step. You don’t think she can give herself permission to do the ‘wrong’ things because she is a loving person? So because she’s loving, she can’t give herself permission to do anything that’s not loving?

Sad Rage Basset: I guess everyone does things that aren’t loving sometimes, unless they’re Jesus.

Big Sister: Right. And if she gave herself permission to do those things, how would she be treating herself?

Sad Rage Basset: With… love. So wait, love really is the Hound of Heaven and you really can’t get away from it whichEVER way you twist it? (crying)

Big Sister: Mmm-hmm.

Sad Rage Basset: No, I can’t accept that! You can’t say that murder is okay because the murderer is being loving to themselves!

Big Sister: Murder is a huge tragedy. And even at the roots of murder is love. Even at the roots of hate is love. Somewhere in there is a scared child trying to protect itself. We run away from love so hard, and there literally is nowhere else to run.

Sad Rage Basset: (howls)

Big Sister: What you have is a choice to make love conscious. You know you said, ‘The feeling of ‘wrong’ is a feeling of don’t wanna, but I’ve somehow twisted that to where she does wanna?’

Sad Rage Basset: Yeah.

Big Sister: You need her to have absolute freedom, you believe having absolute freedom would be wrong, therefore you believe she can only have freedom by doing wrong. Therefore you label certain things as wrong – often things the love in her recoils from – and try to make her want to do them. You take the things she would least want to do and call them freedom.

Sad Rage Basset: No!!

Big Sister: It’s okay. The great thing is that like I said, it’s all love. She’s all love. You just need to give her a chance to make it conscious. And freedom is essential for that. If you want to talk right and wrong, absolute freedom is right.

Sad Rage Basset: Really?

Big Sister: Absolutely. (to Mr. H) Back me up here?

Mr. H: Yeah, I agree. And it’s great that you’re trying to help her find freedom. Just you’re doing it by setting up categories of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ things – in other words, things for which there is permission and things for which there isn’t. In other words, your attempt to give her permission -

Sad Rage Basset: – is taking permission away! Crap, I’m one of those monsters?

Mr. H: Yeah, I’m sorry. You’ve set up all these things as ‘forbidden temptations’ so she can taste freedom by giving in to them. And they’re actually not what she wants. She wants a way more positive life than that. And she’s trying to go after the things she really wants with these ‘forbidden temptations’ dragging on her heels, making it hard, and the result is -

Sad Rage Basset: – forcing! NOOOOOOOOO! (howls)

Mr. H: I’m sorry. (pets) I’m sorry, pup. It’s okay. You can change this.

Sad Rage Basset: How? Isn’t it TOO STUPID LATE?

Mr. H: Never. (smiles) You’ve read your NVC book, haven’t you? Knock off the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Remind her that those words are static generalisations and reality is complex and always changing. And remind her that she’s not only free when she’s getting drunk and goofing off, she’s free when she’s helping someone, she’s free when she’s creating stuff, she’s free when she’s doing her taxes, she’s just – free. Always. She just forgets that sometimes and needs reminding. You can be the one to remind her. You can be the Basset of Freedom.

Sad Rage Basset: Mmmwhrrrr? (ears perk up)

Mr. H: You think you can fly with those ears?

(The Sad Rage Basset, who must now be called the Basset of Freedom, stands up, shakes its enormous ears, goes into a lumbering run, and takes off, flolloping through the air like a canine Dumbo.)

Basset of Freedom: I’m a serious joke! I’m a profound truth with ludicrous ears!

Mr. H: (laughing) Yeah! Now you get it!

Basset of Freedom: You mean, now I get myself!

Mr. H: Yeah!!

Basset of Freedom: I say, NEVER DO ANYTHING THAT ISN’T PLAY! It’s easy – just notice that you’re free! And if you think the idea of you being free is ridiculous – LOOK AT ME! Bassets might fly! And they do! Wheeeeee….

(Mr. H wipes a surreptitious tear. I feel the need to run onto the scene.)

Me: Thank you so much! All three of you! Hugpile!

(There is a hugpile.)

Things I realised afterwards!

As well as the dichotomy between ‘right things’ (that I don’t wanna do) and ‘wrong things’, there was this huge dichotomy going on between ‘serious things’ and ‘jokes’, which baffled me at the time because it was clearly deep and meaningful and connected but – how?

Afterwards it hit me. The opposite of seriousness is fun. So what we had was a dichotomy between ‘serious things’ (that I don’t wanna do) and ‘fun things’. And it somehow got completely dissolved without ever being directly discussed. And the flying basset is a living picture of serious-fun. The job’s a game.

Also, this is the SECOND monster who’s brought up a quote from the play ‘Antigone’ by Jean Anouilh! See also Big No and Big Yes.

Too Flakey

This was one of the funnier things that happened when I was preparing to launch my business. As I mentioned, I’d set up a friendly brunch with members of my headcast where all my business-launch-related monsters could come and express their concerns over a nice cup of tea and a bite to eat. This guy was the second monster to show up.

(A large gorilla enters, wearing a hat in the shape of an ice-cream with two Flakes sticking out of it like bunny ears.)

Gorilla: I like this brunch idea. I was going to come in screaming and thumping my chest, but this is just… disarming. Got any bananas?

Big Sister: Plenty. (passes some) What’s the problem?

Gorilla: I’m worried that Eve is too flakey.

(Mr. H absolutely chokes with laughter.)

Big Sister: (fighting giggles) Yeah?

Too Flakey: Yeah, I don’t doubt that she’s got the talent, or that she can get  customers, but I really do doubt she can be responsible enough to keep them.

Big Sister: Do you agree that this is a divine calling for her? And that she’s got all this divine and spiritual support around her?

Too Flakey: Well, yeah, I can see that. I mean, they’re sitting right there. And I get that there’s a chance she can succeed, or they wouldn’t be calling her to do this. But there’s also a massive chance she’ll fail. She can barely cope with basic self-care or holding down a menial job! And she really wants this, so if it turns out she can’t do it she’ll be heartbroken!

Big Sister: So you’re trying to protect her from that by stopping her doing it at all?

Too Flakey: Oh. Now you mention it, that doesn’t really sound logical. (pause) I can at least delay her starting?

Big Sister: That’ll just mean she goes longer without money and make it harder for her.

Too Flakey: Crap, this is really happening, isn’t it? This is scary. I’m really scared for her.

Big Sister: Would you like ten reasons why now is not then?

Too Flakey: No, I get that now is not then. She’s got all this support, and new skills, and she’s a lot more mature. It’s just that she’s never succeeded at running her own business before, so there’s no hard evidence that she can. I’d just be a lot happier if I could be certain she was going to succeed. And I can’t be certain, can I?

Big Sister: No, not completely. And I know that’s hard. It might help to remember that she doesn’t want a life completely free from risk. This is a risk she wants to take. And you can make it more likely that she’ll succeed.

Too Flakey: Really? How?

Big Sister: You can reassure her that she’s not too flakey.

Too Flakey: Oh. Oh no, I’m one of those monsters? I’m causing the thing I’m trying to protect her from? I hadn’t realised. I thought I was helping.

(With total dramatic seriousness, he pulls the two flakes off his hat, crosses to my chair, kneels, and offers them to me like a warrior offering his weapons to a conqueror.)

Too Flakey: Here. Take them both. My new name is No Flake, because you – are no flake!

Me: (taking them) Really?

Too Flakey: Yeah! You’re just an HSP who needs downtime! And you’re learning to take that downtime before it takes you! And you’re a great person for this job because of the wounded healer archetype! And really, you’re the opposite of a flake because you care so much!

Me: (tearing up) Thank you!! (hugs him)

I know, right? Awwwwwwwwwww!

The thing about being ‘one of those monsters’ is significant. An awful lot of monsters turn out to be causing the problem they’re trying to protect you from. Or to put it another way, a lot of monsters are trying to protect you from the very problem they’re causing.

For instance, a monster who terrifies you out of getting close to anyone may well be trying to protect you from being unloved. And a monster who distracts you when you try to achieve anything may be trying to protect you from failure.

It makes sense in monster logic. They really want this wonderful thing for you – love, success, whatever – and they can’t bear to see you suffer the pain of not having it. So they decide it’s a great idea to protect you from that pain by stopping you ever trying to get it.

The upside with these monsters is that once they realise they’re doing this, they’re usually very keen to change their behaviour and help you get that wonderful thing.

Time for Bed, said Zebedee!

In the final stages of preparing to launch (or as Havi calls it, ‘brunch’) this business, I got stuck. All I needed to do was make final tweaks to the website, and instead I was staying up very, very late while not actually doing anything productive.

A lot of this was because I was exhausted and overstimulated from moving house and my body clock was screwed. But I was also noticing some difficulties with acceptance. Some old-school ‘Why can’t you just do it now now now’ and some really heavy-duty bed-dread. Bed-dread is a semi-constant for me, but when it’s that bad, something’s up.

Hence, I set up a monster brunch for my brunch monsters. I imagined us outside at this beautiful white wrought-iron picnic table that looked like it came out of Jolly Holiday, only bigger. Gobstopper Penguin was head waiter. The table was laden with everyone’s favourite foods, plus some favourite monster foods like bones and rocks. Around the table were me, several members of my headcast, and some empty places for the monsters.

Five monsters showed up in total. This was the first.

Big Sister: We’d like to extend a warm welcome to all the brunch monsters out there. This is a friendly brunch where you can sit down with us and tell us your troubles over a nice bit of food. Come when you’re ready.

(Zebedee bounces in.)

Zebedee: (in the same voice my dad used every night when I was little) TIIME for bed, said Zebedee!

Mr. H: (amused recognition) Oh man!!

Little Sister: (dismayed!) You!!

Big Sister: Welcome, Zebedee. Have a seat and tell us what’s on your mind. Would you like some tea? Pancakes?

Zebedee: Oh… thanks. (bounces onto a chair.) I’m having trouble getting Eve to go to bed. My normal tactic of yelling ‘Time for Bed’ isn’t getting results. Which is understandable because bed is a scary lonely place where you get sent to by force because you’re small and weak and need more sleep than normal people. But if she doesn’t sleep this business is going to fail!

Little Sister: (coming out from under the table) It’s not lonely now. I’ve got all these people with me. And nobody gets to force me. But I DO hate needing sleep. It’s embarrassing! And I finally don’t HAVE to be up early and I want to have fun with that! I don’t want to have a bedtime ever again!

Zebedee: (having an identity crisis) But – I said time for bed! That’s what I said!

Little Sister: I hate bedtime! I can feel my insides sinking when I just say the word!

Big Sister: Okay, folks. It seems that part of the problem here is not the bed, but the time. You both agree that bed is important, right?

Zebedee: Bed is my entire reason for living!

Mr. H: …I’d make a dirty joke but it seems kinda cruel when he’s a spring from the waist down.

Little Sister: What?

Mr. H: Nothing!

Big Sister: (trying not to crack up) We’re talking about whether bed’s important, sweetie.

Little Sister: Well, yes. I don’t like needing sleep, but I know it’s important. And I wouldn’t really want to be awake forever and not have any dreams. And bed can be fun. Hiding under the covers, having conversations with your animals, having time to think and think and think… Really, I only hate bed because I don’t have a choice about it. Even if other people don’t force me, biology does.

Big Sister: Biology also forces you to eat and go to the loo, but you don’t hate those. What’s different about bed?

Little Sister: I guess the memory of being forced by Mummy and Daddy and feeling angry and scared.

Big Sister: And when Zebedee insists on a specific TIME for bed, all that stuff comes up.

Little Sister: Yes.

Big Sister: Zebedee, you hear that?

Zebedee: Yes but she has to have a full night’s sleep before a session or it won’t go well!

Big Sister: She hasn’t before the last two and they’ve gone fantastically. She catches up at other times.

Zebedee: Oh. But what if she misses a session because she stayed up late and overslept?

Big Sister: She’ll say sorry and reschedule. As long as it doesn’t happen often, it won’t be a problem.

Zebedee: So basically, I can actually let her be totally sovereign about bed and the world won’t end.

Big Sister: Not only that, she’ll actually sleep more, and at more regular hours, because she won’t feel the need to rebel.

Zebedee: So the best way for me to do my job is to stop doing my job?

Big Sister: Yes! Also? The real reason you exist is to make going to bed fun.

Zebedee: What?!

Big Sister: When parents invoke a children’s TV character, it’s usually because they’re trying to make things fun!

Zebedee: …Oh. That was supposed to be fun?! Her father wasn’t trying to annoy her? He didn’t notice that she heard, ‘Time for bed, said Zebedee!’ as ‘Doom doom doom doom doom’?

Big Sister: He was doing the best he could to make a difficult experience fun for her.

Zebedee: Oh. Oh, I – oh. (tearing up) All these years I thought I was a harbinger of doom. Why didn’t anyone tell me?

Big Sister: You’re a magical stoner jack-in-the-box! You go Boing! Have you ever actually seen an episode of the Magic Roundabout?

Zebedee: Of course not. We didn’t have a television.

Big Sister: YouTube break!

(About 15 minutes later)

Zebedee: …Gosh.

Big Sister: You see what I mean?

Zebedee: Yes! That was mindblowing! And the ‘time for bed’ thing was almost… cosy. I didn’t say it in an annoying voice at all!

Little Sister: Can we study lucid dreaming?

Zebedee: Huh?

Little Sister: Because then instead of saying ‘I’m going to sleep,’ I can say, ‘I’m going to study dreams’!

Zebedee: Of course! I should think I’d be good at that. Because apparently I’m quite an authority on surreal randomness.

Little Sister: Woohoo!

Zebedee: Could somebody pass the jam?

Big No and Big Yes

Yet another revelation brought on by (not) tidying my room! I was trying to work out why I was so stuck on this task, and I realised it was a growing-up thing.

I grew up in denial about growing up. Ridiculously epic denial. So when my parents decided I was old enough to tidy my own room, I did not take it well. As far as I was concerned, I was exactly the same person I’d always been and they’d just arbitrarily decided to stop taking care of me.

And then recently, a close friend decided to stop taking care of me. Intellectually, I agreed that was healthy. Emotionally, all my stuff from then was coming right back up. I realised part of me believed that if I tidied my room, I was accepting that I deserved rejection now just like I deserved rejection then.

When I find a part of me that believes something like that, I know I’ve got a monster.

Because I was freaking out about this monster, I asked Big Sister to negotiate with it while Little Sister and I hid our scared asses.

Me: Little Sister, would you like to be in a safe room for this?

Little Sister: I am not ONLY in a diamond igloo, I’m in a diamond igloo lined with cuddly dogs and bits of paper and MESS LOVELY MESS!

Me: Okay darling. Have a good time in there, you’re totally safe.

Little Sister: (slams door)

Me: Big Sister, can you do this negotiation for me? I’m really scared.

Big Sister: Do you want to be in a safe room too?

Me: Eeeeeeer… Yes and no. I still want to hear what’s going on. And I kind of want to know what the monster looks like too. I just don’t want it to be able to get at me.

Big Sister: Sounds like bulletproof mirrored glass is needed here.

Me: Yes!

(Big Sister conjures up a shelter for me that looks like a mini-Gherkin.)

Me: (laughing) Are you trying to tell me some Freudian thing here?

Big Sister: It was just what came to mind!

Me: Okay, thank you! (I go in and peer out through the diamond-shaped window-panes.) Please help us, God. Please guide us and help us all. Including the monster.

(Big Sister begins to glow gently.)

Big Sister: Hey, monster. Would you like to come out?

Monster: (big scary voice off) NOOOOOO!

Big Sister: You know what you just sounded like?!

Monster: (normal voice) Can we not go through a single monster negotiation without a Star Wars reference even when THAT guy isn’t here?

Big Sister: (smiling) You tell me, Mr. Big No.

Monster: (roaring into the picture on all fours, mostly mouth, like a cross between Taz and a giant Fizgig) NOOOOOOO!

Big Sister: Wow, you really can do a very big no!

Monster: (preening) Can my name be Big No?

Big Sister: Sure! So it seems like you’re alternating between being really friendly, and really angry and resistant. I’m noticing that you’re fine unless I ask you or tell you to do something, and then I get a big no. Is that right?

Big No: N – uuugggh.

Big Sister: I’m also noticing that you don’t much care for questions.

Big No: I just, I just, I just, aargh! I exist to say no, so I don’t know what I want! I’m like Antigone, you know, ‘I am here to say no and to die!’ Except I don’t die!

Big Sister: Well, sometimes saying no can be really valuable. No can be an incredibly sovereign thing to say. I think Eve really needs you.

Big No: BUT I CAN’T SAY ANYTHING ELSE!

Big Sister: You’re saying plenty!

Big No: But when someone tells me to do something, or asks me to do something, or asks me a question that’s supposed to have the answer ‘Yes’ – I CAN’T SAY ANYTHING BUT NO!

Big Sister: Ah, yes. Yes, I remember that feeling.

Big No: Of course, you were her. (looks about to tear up)

Big Sister: Yes. I understand.

Big No: Where is she? She’s hiding from me, isn’t she? (Big Sister nods) WHY HAS IT ALL GONE SO WRONG?

Big Sister: I’m so sorry. It’s going to be okay. Can you tell me what’s gone wrong? If you’re upset that she’s hiding from you, does that mean you wanted to be her friend?

Big No: OF COURSE, I’M HER BIG NO! Every toddler has one, don’t they?

Big Sister: Yes! (smiles) But, um -

Big No: You can’t help  but notice that it’s been a lot of years and she’s not a toddler any more and I’m still around.

Big Sister: Yeah. Well, being around is fine. Being around is great! Where would an adult be without the ability to say no?

Big No: I don’t have to disappear?

Big Sister: No, of course not! Please don’t disappear. You’re absolutely vital.

Big No: But it seems like I just cause trouble. I mean, without me she’d lose the ability to say no. But with me, she’s lost the ability to say yes. She wants to do this thing and I don’t know how to let her because all I am is a Big No. I can’t be other than that. The only way to let her do it would be to disappear, and I can’t do that. So I’m stuck and she’s stuck and she’s hiding from me because she hates me so much. (crying)

Big Sister: She doesn’t hate you!

Big No: People don’t hide from people they like!

Big Sister: Sometimes they do. She’s actually pretty proud of her ability to say no, but she’s scared of her inability to say yes.

Big No: I heard that most monsters are really the opposites of themselves, but I can’t imagine that I’m really a Big Yes.

Big Sister: Well, saying No to something is saying Yes to something else. For instance, saying No to helping someone is saying Yes to having time for yourself. Saying No to tidying is saying Yes to mess.

Big No: (enthusiastically) Yes to Mess! Hey, I just said yes. Theoretically.

Big Sister: What else could saying no to tidying be saying yes to? What was it saying yes to back then?

Big No: Yes to childhood. Yes to time to grow slowly instead of all at once. Yes to support – well, yes please to support, but there wasn’t any. The room just stayed messy.

Big Sister: That was hard.

Big No: Yes. Yes to wildness.  Yes to cosiness. Yes to SELF. Yes to imperfection. Yes to spontaneity. Yes to freedom. Yes to sovereignty! Yes to not giving a damn what other people think because you are the king or queen of your life!

Big Sister: Those are all really good yesses!

Big No: But why doesn’t she get those things when I say no to tidying?

Big Sister: Well, a mess can’t make someone a child or give them support. A mess can’t make someone free or sovereign. Not by itself. It’s just a mess. Refusing the thing you don’t want is only half of it. You also need to say yes to the thing you do. Otherwise you just get a nothing.

Big No: Mess isn’t a nothing. Tidiness is a nothing. Tidiness is being all scrubbed away till there’s nothing left of you.

Big Sister: So you’ve understood that there’s a ‘no’ of tidiness. Tidiness involves rejecting some things. I don’t think it necessarily involves rejecting yourself. What could tidiness involve saying yes to?

Big No: Your parents. Bossy people. Society.

Big Sister: Not who, what! Think about a sovereign person who is also tidy. Think about Mary Poppins. What qualities is her tidiness saying yes to?

Big No: I… Sovereignty, somehow. I don’t understand that one at all. I don’t understand how tidiness could possibly be sovereign. I guess… order, control of her environment. Serenity,  crispness, cleanness. Safety? Tidiness can be safe as well as mess. Perhaps. I feel a bit anxious about that thought. Maybe tidiness isn’t safe for everybody.

Big Sister: Maybe it depends if it’s yes-tidiness or no-tidiness.

Big No: Ooh! Yes. So how do I – what do I do?

(Here I procrastinated for a while)

Big Sister: I’m sensing some nervousness around the answer to that question!

Big No: I just know you’re going to tell me to turn into Big Yes, and I don’t want to lose my Big No-ness! I want to be both!

Big Sister: Good, because you need to be both. Even Havi has her ‘What I don’t want’!

Big No: Oh – like this? (The brown fuzzball divides like a cell into conjoined-twin fuzzballs, one red and one green, both with equally huge mouths.)

Red Twin: NOOOOOO!!!

Green Twin: YEEEEEEESS!!!

Big Sister: Awesome, awesome, awesome! Big No and Big Yes! Now this is what you do. Big No, whenever you say No, I need you to work out what you’re really saying No to. So when you say No to tidying, what are you really saying?

Big No: No to being bossed around! No to shame! No to obliteration! No to other people’s stories! No to other people’s stuff! No to boring! No to cold! No to lonely! No to always being sensible! No to always being a grown-up! No to always working! No to obedience! No to giving away my space! No to giving away my sovereignty!

Big Yes: YEEEEEES!!!

Big Sister: (applauds) That’s wonderful. Now, Big Yes, if Big No is saying No to all those things, I need you to work out what you’re saying yes to.

Big Yes: Yes to freedom! Yes to self-respect! Yes to being! Yes to MY stories! Yes to my-energy-back-to-me! Yes to fun! Yes to warmth! Yes to friends! Yes to silliness! Yes to childhood! Yes to play! Yes to autonomy! Yes to owning my space! Yes to sovereignty!

Big Sister: That’s wonderful! Can you feel how wonderful that is?

Big Yes: YEEEEEES!!

Big Sister: Okay! So now we’ve done all that - do these qualities require a mess?

Big Yes: YEEEEEES!

Big Sister: Do they require a mess all over the floor of her room?

Big No: NOOOOOO! Just…

Big Yes:… a willingness to make creative messes and play messy games, and not mind if things aren’t perfect as long as you’re having fun, and…

Big No: …not be clinical about things.

Big Yes: YEEEEEEES! We could play with that Mess book. And we could shout out our Yes-es and Nos while we’re tidying, so we don’t forget! YEEEEEEES!

Big No: NOOOOOO! We must definitely NOT forget! NO forgetting!

Big Yes: YEEEEEEES!

Big Sister: I love it! Well done, both of you! Round of applause! (claps for them)

(Big No and Big Yes clap for themselves. Being conjoined twins, they’re clapping with one hand each, in perfect synchronicity.)

Big Sister: Awwww! You guys are so cute!

Big Yes: YEEEEEES!

Big No: (simultaneously) NOOOOOO!

Big Sister: Would you younger ones like to come out of your safe rooms? It’s all good out here now!

(At this point I come out of the mini-Gherkin and the fuzzballs start bouncing up and down, slightly out of sync with each other. I crouch and open my arms to them as if welcoming a friendly dog and they bound into my arms. There are tears and doglike kisses.)

Me: Thanks, guys! I love you!

Big No: (overjoyed, can’t quite believe it) NOOOOO!

Big Yes: (triumph) YEEEEEES! We love you too!

Big No: We definitely don’t hate you! Where’s -

(We all look at the small diamond igloo where Little Sister is still hiding. A long silence.)

Me: She hasn’t heard any of this. (Knocks on the igloo) Little Sister? It’s safe to come out. They’re friendly now.

(Door cracks open and a very nervous and dishevelled Little Sister peeks out, with bits of things in her hair from being in the mess.)

Big Yes: It’s okay!

Big No: We don’t want to scare you!

Big Yes: We love you!

Big No: We don’t want to hurt you!

Big Yes: We want to make your life more wonderful!

(Little Sister just bursts into floods of tears. Real uncontrolled snotty crying. The fuzzballs snuggle up to her and let her wipe her face on their fur. Big Sister and I just stand back respectfully and let this happen. After a while we realise that the fuzzballs are crying too. The effect is of three children crying together with their arms around each other. They’re all about the same size.)

Little Sister: This was a really big thing… (cries more)

Big Yes: We’re very important monsters!

Big No: Except we’re not monsters any more!

Big Yes: We’re just fuzzballs that love you!

Big No: Except we’re not just fuzzballs!

Big Yes: We’re fuzzballs with VERY LOUD VOICES! (This shout blows Little Sister’s hair back and she giggles.) We can speak for you!

Big No: So you DON’T have to worry about not being heard! NO to not being heard!

Big Yes: YES to being heard!

Little Sister: (excited) I can shout too!

Big Yes: Can you?

Little Sister: YEEEEEEES!

Big Yes: Can you shout as loud as us?

Little Sister: YEEEEEEES!

Big No: NOOOOOO!

Little Sister: YEEEEEES!

(Big Sister and I give each other a big grin and walk off arm in arm, leaving them to it…)

Oz and the Tribblegonks

Sometimes monster conversations are serious and harrowing, and sometimes they’re LIKE THIS. Cuteness and hilarity ahead.

(See here to find out about all the members of my headcast who crop up in this post.)

I realised that despite the breakthrough with Dragon, I was still getting a lot of negative self-talk saying things like ‘I hate you in a million different ways!’ So my usual beloved tag-team went in to find out what kind of monster was behind that.

Big Sister: Hi, could I talk to the Negative Self-Talk Monster, please?

Monsters: There’s lots of us.

(And the lights come up on a sea of tiny beings. They look like Hattifatteners from the Moomins.)

Big Sister: Hmm, you look like Hattifatteners! So what’s that telling me? Hattifatteners look like ghosts… and they’re electric… and kind of expressionless… and scary… and ultimately harmless, right? So, Hattifatteners, what’s going on with you? What are you observing?

Monsters: (slight crackling noise)

Big Sister: Oh, right, Hattifatteners can’t talk. Could you appear in a form that does talk?

(Monsters turn into many tiny black fuzzballs.)

Monsters: (with no conviction, as if reading a script) Bleh. You suck. We hate you. Get better at everything.

Mr. H: Gonks! Yeah, GONKS! (Laughing… he loves it when the monsters look like gonks.)

Big Sister: You also look kind of like Tribbles. Tribbles proliferate like crazy and cause Tribble trouble. Is that what you do?

Monsters: (suddenly excited, bouncing and doing flips) Yeah! We proliferate! We cause Tribble trouble! (They start multiplying wildly, popping up like popcorn, piling on top of each other until the negotiators are in danger of getting buried.)

Mr. H: Whoa-whoa-whoa! Let’s keep the proliferating to a minimum till we’ve finished TALKING PLEASE!

(One last one defiantly plinks into existence and then the fuzz settles.)

Big Sister: You looked like you were having fun there.

Monsters: Yeah! We have fun!

Mr. H: Fun, huh? I was expecting a lot of things, but I wasn’t expecting fun. Most of the monsters I’ve met have been kind of grim and austere and b- well, not boring, nobody’s boring, but they have a boring life.

Monsters: We have fun slinging insults because it’s all we can do.

Mr. H: Why’s it all you can do?

Monsters: We don’t know! We’re just insult slingers!

Mr. H: Uh…

Big Sister: Is there someone behind all this? Is there like, a queen monster of this hive?

(An ENORMOUS GIGAGONK appears behind the horde.)

Mr. H: (stepping forward) Hi! Do you -

Gigagonk: BRRRRAAAAUUUUMMMM. (A booming blast of air and sound that sends him staggering back in shock.) HA! EVEN YOU WERE RUFFLED!

Mr. H: (brushing imaginary dust off his jacket) Heh. Shaken not stirred.

Gigagonk: BRRRRRRAAAAAAUUUUUMMMMM!

Mr. H: You know who you remind me of? The Great Oz. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

(And sure enough, a curtain draws back, revealing a sheepish-looking little old man turning a handle to operate the beast.)

Mr. H: Hi, Oz. What’s up?

Oz: I’m from Omaha! I came here in a balloon!

Mr. H: Okay, I don’t need the plot of the Wizard of Oz. What are you observing?

Oz: You just outed me!

Mr. H: How are you feeling?

Oz: Embarrassed!

Mr. H: It’s okay, I’m safe. You’re safe. Wanna tell me a bit about what you do here?

Oz: Um… I wizard.

Mr. H: What do you do when you’re wizarding?

Oz: I say things in a loud voice.

Mr. H: What sort of things?

Oz: ‘I hate you, you’re awful, do better…’

Mr. H: Okay, why those sorts of things?

Oz: Oh, it’s what the people want.

Mr. H: What people?

Oz: Well, Eve, I suppose.

Mr. H: And why do you think she wants that?

Oz: I don’t know. All I do is give the people what they want. I’m a showman, you know.

Big Sister: It seems like you’re someone who feels small trying to hide behind a facade of being big and noisy. That suggests childhood stuff to me. Am I right?

Oz: I don’t know. I’m from Omaha.

Big Sister: Okay, honey. I need to talk to Eve to find out more about this. Can you wait while I do that?

Oz: Certainly.

Big Sister: Thank you. (kisses him on the cheek)

Oz: (blushes) Oh! Madam!

Big Sister: Okay, Eve, can we talk about this? Is he right that you need to hear things like ‘I hate you, you’re awful, do better’?

Little Sister: Can I join in?

Big Sister: Yes, of course! This is really relevant to you.

Little Sister: I need him to say those things so I’ll behave better so then real people won’t say those things to me.

Oz: I’m real!

Big Sister: I know, honey.

Little Sister: I mean flesh and blood people.

Big Sister: (hand-on-heart sigh) Okay. And when he says those things, how do you feel?

Little Sister: Scared. Angry.

Big Sister: When you feel scared and angry, do you behave better?

Little Sister: No, I behave badly! Or I don’t do anything at all.

Big Sister: So what are you really needing?

Little Sister: To not be hated!

Big Sister: Remember, in NVC we don’t do a ‘don’t’. Can you say ‘to not be hated’ in a different way, so it’s a ‘do’ instead of a ‘don’t’?

Little Sister: To be loved!!

Big Sister: Yeah! (hugs her) Really big, really simple. How can we get Oz to help you with that?

Little Sister: I don’t know. You’re the big sister.

Big Sister: Okay, I’ll work it out. Thank you.

Little Sister: You’re welcome. (watches intently during the next bit)

Big Sister: Oz, thank you for waiting. Did you get all that?

Oz: Yes. No. Could you explain it again, please?

Big Sister: Okay. You came into being because Eve wanted protecting from hate. She wanted you to say hateful things to her so that she’d behave better so that flesh-and-blood people wouldn’t hate on her. The trouble is that when you say hateful things, she feels scared and angry and either behaves worse or does nothing. Not her fault, not your fault, you were both doing your best with the information you had.

Oz: Oh, no. I always knew I was a failure.

Big Sister: You’re not! You’re a very powerful ally. We just need to work out a better way for you to do your job so you can meet her real need, which is to be loved.

Oz: Oh, is that all? Well, that’s easy. (Turns handle. Gigagonk turns pink with sparkly antennae.)

Gigagonk: HHUUUUUUUGGGSS!

Tribblegonks: (turning pink and bouncing up and down) We love you! You rock! Do more of that awesome thing! We’re having fun slinging love!

Big Sister: Wow, that WAS easy! Thank you!

Oz: (tipping hat) All I do is give the people what they want.

Me: Thank you, Oz!

Oz: You’re welcome, madam, miss, sir, whateveryouare. May I draw the curtain again now?

Big Sister: Sure.

(Oz retreats behind his curtain. Little Sister dives through the curtain and hugs his legs.)

Little Sister: Thank you, Oz! I love you!

(Oz looks deeply touched. This is the person he was really here to serve. All these years he’s received nothing for his service but fear and anger, and now he finally gets love. The old man and the little girl stand there hugging each other, both in tears.)

At the end of her conversation with Oz, Little Sister looked like Dorothy for a moment – a bit older than normal, in her blue and white checked summer school uniform and pigtails. When she came skipping back to me I said, ‘You grew up a bit,’ and she said, ‘Just for a moment,’ and transformed back to her normal self.

Just then we walked past a street sign that said, ‘Emerald Court’.

Oz & Dorothy

What I find interesting about this monster talk is that the monsters had so little emotional investment in what they were saying. Normally there’s a lot of passion and fear and DOOM in monster interactions, and a lot of ‘we have to keep saying this thing or the world will end.’ In this case, while Oz is clearly devoted to Little Sister, he’s not invested in what he’s saying. He’s a showman who just says whatever the people want to hear. This was a revelation - my negative self-talk feels so intensely real and hateful when it’s happening, and yet - it’s just a show?

As for the Tribblegonks, they’re even less invested in what they’re saying. I think that’s why they’re capable of having fun. They’re just copying Oz, they don’t mean anything by it. They’re a perfect image of how negative self-talk, well, proliferates, and you end up slinging mindless, meaningless hate-words at yourself just out of habit.

…But they’re so cute!

Big Sister teaches THE SHINY STAR FORCEFIELD!

You can meet Big Sister here and Little Sister here.

I had to pass through an area containing a person around whom I felt very, very uncomfortable. I’d been thinking that I needed some kind of extra-special conscious entry or forcefield to help me, so while walking there, it occurred to me to ask Big Sister for advice. (I always have the best conversations with my sisters while walking!) Little Sister was there as well, so it went like THIS:

Me: Can you give me any advice on this special forcefield thing?

Big Sister: *shines with golden divine light*

Me: That’s your answer to everything!

Big Sister: *shines*

Me: Wait, that means it’ll be MY answer to everything in a year too. That means I’ll be able to shine! Could you start teaching me to shine now?

Big Sister: Of course! First you have to find the star in your heart.

(I put my hand on my heart and the others did likewise. Little Sister started singing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’, which was the only song I would sing when I was four. Big Sister and I joined in, and I visualised a bright star in my chest while I was singing.)

Big Sister: Found it?

Me & Little Sister: Yes!

Big Sister: Right, now you say all the qualities that your star is made of.

Little Sister: Love!

Me: Light!

Little Sister: Happiness!

Me: Beauty!

Little Sister: Wonderfulness!

Me: Freedom!

Little Sister: Sparkles!

Me: Hope!

Little Sister: Play!

Big Sister: That’s lovely. Are you done?

Little Sister: Loveliness!

Me: Parties!

Little Sister: Birthdays!

Me: Christmas!

Little Sister: Bunny rabbits! Pussy willow!

Big Sister: (chuckles) Is your star shining nice and bright now?

Little Sister: YES!

Me: Yes!

Big Sister: Great. Now take a big breath in, and let your star grow a little bit bigger. Every time you breathe in, let your star get bigger. Bigger than your body… out to the tips of your fingers… down to the tips of your toes… up to the top of your head.

(We all did this until we were walking along inside three balls of brilliant light. When the light reached the top of my head, I was startled to find that a tall crown of golden-white fire flared up from my head into the sky.)

Little Sister: I’ve got a crown!

Me: Me too!

Big Sister: Yes. (smiles) Now we just need to keep our stars big and bright. Let’s sing our star song again.

(So we all sang ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ again, in a blaze of light.)

Little Sister: Now what do we do?

Big Sister: Let’s do some more qualities.

Little Sister: Bunny rabbits! Pillow fights! A good sneeze! Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens!

Big Sister: Fine, fine, we can sing that if you want to!

So we sang ‘My Favourite Things’. Then we did qualities again, except this time we were shouting out all our favourite things as well. Dogs! Cherry blossom! The sky! God! Ice cream! Crying because you’re happy!

We got into the area in question, and the person in question was there, and it was fine. We kept doing qualities while I sorted myself out, and it changed again, from favourite things to everything that came into our heads, because everything that came into our heads was mysteriously part of the wonderfulness. Hockey sticks! Mirrors! Being warm! Tweezers! Shouting things out!

Then we got through that area to the door and this happened:

Little Sister: (patting the door) Hello door!

Big Sister: Hi door!

Me: Hiii door!

Little Sister: We love you!

(I should add that this kind of enthusiastic door-love is a totally normal part of conscious entry with my sisters, but it’s the first time they’ve done it with an actual door. And then we went in.)

Big Sister: Now you don’t just forget about your star. You let it get smaller. Do a nice big sigh and let it get a little bit smaller. Then another, and another, until it fits inside your heart again. Ah-h-h-h!

Me & Little Sister: Ahhhh!

(We did this and it felt as if the star-energy wasn’t dissipating, it was just relaxing down to a sort of seed state inside us.)

Little Sister: Big hugs!!

(And then we all had a group hug.)

Dragon

I realised I had a very aggressive monster called ‘You’re Disgusting and Deserve to be Obliterated.’ What followed was one of the most amazing monstertalks of my life.

I was really scared of this one, so I asked members of my headcast to help me.

Me: I DEFINITELY need a monster negotiator here. Who wants this one?

Mr. H: Me!

Me: Okay, thanks. Big Sister, you want in as well?

Big Sister: (in a flat, tightly-controlled-anger voice that sounds nothing like her) No.

Me: Okay… are you okay? Have I done something in the last few days that’s -

Big Sister: Yes.

Me: – ruined my future?

Big Sister: Yes. Yes you have.

Me: I don’t believe you! You’re a monster masquerading as my sister!

Monster: Yes.

Me: …Mr. H, you want to take it from here?

Mr. H: With pleasure. Monster, who are you really?

Monster: I’m the one you came here to seek.

Mr. H: What, ‘You’re Disgusting and Deserve to be Obliterated’? (He sounds slightly amused by this title.)

Monster: Yes.

Mr. H: You’re not very talkative, are you? You sound like you’re kinda… holding something in.

Monster (EXPLODING from the form of Big Sister into this demonic dragon-horror-thing that reminds me of Screwtape in his centipede form.) GRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! *breathes fire*

Mr. H: Whoa! (steps back) Very angry monster! You’re furious about something, huh? Wanna tell me about it?

Monster: (breathes a huge blast of fire at him. It’s acting like a computer-game boss. Hovering up and down challenging him to fight.)

Mr. H: Do we have to do this? I mean, we can, but I’d rather you just told me what’s bothering you.

Monster: WHY AREN’T YOU SCARED OF ME?!

Mr. H: You’re not my monster.

Monster: …wuff! (A sulky little puff of flame.)

Mr. H: Come on, what’s up? You can tell me.

Monster: AAAARGH! (This time it’s not attacking, just throwing back its head and howling.)

Mr. H: I know, it sucks, huh?

Monster: (caught off guard a bit) What sucks?

Mr. H: Whatever you’re that angry about. Or just being that angry.

Monster: GRAAAH!!

Mr. H: Do you know why you’re angry?

Monster: Because she’s disgusting and deserves to be obliterated! It says it right there on the tin! (Points to a huge rusty barrel-sized tin, which does indeed have these words painted on it.)  GRAAAH! (breathes fire at the tin and whatever’s in it bursts into flames.)

Mr. H: Okay, I’m gonna NVC you. Ha ha. (mischievous look) You’re feeling angry because you need something. What do you need?

Monster: FOR HER NOT TO BE DISGUSTING AND… (sad moment) not to be obliterated, OF COURSE!

Mr. H: Oh. Oh, you’re scared that she’s going to be obliterated, huh? You’re really scared. (tries to pat monster’s nose, monster shies its head away like a horse and avoids eye contact.) You don’t want her to be obliterated because… you love her.

Monster: (breathing fire and crying, tears sizzling on its red-hot scales) OF COURSE, WHAT DO YOU THINK ALL THIS FIRE IS, IDIOT?

Mr. H: Whoa, that’s -

Monster: RED HOT BURNING FUCKING PASSION!

Mr. H: …I was right not to fight you.

Monster: What?

Mr. H: Well, you know. There’s good in you.

Monster: WAAARGH! It’s very angry good and I’m very tired and AAAARGH!

Mr. H: You need a rest, huh?

Monster: NO, I NEED HER TO NOT DISAPPEAR! Why can you not understand that? Why do you think I’m a dragon? A DRAGON GUARDS THINGS!

Mr. H: You’re guarding her. She’s the treasure.

Monster: (In very frustrated, ‘why do you not get this already’ tones) YES!!!

Mr. H: (suddenly sounding rather sad, and gentle.) But your name is ‘You’re Disgusting and Deserve to Be Obliterated.’

Monster:  ….

Mr. H: But you see her as treasure. The opposite of disgusting. And you dedicate your life to protecting her from being obliterated. Your secret name is the opposite, isn’t it? It’s like, ‘You’re Amazing and Deserve to Be Safe Forever.’

Monster: (crying) YES!! But what’s the use? Everybody else thinks she’s disgusting and deserves to be obliterated! So I can’t let her forget that or she will be!

Mr. H: Oh, no. Hey. Hey. (pats monster) Look, people don’t really think that.

Monster: The housemate does!

Mr. H: Not that she deserves to be obliterated! Didn’t she save her life crossing the road recently? That says right there, ‘I don’t think you deserve to be obliterated.’

Monster: She just didn’t want to have to clear up the mess.

Mr. H: Oh god, you are really… man, your life sucks. I think I need backup. You okay if I call for backup?

Monster: (nods)

Mr. H: (in a weirdly high voice, staring around randomly) Backup! BACKUP!

Big Sister: (running in laughing) You’re doing Phoebe from Friends!!!

Mr. H: (smiles) Just trying to lighten the mood. This one thinks everyone thinks Eve deserves to die. I’m a bit out of my depth.

Big Sister: (to monster) Ohhhhh, that sucks.

Mr. H: That’s what I said.

Big Sister: Okay, it sounds like we have a great big tangled-up ball of wool here so let’s see if we can find the beginning. When did you start thinking everyone thought Eve deserved to die?

Monster: Well, at school. They didn’t want anything about her. What she said, how she acted – they didn’t even want her intelligence, and it was a school.They basically told her to sit down, shut up and stop being Eve. Okay to exist as long as you no longer resemble yourself in any way. And after a few months of that she no longer did resemble herself, and then nobody else wanted her either. They wished she would stop existing so they could have the old version back.

Big Sister: Wow. That’s a whole lot of pain to be carrying around. And for what, thirty years? *hand-on-heart sigh*

Monster: Yes. I learned from that that she can’t please everyone. No matter how she acts, someone is going to want her dead. So the best thing for her to do is just to dial herself down as much as possible, and try to act however the person she’s with right now wants her to act. But she’s such a strong, exuberant, crazy eccentric person that the only way I could make her do that was to convince her they were right. Make her feel like a bit of rubbish that deserves to be burnt. I had to break her spirit to save her life.

Big Sister: Oh, monster.

Monster: Are you angry with me?

Big Sister: No, I’m feeling really, really sorry for you right now.

Mr. H: His real name is ’You’re Amazing and Deserve to Be Safe Forever.’

Monster: I’m a her. I think.

Mr. H: Oh jeez, I’m sorry!

Monster: (shakes head sadly) My gender is unimportant. I exist to guard.

Big Sister: You don’t really have much of a self, do you?

Monster: Well, I make a lot of noise.

Big Sister: I mean, of course you have a self. But you don’t have much sovereignty.

Monster: Where would I learn it?

Big Sister: Oh. Oh, dear. You were born from horribly unsovereign situations where everyone had everyone else’s stuff all over them. Which actually kind of is disgusting. I mean, people are never disgusting, but being buried under a pile of other people’s icky stuff is… a lot like the mess in her room right now. Ooh, epiphany! Can I use this epiphany to help you?

Monster: I want to get other people’s icky stuff off her.

Big Sister: Help her tidy her room?

Monster: But I’m a dragon. I hoard. Also, you haven’t really given me any assurance that she won’t be killed for being herself.

Big Sister: Nobody’s killed Havi.

Monster: Well, she’s been in some life-threatening situations. And anyway Havi is not Eve and Eve is different and what if people DO kill HER? She can’t just go around being herself. Nobody is allowed to be themselves past the age of four. That’s the whole tragedy of this world.

Big Sister: Oh, baby. You’re another growing-up monster.

Monster: Isn’t everybody?

Big Sister: Everybody in this monster menagerie, by the looks of it! Okay, here’s an idea. Maybe it’s better for her to be herself, even if she dies for it. I mean, I don’t personally think there’s any risk that she’ll die, but I can’t prove that. But even if it did mean a shorter life, maybe it would still be better for her to live as herself, without shame.

Mr. H: Oh, that’s totally true. Even if it takes you ages to work out how to be yourself because you’re so used to being everybody else.

Monster: You don’t understand. I’m a dragon. I guard. You’re asking me to stand by and risk my treasure being destroyed.

Big Sister: But your treasure is a person. Have you ever seen Pete’s Dragon?

Monster: Of course. That dragon’s treasure was a person.

Big Sister: Right. So the dragon brought his treasure to a cave, but he didn’t keep him there. Because a person’s not the kind of treasure that you keep in a cave forever. The dragon let his treasure walk away with another human being. He took the risk of letting him have all kinds of new experiences and form all kinds of new relationships, not knowing how any of them would turn out. He let him change, and when it was time, he let him go. And that’s how you treasure a person.

Monster: That’s hard. That’s much harder than fighting bad guys.

Big Sister: (hand-on-heart sigh) I know.

Monster: I can still fight bad guys sometimes? I’m scared, I’m scared!

Big Sister: I know, honey. But – okay, this is going to be hard to hear. The ‘death’ people wished on her all those years ago wasn’t physical death. They just wanted her to stop being herself. They wanted to take away her sovereignty. And the trouble is – out of love, I know – you’ve been doing that too. When she believes she’s disgusting and deserves to be obliterated, she loses her sovereignty. She doesn’t get to be herself. She doesn’t really get to live. It’s the very ‘death’ you’ve been trying to protect her from.

Monster: I killed my treasure? She’s not dead!! She can come back to life!!

Big Sister: Of course she can! I told you, it’s not death death. She just needs reminding, that’s all.

Monster: (crying) Reminding what?

Big Sister: That she’s amazing and deserves to be safe. Safe from anything that would threaten her precious sovereignty. Safe from ever having to be less than the strong, exuberant, crazy eccentric person she was born to be.

Monster: That kind of safe?

Big Sister: That kind of safe.

Monster: Is this really true, what you’re telling me? I don’t know…

Big Sister: (nods) Trust me. You’re part of her, so I’m your Big Sister too.

(Slowly, the dragon uncurls itself, showing just how huge and old it really is. Gnarled scales encrusted with ancient gems. Tears rolling down its long muzzle. It approaches Big Sister and lies down before her, bowing its head at her feet.)

Dragon: I will not be a monster any more. I will guard her sovereignty as I have guarded her life. My wings will be her cloak, my talons will be her sword, my fire will be her shield. I am afraid, but I – am – a dragon. And I exist to guard.

(Mr. H looks deeply moved, and not sure how to honour this speech for a moment, then slowly begins to applaud. Big Sister joins in.)

Big Sister: Rise.

(The dragon rises, as if knighted by a queen. Big Sister wraps her arms around its neck.)

Big Sister: Thank you. (kisses it on the cheek)

Dragon: (stunned) Nobody ever kissed me before.

Big Sister: Oh, you’re going to get plenty of kisses now. She’s going to love you now. Eve? Are you ready to come in here?

(And we draw a modest veil over the massive tearful dragon hugfest that ensues….)

Me: …Thank you, dragon. You are my love for myself. You are. And all this time you’ve been hiding as hate. I love you.

After this talk, I realised one huge key to helping Little Sister (my inner child) feel safe and secure in her own existence while I’m doing grown-up stuff. Dragon! My Dragon is incredibly strong (like whoa, a being this powerful is a part of me?) and exists to guard.To guard my sovereignty. To guard my self. To guard my existence, deeper than life. To guard exactly what Little Sister is afraid of losing. My Dragon was born from that fear, when I was just her age. This huge, fierce, noble being was born from the spirit of that little girl. Bringing them back together is a match made in heaven. What could make a child feel safer than having her own dragon?

Five minutes after I introduced them, the two of them were doing aerobatics over my head. I think it’s safe to say they’ve bonded.

R.Taylor drew this art to celebrate!