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.)

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!

Introducing LITTLE SISTER!

I was still stuck on tidying my room, despite doing lots of work on it. It occurred to me that I needed a monster conversation, but there was no obvious voice of doom making its presence felt. So I thought maybe it was a wall (a wall! In my room!) What would this wall be protecting me from?

The mess in my room is one of the main ways I keep myself stuck. No matter how much I achieve during the day, I always come home to this sty. A huge ever-present reminder of my stuckness, shame, and despair. It’s like a big sign saying YOU WILL NEVER CHANGE. And yet it’s also curiously reassuring.

The mess says YOU’LL NEVER CHANGE, and it’s reassuring.

Oh, right. The wall is yet another thing protecting me from growing up.

Me: Oh, wall. I understand how desperately you want to protect me from growing up. I’m sorry, but you can’t protect me from that, because I’m already an adult. But I can have all the best qualities of being a child, like playfulness, curiosity, fun, wonder, a strong sense of self, safe boundaries, comfort in my body… and you can help me have those things by letting me through.

Wall: No! Not good enough. You have to actually stay a child! Not just pick and choose the best bits. I have to keep you as a literal child!

Me:  I’m so sorry, I know this hurts, but you can’t keep me as a child. It’s too late. I haven’t been a child for years. I grew up long ago.

Wall: YOU PROMISED NOT TO!

Me: I couldn’t help it.

And the wall turned into a little girl screaming and bawling her eyes out. It wasn’t really a wall at all, but a sad scared self. She was about four. I picked her up and she continued to howl.

Me: Hey, what’s the matter?

Her: I DON’T WANT TO DISAPPEAR!

Me: I’ll never let you disappear! You’ll always be part of me and I’ll always love you!

Her: Waah!

Me: Just like I have a big sister who’s a future me – you’re my little sister. You’re just as important.

Her: Waaah!!

Me: I need you to work with me to help me tidy my room. I promise you’ll be safe.

Her: I’m scared!!

At this point I called in Big Sister, who appeared at her most radiant and Mary Poppins-ish. Little Sister stopped crying and gazed at her adoringly.

Me: See, there’s nothing to be frightened of. You’re not going to disappear. You’re just going to get more big sisters!

Big Sister held out her arms and I passed Little Sister over to her, and we walked along like that.

Me: How about if we find a different way for my room to make you feel safe? How about if, instead of mess, we just make it really childlike and playful?

Little Sister: Maybe…

Me: And restful. Make it look like a place for resting and not working all the time. A place where you don’t have to try hard…

Little Sister: Yeah!

In saying this, I reminded myself of Kyo and Asu from  the anime Poor Sisters Story. These two characters are young sisters struggling to survive without parents, and each wants to be this for the other – ‘the one place where you don’t have to try hard.’

It’s occurred to me before that I’d like my relationship with my inner child to be more like Kyo’s relationship with Asu – one of loving, supportive teamwork - but now I realised there was a third dimension. This radiant spirit guiding the two of us. For Kyo and Asu it’s the spirit of their dead mother, for us it’s Big Sister, our future self. This is my new phone wallpaper:

Kyo and Asu hugging with the spirit of their mother holding both of them. Caption: 'Because I've left you two... a small promise.'

(At this point we had a long digression about the Japanese words for big sister and little sister and how they’re used. I was surprised that Little Sister seemed to know Japanese as well as I did, and she said, ‘I have access to everything you know. I just see it differently.’)

Me: So I’m tidying my room with a child. A scared, four-year-old child. And I need to make it fun and non-scary for her. Big Sister, do you have any ideas?

Big Sister: *just shines*

Me: Okay, more God. But anything else?

Big Sister: *shine, shine*

Me: Well, yes, I guess I could ask Little Sister. What would make tidying more fun for you?

Little Sister: Ice-cream! We have to have ice-cream when we’ve finished. And when we’re half way through!

Me: Okay! Anything else?

Little Sister. Colours. I need more colours!

Me: Like how?

Little Sister: You’re the big sister, you work something out!

Me: Okay, I’ll work something out.

Little Sister: And I want the dogs to help.

Me: Right. How about each dog gets to be in charge of a category of stuff, and the dog who ends up with the most bags and boxes packed wins?

Little Sister: And the dog who wins gets ice cream!

Me: Okay, but let’s try not to get it in their fur…

Little Sister: And I want you to put your posters up NOW! Not after we move!

Me: That’s fine. I kind of want to as well.

Little Sister: Yay! And please brush your hair less.

Me: Huh?

Little Sister: I don’t like hairbrushing. I like messy hair! I don’t feel like me otherwise!

Me: Hmm… maybe we can find another way instead of being messy? Would it help if I wore pigtails?

Little Sister: …I don’t think I’d like that. You wouldn’t look like my big sister. (Pause) I’m realising that it’s my hair I don’t want brushing. Not yours. You can brush your hair. (Pause) I need to think about what this means.

How about that?!? At this point I arrived at work so we had to stop, but I’m sure she’ll inform me of what it means when she’s ready… I suspect she’s realising she doesn’t need me to behave exactly like her to feel secure in her own existence. Whew!!