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.)

Bilbo and the Blue It’s Too Late Monster

This is a chatlog of a monster talk I did with a client who’s also a dear friend. They were very keen for me to post this, and chose the pseudonym ‘Bilbo’ for reasons that will become apparent (and unintentionally hilarious when I quote LOTR at one point.)

Bilbo has been dealing with chronic illness for many years, and is now dealing with the possibility of getting better and being able to have a career. Which sounds (and is) wonderful, except that here be monsters…

Bilbo: This is the monster that makes me panic so much about how much I haven’t got done in my life yet and how it is slipping away and how there is absolutely no chance that I can achieve or do anything real now.
It’s a “what’s the point”? type monster, as far as I can make out.
But above all, it’s an “it’s too late” monster.

me: oh <3333 empathy

Bilbo: Yeah. It took me a while to burrow down this far, if that makes sense, but this is one of the Big Bads for me.

me: that does make sense! I find a lot of the time I deal with one monster and there’s another lurking underneath
monster layers!
and yes, I can understand that

Bilbo: Definitely!

me: do you want to tell me a bit more about it?

Bilbo: I don’t feel I know much about it yet – frankly it’s a very, very intimidating monster! But it’s also kind of slippery. Impervious.
It doesn’t attack me, as such, it looms over me and steals all the air from the room.

me: eurgh

Bilbo: It’s very tall, and very thin, and has a cloak. And is, oddly, blue.
Oh, and I do know that a lot of its Stuff comes from my Dad. Who was very much into this idea that if you didn’t begin the day right you couldn’t ever get it back.
(Frankly he seemed to imply a lot that if you didn’t begin the day right you couldn’t get any day back, but I did at least manage to break that slightly.)

me: ugh, ugh, I feel for you having to grow up with THAT

Bilbo: *hugs* Thank you!

me: and well done for breaking it, even slightly
you know, that was a monster of HIS talking!!

Bilbo: Oh, yes, that’s true!
Damn. Monsters are contagious! :-(

me: I only just realised that myself and it’s SO true
*hugs*

Bilbo: *hugs* too
Oh, something else about this monster – it looks sad.

me: oh!
<3

Bilbo: Not angry, just… sad. Disappointed. But you know that “grown-up” negativity that is actually really oppressive, that regards optimism and positivity as childish and unrealistic etc.? That.
That kind of disappointment that absolutely refuses to let other people not be disappointed too.

me: aaargh
yes
okay

Bilbo: It’s not quite the same, but it reminds me of a time I played piano in a music concert when I was, I don’t know, 7 or 8 or so? And I didn’t do brilliantly, but I did my best, and I got a really nice round of applause. And my Dad had been page-turning and helped me off-stage and all he said was, “oh, never mind”. In a really, really kind way, and he clearly thought he was being lovely. But it was crushing because he was telling me I’d done badly.

me: argh!
oh, you must have been completely gutted

Bilbo: I was. :-( It’s weird how much that still hurts!

me: ouch, ouch
not weird at all!
your creativity is so essential to your being, music especially
and his approval for something SO fundamental to you must have meant SO much

Bilbo: Yes! Also, he didn’t let me enjoy even for a minute the fact that I’d made it through to the end of the piece even though it was, in retrospect, too hard for me.

me: ugh, horrible

Bilbo: If he’d told me later on that he thought I could do better than that and he’d help me to practise more next time? That would have been absolutely fine.

me: yes <3
I think most people intuitively get that children need support for their creativity even more than adults (and you know how much adults do!) and give them that little bit of applause however well they’ve done

Bilbo: Yeah, exactly. Which is what the people applauding me were doing! They could all see that I was struggling, and they felt for me and were applauding my being brave and keeping on going even though I was under-rehearsed.
Just thought of something else: it was him choosing what he thought my emotional response should be. (Which my parents both did so much, and my Mum still tries to do with everyone.)

me: ugh, yuck
so, you really, really didn’t get a lot of empathy as a child

Bilbo:  Yeah, really not. :-(

me: I’m so impressed that you’ve ended up with such a gift for giving empathy to others

Bilbo: *hugs* Thank you. <3 blushes rather
I think that’s all I can thnk of about my “It’s Too Late” monster right now.

(Here we did conscious entry)

me: if you’d like a safe room (or knowing you, the top of a safe mountain) to be in while I talk to this monster, that can be arranged
or if your monster is ready to come forward now, I’m ready to talk to it <3

Bilbo: I think so. I’d like a sheltered hollow on top of a Scottish hill, with a wonderful view of the sea, and sheltered enough to be able to play my uke and guitar and turn the pages of music books without them blowing away. :-)

me: wonderful :) I see you need no prompting there :)

Bilbo: :)
exhales, a little panicky but okay
My monster is not just ready but very eager to come forward.
(And barged past me… hmph.)

me: (oh!! <3)
hello, monster :) let’s talk

It’s Too Late: Hi.

me: so it seems like you’re really eager to talk to me
is there something particular you want to say?

It’s Too Late: Bilbo never listens.
They keep thinking there are things they can do, even though they’ve wasted most of their life so far.
I am hoping that you will listen to me.

me: I’m absolutely listening
I know it’s really, really important to you to be heard

It’s Too Late: .. Thank you.

me: you’re welcome <3

It’s Too Late: I’m not sure what I want to say now. Except that I feel betrayed by Bilbo.
They are horrible to me.

me: sounds like you’re very, very angry

It’s Too Late: I’m mostly just miserable.
But Bilbo makes me angry as well by brushing me aside and not listening to me.

me: oh, I’m so sorry to hear that you’re miserable
and it’s totally understandable when you have such a painful relationship with the person you love and exist for

It’s Too Late: They don’t listen! They keep trying and trying and trying to get better and to do things and they won’t listen to me when I tell them that there’s no point when it’s too late now for us to do anything!

me: you must be terribly frustrated

It’s Too Late: We lost our childhood to abuse and bullying, and all our adult life so far to illness.
I am!

me: *nods*

It’s Too Late: There is no possible way that things can change now, and every time Bilbo decides to try more it makes me so angry and upset.

me: why is that – what are you afraid will happen to them if they keep trying?

It’s Too Late: I don’t feel loving towards Bilbo. :-( All I feel is this enormous hole full of grief that they won’t acknowledge or pay attention to.
They are trying to make our story have a happy ending, and it’s not possible! No story starts like ours and has a happy ending.
No one would even bother to tell a story like ours. Happy endings are for people who do things when they’re young and keep on doing them.

me: oh – you need acknowledgement for your loss? For their loss – right?

It’s Too Late: Yes yes yes!
They are determined to have this happy life, and that’s all well and good but are so damned positive and chirpy about it and they won’t notice that their childhood was ruined and their adult life has been ruined and there’s no hope of it changing.

me: you need to know that Bilbo is mourning with you, because you don’t want to cry alone?

It’s Too Late: Yes! Oh Gods, yes!
But I think they are afraid that if they start mourning they will slide into depression and never come out again.
So I can see why they don’t want to acknowledge the loss.
But I am still depressed. And I’m upset that they aren’t too.

me: I understand

It’s Too Late: But Bilbo mourning the loss too wouldn’t help that much.

me: why not?

It’s Too Late: Because it’s still far, far too late for them. For us.
Because there’s no point to anything in their life because they didn’t achieve anything when they were younger, and because their life has been ruined.

me: so basically, you just want Bilbo to be here with you at the end of all things

It’s Too Late: I suppose so.
I want them to stop trying to escape.
I want them to stop trying. Trying to be nice. Trying to be positive. Trying to act like they have a life that’s worth anything and that can ever be worth anything.
*flaps cloak around in frustration*

me: okay, just assuming for the moment that you’re right and Bilbo’s life will never be worth anything – what happens if they keep trying?

It’s Too Late: They will never notice what’s happened to them. And I will be all alone!!
You were right earlier. I… I want to not be on my own anymore.
I want Bilbo to understand how much pain I’m in.

me: it sounds like you need empathy <3

It’s Too Late: Yes.

me: like all those years when Bilbo needed empathy and wasn’t getting it

It’s Too Late: Yes.

me: and for Bilbo to give you empathy for your pain, you believe they would also have to be *in* your pain

It’s Too Late: Yes!

me: which is incompatible with seeing hope and trying

It’s Too Late: I want them and me to understand each other, and instead they are going further and further away from me!
I’m supposed to know everything about them. I do know everything about them.
If they keep hoping and trying and changing, I won’t know them anymore and they’ll be even further from understanding what it is I’m feeling.
They are running away from me and I’m so scared!

me: sending you so much love for the fear

It’s Too Late: Thank you.

me: the thing is, Bilbo has tremendous compassion
they can understand someone’s pain, and feel compassion for them, and be with them and even cry with them, without also taking on that person’s stuff and making it their own stuff
and maybe, just maybe, they can do that for you too

It’s Too Late: Then why haven’t they already?

me: they don’t respond well to fear-based motivation

It’s Too Late: They want to not even acknowledge that we share this horrible history of pain!

me: which is totally understandable because well, it’s a horrible history
and what you seem to be doing is emphasising just how horrible that is, in the hopes that if you make the horribleness big and loud and in-their-face enough, they can’t fail to respond
the thing is that when things are big and loud and in their face, they respond by protecting themselves, just like most people would
the more scariness you’re sending their way, the less they want to interact with you or acknowledge you

It’s Too Late: But I’m scared!
They keep wanting to achieve more with their life!
It’s terrifying!
They’re breaking the story!

me: why is it terrifying, what are you afraid will happen?
how is the story supposed to go?

It’s Too Late: They… argh.
The story goes that they had an abusive childhood, and were bullied at school. They achieved some things despite that, but then they became ill.

me: *nods*

It’s Too Late: And that’s it. The story has to end there, or it carries on with them continuing to be ill. Dying loved and pitied but … but what it can’t do is suddenly change in their early-mid thirties into a totally different story!
They can’t just turn around in their mid-thirties and achieve things!

me: oh, right!

It’s Too Late: Things… people… stories… life doesn’t work like that!
It’s impossible!

me: so, wait
you’re actually afraid that Bilbo is right?
that they *can* achieve things, and that this will just make the story unreadably weird, like if the consumptive Victorian woobie got up in the middle and started driving the plot?

It’s Too Late: Yes!
There’ll be no… no guidelines! No rules! No plot! It will be chaos.
I won’t know how to help them with that!
They won’t know what to do, and they’ll never be able to explain to people the story of their life because it won’t make sense!
I’m… oh Gods.
I think I’m Bilbo’s writer.

me: oh! oh, wow. <3

It’s Too Late: It’s not good! I’ve been lumbered with this horrible story, but at least I can make it consistent!
They’re trying to run away from everything I can set up for them.
It was bad enough when they got a boyfriend, I could make things fit that. But… but to suddenly decide to be and become a successful folk singer? In their mid-30s? And then, what, adopt a child in their mid-40s? Argh! It’s chaos!

me: I so empathise with how scary it is when your story takes on a life of its own

It’s Too Late: And there’ll be this huge big hole in their twenties, and… and if they get better and start enjoying life then they’ll have to face up to that huge big hole, and all the horrible bits of their childhood, and look back at them as this blank space, and it will make them utterly miserable!
And, and I know I’m not being consistent and argh!
It is scary, yes. Thank you for empathising.

me: you’re welcome, and you don’t have to be consistent <3

It’s Too Late: I don’t want them to be a middle-aged person and achieving all these things and then looking back at the first 34-odd years of their life as a waste.

me: of course you don’t want that for them, I understand

It’s Too Late: But… but if their whole life is like that, then, well. That’s just a tragedy. Not a mess.
A tragedy I can deal with! I can help them with a tragedy, I understand it!

me: yes, because then… they clearly couldn’t help it, right??

It’s Too Late: Yes!
And at least it would be a good story!
This… all this changing when they’re far too old to be the hero of their own book anyway.
Maybe if they left it ’til they were 70 or so it could be a different sort of book.

me: oh, that
I’ve been sensing that floating around the edges of the conversation

It’s Too Late: But no one goes from zero to adventures at 34.
Okay, apart from hobbits.

me: you read my mind
hobbits, though!

It’s Too Late: But Frodo was the equivalent of 21! I’ll concede Bilbo though, since 50 works out as around 30s for hobbits.

me: I was going to say, Bilbo

It’s Too Late: But.. argh.
See, that’s an appealing thread. It makes some sense.
But it’s one story against all of the others that are piled up against anything happening for people in their 30s unless the things in question started a lot earlier.
Also, how is Bilbo going to explain the huge gap as a folk musician? There are professionals half their age. It’s terrifying. They’re going to be told they’re too old.

me: TROPES! We have a problem with Real Life Tropes!

It’s Too Late: … Oh. Yeah, I guess.

me: there are a lot of Real Life Tropes that say achievement can’t start in your 30s

It’s Too Late: I think… well.
I brought Bilbo up.
I, books, stories.

me: oh, wow
yes, yes

It’s Too Late: Their parents were so neglectful in so many ways. They never taught them the things they needed to know.
I’ve looked after them as best I could, even though I’m just a hack writer.
But they’re a real person, and it’s HARD!

me: oh, SO MUCH EMPATHY FOR YOUR HARD!

It’s Too Late: And I can’t help them or look after them or guard them or explain to them what they need to do when none of the stories cover where they are going now!
I can’t do this!
And if I can’t do it, who is going to look after Bilbo?!

me: Bilbo
and their gods

It’s Too Late: cries
But what if that’s not enough?
I have to look after them! I need them, and they need me!
What if I stop protecting and hemming them in, and they need me and they’re too far for me to reach!

me: Bilbo will always need stories
and stories will always be part of them
but to be hemmed in – by stories?
the fact that you even chose that word tells me that you’re starting to see it differently

It’s Too Late: I think I am.

me: :) can you tell me what you’re seeing now?

It’s Too Late: I think… I think I have to let Bilbo write the story.

me: I think that is the most bloody awesome idea ever <3

It’s Too Late: And/or I have to let Bilbo be free and lead their life, and then I write that, rather than, well, writing their life and making them follow what I’ve already written.
But then, what’s my purpose?

me: you’re the writer
you are the one the character brushes past and whispers ‘Take this down’

It’s Too Late: And, well, they haven’t done much writing over their adulthood? Probably because I’ve not let them… argh. :(

me: this isn’t just about literally writing
it’s about stories
if you prefer, you’re the storyteller

It’s Too Late: We have to make a new story together. They and me.

me: yes
yes :)

It’s Too Late: I don’t know if I’m good enough for this. :-S
I… I really do have to try though, don’t I?

me: yes!
this is the great thing about stories!

It’s Too Late: Oh.

me: when you let them tell themselves
that’s when it gets good!

It’s Too Late: This is the whole writing thing, isn’t it? The whole craft thing generally.

me: yes <3

It’s Too Late: You keep going at it, and if it’s shit you keep going and then you write/make/sing/invent more and more and more because the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.
I’ve been writing Bilbo the wrong story to be in.
And I’ve not let them write their own.
So we’re both actually pretty inexperienced for this.
But… but we have to try. We really do have to try.

me: and there is time, for both of you, and yes

It’s Too Late: I would like them to acknowledge more fully how much grief we both have for their childhood and the first part of their adulthood, though.
I think that would help. Not so much with the story but, well.
Because I was writing it so I got more and more and more distressed by it.
Can I help them to mourn, but without depressing them in a bad way?

me: yes, absolutely
I think mourning and depression are almost opposite
mourning is processing pain, letting it flow through your system
depression is when you’re stuck in pain and pain is stuck in you

It’s Too Late: *nods* That makes sense.
Yes.
Gosh, I really am very scared. Bilbo and I are trying to write a totally new story, with a plot that no one else seems to write!
I think I’d better let them take the lead. I think that way I won’t obstruct them.
But maybe I can help with some of the fine detail.

me: I think that’s a wonderful idea, and yes

It’s Too Late: I… this may be an odd request, but can I talk to your Mr H?
It’s just that he seems to really know a lot about stories.

me: yes!! he would love to, hold on

It’s Too Late: Thank you. :-)

Mr. H: hey there :D it’s me

It’s Too Late: Hi!

Mr. H: so you wanna talk about stories?
ask me anything

It’s Too Late: OMG how do you cope with being a story-person who lives in the head of a real person? It’s so hard!
I’m starting to realise that I may not actually be a monster at all.
How do you stop the tropes from getting in the way of the real story?

Mr. H: I just keep reminding myself and her that I’m part of her

It’s Too Late: *nods* Trouble is, I’ve been controlling Bilbo far too much. I need to know how to let go of that, but still support them and… well, I’m kind of stumped.

Mr. H: what I do is sense when I’m needed and show up

It’s Too Late: nods
I’ve done a lot of advising Bilbo over the years.
When things in real life are similar to stories, I’m usually quite good at advising them.
But when there’s a difference, I get terrified.

Mr. H: right, so that’s when you need to show up, when there’s story-stuff going on
when you can motivate Bilbo by saying guess what, ring, fire, go!

It’s Too Late: So… so I guess I need to learn to tell when this is something I can help with, and when it’s something that actually Bilbo can teach me about, or someone else in their head-cast can teach us both!
Haha, yes!

Mr. H: yes!
this is why we exist, see, because real (you know, THAT kind of real) people need a multiplicity of viewpoints

It’s Too Late: Ahh, yes.

Mr. H: and when you’re terrified… that probably means it’s time for you to curl up in stories and let another part of Bilbo take over
not because you’re lesser, not because you’re weak
because what we are doing here.. is TEAMWORK :D
you know, it’s like acting!
ensemble show!

It’s Too Late: That makes sense!
Or ensemble cast – most of mine and Bilbo’s favourite books have huge casts in them.
Ensemble fantasy novel casts, I mean.

Mr. H: yes, I get it

It’s Too Late: Thank you so much, Mr H, this is really helpful. :-)

Mr. H: you’re welcome, I’m loving this too!
anything else you’d like to know? I like to talk

It’s Too Late: :-)
I’m actually thinking that I probably need a new name.
I’ve also noticed that I seem to have shrunk, and I’m no longer 7ft tall. This is probably a good thing!

Mr. H: yes

It’s Too Late: I’ve been the “It’s Too Late” monster, and… no.
It isn’t too late, and I’m not a monster.
I also think that I should stop just being blue all the time.
Blue is a nice colour, but so are lots of other colours!

Mr. H: YEAH!
oh, yeah
you have literally been blue all the time
and there are lots of other colours

It’s Too Late: Yep.
Now, obviously I need to be careful, because beings that have just been one perfectly nice colour suddenly becoming so-and-so-of-many-colours tends to go badly. ;-)

Mr. H: AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
aw, man… you made my eyes water with laughter

It’s Too Late: I’m the Storytellers.
:-)

Mr. H: plural
YES
beautiful

Storytellers: Good grief, that was a misprint, but now I come to look – I was right!
I am the Storytellers!

Mr. H: I’m pretty much punching the air over here

Storytellers: I am one being, but I am also several.
*splits into several figures, all of different colours*
*and sometimes reshapes into a single being who’s a rainbow*

Mr. H: that’s one way of solving the Saruman issue!
ALL YOUR POWERS COMBINED!

Storytellers: Ha, yes!
Yay!
Stories are many, and varied.

Mr. H: you can say that again!

Storytellers: And being stuck into one being made us, frankly, kind of broken and bewildered and, well, stuck.
Bilbo can have a range of storytellers to help with different cases.
But ultimately, we are the reflections (many and one) of their own storytelling power.

Mr. H: yes, yes, yes

Storytellers: Seven (or possibly a million) Rainbow Storytellers for the price of one blue monster. :-)
Oh, I like being this us so much better! relaxes

Mr. H: you guys are so awesome :D

Bilbo: Mr H, may we collectively give you a hug?

Mr. H: YEAH!!!
hugpile!

Storytellers: Rainbow Storytellers hug-pile!
Thank you. :-)
I would really, really like to talk to Bilbo soon, so if I could have Eve back so maybe she can help me prepare for that?

Mr. H: wahoo! thank YOU, and yes, sure

Storytellers: But thank you so much, Mr H!

Mr. H: thanks guys, never been hugged by someone else’s headpeople before, I’ll never forget this

Storytellers: :-)

Mr. H: and you’re very welcome
now here’s Eve….

Storytellers: As are you!
Hello Eve. :-)

me: hello!

Storytellers: We would really like to talk to Bilbo, and to apologise to them for having scared them and resented them so much.

me: I think that would be wonderful

Storytellers: And we’d also like to give them full permission to be the Head Storyteller of our little group, and promise to let them take the lead.

me: and I think that would be wonderful too

Storytellers: We are, however, quite scared.

me: oh <3 how can I help?

Storytellers: We’re not quite sure.

me: what’s scaring you right now?

Storytellers: That they may hate us.

me: *nods*

Storytellers: Also, that we will fail at this, and go back to being the Blue It’s-Too-Late Monster again.
We don’t ever want to be the Blue Monster again!

me: as long as you don’t want to, you won’t
you might have moments when you forget, but you’ll be able to be reminded, or to remind yourself
you can’t un-realise what you’ve realised today

Storytellers: nods That makes sense. :-)
Maybe… maybe Bilbo can help us to stay Rainbow. :-)

me: yes :) absolutely

Storytellers: But the bluest of us is going to stay slightly taller, and may be our spokesperson, to remind us that we were Blue, and that it’s okay for our pasts to have had grief and failure and regrets in them.

me: that’s perfect, yes
that’s beautiful

Storytellers: Because pasts are important, including grief and failure and regrets.
Thank you. :-)

me: you’re welcome

Storytellers: Okay! We are ready, if Bilbo is ready too to come out.

me: wonderful
let me check with them
Bilbo, are you willing to come out and talk with your Storytellers?

Storytellers: Can you call them? We’re… a bit shy of doing so, given everything.

me: I understand

Bilbo: Absolutely. :-) Actually, I can’t wait.

me: then please come and do so <3
Storytellers, you’re good to talk now <3

Bilbo: *emerges*
Hi Storytellers!
I’ve heard everything that’s been going on.
I rather randomly found some daisies at the top of this hill, and I made seven daisy chains. Which can also be a million if you like, because this is (partly) Story-land.

me: <3<3<3

Bilbo: (Okay, I’m going to start using character headings to avoid confusing us. :-) )

me: :D

Storytellers: Bilbo, we are so, so sorry for impeding you and stopping you from doing things, and for trying to control you and hem you in and make you follow a trope-filled story that wasn’t appropriate.

Bilbo: I know. :-) You were doing it because you love me, and Gods, you helped me so much when I was a child! It’s not your fault that stories can’t cover every eventuality – or that most of the stories in the world are problematic when it comes to things such as age, gender, child abuse and disability and so on!
I’m really proud of you all for talking to Eve and Mr H and sorting yourselves out. And I love you. :-)
*gives Storytellers daisy chains, one each*

me: *crying happily*

Bilbo: Oh, that’s lovely! You know that you were all identical before? You started off as the Blue Monster being bearded and male and thin and sad-looking, and now you’re all shapes and sizes and identities, and fluctuating! I think the daisies brought you to life. :-)

Storytellers: :) :) :)

me: :) :):)

Blue Storyteller: Bilbo, we really do need and want you to grieve properly and fully for everything you’ve lost in your childhood and adolescence and adulthood so far. And to recognise that it’s okay to regret things. That is going to be my role in your head from now on – to remind you that stories with regret in them aren’t unbearably sad. That you don’t need to push that grief aside.

Bilbo: Okay. I’m not going to be able to do that all at once, you know? But bit by bit, I promise… no, Quaker, I affirm that I will do just that. And, thank you. :-)

Green Storyteller: Bilbo, we want you to recognise that you are our Chief, our Chief Storyteller. We will take our lead from you. We will suggest things, and write things down and tell them when you want us to. And we’ll all have different perspectives and ideas. But ultimately this is your story, and you need to write it. We’ve done our best to bring you up to this point, but we’ve been making things so much worse for you over the last few years.

Yellow Storyteller: You’re going to write a whole new story with your life from now on, Bilbo. And we’re going to help you. And we’re really scared by it, and we know that you are too. But we’re going to try to not add to your fear with our own Stuff. If you notice us doing so, please tell us, and tell us that it’s our Stuff, and we’ll try not to bring it to the table so much!

Red Storyteller: Also, you should write your own stories with 30+ female and/or genderqueer heroes, because there need to be more of them!

me: :D DD

(enthusiastic agreement from all Storytellers)

Bilbo: I’ll do my best. But I need to start living and writing my own story freely first. :-)

Purple Storyteller: Are you ready to do that now?

Bilbo: As ready as I’ll ever be, and I need to start somewhere. :-) One of the things that I need you guys to recognise is that sometimes the story image isn’t helpful to me at all. Because of all the baggage, and also becomes sometimes all I can deal with is the next five minutes, not the whole of my life! Seeing things in story-shape has contributed to my anxiety. Which isn’t your fault! But you remember how lately I’ve found it helpful when motivating myself for some things to say, “what I have power over, all I have power over, is me, myself, right now”? I want and need to carry on doing things like that.
But that doesn’t mean at all that you lot aren’t going to be wonderfully helpful to me too! There will be times when I’ll need your advice, and times when I’ll need your encouragement, and times when I really need to be in a story now, and times when I’ll need you to tell the story that I’m making – to be the author that the character whispers too! And times, above all, when I’ll need you guys cheering me on, because goodness knows recovery is hard in so many ways.

(the Storytellers coalesce temporarily, into a rainbow hue)

Rainbow Storyteller: That makes perfect sense. :-)
Hug?

(the Rainbow Storyteller separates into the 7 main colours again, and Bilbo hugs each one in turn. Then each of them lays their hand on Bilbo’s head in turn, and colour suffuses them.)

Bilbo: Thank you. Thank you all. :-)
Okay, is there anything else that any of you would like to say, to me or to Eve?

Storytellers: We’d like to thank Eve, please. :-)

me: :) oh, I was over here crying with joy and thanking God for letting me be a part of this

Bilbo: *loves*

Blue Storyteller: Eve, may we have a hug?

me: you SO may

Blue Storyteller: Storyteller hug-pile!

me: *hugs you all*

Blue Storyteller: Eve, it is possible that you now have colours on you yourself. :-)

me: <3<3<3<3<3<3
hee hee
I have no objection :D :D

Bilbo: SO MUCH LOVE Storytellers. And well done. I’m so proud of you all. :-) I’d really like to talk to Eve myself now and wind things down, because my head is slightly exploding with being me and the rest of you at the same time! But I LOVE YOOOOU! And we’ll talk soon, yes? :-)

(Storytellers spin and spin and spin together into one Rainbow Storyteller and then spin and spin and spin faster until they are made of light, and then disappear with a slight pop. Though they are probably just in Bilbo’s head now, and have not actually gone anywhere.)

Bilbo: Phewwww!
Gosh.
falls over sideways

me: I KNOW RIGHT
that was so wonderful I can’t even
wow

Bilbo: I was getting rather self-conscious during the last bit – talking to myself felt so weird.

me: it was amazing to read

Bilbo: I’m so scared, still. But also positive. :-) And, yeah. I know that they’re there in the back of my mind, and it’s like there’s this part of me that I know is on my side now. :-)
Yeah, getting that feeling of freedom. This could be good. :-)

me: oh, wonderful

Bilbo: THANK YOU SO MUCH OMG I DON’T EVEN!
You were amazing.
You are so damn good at this!

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.)

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.

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?

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!

Happy Noodle Girl

So I’d been reading The Killing Joke while feeling VERY stuck and frustrated, and this line of Joker’s struck me as worryingly apt: ‘It’s all a joke! Everything anybody ever valued or struggled for… it’s all a monstrous, demented gag!’

This triggered a long think about Joker, and a realisation that what he and Batman have in common is not just that they have hideous traumas in their past, but that they’re both stuck in rage about them. Joker can’t even remember what happened, but the rage is still right there and all the killing in the world won’t be enough for him, any more than taking down all the criminals in the world will be enough for Batman. They’re angry forever.

And this is because it’s always between you and you. Killing people is too superficial! The only way to deal with your stuff is to deal with yourself, and neither of those guys is ever going to deal with themselves.

Then I realised that was why I was STILL stuck in rage about people trying to take away my sovereignty when I was four. In order to really deal with my anger, I not only needed to give myself sovereignty, I also needed to give myself forgiveness.

So I asked to talk to the me who wanted to take away my sovereignty. She showed up as a grotesquely stretched version of four-year-old me in school uniform, as tall as I am now, spindly-limbed and giraffe-necked, like Alice after she ate the mushroom. Her voice and demeanour were adult.

Me: I can’t help noticing you look like a child who’s been forced to grow up.

Her: Yes. That’s what happens. You can kick and scream all you like, but you’ll be defeated.

Me: Oh, bing! There’s no point struggling!

Her: That’s right. You can struggle if you like, but you don’t get to have sovereignty. You’re defeated before you begin. It’s your nature to be defeated. You’re defeated the day you’re born, and even death can’t undo it.

Me: Ouch. Life actually is a black, awful joke to you, isn’t it? People are helpless and there’s no point to anything. You actually share the Joker’s view of life. No wonder I was feeling tempted by it. And no wonder I find it so hard to do anything.

Her: You can do things if you like, but there’s no point because you don’t get to have sovereignty. Somebody could come along and stop you at any moment and there’s nothing you could do about it.

Me: Like at school when I never got to finish a painting.

Her: Yes. Life is cruel and random.

Me: I don’t see the world like that at all.

Her: That’s why you need me.

Me: Wait, you’re trying to protect me from making an effort because you know there’s no point and you hate to see me struggling?

Her: Yes. I wish you’d just give up and join me. See the world the way I do, and we could both just smash everything up for shits and giggles, or die in a gutter and rot horribly because who cares?

Me: Joker, Joker, Joker.

Her: (turning into a Joker jack-in-the-box) YOU RANG??

Me: (freaked out) Backup! Backup!!

Mr. H: Whoa, you have to talk to her in a way that she can hear you. She’s just scared right now.

Her: (back to normal) Was kind of the point.

Mr. H: What for?

Her: Because who cares?

Me: Okay, I happen to know that you do care about me because otherwise you wouldn’t stick around to protect me from making effort. Wait, are you the biggest ‘Why even bother getting out of bed?’ monster ever?

Her: You can get out of bed if you like. It doesn’t matter.

Me: Wait – I think your ‘nothing matters so you can do anything’ is actually a way of trying to give me sovereignty! Joker is totally sovereign in his way, isn’t he? He does exactly what he wants. You want that for me, don’t you?

Her: Of course, that’s what every child wants!

Me: That’s great. Thank you. And you believe that the world is so cruel and random that there’s no point having a long-term plan. There’s no point having anything I value or struggle for, because anything can be taken away from me at any moment. So I might as well just do whatever I feel like, even if it’s destructive or even if it’s nothing.

Her: Yes.

Me: Your one bad day was the first time you got marched out of Art half way through, wasn’t it? [Note: 'one bad day' is Joker's term for the event that drove someone crazy.]

Her: No. It was when I realised they were going to do that to me every week, and I could kick and scream till my throat hurt and it still wouldn’t make any difference.

Me: Oh, I’m so sorry. Hand-on-heart sigh. This is about creativity, isn’t it?

Her: (tearing up) Yes! I really loved painting! I’m a creative person! That’s what I am! And I realised that day that I’d never be safe to create anything. Somebody could always stop me. Somebody could always take it away. It wasn’t being hit or being bullied that broke me. It was when they took my creativity away from me. My creativity was me! They took me away from me!

Me: Oh, no. That makes so much sense. I totally get why you would react that strongly. And you’re still furious, aren’t you?

Her: Of course!

Me: The reason you look like a child who’s been stretched… is because you stopped then, isn’t it? You got taller, but you didn’t change, because your anger didn’t change.

Her: Yes.

Me: And the reason why you’re happy for me to spend all day making candybar dolls, but hate it when I write stories, is that candybar dolls don’t matter but stories do. You want me to take out my creativity on things that don’t matter, so I won’t get upset when they’re taken away.

Her: Yes. And that’s why you always make candybar dolls when you’re really depressed and procrastinating. I still want to make pictures. I just don’t want to make pictures that matter. And making dolls is so quick. So I get to finish pictures, over and over again.

Me: My heart is seriously breaking for you right now. What can I do to make this better? I don’t think there’s anything in the monster manual for this.

Her: There’s nothing you can do, obviously. Other than accept my reality and do what you can to find pleasure in a pointless life.

Me: I’m not willing to do that, so let’s try a different tack. Why are you so sure that we don’t get to have sovereignty?

Her: I think that was amply demonstrated at school. You were there.

Me: Yes. I totally agree that we didn’t have sovereignty at school. Can you tell me why you’re sure we don’t get to have sovereignty now?

Her: By extrapolation. And also because – because – the only way a person gets to have sovereignty is to grow up, and if I grow up then they’ve won, and if they’ve won I don’t have sovereignty. So there is no way for me to have sovereignty.

Me: Wait, you believe that a person can have sovereignty if they grow up?

Her: Not really, because of that Catch-22. If you grow up people will stop trying to force discipline on you, but only because they’ve trained you to force discipline on yourself.

Me: That was actually who I was expecting to see here. I thought the me who wanted to take away my sovereignty would be the me who forced discipline on me.

Her: (silence)

Me: What’s going on? What are you experiencing right now?

Her: I was confused and thinking about what you said. I think the you who tries to force discipline on you does believe that a tiny amount of sovereignty can be achieved by compromise and submission. That good behaviour will be rewarded with a little bit more freedom. Whereas I see freedom as another of those things that it’s pointless to value or struggle for, and compromising with the enemy as not only pointless, but distasteful. (Pause) I mean, you can do it if you like. It doesn’t matter.

Me: Are you sure that it doesn’t matter to you?

Her: I’m confused. I’m breaking up. I don’t know which me you’re talking to.

Me: Can you explain your confusion?

Her: I’m confused about the difference between no-point me and forcing-discipline me. I don’t know which one is which. You’re asking the questions wrong. I feel like I’m losing me.

Me: Could it be that you’re both?

Her: Yes, I guess. But not at the same time. That’s why it’s hard to understand that I’m both because I’m never both at once. No-point me says ‘Do what you like, there’s no point’ and then forcing-discipline me sees you doing what you like and says, ‘Who are you to think you have sovereignty? Stop doing what you like and learn to bow, bow, bow. Maybe if I discipline you enough you’ll finally get that there is no sovereignty.’

Me: On whose authority are you disciplining me, if there’s no sovereignty?

Her: I don’t know. Society. Whoever in the real world is telling you what to do. You yourself. I take your dreams and turn them into orders. And then no-point me sees you struggling to carry out those orders and says ‘Stop struggling and stop valuing things, there’s no point.’ And that’s why you have cycles.

Me: Wow. Thank you for explaining this.

Her: So can you forgive me?

Me: What? Yes of course I can forgive you! You’re a hurt child who just wanted to finish her paintings!

Her: I was. Thirty years ago. I’m something nastier now. I’m thirty years of hate and anger. Thirty years of despair. Can you really forgive hate?

Me: Of course. I was there. I know how hard it was. I know why you’re like this. I know all hate comes from pain. It’s – it’s just pain that’s gone hard.

Her: I’m not sure I want you to forgive me, because I can’t fight you then, and if I can’t fight you how can I win you over to my point of view?

Me: What makes you think that if I forgive you you can’t fight me?

Her: (crying) Because next time you feel despair or hate or anger you’ll just go, ‘Oh, there’s that poor hurt child who wanted to finish her paintings! Let’s do a painting together!’ And then you’ll make me go all soppy and then I’ll lose!

Me: To me?

Her: Yes to you, who else would I be fighting?

Me: Okay, and you’re fighting me to make me understand that there’s no sovereignty, so that I won’t go through all the pain of thinking there is and valuing and struggling for things and then having them taken away from me?

Her: Yes.

Me: Okay, two things. What if it doesn’t have to be a struggle?

Her: Of course it’s a struggle.

Me: Most of the struggling I’m doing right now is against you. If you can learn to relax a bit, I won’t need to struggle much because I naturally like doing things.

Her: (crying) So I’m causing the problem I’m trying to prevent? Damn, I thought I was one of those monsters who didn’t do that.

Me: It’s okay, I forgive you! And the other thing is – okay, this is a big one, are you ready for this?

Her: Yes. No. I don’t know. Say it anyway.

Me: I’ve got a theory and I’d like us to test it, okay?

Her: Maybe.

Me: Okay. My theory is that sovereignty is possible. Yes, sometimes bad things happen that are unavoidable, but that doesn’t take away your sovereignty. The only thing that takes away your sovereignty is thinking that you don’t have any sovereignty. It’s always between you and you.

Her: But when some huge adult takes away your choice and uses physical force on you, where’s your sovereignty then?

Me: For you, it was in kicking and screaming. You were exercising your sovereignty the only way you knew how. You were raising your voice in protest. For another child, a sovereign response might have been choosing to obey because they valued harmony. And for another it might have been asking politely for a timetable change.

Her: How can it be sovereign to choose to obey?

Me: Well, because it’s a choice. It’s not like someone presses a button and obedience comes out. You think about it, you work out if it chimes with your needs and values and you go, ‘okay then.’ It’s only unsovereign if you think, ‘I don’t have a choice, I have to do this.’

Her: But I didn’t have a choice!

Me: You had a choice to protest or to obey willingly, and you chose to protest.

Her: Nice choice. But I do sort of see your point. I don’t know though. It’s kind of sitting in a garret pretending you’re a princess, isn’t it?

Me: No, it’s a genuine choice. Being sovereign isn’t about controlling everything in your world. It’s about recognising the choices you do have, and making them according to your own needs and values, and not giving a damn what anyone thinks because you are the king or queen of your life.

Her: Fine, but you’re forgetting what it was like. There is no way you can feel sovereign under such horrible circumstances. Maybe it’s normal for teachers to drag four-year-old children across the floor by the wrist, but I experienced it as physical abuse.

Me: Actually I’m pretty sure that’s not allowed in schools now.  Your pain is totally legitimate. And yes, there are times when you just can’t feel sovereign, but afterwards you can get the feeling of sovereignty back. Even in horrendous situations – like the hostages in Beirut managed to keep their sovereignty by giving themselves the respect that the guards weren’t giving them. And by respecting the guards as fellow human beings too.

Her: So what you’re saying is the loss of sovereignty I experienced was temporary, not permanent? And that you can have sovereignty regardless of what other people do to you? And that all it takes to have sovereignty is to know you have sovereignty?

Me: Yes.

Her: I can’t accept that.

Me: Why not?

Her: Because I’ve been teaching you for thirty years that you don’t have sovereignty. So if you’re right, I’ve ruined thirty years of your life for nothing.

Me: It’s okay! I forgive you!

Her: That doesn’t make it okay. If you’re right, I’ve spent thirty years taking away the one thing I most wanted you to have. I absolutely will not countenance that. No way.

Me: I think you’ve already realised that I’m right.

Her: Shut up shut up shut up.

Me: It’s okay, there’s still lots of time. We can still turn this into a good thing.

Her: How can it possibly be a good thing?

Me: Because now we get to learn about sovereignty so we can teach it to other people. It’s a lot harder to teach something if you’ve never had to learn it.

Her: (tearing up) Did you say teach? We get to teach? For real? That’s a huge part of me too!

Me: Yes, we totally get to teach!

Her: Okay, maybe I can get on board with this. But it’s going to take a while. I’m not going to just be fine overnight.

Me: Of course not.

Her: And I guess on the bright side, after being made of despair for thirty years, at least now I have hope. Say, do you think that’s why we named Hope Hope?

Me: It might well be! She’s very powerful!

Her: So we have sovereignty. Wow. We actually have sovereignty. But wait, I’m scared. It’s still not safe to value things or put effort into them because people can still take them away.

Me: Yes, that can happen, but it’s worth the risk because most of the time you DO get to finish your paintings. Now is not then. And oh, bing! The fact that horrible things can happen doesn’t mean the world’s a joke. It doesn’t mean there’s no point trying or valuing anything. Because a lot of the time, trying and valuing things have fantastic results.

Her: But what if people DO take the thing away?

Me: Well, we grieve, and then we try again.

Her: What if I screw up and take the thing I value away from myself?

Me: Same thing. We grieve and we learn from our screwups and try again using the new information.

Her: That sounds reasonable, but it’s very scary.

Me: I know, and it’s okay to be scared, and we’ll take things slowly. And you can go and hide in a safe room and paint any time you want to.

Her: (crying again) Can I?

Me: Sure. You can have a room where nobody can ever stop you or take anything away from you.

Her: Really?

Me: Yes. And it can be as big as your imagination.

Her: Wow. Can I go there right now?

Me: Sure. What would you like it to look like?

Her: I just want a door into infinite fields. Like the view when you’re flying. All to myself. And the sea in the distance. I want a world that I’ll never be done exploring.

Me: You’ve got it.

Her: And I want infinite art supplies. And I want them all to be waterproof so my pictures will never wash away when it rains. And I want the power to go inside my pictures, so I’ll have worlds within worlds within worlds.

Me: Oh. That! Yes, of course. Of course you’ve got that. And no, they’ll never wash away. Ever.

Her: Thank you. That’s everything I want.

Me: You’re welcome. Here’s the door. And wait – here are your art supplies. (Handing her a carpetbag.) You know it’s bigger on the inside.

Her: Of course. Well – bye.

Me: You can come back any time.

Her: Maybe. I’ve got a lot to do. Wait, I don’t like the way I look. And my clothes. I don’t want to be wearing uniform. But I don’t know yet what I do want to look like. I don’t know if I’m really a child or an adult.

Me: Well, you’ve got all the time in the world to decide. And when you do, paint yourself a new body, and some new clothes, and step into them.

Her: I can do that?

Me: Anything.

Her: Okay. Thank you. Goodbye.

(She pushes open the door. It opens on a beautiful landscape under a blue sky. Wind blows through her hair.)

Her: I’m really allowed?

Me: Yes.

Her: You really forgive me?

Me: Yes. I love you.

Her: I love you since the day you were born. I’m going now. Goodbye.

Me: Goodbye.

(She steps across the threshold, and the door closes behind her.)

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!