My inner hero

First off: I would like to remind my beloved readers that my prices are going up on April 11th! So if you’ve been thinking of booking a session (or several) this coming week is your opportunity to do that at the current price. (I’ve just spent the last five minutes trying to phrase that in a way that didn’t say, ‘OMG BUY NOW OR DOOM’ :) )

I just had the most stunning session – my second time with the same client, and she said I’d made a huge difference to her life. I was amazed at all the changes she’d experienced just from one session with me. How about accidentally getting over lifelong chronic lateness as an unexpected side effect? (Hmm, if I can do that for someone else, maybe I can do it for myself…;)

This session went really deep and got resolved really quickly, 1 hour 10 mins for the whole session including quite a long chat at the start about what was up. I’m on such a high right now.

This is really reminding me of why I do what I do. Lately, because I’m preoccupied with an upcoming house move and all the money stuff around that, I’ve fallen into thinking that I do this work for money. NOT NOT NOT! I do this to help all the brilliant, beautiful souls around me and to help the world change for the better. Glorious feeling!! And I really need to talk to my own monsters and headpeople more too. Seeing the effect on others reminds me how much it can help me.

Last night Andy advised me to talk to my inner hero on the blog, on the basis that I might find out some interesting things. So I’ll try doing that now. :)

Me: Hello?

(Blaze of light. KA-CHING! of Audible Sharpness. A dazzling star of light running down from point to hilt of a blade held skywards. When the dazzle clears, I’m kind of expecting to see Luke Skywalker in full-on poster boy mode. Or some amazing anime heroine like Utena or Oscar. Instead (is anyone surprised?) it’s just me. Jeans, t-shirt, messy hair. And where’s the sword gone?)

Me: Oh. You’re me.

Inner Hero: Well, don’t sound disappointed!

Me: I do feel a bit disappointed. I wanted to see some visible evidence that my inner hero is, you know, heroic.

Inner Hero: What would that look like to you?

Me: A bright sword. Burning blue eyes. Not necessarily a lot of muscle (I mean, look at Frodo) but a lot of heroic bearing. Intensity. Being visibly full of light and power. And preferably a heroic outfit too. Maybe shining armour or a spiffy military uniform with lots of gold braid.

Inner Hero: Armour? Military uniform? Wars do not make one great. You win by refusing to fight, remember?

Me: Yeah, but – I mean, Luke won by refusing to fight, but he still has his lightsaber. I mean, a sword made of light. The absolute symbol of pure goodness and power. Magical, miraculous power for good. You know?

Inner Hero: You’ve got a lightsaber.

Me: Yeah, a toy one.

Inner Hero: Oh come on. That’s a ‘toy’ like your parrot-headed umbrella is a ‘toy’. It’s an incredibly powerful talisman that is actually linked to your soul and therefore actually magical. Would you rather have a weapon you could kill people with?

Me: Well, no.

Inner Hero: Playfulness is a more important value to you than killing. Actually, violence is way down at the bottom of your value list and playfulness is way up at the top. And so is the reality of imaginary things. The power of imaginary things. I mean, look at what you do for a living! Trust me, the perfect blade for you is a toy one. Something that’ll always be a little bit funny. And at the same time, when you hold it, you make a face like THIS.

Me with a lightsaber

Me: Oh. Yeah. That is you.

Inner Hero: Burning blue eyes? Check. Heroic bearing? Check. Intensity? Check. Being visibly full of light and power? CHECK CHECK CHECK.

Me: Oh, but now I’m having all the I’m-not-worthy.

Inner Hero: Every hero has all the I’m-not-worthy!

Me: Really?

Inner Hero: Well, most of them. At some point. It’s a perfectly normal response to having an epic mission!

Me: Everybody has an epic mission. I mean, everybody’s life is their own epic mission. Everyone is the hero of their own hero’s journey.

Inner Hero: Yes, but right now we’re talking about you, not making excuses about why you’re not special.

Me: Everyone is special!

Inner Hero: Yes. Including you.

Me: Okay, so how do I connect with you more? What’s the secret?

Inner Hero: Well, it’s something you’re very good at. Believe in me.

Me: What?

Inner Hero: Play at being me. Imagine being me. You know imaginary things are real, right?

Me: Oh. Yes. Like the Sun says in the Mary Poppins books. To think a thing is to make it true. And so, if Michael thought he had the Moon in his arms -

Inner Hero: - why then, he had indeed. You thought you had a lightsaber in your hands. And look what happened.

Me: Wow. Yes. I can see that.

Inner Hero: You know what the funny part is?

Me: That I’m holding a piece of movie merchandise like it could cut steel?

Inner Hero: Okay, the other funny part. The really funny part is this. The only thing that’s really imaginary here is that you’re NOT me.

Me: What?

Inner Hero: You’ve been imagining that you’re not me. Playing a very elaborate game of make-believe and let’s-pretend that consumed your entire life. You’re really good at that. So good that you actually believed your own fantasy. You became the character.

Me: So the me who isn’t you is imaginary?

Inner Hero: Precisely! You not being a hero? Fantasy! You being unheroic? Nonsense! You having anything less than infinite light and power? That’s just a story you tell yourself! You’re making it up!

Me: Wow…

Inner Hero: So the funny thing is… you’re a hero pretending to be a non-hero pretending to be a hero!

Me: Oh, but that’s also really sad. Like, imagine if the greatest knight in the world had lost his memory and was just playing in the dirt like a child, forgetting who he was. And imagine if he picked up a stick and held it like a sword. I mean, really like a sword. You’d want to cry, wouldn’t you?

Inner Hero: Laugh or cry! Your choice.

Me: I’ll laugh.

Inner Hero: That’s me talking!

Tiny schoolgirl me hates slow progress

Most of us have some interesting past experiences that have left us with some sad scared selves needing attention in the present. A lot of mine stem from my strange education. Happy Noodle Girl is a product of school 1. The me who doesn’t like slow progress, it turns out, is a product of school 2. This was the school where I started at age four and everyone else was at least seven.

I was chatting to a friend about my pattern of having to change HUGELY AND IMMEDIATELY or not at all (which usually = not at all) and I realised that at school 2, I was either great or terrible at all subjects, to the extent that I wasn’t really learning in any class. I was either mucking about while people learned things I already knew, or mucking about while people learned things I couldn’t imagine being able to do. Which was painful, but it also gave me a sense of specialness because I was the only kid allowed to spend music lessons sitting under the grand piano or netball lessons collecting conkers.

I realised that my fear of slow progress might be a fear of not getting to be special and not getting to play while everyone else works – which is interesting, because progress would actually lead to MORE of those things. My friend invited me to talk to the me who didn’t like slow progress, right there in the chatbox. So I did. :)

She came out talking in ALL CAPS and quoting everything, from Mary Poppins and Winnie-the-Pooh to some very grown-up books that she definitely had not read (Wuthering Heights and Stephen Fry’s Making History, which gave us the line, ‘Oh sure, like on Mars…’) I thought about putting in ‘me:’s and ‘her:’s after the fact, but it’s very obvious who’s talking without them!

so, could I talk to the part of me who doesn’t like slow progress?

YES PLEASE DO!

oh, you’re going to talk in all caps? That makes it easier to tell who’s who, and it sounds like you really, really want to talk to me!

YES BECAUSE YOU WON’T LISTEN!

Oh, I’m sorry I haven’t been listening to you. I’m listening now, please tell me what’s up

THIS IS
YOU HAVE A GREAT LIFE RIGHT NOW. REALLY!! EVERYONE ELSE HAS TO KEEP MOVING AND YOU GET TO STAY THE SAME
EVERYONE ELSE HAS TO MOVE UP A YEAR AT THE END OF THE YEAR
YOU GET TO STAY IN YOUR CLASS DOING YOUR LESSONS
SITTING ON YOUR SPECIAL CHAIR THAT’S SMALLER THAN EVERYONE ELSE’S

wow, okay, so it sounds like you really need, um… consistency? Things staying the same?

ME STAYING THE SAME
YOU STAYING THE SAME
OTHER CHILDREN LEARN, YOU STAY THE SAME AND DO YOUR OWN SPECIAL EVE THINGS AND DON’T HAVE TO FOLLOW THE RULES
AND DON’T HAVE TO GET RED PEN AND CROSSES ALL OVER YOUR WORK BECAUSE YOU’VE DONE THESE LESSONS THREE TIMES AND YOU COULD DO THEM THE FIRST TIME

so it sounds like you really don’t like rules and being corrected?

RULES AND BEING BAD AT THINGS
EXCEPT WHEN YOU’RE SO BAD YOU DON’T HAVE TO TRY BECAUSE NOBODY EXPECTS ANYTHING OF YOU

oh, bing!
in my current life, as a grown-up, nobody (mostly) expects me to cope with time or money or work, because I’m ‘Eve’

EXACTLY!!!
YOU WANT TO BE NOT ONLY A GROWN-UP BUT A D-GRADE GROWN-UP WITH RED PEN ALL OVER YOUR GROWNUPNESS BOOK!?
IT’S SO MUCH HARDER! AND SHAMEFUL AND EMBARRASSING, I MEAN OTHER PEOPLE’S WORK IS REALLY BAD!
HAVING SPECIAL PERMISSION TO NOT TRY MAKES IT OKAY!

okay <3 I’m noticing something as you say that
there were times when it wasn’t okay for you, weren’t there?
I remember one games lesson when you just crawled under a bench and hid and people ran past and pulled your knickers down
and why were you under the piano in music lessons?

I LIKED FEELING THE VIBRATIONS

did you also want to feel safe and away from everyone else?

OKAY YES
I FORGOT THAT
ALL THIS TIME I THOUGHT IT WAS REALLY NICE UNDER THE PIANO

well, I think it was, because outside the piano was not so nice
right?

WELL IT’S NOT GREAT BEING UNABLE TO SING A NOTE IN TUNE. BUT BEING YOUR OWN SPECIAL PERSON IS BETTER

are you afraid that if you try, you’ll lose your identity?

YES, I’LL BE THE WORST DIRTIEST SHEEP IN A GREAT BIG FLOCK OF SHEEP
INSTEAD OF RIGHT NOW, WHEN I’M A GOAT. OR A DOG.
AND OKAY SO IT’S NO FUN BEING THE ONLY PERSON OF MY SPECIES, BUT ALSO, I’M THE ONLY PERSON OF MY SPECIES!!
AND THE WONDERFUL THING ABOUT TIGGERS IS I’M THE ONLY ONE… RIGHT?!

oh, love :/
you’re lonely!!

IS A DOG FURRY?!

would you like to be able to connect with other people, and be part of a group, while also being special and unique and the only one of you?

WELL SURE, LIKE ON MARS, IN THE VALLEY OF THE BIG ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN WHERE EVERYBODY SKIPS AND JUMPS AND BAKES CHERRY PIE FOR STRANGERS!

you don’t think that’s possible for you?

I’M SCARED IT’S NOT. HOW WOULD I KNOW, I DON’T CHANGE!!

so not changing is really keeping you from getting this thing that you really want
let’s think about it in your terms…
when Tigger comes to the Hundred Acre Wood and makes friends with all the other animals, he’s still the only Tigger, isn’t he?
and everyone is happy to work with him to find out what Tiggers like, and to give him what he needs

EXTRACT OF MALT!

yes!
and he still bounces, doesn’t he??

YES!!! BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE!!

sounds like you’re happy about that :D

YES BUT HOW DO I… I DON’T KNOW HOW TO PROCEED. I DON’T KNOW HOW TO LEARN!!

you learned loads before you were at school, that was part of why you felt so alone AT school

OKAY BUT THAT WAS BACK ON MARS WHEN CHILDREN WERE ALLOWED TO LEARN WHAT THEY FELT LIKE BECAUSE THEY FELT LIKE IT
ADULT LIFE IS SO MUCH MORE LIKE SCHOOL

that’s because…

WHY ARE YOU CRYING?

because most adults don’t know any better
they got so thoroughly sent to school that they sent themselves to school for the rest of their lives
and OF COURSE you don’t want that for me!
I don’t want that for me either, in fact I don’t want that for anyone!
I want everyone to be free from school for ever and ever!!

ME TOO!!! OH GOD ME TOO. IT’S NOT FAIR. PEOPLE AREN’T SUPPOSED TO WORK LIKE THAT AND I WANT TO STOP IT!
I WANT TO THROW DOWN ALL THE SCHOOLS AND BUILD HOUSES. FARM HOUSES WHERE PEOPLE CAN PLAY AND LEARN ABOUT ANIMALS FROM THE ANIMALS THEMSELVES
NOW WE’RE BOTH CRYING!!!

we both want the same thing, don’t we?

YES OF COURSE BUT I WAS SO LITTLE, HOW COULD I CHANGE IT? ALL I COULD DO WAS NOT JOIN IN

well, now we have all this power that we can wield

BECAUSE OF BEING A GROWN-UP?

yes

SOMETHING IS BREWING

yes, something is brewing, about to begin!

CAN’T PUT MY FINGER ON WHAT LIES IN STORE…

but I feel what’s to happen all happened before!!

THE WIND’S CHANGING AND MARY POPPINS IS COMING BACK!!!… WHY DID I SAY BACK?

we’re going back to how it used to be, ‘on Mars’ if you like :)

YES I DO LIKE!

learning like there is no school
and no red pen
ever, okay?
there are no bad marks
nobody is marking you
it’s not about doing it well or doing it badly

NO IT’S NOT!! DID MUMMY EVER GIVE ME A TICK OR A STAR FOR READING A BOOK OR LEARNING ABOUT SOMETHING? NO BECAUSE I WANTED TO DO IT!! I DIDN’T NEED A STUPID PAPER STICKER TO ENCOURAGE ME1!

okay, so we’re going to learn what we want, how we want, right?

WHAT IF WE DON’T WANT TO LEARN ABOUT MONEY?

well.. we’ll get an accountant :D

HAHA.. A WIZARD OF FINANCE!!

yes, that’s exactly it!!
and.. you know what else?

THIS IS HOW WE TEAR DOWN THE SCHOOLS!
THIS IS HOW WE TEAR DOWN THE SCHOOLS INSIDE PEOPLE!
IF PEOPLE SEE ONE PERSON WHO IS NOT AT SCHOOL, THEY’LL SEE THAT IT’S POSSIBLE TO NOT BE AT SCHOOL FOREVER!!
AND!!! AND!!!!!
BEING UNDER THE PIANO IS STILL BEING AT SCHOOL!!
BEING IN THE SAME CLASS OVER AND OVER IS STILL BEING AT SCHOOL!!
GETTING LOTS OF TICKS AND TEN OUT OF TEN IS STILL BEING AT SCHOOL!
IT’S TIME TO LEAVE THIS SCHOOL!! FOREVER!!

omg… yes!! Thank you so much!!

YOU LISTENED!!
I KNEW WHAT TO SAY
AND YOU LISTENED!!

you’re really happy that I finally listened, aren’t you?

I’VE BEEN A WAIF FOR THIRTY YEARS!!!

love, I’m so sorry

IT DOESN’T MATTER NOW, LET’S GO FLY A KITE!!

woohoo!!!! Let’s go!!!

(epic tearful and excited hugs)

Speed Whippet and Fear of Progress, aka FOP!

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

princepoppycock

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

FOP: ALACK ALACK ALACK (fans self hysterically)

Speed Whippet: What are you observing?

FOP: FIE FIE FIE

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

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

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

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

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

FOP: La, sir, I am undone!

Speed Whippet: You’re terrified?

FOP: Yes!

Speed Whippet: What do you need?

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOP: Not only that!

Speed Whippet: What else?

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

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

FOP: Exactly!

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

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

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

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

Speed Whippet: I’m a dog!

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

Speed Whippet: …Oh. You get left outside.

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

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

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

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

FOP: Success!

Speed Whippet: What’s happening right now?

FOP: I’m talking to you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOP: GAAAAAAAAAAH!

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

FOP: STAP MY VITALS!

Speed Whippet: Okay, nearly.

FOP: What do I do?

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

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

Speed Whippet: Why?

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

Speed Whippet: Because it might be painful?

FOP: Yes.

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

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

Speed Whippet: No!

FOP: How do you know?

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

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

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

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

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

FOP: I don’t know.

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

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

ppg

Speed Whippet: I love it!

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

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

LS09 Pierrot

The Longer You Leave It The Harder It Gets

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

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

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

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

Longer: Yes!!

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

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

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

Longer: YES!

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

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

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

Longer: YES!

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

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

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

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

Bubulcus ibis(2)

Me: Did you just turn into an egret?

Longer: (nods)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regret Egret: Yes!

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

Regret Egret: Yes!

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

Regret Egret: YES!

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

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

Me: Yes, absolutely! AAARGH!

Regret Egret: (finding this cathartic) AAAAARGH!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: Exactly! Beautiful!

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

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

Regret Egret: Well, ouch.

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

Regret Egret: I’m sorry!!

Me: It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay!

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

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

Regret Egret: So what do I do?!

Me: Well, the thing is -

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regret Egret: What do I do?

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

Regret Egret: WAAH!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: Yes!!

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

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

Regret Egret: Hmm! Useful!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Sister: Hi!

Me: Oh, hi!

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

Me: I know exactly what you’re thinking.

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

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

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

(Little Sister skids onto the scene.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Firework: Yes, because you and me…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Firework: Yes!

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

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

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

Firework: No!

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

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.

Big No and Big Yes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little Sister: (slams door)

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

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

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

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

Me: Yes!

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

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

Big Sister: It was just what came to mind!

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

(Big Sister begins to glow gently.)

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

Monster: (big scary voice off) NOOOOOO!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big No: N – uuugggh.

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

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

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

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

Big Sister: You’re saying plenty!

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

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

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

Big Sister: Yes. I understand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big No: I don’t have to disappear?

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

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

Big Sister: She doesn’t hate you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Sister: That was hard.

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

Big Sister: Those are all really good yesses!

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

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

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

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

Big No: Your parents. Bossy people. Society.

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

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

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

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

(Here I procrastinated for a while)

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

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

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

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

Red Twin: NOOOOOO!!!

Green Twin: YEEEEEEESS!!!

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

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

Big Yes: YEEEEEES!!!

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

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

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

Big Yes: YEEEEEES!!

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

Big Yes: YEEEEEES!

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

Big No: NOOOOOO! Just…

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

Big No: …not be clinical about things.

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

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

Big Yes: YEEEEEEES!

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

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

Big Sister: Awwww! You guys are so cute!

Big Yes: YEEEEEES!

Big No: (simultaneously) NOOOOOO!

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

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

Me: Thanks, guys! I love you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Yes: It’s okay!

Big No: We don’t want to scare you!

Big Yes: We love you!

Big No: We don’t want to hurt you!

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

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

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

Big Yes: We’re very important monsters!

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

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

Big No: Except we’re not just fuzzballs!

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

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

Big Yes: YES to being heard!

Little Sister: (excited) I can shout too!

Big Yes: Can you?

Little Sister: YEEEEEEES!

Big Yes: Can you shout as loud as us?

Little Sister: YEEEEEEES!

Big No: NOOOOOO!

Little Sister: YEEEEEES!

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

Oz and the Tribblegonks

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

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

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

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

Monsters: There’s lots of us.

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

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

Monsters: (slight crackling noise)

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

(Monsters turn into many tiny black fuzzballs.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monsters: Yeah! We have fun!

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

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

Mr. H: Why’s it all you can do?

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

Mr. H: Uh…

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

(An ENORMOUS GIGAGONK appears behind the horde.)

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

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

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

Gigagonk: BRRRRRRAAAAAAUUUUUMMMMM!

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

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

Mr. H: Hi, Oz. What’s up?

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

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

Oz: You just outed me!

Mr. H: How are you feeling?

Oz: Embarrassed!

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

Oz: Um… I wizard.

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

Oz: I say things in a loud voice.

Mr. H: What sort of things?

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

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

Oz: Oh, it’s what the people want.

Mr. H: What people?

Oz: Well, Eve, I suppose.

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

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

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

Oz: I don’t know. I’m from Omaha.

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

Oz: Certainly.

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

Oz: (blushes) Oh! Madam!

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

Little Sister: Can I join in?

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

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

Oz: I’m real!

Big Sister: I know, honey.

Little Sister: I mean flesh and blood people.

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

Little Sister: Scared. Angry.

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

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

Big Sister: So what are you really needing?

Little Sister: To not be hated!

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

Little Sister: To be loved!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gigagonk: HHUUUUUUUGGGSS!

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

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

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

Me: Thank you, Oz!

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

Big Sister: Sure.

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

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

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

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

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

Oz & Dorothy

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

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

…But they’re so cute!