Aah, Randall’s your monster!

or, am i reading too much into cartoons?

"Aah, Randall’s your monster!" says Sully, a big blue monster after he has lured a lost Boo into a safe space, but finds her comfortable in his bed instead! A classic revelation between Sully and Boo in Pixar’s Monsters’ Inc. early on becomes a touching start of a friendship between a monster and a babbling child, about a different monster, Boo's monster.

Once Sully understands the cause of Boo’s fear, he begins to find ways to remove the fear – which does not involve returning Boo to her home like Mike suggests (another cause of ‘shared’ fear), instead stemming the problem. What was Randall up to? The simple story-line has so many parallels in life events.

When I was a bitty kid (back in the seventies), I too had a monster. The monster appeared at night, along the horizon, glowed against the pitch-black night sky all night, a tall monster with three blinking red eyes all in one row much taller than the skyline. I harbored that fear for another ten years when I finally realized that it was a TV tower of our dear Doordarshan, the local television station (with a long school day, I was not home for very long during the daytime).

One fear replaced another, when I began to fear tall, unmoving dark shadows in the night that projected onto the wall of our bedroom after midnight, after watching two horror films in one night at a neighbor’s house, one with ‘Count Dracula’ who terrorized the streets in a single-horse carriage preying on unsuspecting women in the dark of the night, and another with horrible spirits that possessed a group of people who went camping in the woods. I was still thirteen. It took me two entire months to realize that the shadows I feared came from the bright moonlight hitting a wall in-between two windows of the shared bedroom, but I have never been comfortable with the idea of camping, and I have a sharp dislike for supernatural horror, Twilight being the exception.

The worst and most lingering fear became one of betrayal and violation of trust after a forced encounter at thirteen. The weight of the incident manifested itself in sharp pain in my limbs, so much so that I had to skip school, or slather copious amounts of the dark ointment Iodex, and wrap it in tourniquets. No one understood why I became who I became after that day, and regardless of relationship, trust has not come easy since. That lack of trust became my newest monster.

Each fear, expression of sadness, or a manifestation of stress is valid in its space: no two people feel or react the same way and it is absolutely ridiculous that they should, or be told how to feel. There is no one way to deal with any situation, especially one that triggers an unsettled feeling, fear, sadness, or internal disharmony. We each tackle fear and anxiety, sadness and ‘life’ issues in differently. Our fears don’t gush out from the same mountain spring either.

It is a little over eight weeks since the burglary in our home. The house is not even close to being settled, the contractor is taking his time with projects we added. They were logical in the grand scheme of construction but they must work in tandem. We have a few more weeks to go before I take the last of the construction trash out to the curb and can walk around bare-feet, bask in the sunshine in my garden, and sleep in my own bed, know where my clothes are, do laundry when I have time (and not because I need clean clothes), eat and cook at will and not have to rely on a calculation of 'access' to do any of this.

Home, the place we felt most safe in, most at ease, is now an uncomfortable place that we have no choice but to love and continue the healing, as part of our unspoken reciprocal exchange. Because this is the only way to make the discomfort temporary.

But the helplessness returns while we wait for others to recognize what we need – is not stuff, but a return to normalcy – where our actions are seamless and the stuff is the accessory to our progress, our well-being. We need to find a time when we are no longer held hostage to the inconveniences triggered by greed.

In these past eight weeks, I have heard everything, from people expressing remorse for my situation, suggesting that 'I should ask if I needed help' (when I dont know what I need), the bleak helplessness in the voices of loved ones, suggestions of holistic paths (prayer, meditation, yoga, exercise, etc - great avenues to achieve peace but none change reality) to achieving peace of mind, and suggestions of doing x, y, or z, to tackle ‘the problem’, to get through it.

Sadly, I only smile through the discomfort of hearing these solutions – knowing with certainty that they will not work.

Why?

Because those were their ways, not mine. Because I had not identified the root of the ‘monster’. And not knowing my monster’, I did not know how to get rid of the monster.

Was I looking for convenience? Was I looking for solutions? Was I looking for someone to make it all go away? I know it was not about throwing money at the situation. Where was the proverbial ‘door’? Those doors that people offered me are not my door, because those are not 'my monsters'.

Something changed last night, and I saw random events from this past fortnight come into focus: the problem, and perhaps a way to find a solution. This included many things – in no particular order of importance,

  • a conversation with my mother about "asking for help";

  • my husband being home for any spare minute he could, to figure out all the bits & pieces as each day unfolded;

  • a late morning tea with a new friend & her spouse, and their kind offer of a ‘comfortable space 'to just be’;

  • a long lunch with a fellow author friend as we talked about work, families, & the importance of peer-friendships;

  • a timely article about depression & how to ask for help;

  • a casual remark from an old friend: “I know I wouldn’t want to talk about it”;

  • the recognition by someone of being missed at an event I normally would not have missed;

  • but most importantly, a plea from my daughter to help with a ‘monster project’ {coloring an animal that was formed with a certain gene pool, & chart its evolution on an inhospitable planet.}

As benign as it seemed, I colored her various evolutionary versions of 'monsters'. At first I wanted my fancy Prismacolor pencils, or even her special artists’ set (but she wouldn’t part with those), instead saying, ‘No, it is not all that important, I don’t care if you just use Crayola’. I gasped, but continued.

She told me which one was blue with talons, and whose offspring had a tail instead of claws, or which one was purple. She told me how she wanted her monsters to look and behave – and how they would react to the environment. With each pencil stroke and each scale I colored, each strand of fur I visualized as I imagined the animal move, I understood something greater than those images, my attempt at perfectionism, distraction, or realism.

Those were her monsters, not mine.

They were not mine to judge, or improvise, make suggestions, or come up with ways to alter or influence the outcome. That is when I began to think about my own monsters.

Who were my monsters?

  • Did their fearful glowing eyes attack my ability to trust or seek help, because I was betrayed in the past?

  • Like the ominous clip clop of a single horse carriage on a dark street, were they emboldened each time someone did not believe me?

  • Did they manifest themselves louder each time my fears were invalidated by the silence of assumptions, nonchalance, distance, or lack of empathy?

The darkness of my temporary bedroom with wisps of cool air from the revolving floor fan reminded that just as one needed a constant breeze to survive the stifling muggy Georgia heat, my monsters dissipated in the constant warmth of friendships, companionship, and a recurring commitment to my work.

The prospect of new projects, receipt of affirmations, positivity, and reassurances only weakened the monster.

The validation that came from the trust towards juggling the roles of parent, caregiver, entrepreneur, author, or human, replenished the bleeding spirit, nourished the soul - taking the energy away from the monster.

My monsters feared the confidence & determination that came from community, from recognizing my strengths, from love, care and reciprocal acts of ‘just being there’.

I also realized that I could not allow my life or lives of my loved ones to stagnate between the moments of conquest and brightness – because those bright and uplifting moments alone would slowly and eventually slay my monster, one appendage at a time, one fear at a time.

Who are your monsters?

Do you know how do you can slay them?

What can I do to help you slay your monsters?

{Artwork (c) V Umashankar, 2018. Ink and colored pencil on 80 lb paper. Shared with permission of artist.}

AUTHOR

Nandita Godbole

Once a botanist & landscape architect.

Now a personal chef & author, an artist, graphic designer, blogger & poet. 

 

Loves freshly brewed chai, the crisp salty ocean breeze, watching monsoon rains & walking barefoot through cold mountain streams. 

 

Believes in the strength, positivity of the human spirit. Is spiritual but not a fanatic. 

 

Mom of one. Two, if she counts her husband.

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