I loved reading as a kid. Especially fantasy. And my own stuffed animals were a constant source of imagination and joy. As I've thought about the coming year and what I hope for myself I have been thinking about the practice of being brave. And as I wrestle with the act of practice, I find that creating is a way to create order out of the chaos of my mind. I've also been watching a Korean TV Series called Healer. And I keep thinking about this quote from it. "she is brave despite knowing how scary it is” Healer Here's to the practice of bravery despite knowing how scary the world can be.
There will be Monsters
I'd fallen asleep on the couch, again. Waking up to darkness and the sound of small feet making their way towards me. In the shadows, her figure looked ghost like. Seven years contained in one tiny body.
“Can’t sleep.” I asked.
Her headed nodded a slow, Yes.
“Scared?” I asked.
Again a nod.
I patted my lap. She slipped in close.
We sat in silence. And I listened as her heart slowly reached an even beat. My mind raced, searching for the right words. Words to comfort and disperse the monsters that came in the dark. But I couldn't bring myself to lie. I had been facing my own fear just hours before. I couldn't bring myself to say nice cute phrases. Honesty is what I wanted. Honesty is all I knew to give at this hour of night.
“You know what I do when I’m afraid?” I asked.
She looked at me. Question in her eyes.
“Do you want me to show you?” I asked.
We slowly walked back to where the fear had grown. The place where monsters came at night, from under beds and behind closet doors.
I placed her in the middle of her bed.
Around her I carefully arranged every doll and stuffed animal I could find. Until she was barely visible.
As the final touch, I squeezed my way into the bunch. Now I was stalling. I didn't know how to say the words that explained what I felt in my heart. Or how to remind us both to fight and not let fear win. I breathed out slowly.
"When I’m afraid." I began.
"I look for Friends. Friends who will be there when I’m scared. And they can come in all shapes and sizes."
She was listening. I continued.
"I know that they are the right, Friends because they tell me it's okay to be afraid." I could sense that she was beginning to question me.
I reached for her hand. "You know, even your Aunt gets frighted." I said.
"You do?" she asked.
I knew my sister might be angry at my response. But I had always wanted honesty as a kid. And I remember the times I had had adults brush my questions aside. So I pushed on, trying to answer her question, truthfully and carefully. "I don't always know why I get scared." I replied. "Even grown ups get scared. But it's not wrong to be afraid. It's what you do when you are afraid that is important."
I wasn't sure I was making any sense, but I pressed on.
"When you feel frightened," I continued "you need to find Friends who will help you. When you find them, you ask them to help you be brave when you can't do it."
I saw her mind working. Trying to puzzle out what I had said.
"Do you see all these Friends around us?" I asked.
"Tonight you have this whole army of Friends who will be brave for you. You don't have to be brave all by yourself. You can ask them to be brave for you. All you have to do is ask."
She looked at me. And then at the army of dolls and stuffed animals around her.
"You can just whisper it in their ears." I said. "They will hear you." She hesitated.
I picked up her favorite, a small dog, that had once been white.
"Just whisper in his ear." I told her.
I held him close to her. She slowly took him and whispered in his ear. And then she picked up another and another, until she had shared with each friend.
She slowly laid down. Her hand clasped in mine.
I held on and whispered. "I love you more than sunshine and blue skies."
Her breathing began to deepen as sleep settled in.
I stared into the dark. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I should have told her that it would be ok, that she didn't need to be afraid. That I could fix it.
I eyed the misfit band around her. Tired and worn, well played with. They were much like the misfit bunch who were in my life. We were all a bit worn and rough around the edges.
Yet, such a brave army, who fought for each other. Courageous souls who stepped into the fear, despite knowing how scary life could be. Friends who had fought many monsters with me.
I desperately wished I could chase her monsters away. That I could make them disappear, never to return. But my own monsters reminded me of the futility of this wish. I felt tears finding their way down my face. I hated the pain the monsters brought. For me. For her. For all those I loved.
"It's okay to be afraid." I whispered into the dark and to my own heart. "It's okay. To be afraid. We just need to practice being brave, despite knowing how scary the world is."