When I was a child there was a monster living under my bed. I would turn off the light and leap onto the mattress, so as not to step too closely to the bed frame. Because his arms were only so long.
When I made it onto the bed, it was a mad dash to get under the covers. Fully ensconced. Head and all. Because the blanket was made of anti-monster armor. I would fall asleep with the blankets tucked all around me, warmed by my breath on the fabric over my face.
A sound? What’s that? I dare not look, because certainly as soon as I removed the blankets from my face, as soon as I opened my eyes, he would be thererightthere in front of me!
There was also a monster in my closet. Some nights the door would be open just a crack, so I knew he had gotten in there. But as long as I stayed under the covers, he’d stay in the closet.
One day I asked my father to take the door off my closet. And he did. Poof! In an instant that monster was vanquished.
I was 8 years old, and excited that I had been invited to sleep over a friend’s house for the first time. But as bed time approached, I became anxious. I ended up calling my mother to come and get me. How could I possibly sleep there? I didn’t know where her monsters were hiding! They could have been anywhere! Monsters can hide anywhere at all!
Monsters can hide anywhere at all.
Dr Huxtable and his family were respected role models for families in the 80s, both black and white. Bill Cosby was bright, and funny. He was good and kind. Turns out he was also a predator who drugged and raped a lot of women. He was formally convicted of sexual assault this week. His honorary college degrees are being revoked one by one. His legacy forever tarnished. An inspirational icon with a dark side. A monster hiding in the heart of a hero.
Pattabhi Jois said one of the most profoundly simple things about yoga that I have ever heard. A sentence I repeat often. ‘Practice and all is coming.’ If you practice, over and over again, daily with dedication, all that you need will come to you, over time. If you stretch your hamstrings every day, you will eventually touch your toes. If you attempt a headstand every day you will eventually find yourself upside down. If you sit and meditate every day you will gradually become more still, more calm, more centered. His simple words cut right to the heart of me.
Turns out Pattabhi Jois was a very handsy guy. He groped and sexually assaulted lots of women during yoga classes, all in the name of ‘adjustments’. He had a dark side. He was part wise man, part guru, and part monster.
There was a parish priest in our neighborhood when I was a kid. Not being Catholic, I didn’t really know him, but a lot of my friends did. He was well liked by the community for his sermons and his service. He counseled and cared for a lot of people. He was a good man, a man of god. He also sexually abused (at least) several of my friends and classmates. Darkness. Light and darkness.
There was a fireman in the next town, a brave man who ran into burning buildings, performed CPR, administered NARCAN, saved lives. He was arrested for possession of child pornography. A hero, with a dark side.
I am never surprised by these stories. I know monsters can hide anywhere at all. They can hide anywhere at all.
We are all human, each one of us. And we all have a dark side, a shadow self. Some of us are in control of our dark impulses and some of us act on them. This is just another lesson taught to me by a man who sexually abused me at a very young age. My grandfather, a man who fought for his country, worked hard for a living, raised a family, and played the accordion-, he taught me all about monsters. Taught me all I ever needed to know about monsters. Taught me that they can hide. Anywhere at all.
So I knew at a very young age that there was darkness in everyone. I came to understand that is harder for some than it is for others to live in the light all day, every day. Sometimes, the monsters skulk in the shadows, and sometimes they crawl under the blankets and take hold of our hearts.
As a result of this gift, I’ve spent a significant amount of time spooning with my shadow self. And I have also grown to seek out, appreciate, and even embrace the shadows in others. There is wisdom in the darkness. There are lessons to be learned.
I’ve come out from under the covers and into the dark. My eyes are wide open. I carry my heart with me like a flashlight. And now, I am in love with my monsters.
The earworm, David Bowie’s Scary Monsters