Tale of a Terrified Should-Monster

Every morning, I wake up in a hurry.


I don’t have a formal job. I don’t have early morning meetings or traffic to beat. I don’t have kids. I don’t have a dog to walk or cows to milk. I’m not training for a marathon. But when I wake up, no matter what time it is, I’m already behind.

Drawing: Person snoozing alarm
Text: Don't go back to sleep

So what’s the big rush?

I hurry to follow the rules. I hurry to exercise. I hurry to meditate. I hurry to answer my email. I hurry to brew the coffee that will help me hurry to do everything else. I hurry to eat whatever foods I’m believing are the right ones to feel the right way. I hurry to honor any agreements and commitments I have made. I hurry to check off any intentions I have set. I hurry to pick out the right clothes to look and feel just right. I hurry from one thing to the next, trying to get everything exactly right.

When it comes to others, I hurry to be responsible enough and responsive enough and kind enough. I hurry to be helpful enough and available enough. I hurry to be (or at least appear to be) generous enough, smart enough, and enlightened enough. I hurry to be authentic enough and beautiful enough and artistic enough and free-spirited enough. I hurry to be impressive enough and accomplished enough but also modest enough.  I even hurry to be relaxed enough. I hurry to seem like I don’t care, especially when I really really do.

Basically, I hurry to carry out the strict instructions of a terrified Should-Monster who knows all the rules and all the ways I need to improve myself to be good enough to be loved.  

Should-Monster 1: Person being scared by monster

And whenever I miss the mark, which, to my Should-Monster is  often, I hurry to tell myself how much I f*!?ed up. I hurry to make myself feel wrong and bad and ashamed enough to never to do it again.

When I’m in this belief-scape, I’m caught in a pitch-black maze with harsh traps tucked around every corner and no genuine hope of escape. Perhaps the hopelessness is the most painful part. The whole system is predicated on the knowing (as it appears) of not being nearly enough to be loved, so frantic compensation sets in the moment I wake up. If it sounds dark. It’s because it is.

But also notice the light. So far it’s a dim half-light of awareness, but it’s enough to illuminate this charade. It has come about recently thanks to a number of factors, including the honest reflection of one friend, and the support and guidance of others.  But I think I would still be fast asleep to this pattern if not for having recently given my hurry some new assignments…

I hurry to be nice to myself. I hurry to cut myself some slack. I hurry to say “No” when I mean it, especially to my own terrified Should-Monster.  I hurry to ask for help as soon as I know I need it.  I hurry to admit (as in “to confess” but also “to allow”) my fear and pain, my judgements and desires before I hurry to dismiss, minimize, or discredit them. I hurry to be honest as often as I am able, even when my Should-Monster deems what I have to say as sloppy, childish or rude, ignorant, arrogant or crude.  

Because ultimately I’m in a hurry to be loved, ultimately by me. And how can I love what I cannot see? How can I love what I forbid and deny? How could I ever know whether or not I’m worthy, when I’m offering up an image, illusion, or aspiration, instead of the real deal?

This morning, I turned toward my terrified Should-Monster with compassion. I connected with how earnestly and desperately it has been striving to get me whatever I think I need in whatever way it knows how.  

I say something then, which I realize is long, long overdue. I say, “Thank you.”

“Thank you for working so tirelessly on my behalf. Thank you for being willing to try anything and everything to get me what I say I want. Thank you for sacrificing yourself again and again, for being willing to be hated and judged and pushed away and blamed and still never giving up. I see you now. I see your intention. I see my own fear and desperation reflected in you eyes. I’m so sorry I called you a ‘Monster.’”  

Should-Monster 2: "monster" cries as person apologizes

It quivers. It trembles. It shakes. It’s eyes well up with tears and it says quietly, “You’re welcome.”   

When we look at each other, really, for the first time, I finally notice what I have never seen before; I see what I’ve always wanted. Behind the watery eyes of this imagined creature, I see how wholly, how fiercely, how devotedly, I have been loved.  

Should-Monster 3: Person and "monster" become friends

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