Facing the monsters
I have always liked the monster within idea. I like the zombies being us. Zombies are the blue-collar monsters -George A. Romero
Losing George last week was pretty devastating, I must say, but revisiting his films and reading interviews really got me thinking about zombies, monsters, and scary shit in the context of my own life. You see, I'm in the process of walking through hell. It's been a long walk, and it's nowhere near over. It all began because I had developed a habit of running. Running away from everything, even myself.
When I was a kid, maybe 8 years old, I was winning a race, but faked an injury near the end to ensure that I would not win. I'm sure that seems really weird and maybe even stupid. The part that bothers me the most is that it hasn't stopped happening. Self-sabotage. I guess that's what it is, but it goes beyond that. It's about fear. Fear of failure and fear of success. I kind of remember being in that moment; I recall running pretty fast and having a fair lead, and all these people, mostly kids, screaming. I was supposed to run through this specific area at the end and panicked a bit because I couldn't seem to figure it out. I don't think it was all that hard, but I was so afraid of making a mistake. That's part of it, and the other part was me being super awkward about the idea of winning something. I had very little experience with success and I honestly think I was too overwhelmed to cope. In the end, I let a runner pass, then another, and I consciously decided to come in third. Third is respectable, and didn't really warrant as much attention. I want to give myself credit for finishing the race, and also not hate on my behaviour, but I still shake my head when it comes to mind and think what the fuck?!
I brought that race up in a recent counselling session and, frankly, my therapist didn't seem all that surprised. I suppose that's because she's been given a small window into my past and has somehow found a way to piece things together. I never learned how to handle success or failure, or really much of anything useful when I was a child, and it's not so easy to teach yourself that stuff as an adult. Having said that, it's not impossible. The scary part is that you have to stop running. You must turn around and face the monsters because they are not going anywhere. They will continue to pursue, just like in the movies, and if you want to survive you're going to have to fight. After all, what character in a horror movie actually escapes by running alone? What happens, though, when you turn around, baseball bat clenched in hand (or machete or whatever) in preparation for the bloody battle, and you just see yourself?
That image also surfaced in a counselling session. My therapist likes to use scary analogies due to my love of horror. She's the best. Anyway, she told me to picture myself running away as fast as I can from the scariest monster imaginable but I begin to grow tired and lose speed. Eventually it becomes apparent that I cannot outrun this monster, so I decide to turn around and fight. When I turn around, I realize that it's actually just me as a child. I'm a mess, covered in dirt and blood, and I'm crying. As easy as it is to get pissed off at the childhood me--to yell at her, even push her down and maybe run away again--that won't stop her from crying, from chasing, from needing my help. As difficult, annoying and painful as it is, the only way to make her go away is to show her some love. To reach out my hand and say come on, let's go. It'll be OK.
Because it will be. Sometimes we become so accustomed to the darkness that we forget there's light. We become so preoccupied with the monsters that we aren't able to see that often those monsters are just us. That's what I always loved about Romero's zombies, the fact that they were so interchangeable with the living, and sometimes not nearly as scary. The ending to Night of the Living Dead immediately comes to mind. George Romero once said that, "if you can change one thing, everything will change." I am currently going through some pretty big changes and feeling incredibly thrown and lost and uncertain and scared and a lot of other things, too. I wanted to share this in hopes that I can reach even one person who feels equally displaced and confused, to tell them that somehow everything will be alright. I suppose maybe I'm also writing this to tell myself the same thing. To convince myself that I will emerge from the darkness and that I will be able to recognize myself, even if the me I see is a child covered in dirt, blood and tears.
I dedicate this post to George, and to anyone else who's running, fighting or hiding. Remember that you are not alone, even if you're only in the company of monsters.
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I'm finally doing it--pulling my insides out and splattering them around for all to see. Here we go!