Monsters and ash.

A modern day woman with a weak constitution ’cause I’ve got

Monsters still under my bed that I could never fight off

Lana del Rey, “hope is a dangerous thing”

Here’s the thing: we all have monsters we can’t fight off. None of us is special in this regard. We aren’t going to ever conquer our monsters — anxiety, trauma, depression, whatever — but we have to tame them. Some of us have faulty wiring. I know I do. Early childhood trauma and the secondary trauma that came with it — thanks, fam! — set me up with some seriously fucked up wiring. Enter traumatic loss at 25, after two and a half years of incredible stress and uncertainty.

I can try to rewire my brain, but I’m kind of stuck with this mess.

Waterhouse. Ulysses and the Sirens

But.

These monsters are all my own. Fucked up wiring or not, I cannot make these monsters someone else’s problem. I can’t fall back on “triggers” or cite a litany of my trauma to avoid dealing with them as I unleash them on others. I’ve never really thought of myself as a “broken” person. I might call myself that in moments of frustration or anger or fear, but I’ve never internalized it. I’ve avoided dealing with some things, however, and the thing about monsters is that they will continue to resurface until you face them down.

I overturn

The ashes at thy feet. Behold and see

What a great heap of grief lay hid in me

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnet 5

I am kind of an awful person. For years, I felt nothing. Shutting down was my reaction to loss. I am careless with those who care about me, because I suspect that no one really can stand me. I assume they’ve got one foot out the door. Now that I feel things, I feel everything again. Everything. It’s overwhelming at times. It’s uncomfortable. The ride or die bitch I was when I was younger is here again, and she’s emotionally undisciplined. She’s a mess. She’s bossy and demanding and raw. She’s covered in ash and she’s drowning in grief.

But.

My ashes belong to me. My monsters and my ashes and my fear of feeling exposed — all of it is mine. I can’t give it to anyone else. I can’t make it anyone else’s problem. That’s not fair. It’s not right. It’s unbecoming.

We live in an age of infirmity. People wear their brokenness as badges of honor, protection against criticism, responsibility, and accountability. “I have xyz, I can’t be expected to function as an adult” is not a valid reason for cutting up everyone around you, being toxic, or remaining stagnant. I’m less interested in labels or classifications. I’m more interested in becoming a better person.

Hellboy chose his own fate.

And I keep falling short. I keep fucking up and letting people down. The only option, however, is to own my mistakes, try to set things right, pick myself up again, and move forward. Giving up is letting the monsters win. It’s letting yourself become entombed in the ashes of your grief or shame or fear. You become a relic. A statue. A monument to everything and everyone that has hurt you, a shrine to everything horrible that has happened to you.

It sounds pretty stupid when put that way, does’t it?

There are people in this life that will want to crack you open and examine your pathologies, or make you as broken as they believe themselves to be. Some act in good faith. Others do not. It is up to you to protect yourself, without resorting to anger or any other unhealthy coping mechanism. (I’m talking to myself here.)

Regardless, we are not victims of circumstance. Monsters and ash do not define us.

One thought on “Monsters and ash.

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