By Beth Winze
I used to babysit a lot when I was a teenager. I loved watching kids because it allowed me to stay connected with my childhood for much longer than normally allowed. Kids don’t judge you if you’re nineteen and still making pillow forts. Instead, they believe you are the most wonderful thing to walk this planet. Inevitably, with babysitting, comes the responsibility of dealing with the weird quirks that kids have as well. Pretending the floor is lava, reading them the same story three times in a row, and peeling their apple from bottom up because “that’s how Mommy does it.” But I enjoyed babysitting so the weirdness that came with the kids was nothing. But I never quite understood one oddity that ran consistent in the majority of the kids that I babysat, and it always reared its distorted head at bedtime. Monsters in the closet.
So, I created a routine. I would grab the nearest thing that could be a “weapon of monster destruction”, and I would hunch down, creeping along the wall until I got to the closet. I would push the door back and go inside, and rustle around for a bit, only to appear a minute later at the Victorious Monster Slayer. The kids found peace in the fact that I had eliminated the monsters for them and they slept soundly.
Throughout the Medieval Times, when the world was being discovered, maps were made that hosted grotesque looking monsters on their edges. Ridiculous beasts were depicted biting ships in half and swallowing people whole. The sea fiends were nothing like the reality of the ocean we know today. The brutes were all painted and drawn onto the parts of the ocean that had not been voyaged yet. These areas were completely unknown to sailors, so logically; they had to imagine the worst of what was out there, even though the oceans they had already navigated held nothing of the sorts. They were just like the children that I was babysitting. The kids had no difficulties entering their closets in the day, but come nightfall, they grew an extreme fright for the same thing that they weren’t afraid of only a few hours earlier.
The kids’ behavior and the medieval sailors inaccurate portrayal of the ocean is entertaining to us now, but I realized we are all like that. We all have monsters on a map or in a closet that keep us from functioning at full potential. Fear holds us back far too often. We ask others to scare the monsters away for us, instead of conquering them ourselves. I’ve also learned that 99.9% of the time, my fear is absurd and trivial. I am putting too much time and thought into something that shouldn’t be feared. In all actuality, I am permitting fear to door jamb any prospective chances that could walk through. But holding onto fear seems, for some illogical reason, a million times easier than clearing it out of the way so that my life can ensue the way it should.
Every time I babysat kids, I routined myself into slaying their monsters, and providing them with a worry free sleep. But in the end, I was dis-servicing them. I was eliminating their fears for them, so while everything was fine for one night, their fears came back the next time. I started encouraging them to go into the closet and kill the monsters themselves. On one such occasion I persuaded a kid to take up arms and destroy his invisible adversary. When he entered the closet, he looked around and then back at me.
“There’s no monster in here!” His face only had shock plastered on it.
“Well, he must have seen you and ran, I mean, he’s probably more scared of you then you are of him.” I replied.
My answer was an artless explanation, but after that, I never had to slay monsters for him again. He slept in peace knowing that the monster was scared of him. He had nothing to worry himself over anymore.
I’ve learned to do that with my unknowns. They will forever lurk in my closet, causing me to lose sleep and time unless I make them known. The minute something is known, the majority of the fear that held me captive flees. It’s more scared of me then I am of it. So instead of saying “no” the minute I am uncomfortable with something, or hesitating when I have something come up that worries me, I wait it out, because mind over matter tells me that I’ll be just fine.
We all have our monsters drawn on the edges of our maps, but they can be erased by realizing they aren’t really there, or as toothy and menacing as they are in our heads. Those toothy, menacing beasts exist because we haven’t taken the time or chance to explore the full reality of what lies out there. I’ve learned to crack open that closet door at night and peer inside for myself because no amount of sitting on my bed covered in blankets was going to disprove their existence.
You owe it to yourself to not live in fear.