Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Boogeyman

I remember when I was a kid being afraid of a couple of 'somethings.' One of them lived in the bushes outside my bedroom window. It would cast an eerie shadow in my room whenever the moon was right. It seemed to stand over me and lick its lips like it wanted to devour me. The other one lived under my bed. It would grab at my feet and pull me under the bed to eat me if I had to get up in the night.

I had my ways of dealing with the 'somethings.' When the one outside the window would rear its ugly head, I would snuggle down further in the bed and pull the covers up over my face so it couldn't see me. It was stupid and most of the time fell for my trick. But sometimes, I was convinced that it still knew I was there, and I would cower under my covers and imagine its creepy shadow playing on the covers over me, licking its lips. I would be frozen with fear and probably hyperventilating until either morning or sleep would catch up with me.

The one under the bed was even more troublesome. It could only reach so far and still stay within the protection of its lair. So if I really had to get up in the night, I would stand up on the edge of my bed, hunker down, and leap as far as I could out away from the bed. If I tried hard, I could land so far out that I could reach the small square entry area in front of the bedroom door--clearly outside the reach of the 'something.'

One time, I remember making a particularly good jump and actually hitting the door with a thud loud enough to bring my mother from the other side of the house. She asked me angrily what I was doing to make so much noise, and I told her I was avoiding the scary thing that lived under the bed. I wish I could do my mother impersonation in writing, but since I can't, you will just have to imagine the voice that for you would make you feel as small and invalid and stupid as is humanly possible. That voice said, "Leslie, don't be ridiculous! Get back in bed." I did.

After that, I was even more reticent about getting up in the night. If I really had to, I'd be careful to leap just far enough to evade the' something,' but not so far as to require a lot of racket in the landing. But I would try hard to not need to get out of bed. I would sometimes lie in bed for an hour, telling myself I didn't actually need to go to the bathroom. During those times, I would work myself into a lather, scared that the 'something' would figure out it could claw up through the mattress or that it would learn to slither up the side of the bed. In the end, I might wind up getting up and leaping to the bathroom or not, but I'd always spend a good part of the night scared to death.

Many years later, I told that story to someone and she said, "Oh you poor thing. You spent all that time afraid, and all you wanted was someone to take you by the hand and show you the bushes outside the window or the regular stuff under the bed, so you'd know not to be scared." I'd never, ever, thought of that, but she was right. I needed someone to gently, lovingly show me that it was my own mind I was scared of--not the roller skates under the bed or the bush outside the window.

My 'somethings' remind me of our society today. Our world is full of powerful, frightening boogeymen. The Republicans. The Democrats. The Bankers. The CEOs. The Poor People. The Environmentalists. The Illegal Immigrants. The Terrorists. The Muslims. Like my somethings, they are all actually regular, everyday sorts of things--things that were there all along and not too scary, until you start to think about them alone, in the middle of the night.

We desperately need for someone to act like my friend said--to calm us down and take us by the hand and show us that our 'somethings' are just normal stuff and we're only scared because it's the middle of the night and we've got a lot on our minds. Instead, what we get is either people cutting us down by saying that our fears are ridiculous and calling us names for expressing them, or people who exploit our fears and try to get us to vote for them because they're ready to go do battle with the 'something,' or try to sell us doomsday food kits in bright orange suitcases for a thousand smackers.

Well, in honor of scared children everywhere, let me be the one to say--it's all going to be ok if we'll just wake up and see that the 'somethings' are just ordinary stuff. It's our own minds we need to be scared of.

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