When I was a kid, I never worried about what may be hiding in the closet or under the bed.
Now, however, the monster lurks. The demon lays dormant as I fall asleep at the beginning of the night, but if I wake up hours before dawn, it is there. I can feel it before I open my eyes. I’m careful to plant my feet as far away from the bed as possible when I get up to use the bathroom; I don’t want it to reach from under the bed and grab me. I do a leap/fall back into bed upon my return. I flip the pillow to the cool side and pull up the covers, and it is already grabbing at me.
I feel its claw on my arm. My mom is dead.
Its grip tightens. The last two months of her life. When she was dying and we all knew it.
It swipes at my leg. My mom’s final hours. Her last breath as I hold her hand.
It grabs my leg and squeezes. I wake up and can’t see out of my right eye.
It climbs on the bed, increasing its hold on my arm and my leg. The next day my left eye is blind.
I try to shake it off me. You’ve got to get yourself out of this, Sister Rain. Think happy thoughts.
The more I try to pull away, the stronger its grasp. A week in the hospital in Philadelphia.
I miss driving.
I miss traveling.
I miss my career.
I miss my salary.
It won’t let go of me and I can’t move.
I’ve got to stop these thoughts. When I do, the monster will go away.
For me the key to defeat is a total shut down of all memories, good and bad. Looking back even on happy times in the middle of the night can be an invitation for the monster to come on up, take hold of an arm or a leg and stay awhile. I get my headphones and iPhone and listen to talk radio. I make myself focus on the conversation coming from SiriusXM. The monster loosens its grip. It slips away. So do I. I sleep.
In the morning, the events of 2 a.m. are nothing more than a small irritant in the back of my mind.
As kids, the monster under the bed is scary; it’s ugly and it means to hurt us physically. We’ve never seen it, but we know it’s there. Waiting.
As adults, physical danger is not at risk. There is no parent to call out to for help and our beloved teddy bear has been replaced by a snoring husband who has no idea the battle we are waging right next to him. As adults, we know our monster for it is our own self. And what could be scarier than that?