the monster in the basement
Generally speaking, I handle things better when I understand them. I don’t have to like a situation to handle it well. In fact, if I had a superpower, it would be that. If you tell me that worst thing imaginable (“There’s a murderous clown living in your closet, and he has eaten your puppy!” or “I’ve just finished the last of the coffee. And there is a statewide shortage!” or “I’m sorry, but you are suddenly lactose intolerant and can no longer consume cheese.”), I will not be HAPPY – but I cope with things better when there are facts.
It’s the void that gets me. The dark unknown, the universe of answers turned inside out. Not because the answers do not exist. It’s because they are hidden from view, unable to be accessed. Because some answers are tucked any somewhere – and with someone – else. And it can be very hard, very challenging to get a handle on a situation like that. Especially if there are crazy variable involved, and you’ve absolutely no way to suss them out.
This is what your brain does in moments like that. Or, at least, mine. It’s like that scene in a horror movie where a character is in a basement. Suddenly, the lights go off, and the protagonist cannot find the stairs. It doesn’t matter if there truly is no monster lurking in the darkness. Your brain goes full on oh my god, what they hell? Is that a Jabberwocky? I AM GOING TO DIE. And the character ends up tripping on a rake and impaling himself/herself for no good reason.
Emotionally speaking, that scene is a landmine of what-ifs. Your brain starts to devolve into its worst, fear-seeking self – until you’re fairly certain the reality of a situation is the most terrible version possible. That is nothing more than fear taking all your good sense, wrapping it in insecurity, and chucking it into the ocean, where it gets eaten by a mutant shark while the theme song to Jaws plays at an alarming decibel.
Personally, my problem in this kind of situation is usually twofold. The first problem is that if I’m worried about someone, and I have no idea what’s going on or any way to find out what’s going on, this does not make me worry any less. In fact, it makes it worse. It ratchets up the fear and concern to an unholy height, leaving my pulse throbbing even in my teeth. My brain tends to bounce around like an electrified pinball, occasionally catching fire and shorting out. Because when left to my own devices, I always blame myself. I find some fault in something I did and start with, “maybe…” And that maybe is a whisper that turns into a voice, knocking itself around the inside of my skull. It’s the what-ifs that kill us slowly, stupidly, and thoroughly. (This is a flaw in my personality. One I am forever working on.) You may not notice this, because most things can be hidden with a good smile. But it’s there. Because I am a worrier. I care, therefore I worry. If I give a damn, I give a damn. And no amount of space, time, or intergalactic rifts in either of those things can even remotely change that. Like I mentioned before, it’s easier to deal with a situation if the lights are on in the basement.
The second part of this problem is I am absolutely shit about being able to do nothing. I don’t necessarily need to move a mountain or render some grand miracle. But I like to help. I like to do, even if it’s just to lend an ear, or a hug, or buy you a drink. I like to help. It’s not even a compulsion. It’s pretty much the foundation of who I am. If I love you, I want to help you. End of the fucking story.
But then, there are the times where the basement is dark. Everything is uncertain. And there are two choices, either of which could be possible. In that moment, the wisest thing is to calmly walk to the stairs, moving slowly – not flailing about like a hyperventilating water buffalo. But truthfully, who is really graceful in moments of raw worry or fear? That is something you have to convince yourself to do, reasoning with your lesser self. It is probably the best choice. The second is to sit down in the darkness. Remind yourself that there’s really nothing to fear. Wait it on. The lights will turn back on. You’ll see what there is to see. You just have to wait. Waiting without knowing is the hardest thing I’ve yet to fully master. Without a finish line, an end zone, a set place of ending – something to achieve – it is terrifying thing. What-if it never ends? What if I never understand? What-if [insert thing here]?
What-if. It’s a bitch.
But in the face of what-if, the best thing is to have faith. To believe. To sit back, consider the heart of the situation, and remember that there are a few things in life that are always true: laughter cannot fix a situation, but it can right the most crooked moment. Fear is only good if you use it as a guidepost to bravery. Love is the strongest force on this earth.
I don’t think much in life is black and white. I don’t think most things are easily figured out. I believe in the power of the heart, of the way life gets complicated when we least expect it to. But I think that at the end of the day, we know exactly what it is we’ll fight for. Sometimes, on the rarest of occasions, there is truly a monster in that basement. The lights go out. Your phone suddenly dies. The door slams shut. And you have, again, two choices: you let the damn thing eat you, because you’re paralyzed by fear OR you fight. Because you’d rather go down swinging than curl up in a ball and give in. That is the most important thing: even when it’s absolutely horrifying, you fight. You don’t just accept that the monster is going to eat you.
When that happens, the entire world changes if you know that someone is on your side. Someone believes in you. Someone is willing to risk everything for you. In that spirit, here is the truest thing I know – even my worst days, even when I’m scared, know this: I’m here. I love you.