Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Childhood Monsters

Christine Rains is celebrating the release of her book Fearless by hosting a Childhood Monster Blogfest from Aug. 7 to 9--post on any of those days about the monsters that made you pull the covers up higher. She says that one of the funnest parts of writing Fearless was creating the monsters that came from children's imaginations. And we all know how vivid those can get :)

I couldn't resist signing up, but I'm afraid I have to disappoint.

I had no childhood monsters.

See, my parents, being the wonderful atheists they are, had little patience for make-believe dangers. My mother especially taught me to view the night and darkness as a time of peace and quiet, not of fear. She explained that ghosts, on the very remote off-chance they existed at all, would be harmless and probably suffering, unable to let go of something in this dimension. Devils and ghouls she discarded with a pragmatic scoff that left no room for doubt. She changed the focus entirely from fear into curiosity. "If you ever see anything like that," she'd say, "make sure to observe carefully. You could become famous as the person who finally proved the existence of these things!"

So I'd wander the house--huge six-bedroom house--at night, alone in the dark, without a qualm. Until...


Until I watched Prom Night.

In my defense, I was nine. One day when my parents weren't home, I snuck into their bedroom and popped one of the forbidden tapes into the Beta player (yeah, I'm from 1973). A coward I'm not, so I watched the whole thing. By myself.

It took me four years to be able to walk in the dark, even within the house. I imagined the murderer from the movie (he dressed all in black, with only the eyes showing--creeped me out!) hiding in every dark spot, waiting. With a knife.

The year I turned thirteen I decided I was sick of being a slave to this irrational fear. Couldn't walk across the living room at night without turning on lights, unhandy if I was carrying a dinner tray to watch TV downstairs, or during the summer, when thunderstorms are so common in Cuernavaca and power is out almost every night, at least for a while. So, whenever I was alone in the house at night, I forced myself to walk it all without a single light on. This is the house I grew up in; I know it like the palm of my hand, so no fear of tripping or anything. I did it, over and over, rediscovering the peace and quiet of the night, training my head to see the fear for the mirage it was.

And thus I learned, at thirteen, that the power of the mind is the greatest power of them all.

44 comments :

  1. What a great story! I like your parents. I hope I can make my son curious rather than afraid. Though, of course, there are serial killers! A good lesson learned at the end.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us and for helping promote my novella. :)

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    1. Thanks, Christine, for organizing this blogfest--super fun! I agree--curiosity is better than fear, but then again, there *are* serial killers, haha. I guess in the end the lesson my mom was trying to pass on is that irrational fear, the kind that grabs you in its clutches and doesn't let you live, is the one that must be avoided. That said, who was it that said only fools aren't afraid?

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  2. I appreciate your mom's take on ghosts and whatnot. Even though my mom did threaten us with the unspeakable Coca, she's generally more pragmatic about such things. In the end, she says, it's human beings you have to really watch out for. So it's not unrealistic to worry about someone lurking by to do one harm, though of course it becomes problematic if that concern blows up out of proportion to become a phobia of interacting with the world.

    Enjoyed reading your tale!
    Some Dark Romantic

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    1. Mina, thanks for putting me onto the blogfest--this was fun! Plus I "met" Christine, and I have only you to thank for that :) Thanks for dropping by!

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  3. You were clearly one kick-ass kid! I love how you managed to train yourself to walk in the darkness to beat your fear - amazing!

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    1. Haha--thanks, Kyra! First time I've been called kick-ass, and I got to say, I love it :) You made my day! Thanks for dropping by :)

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  4. It's so awesome that you challenged your fear, and were able to appreciate the night and the darkness as a quiet, peaceful time. :D

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    1. Thanks, Clare! So glad you stopped by! Loved your blog, by the way.

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  5. Ha ha, very cool. I imagined real/scary people in the house, but I was confident (since I knew the house better than a stranger) that I could easily hide/evade/outwit them.

    In fact, I kept my nightlight until I was 7 or so because I liked how it threw up shadows across the room which would then be fodder for my overactive imagination :)

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    1. Ms. Monkey! It's been a while--my fault, I know. I'm up to my neck (as you read) in the WIP. Still, no excuse--I need to stay in touch. You were so much more mature than I in reasoning that--of course--you'd outwit a stranger in your house. I guess a big part of what freaked me out about these slasher movies was how omnipotent the bad guy always was. He (or she, in the first Friday 13th) somehow managed to challenge the laws of physics and showed up indoors even when everything was locked--yeech, hahahaha.

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    2. Ah, yes, I can see how that would freak you out... I didn't watch scary movies until I was probably 11 or 12, and then it was with a bunch of people watching 'Freddy' and 'Jason' movies, which were classically hilarious.

      Since I didn't have the intro to omnipotent baddies, I would just put the imaginary burglars/whatever on the same level as my parents and other adults I knew... and, as the quiet younger child who didn't cause much mischief, it didn't take a lot of skill to hide and not be found :)

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  6. That movie scared the CRAP out of me. Definitely creepy enough to give the most non-believing of non-believers a scare.

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    1. Ah, another Prom Night victim :) Yes, I agree--it was horrible. Though I did watch it again not so long ago (say a couple of years) and I found it somewhat less traumatizing. I'm not sure that's a good thing--means I've been inured, inoculated somehow, into accepting violence as less harrowing. Hmmm.

      Thanks for the visit!

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  7. Ha- I had a Beta player too. And I have to agree with you, the power of the mind, is the greatest power of them all. Great entry!

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    1. Hi Jaybird! Thanks for stopping by, and I'm so glad you liked the entry :)

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  8. The power of the mind is mighty, indeed. Scary movies always creep me out.

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  9. Your parents sound cool!
    I agree. Prom Night was a creepy movie.
    And forcing yourself to conquer your fear?! Amazing!

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    1. Thanks, Jackie! Yep, my parents were awesome. That conquer-your-fear thing probably comes from them, too--some sort of example they set for me, even though I may not be totally conscious of it. Thanks for stopping by!

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  10. Awesome. Your parents made you disbelieve in the supernatural but, by proxy, introduced you to a new fear. Serial killers!

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    1. Haha--indeed, Brian! Thanks for stopping by!

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  11. Amazing! I'm in awe...I'm still scared and I'm around your age, lol!
    It is perception...I'm trying to get over it :D
    Nice to meet you...I loved what you shared!

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  12. Thanks, Ella! So glad you stopped by, and it's lovely to meet you too! Glad you enjoyed the post :)

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  13. Very brave of you to overcome your fear so young...

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    1. Thank you for stopping by, TF, and for your kind words.

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  14. Very impressive that you persisted for so long rather than letting the fear define you. It's sad to think of how many people, adults even, who fall into their fears and don't keep on climbing out. I was always afraid of being kidnapped. Even tho I also used to wish I was adopted...

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    1. Helen, interesting that you mention kidnapping. In Mexico when I was growing up, the "kidnapper" ("robachicos") was the popular boogeyman that parents used to scare their kids. I'm thinking--hoping--it's no longer the case, after all the kidnapping violence in Mexico. But I grew up with several people that had kidnapping at the top of their fear list.

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  15. This story reminds me of the mantra from the book Dune, "Fear is the little death..." I too watched a movie when I was about 8, "The Incredible Shrinking Man." For years I just KNEW if I went through fog I'd start to shrink.

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    1. I remember that movie! I'd completely forgotten about it. You're right--fear *is* death, at least of our hopes. Thanks for the visit!

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  16. Oh I've never seen this movie! I love scary movies, so I really should see it! Thanks goodness I'm not 9, so I don't think I'll be too scared. Right?

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    1. Haha--Aubrie, it's definitely watchable and even enjoyable :) Kinda old, so maybe special effects won't be up to par, but it's a pretty good story :) Thanks for the visit!

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  17. Your psyche learned early in life that the scariest monsters around aren't green, don't fly, and don't have tentacles.

    They live next door or down the block, and they often appear perfectly harmless until something inside snaps.

    Or worse, they're in positions of power, and they seek only more power, at any cost.

    Yes, indeed -- The scariest monsters are us.

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    1. Right on the nose, Chris. Scariest monsters? Us. No doubt.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  18. Sounds like you went through a rite of passage. That must have been very emnpowering to know you could harness your demons. Good for you.

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    1. Thanks, Madeleine! Yep, it was empowering--what a great way to describe it, never really thought about it that way, but yeah. Glad you stopped by!

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  19. Lucky you for having no childhood monsters! I would've been scared if I had seen that movie when I was a kid, too! Glad you overcame your fears.

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    1. Thanks, Sherry, and so glad you stopped by :)

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  20. Reading this reminded me of all the folks who were afraid to take showers after seeing "Psycho." We did not have a shower, so I was safe. LOL

    Really enjoyed your mom's take on the ghosts and goblins. Clever mom.

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    1. Isn't she just? :) I do hope I've inherited her spin-doctorish philosophy of life, haha. Thanks for the visit, Maryann!

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  21. That's a powerful thing to learn!

    Great post. Prom Night sounds quite scary--not sure I'd be quite as good as conquering my fear if I watched it. :P

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    1. Thanks for the visit, and glad you liked the post!

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  22. Great how you were able to do that! I'm not sure I've seen Prom Night, but now I feel inclined to look it up on Netflix.

    My monster: http://thewarriormuse.blogspot.com/2012/08/childhood-monster-blog-fest.html

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    1. Haha--hope you like it, Shannon. It's an old movie, not up to today's standards for sure, but it was pretty well-done in terms of psychological motivation. And the guy, the killer... Yeech. Just the picture on the poster gives me heebie-jeebies still, haha :) Thanks for stopping by and for following the blog!

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  23. I haven't seen this movie, but it sounds chilling.

    I watched scary movies when my parents weren't looking, and then I'd suffer at night when I tried going to sleep.

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