What's in the gallery?

We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.


Talking to a Huge Scary Monster.

The topic? The possibility of going on Skabbatical — my own private version of a sabbatical-that-is-awesome. For three months.*

* Reassurances! 1) It won’t be happening for a while. 2) I won’t be skabbatical-ing from the blog or anything I’m currently teaching. 3) Selma and I will still be here. Promise.

Something I really wish for, but my monsters have massive, crazy issues with.

They were being all loud and sabotage-ey, so it was time to sit the biggest one down and have a conversation about why this is such a terrible, impossible idea.

The advocate shows up.

It felt too intense, so I asked for a Negotiator to mediate for me.

And then — weirdly, Writer Me (a tiny, only somewhat malicious giggling fairy with spectacles and strong opinions) showed up and volunteered her services.

Actually she said, “I will be your advocate.”

Which was funny, since the purpose of the Skabbatical (To The Skabatmobile!) is a writing project. So she’s kind of advocating for herself.

And so it began.

Writer Me: Bring it on. What’s not good about this sabbatical thing?
Huge Scary Monster: It’s bullshit. It’s a big, fat pipe dream is what it is. A stupid waste of your stupid time even thinking about it. It’s never going to happen anyway. And you know what? Even if it did, it wouldn’t be good for you.

Writer Me: Mmmm. Interesting. Sorry, about the “wouldn’t be good for you” part. Is that me-me or Havi you’re talking about?
Huge Scary Monster: (Shrugs.) It’s anyone who is on her side.
Writer Me: Got it. So you believe sabbatical is not the healthy thing to want. Is that right?
Huge Scary Monster: Yeah. But only because it’s true.

Writer Me: I’m not going to argue with you. I’m just curious. What about it is bad for us? Are there specific aspects that are harmful?
Huge Scary Monster: Obviously! For one thing, it’s a stupid pipe dream, like I said. Do you want to spend your whole life bitter and disappointed, everyone but you knowing that your dream is a fraud and a sham … totally achievable to anyone but you? Because of your own imaginary prison walls that only you can see?!

But actually my monster is my advocate.

Writer Me: Wow. I mean, wow.
Huge Scary Monster: I know!
Writer Me: So let me get this straight. You feel upset when you think about Havi being disappointed and not getting what she wants.
Huge Scary Monster: Uh huh.
Writer Me: And you feel … anxious? Fearful? You worry that people might feel sorry for her. And this is because you care about her. Is that right?
Huge Scary Monster: Yes. And also I don’t think she should waste her time and energy on things that don’t get her anywhere.

Writer Me: (unsure) Because you want her to be successful?
Huge Scary Monster: Obviously!
Writer Me: Whoah. That’s kind of neat. And crazy. Because you know something? Havi thinks you are against her. Like, really against her.
Huge Scary Monster: That’s good. She should keep thinking that if it keeps her from trying to have a sabbatical. She doesn’t need to know my opinions.
Writer Me: But secretly you’re for her, not against her.
Huge Scary Monster: Well, yeah. That’s why I’m her monster and not someone else’s.

And things start to get weird.

Writer Me: Fascinating! Alright. I’m sorry to keep asking questions, but this is all new to me. Would you say that your purpose is to keep Havi from taking a sabbatical — actually going on one? Or is it to keep her from thinking about one and wanting one?

Note: this part is completely insane.

I don’t know how to say this, but the Huge Scary Monster actually split in two.

Like a cartoon version of a science class mitosis film strip: explaining cell division by acting it out.

It split into two, and then formed back together, looking extremely self-satisfied.

As if to say: I can fill BOTH of these roles if necessary. It was wild.

Clarifying and more clarifying.

Writer Me: Huh. Okay. So one bit at a time, I guess. What’s wrong with Havi wanting a sabbatical?
Huge Scary Monster: I told you already. She’ll just be disappointed. That’s not a good use of her time. She can’t get stuff done if she’s wanting stuff she can’t have.
Writer Me: Got it. Thanks for clarifying. And what’s the problem (problems?) with Havi actually having a sabbatical?
Huge Scary Monster: [explodes and starts shouting a million things at once] Impossible! IMPOSSIBLE! It doesn’t exist. That’s like asking, “what if she actually takes a vacation to Atlantis?!” It can’t happen!
Writer Me: It can’t?
Huge Scary Monster: NO! And anyway, whatever pale imitation she might come up with would just be a waste of time.

I’m just wondering …

Writer Me: You seem really passionate and um, emphatic about this.
Huge Scary Monster: Well, yeah. Someone has to protect her from more hurt and disappointment.
Writer Me: Too true, too true. You’re right about that. So here’s a question. I’m just wondering. If you’re right (which of course I’m sure you are) about the sabbatical thing being a mythical, unattainable impossibility, why are you getting so worked up about why she shouldn’t attempt it? I mean, if it’s impossible anyway

Huge Scary Monster: Because she’ll try. And that will be a tragedy.
Writer Me: I’m sure it will, honey. And I apologize for being dense, but can you help me understand where you’re coming from? What is, exactly, the tragedy that we’re trying to prevent?
Huge Scary Monster: I can’t tell you.
Writer Me: Alright. That’s okay. Pauses. Do you know what it is?
Huge Scary Monster: (indignant) Yes.

Preventing the tragedy.

Writer Me: Mmm. How can I be on your team and help prevent a tragedy if I don’t know what I need to look out for? Can you give me a little information? What happens if Havi actually goes on sabbatical?
Huge Scary Monster: She’ll discover.
Writer Me: What will she discover?
Huge Scary Monster: That it’s meaningless.
Writer Me: Tell me more.
Huge Scary Monster: Look, there isn’t anything special about sabbatical. It’s not the unicorn she’s making it out to be. She’ll feel really distraught to realize that her dream is meaningless, that she put something so stupid on this giant pedestal.

The impasse.

Writer Me: And if you’re right, is it possible that it could be good for her to learn this?
Huge Scary Monster: Havi has had enough dreams smashed in her life. Let’s not take this one from her too. You’re supposed to be on her side.
Writer Me: Okay, I’m going to let the lack of logic slide, because you strike me as really sincere.
Huge Scary Monster: I am.
Writer Me: So we’re at an impasse?
Huge Scary Monster: You’re the writer.
Writer Me: So I am. Am I to write a better ending?
Huge Scary Monster: That’s why you volunteered, no?

The ending.

Writer Me: You’re pretty wise for a monster.
Huge Scary Monster: Set me free. You can set me free.
Writer Me: By looking at you.
Huge Scary Monster: I will show you my essence and you will set me free.

Writer Me: I’ve never been flashed by a monster before. First time for everything, I guess.
Huge Scary Monster: But you will set me free?
Writer Me: What’s in it for Havi?
Huge Scary Monster: My freedom is her freedom.
Writer Me: Show me.

And what happened then.

The monster tugs at his heart.

Before this, he was kind of a big amorphous smoky blog. But now he looks like one of the sweet coloring book monsters. And he takes the little heart-shaped pin (it’s red enamel and surprisingly soft), and hands it to Writer Me.

Huge Scary Monster: Read it.

Writer Me grasps the heart and she folds it into her hand until the heart is completely swallowed up beneath her fingers. Closes her eyes. Intent concentration. When she speaks, it’s very slowly and her words come from somewhere that is not here.

And the part about the essence.

Writer Me: Your essence is protection.
Huge Scary Monster: Yes.
Writer Me: Your truth is that we all have the ability to delude ourselves, to get tangled up in dreams, to burrow pathways to disappointment.
Huge Scary Monster: Yes.
Writer Me: But you also know that there is incredible power in wanting a thing, and taking steps to make it happen.
Huge Scary Monster: Yes.
Writer Me: And the key to this whole thing is being present with what you want and need.
Huge Scary Monster: Yes.
Writer Me: Because then your focus is on your conscious relationship to desire, and not on the object of desire itself.
Huge Scary Monster: Yes.
Writer Me: And what you want and need can then change and grow without fear, and you can never lose yourself.
Huge Scary Monster: I am free now. Thank you.

The door is open.

Writer Me: So Havi can go on her Skabbatical?

But the monster is gone. The door is open.

I turn to Writer Me and ask, what now?

Writer Me: What now, nothing. You know this stuff. It’s what you teach. Go journal it up about your Skabbatical so you can learn more about it.

Comment zen for today.

Talking to monsters is hard.

We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. We’re here to support each other. And part of how we let people have their own experience is by not giving advice — unless someone specifically asks for it.

I’m not sharing this (incredibly personal) thing in order to be told what to do with it. I’m sharing it in the hope that someone else gets a glimpse of something useful. Kisses to all the commenter mice, the Beloved Lurkers and everyone who reads.

42 Responses to Talking to a Huge Scary Monster.

  1. Kristen
    Twitter: write_spirit

    Thank you, Havi, for sharing this conversation.

    “Because then your focus is on your conscious relationship to desire, and not on the object of desire itself.”

    This could not have come at a better time for me as I am needing to make decisions about a different work situation.

    And thank you to Writer-Me and Huge Scary Monster for sharing their conversations. Not all negotiators and monsters would be so accommodating.


  2. This makes perfect sense.

    … and it leaves a distinct, lingering flavor of familiarity.

    Thanks Havi. Hitting that publish button was a win for all of us :)

  3. Heidi
    Twitter: HeidiDobbs

    Wow… I know you said this was possibly too weird to post… but honestly, this just about brought tears to my eyes. This was beautiful Havi, and all I can do is say thank you.

    Thank you for sharing such an incredibly personal part of your process. Because yes, it helps… it helps so very much.
    .-= Heidi´s last post … Healthy Eating Habits 1 Mindful Positive Thinking =-.

  4. Stephni
    Twitter: lietsjie

    Wow thank you. Today and yesterday’s posts were both very lovely and meaningful for me. This is helping me find some structure in my mind murkiness but also showing me it is ok if it takes some time to figure out. I keep remembering people saying ‘it’s a process’ but what you’re doing here seems much more loving.

  5. olga
    Twitter: olgabennett

    i think this is my first comment ever on this blog, but I just had to..

    thank you so much Havi for sharing, I almost cried reading, so intense, so perfectly timed and really helpful for me right now…

  6. Andrew Lightheart
    Twitter: alightheart


    I have little to add, apart from saying your weird, to me at least, not wanting to speak for others, is not weird in. the. slightest.

    I suppose this is another example of getting your Right People around you.

    .-= Andrew Lightheart´s last post … Improve your emotional algebra =-.

  7. Rose
    Twitter: celestialrose

    Thanks for sharing this Havi.
    At this moment, I’m very much trying to balance two perspectives writer-you mentioned.

    I’m struggling to balance “the ability to delude ourselves, to get tangled up in dreams, to burrow pathways to disappointment” with the “incredible power in wanting a thing, and taking steps to make it happen”.

    Thanks for posting this – it’s given me a glimpse and put into words what I’m having issues with so maybe I can go and speak to my own monsters.

    Thanks for sharing with us.
    .-= Rose´s last post … Visibility- Out of the Mist =-.

  8. Hilary
    Twitter: i_ching

    So glad that the creature formerly known as Huge Scary Monster is free.

    Those small-print reassurances right at the beginning… I dunno, could there be a skabbatical out of reach of any computer or gadgetry of any description? (I haven’t been able to believe in such a thing for years, but maybe if you go first… ;) )

  9. Julie
    Twitter: julieclarenbach

    Oh, this is lovely. Truly, truly lovely.

    I especially love the bit about it being about “your conscious relationship to desire, rather than the objects of desire themselves.” (Didn’t reread, so that may not be quite right.)

    I’m in the middle of a lot of stuck and hurt and anger about WANTING right now, so I’m going to take that back to my journal and see what there is for me in there.

    Thank you for sharing it.

    .-= Julie´s last post … Monday Roundup =-.

  10. Joy says:

    “Writer Me: But secretly you’re for her, not against her.
    Huge Scary Monster: Well, yeah. That’s why I’m her monster and not someone else’s.”

    *sniffles* I want to go thank all my monsters for caring enough to be mine and not someone else’s. Oh, wow.
    Thank you. Bunches.

  11. Chris Anthony
    Twitter: delightineer

    Thank you, Havi.

    Every time you post one of these, I feel a little more confident in talking to my monsters, because I know it can be done.
    .-= Chris Anthony´s last post … Guest post- Personalized notes and rococo limericks =-.

  12. Sarah Marmoset
    Twitter: sarahmarmoset

    I take huge inspiration from the way you write things that maybe will not make sense to everyone, and just trust that it will resonate with the people it’s meant to resonate with. Thank you for that.
    .-= Sarah Marmoset´s last post … Diving =-.

  13. Julie says:

    I’m sitting here at my desk with tears in my eyes because a) I so resonate with these feelings and big scary monsters. I even started talking to my monster last year, inspired by you. And b) because I’ve been a “lurker” for a long time now and feel so connected to the blog and the community here, but never had the nerve or impulse to comment. But having you acknowledge “me” and the other people reading but not appearing is so meaningful to me- that it brought tears to my eyes. Right here in this cubicle. Thank you, Havi.

  14. Dawn
    Twitter: dawnmarissa

    Hello tears. Thank you for your magic powers to talk to your monsters, and then write about talking to your monsters. My “OMG, Don’t Dream Because You Will Be Disappointed!!!” monster has been strong the past week, and he finally feels a little more heard and a little more free. Relief.
    .-= Dawn´s last post … How are we doing July 4th Check-in =-.

  15. Catherine Cantieri, Sorted
    Twitter: getsorted

    Havi, every time I read a post like this, I just marvel at how brave you are and how well you capture the little conversations that go on inside most of us. Thank you.
    .-= Catherine Cantieri, Sorted´s last post … Got 15 minutes Get organized- Part III =-.

  16. Lindsay says:

    Havi, this was wonderful.

    For me it made me think about how sometimes even the act of wanting something (whether it’s possible or not) is horrifying because “ohmygod I want something which means I have opened myself to being disappointed/devastated/having my soul sucked out!”.

    And the ideas of what is “true”, and simultaneously not wanting to delude ourselves, and yet wanting to perserve the ability to dream because what else is there if we can’t even dream?

    Way to push the publish button! These topics are sometimes so scary we can’t even share them with ourselves, much less with others.

    Thank you. *Besitos*

  17. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi

    Thanks, you guys. This is really sweet. I appreciate it. As does, I’m sure, Writer Me and my various monsters.

    It’s always a relief (for me) to be reminded that there are other people who have bizarre internal conversations with their various selves.

    @Joy – aw that is so sweet. I kind of have the same thing every time I talk to mine. Like, I go in ready for battle and end up feeling so tender towards the things that have kept me stuck.

    @Stephni – yeah, I also find the word ‘process’ kind of … cold. Insufficient, at any rate. That’s a really good point.

    @Hilary – I have some sneakified plans for that. Will *definitely* let you know how that part goes. :)

  18. Kristine
    Twitter: rainkatt13

    Havi, thanks so much for this. I’ve been lurking a bunch, and sometimes not even fully reading and comprehending lately, because my monsters are trying to save me from, well, everything, right now.

    This… has allowed me to have a small conversation with one monster, and I’m now sitting quietly and tearfully next to one of my biggest fears. We’re rubbing elbows, and maybe we’ll chat in a bit.

    This post is amazing.

  19. Alexis Yael
    Twitter: alexisyael

    Wow. Havi, that was just amazing and mind-blowing in a way I really needed at this moment. Thank you and love from me and my monsters.

  20. sarahhf
    Twitter: shfitch

    “It’s always a relief (for me) to be reminded that there are other people who have bizarre internal conversations with their various selves.”

    Just another bizarre-internal-conversation-haver here. :) In my Eclectic Pagan group we’re encouraged to have these in meditation. I’m always interested to see who shows up — I had a great conversation with Me As An Elderly Professor this past session.

    Thanks for posting this. It’s obvious how intensely personal and sensitive it is, and the way you describe the experience is wonderful.

  21. mariko
    Twitter: marikooosceola

    yes! it’s about the relationship not the object of desire! it’s the quest that’s the holy grail….and the delusions that get in the way of seeing what’s right in front of us rather than what we want to see in front of us? Puh — leese!Thanks for the reminder on the kindnesses of monsters….

  22. Tori Deaux
    Twitter: ToriDeaux

    Your monster made me cry.
    In that good way.

    Because he is so scary-but-sweet-and-wise. Because he’s free. Because you’re free(and wise and just a little scary but in a good way). And because you’re constantly reminding me I’m not the only one that does these strange things. Like right at this moment, how I seem to be having a conversation with a very stubborn very large Glob-of-Glue that appears determined to keep me stuck in place.

    There’s so much more, of course. But I’d spend all day writing this comment. So I’ll just say I adore you. And your monsters. Utterly.

  23. pat says:


    Thank you so much for this! It’s very useful and inspiring to me to observe your conversation with your own monster.

  24. Lysandra
    Twitter: 0vary

    i just wanted to add my thanks for publishing this.

  25. Larisa
    Twitter: larisakoehn

    So interesting. All this stuff about desire.

    I’ve been exploring my relationship with desire lately… more from the standpoint of *allowing* myself to feel desire vs feeling desire and then immediately freaking out and disconnecting from it – my typical pattern.

    What I’ve come to as well is the realization that the object of desire doesn’t matter – it is the relationship with desire itself that is important.

    I so love hearing that discovery echoed here. Thank you! Thank you!
    .-= Larisa´s last post … You Are Enough =-.

  26. Jenny
    Twitter: jenipertree

    Hi Havi,

    I went out for Chinese food last night and I just have to tell you about my fortune.

    It said,

    “Put off the vacation. You must stay and finish the project.”

    I said, do. not. like. and insisted that my “real” fortune had gone to my husband, whose said,

    “A candle can shine in 2 ways. From its own flame or from the mirror reflecting the flame”

    Then my son read his which said, “You must share that which you enjoy.”

    All 3 of these made me think of you.

    Who knows who got the right fortune but you really find some odd stuff sometimes. Ancient Chinese Wisdom or just what you need right then?

  27. claire
    Twitter: claireofRA

    “And the part about the essence.” This section particularly resonated with me though I’m not sure I really grok the conclusions. I may just have an odd relationship with desire at the moment.

    Thanks for sharing the conversation.
    .-= claire´s last post … Scene from the Candy Aisle =-.

  28. Jane
    Twitter: JaneOfArdis

    oooo, this is making me all thinky about my relationship with desire…hmm, it looks a bit tangled…time to do some detecting.

    thank you for sharing.

  29. Amber
    Twitter: AmberStrocel

    I kind of love it when you talk to monsters here. I know it is hard, but it is also so helpful. And I am so grateful for that.
    .-= Amber´s last post … Jacob’s Hair =-.

  30. Briana
    Twitter: brianaaldrich

    Oh goodness, the part about the essence. So so lovely. The power in wanting a thing and taking steps toward it? I can pretty much never hear that it enough. To remember that it can be okay, beautiful even, to want what I want. Thank you.
    .-= Briana´s last post … Go time Finally And yay- =-.

  31. Trish says:

    Okay I said it once and I will say it again, mirror Havi! You are being my mirror, and it’s kind of freaking me out, but in a supportive and useful way.

    I just spent the day talking to, well maybe I was actually avoiding a monster and I just now grabbed my monster coloring book to see if I could identify the culprit, and here he was! and I thought, I wonder what Havi wrote about today? and ya, Weird. Weird good.

    My monster is really worried because I decided to quit dog grooming. Dog grooming pretty much still brings in more money than my new yoga thing, and I have been wanting and knowing I should quit for years. Now it is here and it is frightening!

    I actually blogged about it because I wanted to know I was serious and I meant it. Oh and I promised myself a party when I actually retired. so I have started planning my party and it is in there too. Flowers and Cake!

    So much going on in my mind, letting go of the old and planning and preparing for the new and what if what I am doing is stupid. NOT!

    Time to color and label my monster, oh and have a wee chat!

    Thanks for the post!

  32. Sanders says:

    How very brave of you, Havi!

    Reading this has stirred all my monsters, and the HUGE fears that goes with their waking up. And yet, reading this has also helped become a little friendlier with them. Thank you.

  33. CJ
    Twitter: christijarland

    Thank you. I had chills as I opened this up.

    Earlier today my daily writing ended up a conversation about retreating…I’m reading Jennifer Loudon’s retreat book and have been yearning for…something. But there’s lots of “but what if it doesn’t happen, what if I retreat ‘wrong’…blah…”

    There’s so much foggy and blocked. The conversation didn’t go very far with the inner me’s…lots of


    But your post helped me remember that it doesn’t hurt to continue to be open to the conversation.

    Thanks for being you.

  34. Kathleen Avins
    Twitter: spiralsongkat

    Thank you for this. So powerful, so moving, so helpful.

    I think I need to get a clearer image of my own inner Negotiators. Gracious, perhaps I can conduct job interviews! I think perhaps I’m getting a glimpse of someone waiting on the edge of my mind’s eye, sitting in a comfy chair and thumbing through a magazine, waiting to be interviewed for the position. While I wait to fall asleep tonight, perhaps I’ll have a chat with her…
    .-= Kathleen Avins´s last post … The trouble with “middle vision” =-.

  35. Rupa
    Twitter: theyogaofliving

    What I got from this, Havi, is that it’s not the thing. It’s what we expect the thing to do for us. Internally. And if we recognize this, then the thing itself loses its grip on us. Maybe the thing IS the monster? Whoa. So if we set the monster (our thing) free, no longer needing IT, but the fulfillment we associate with it, we are also…free. Free to find fulfillment within ourselves, and then free to accomplish “things” simply for the pure adventure of it. No more stuck. xo

  36. Willie Hewes
    Twitter: williehewes

    Told you it was gonna be awesome.

    Thank you for this, Havi. Thank you, thank you, thank you. That was great.

  37. Hilary
    Twitter: i_ching

    Wandering happily off-topic…

    CJ, you said,

    Earlier today my daily writing ended up a conversation about retreating…I’m reading Jennifer Loudon’s retreat book and have been yearning for…something. But there’s lots of “but what if it doesn’t happen, what if I retreat ‘wrong’…blah…”

    Well… when I used one of Jen’s audio guides for a retreat, ‘it’ mostly did not happen, I was obviously doing it wrong, and I was pretty grumpy by the end. (There was probably foot-stomping.) Then over the following couple of days, it rained great big wonderful insights and synchronicities.

    So… maybe something to be said for discovering your way of doing it wrong so it doesn’t happen ;) .

  38. CJ
    Twitter: christijarland

    Kathleen, I loved the imagery of a Negotiator waiting…it sparked up all sorts of imagery of what’s going on in the “waiting room” of my inner selves.

    Rupa, that was beautiful.

    And dear Hilary, exactly the thing I’ve been wrestling with…that probably needs to stop being ‘wrestling’…truly chunking it in and believing that all is perfect, wrong is right…which goes hand in hand with releasing the expectations.

    Perhaps stopping the foot stomping would be a step in the right direction. I’ll work on that. LOL.

    Thanks for all the bright wisdom that gathers here.

  39. I’ve never commented before.

    But I’m moved because when our monsters get free, it sets off all these seismic shakes.

    Imagine if we all grappled with our monsters until we were all free.

  40. brooklynchick says:

    Yay for your amazing conversations with Monsters. I’m going to talk to mine more. :)

    YAY for your skabbatical!

  41. Hilary
    Twitter: i_ching

    CJ, this is reminding me of something… oh yes, Slade Roberson talking about everyday intuition:

    Philosophically, you may be comforted to know that it is impossible to “mess up” any decision or choice of direction…

    (And he goes on to give a very cool rationale for this, too.)

  42. CJ
    Twitter: christijarland

    Hilary, thanks for that link.
    .-= CJ´s last post … What if there were nothing to fix =-.

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