Notes from the Monster Manual

Remember the Monster Manual I mentioned in a post forever ago? I finally got it. It is really a lovely piece of work, and just the kind of thing I enjoy doing. Many of the monsters in it are quite familiar to me, and I appreciate learning new ways to talk to them. Havi’s approach to lots of things is fascinating, because it often goes in the opposite direction that one might expect from previous attempts, methods, and advice to get unstuck, and it’s been growing on me more and more over the last year and a half.

After I finished reading the Manual, I sat down with the coloring book and my “You don’t want to fail horribly and fall on your face LIKE YOU DID LAST TIME DO YOU REALLY WANT THAT TO HAPPEN AGAIN DO YOU DO YOU DO YOU” monster, who has been making itself known loudly lately. For somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes, I played with colored pencils and talked out loud with this monster. It was exhausting, and informative, and helpful, and relieving.

I think the most helpful concrete thing that came out of the convocoloring was the idea of taking my class notes as if I were doing it for someone else. I worked in my university’s student support services office last semester, which among other things connects students with disabilities with other students who can give them copies of their notes. None of my own classes needed notetakers (I was an office assistant instead), but thinking about things I could do to help this monster not give me so much anxiety about failing again, I realized that I often do better, more focused, more aware work on things that are for other people, instead of myself, as a result on my feelings of worthlessness and unimportance.

As my mood fluctuates I am often working on something else in class, only paying half attention, or not showing up at all. Obviously, the results of these “strategies” are usually poor. I can’t actually sleepwalk through my classes; it’s tough material that requires a lot of thought, making connections to previous work, puzzling things out with other people, and interpreting new information through my own life; I need to actually show up and pay attention if I want to succeed. If someone else‘s success depended on me showing up and taking clear and concise notes, that might help me actually do it, even if I couldn’t do it for myself. It might tap into my inclinations for service and sidestep the “why even bother?” monster and the “you’re not worth the time” monster, by making it not about me.

However, I’m a little wary of doing everything for other people and never for myself as a way to avoid that particular monster. In my experience, it leaves me vulnerable to being taken advantage of by others, it only makes that monster louder the next time because it now has extra evidence to use, and it reinforces the very seductive “you must take what you need RIGHT NOW because you’ll never have another chance” monster. I’m getting closer though—there’s something important in this thought.

Then I remembered Slightly Future Me. He’s me…but in the future. He might be me-of-next-week when I have to write a discussion response to this week’s reading assignment. He might be me-of-next-month when I have to write a midterm paper incorporating all the assignments up to that point. He might be me-of-early-May who is writing his final paper and will be so glad to have good notes and robust drafts to work from. There are things Me Now can do for Slightly Future Me that are basically pretty easy for me to accomplish in the present that will deliver exponentially different (better!) results in the future.

I may not feel like I’m worth spending time on, but Slightly Future Me is also Slightly Less Stuck Me and that definitely is worth spending time on. He’s a new man! Who is me. Bingo.

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