My biggest fear has always been the idea of Bert Lahr living under my bed. Or more specifically, Bert Lahr when he played The Cowardly Lion in the 1939 cult classic The Wizard of Oz. (1939, you guys. BAFFLED.)
Something about that man in full lion makeup, leaping out of dimly-lit bushes and chuffing with his head of coiffed curls has literally made me cry from pure, unadulterated terror…like, within the last ten years.
Until my fourteenth birthday, I’d slap off the light switch by the door, sprinting like a damn Olympic runner across the low-shag purple carpet, and kicking off the ground so hard I’d soar Superman-style onto the bed–being sure to leave a buffer between my feet and the black space under my mattress to the lion man wouldn’t wrap his gruff lion man hands around my ankles. (And for the record, I’m pretty sure Mumford & Sons’ song Little Lion Man gives me post-traumatic stress disorder for just this reason.)
But now, if I were to perch on a bench in a rose garden, put my fist under my chin and stare longingly into the distance in a way that would somehow make me look hauntingly beautiful and also vaguely constipated, I’d have to come to grips with my new more prevalent, (and logical) fear:
I’m terrified of believing my own lies.
I’m terrified of buying into my own Pinterest-Perfect bullshit.
I’m terrified that my facade will be become fact.
And we’re all running this risk all the time.
We say: “I don’t care that he never wants to get married and chucked the wedding binder I’ve been compiling since I was 13 from cut-out pictures of J-14 Magazine into a raging fire! I’m not the marrying type, anyways, and it’s just an expensive party. We’re fine. We’re happy. I’m fine! I’m happy.”
When we mean: “I’m settling for a relationship that’s not what I want, and though it’s going to hurt like hell, I have needs that aren’t being met and standards that I won’t compromise on. I’m going to be fine. I’m going to be happy. But I need to make a change.”
We say: “My tonsillectomy was great! It was so wonderful to unwind and catch up on movies and get some well-deserved reading done. I really appreciate the opportunity to just relax, you know? I’m grateful.”
When we mean: “I was alone in my dirty apartment for 13 days, barfing so hard it was spewing out my nose and stinging the gaping holes in my throat, and I was in such intense pain I couldn’t follow the plot of anything, let alone even attempt to read a book. Also? The constant flow of Percocet through my system gave me the most graphic and unsettling sex dreams about the man so famously known as Mr. Rodgers. (The things he can do with his bow-tie.)”
We say: “I’m lucky to have my job! It’s not perfect, but then again, nothing is. I have benefits and health insurance, and I’m just so thankful to have the opportunity. I have a real future at the company, and I love that strangers walk by my desk, rap their knuckles on the cheap particle board, and say, ‘Smile!’ at least 37 times a day. It’s a great reminder to be optimistic!”
When we mean: “I don’t love my job. I know what job I’m going to love more, and I’m going to go after it. I smile plenty, thank you, and while I might have a future at the company, I have a brighter future on my own. Things could be worse, but things could be better, and I’m ready to explore my pure, unapologetic potential.”
Bad guys under our beds are legitimately terrifying, but the scariest thing?
Is when our pleasant niceties become non-fiction. When we’ve successfully brainwashed ourselves. And when we’ve nonchalantly dumped a huge brimming bucket of it’s-fine-I’m-fine-everything’s-fines on that fire that smolders just beneath the surface. That urges us to strive for success, push our potential, and fistfight our way to the best fucking futures possible.
Keeping up appearances is fine and dandy(lions). But don’t let your image get in the way of what you can imagine.