Having Tea with my Demons

I’m addicted to blue light and scrolling. Too much of it depletes me, and I know the toll it takes on my heart. I know, too, that it has rewired me and everyone I know—our psyches— in ways we do not yet fully understand. Like clockwork, I gaze, I compare, I wilt.

***

It’s late summer. My foldable metal companion sits in my lap. My incessant blue-lit scrolling  lands me in a virtual room filled with invisible strangers: a Crowdcast meditation session, organized by a guru I found on Instagram. We (100 strangers and myself, to be clear) do not show ourselves, but are encouraged to type our thoughts in chat bubbles. We do introductions, tuning in from Los Angeles, São Paulo, Tokyo, Denver, Charlotte, St. Louis. I watch the Instagrammer close their eyes, inhale, exhale. I do the same.

We’re here tonight to conjure our Inner Demons. We describe them. What do they look like, sound like, seem like? The Crowdcast chat becomes a canvas for confessions.

7:05PM
Mine is blue and oozing….jagged

It is something towering that casts a wide shadow

The skin is like TV static and it NEVER STOPS TALKING TO ME

7:06PM
Pincer-clawed-beetle-creature

A winged succubus with amazing style and elongated nails… liiike, kind of hot ??

Mine is myself as a child. half demon, half wounded

7:07PM
My apathy is my demon… It looks like me with wings, but the wings are clipped. Defeated.

7:08PM
I swear it is lurking in every scene, big and ominous, whispering into the wind and telling me all the ways I am not good enough or have done wrong

My self-betrayal is gray bleeding to deep red, blurring clarity & motivation. Its feet are stuck in place.

Mine is a purple, hazy creature that hovers between my temples. It floats back and forth and mulls over any and all of my decisions

At 7:11PM, a final submission appears in the chat:
This oozing monster emits a gross but kind of sparkly gas. Cool shades. Its name? Nightclubbin’.
It sounds like white noise when it moves…it engulfs my brain

***

Verging on a demon requires confronting a dread often felt but rarely named. It necessitates opening the boxes of one’s most burdensome beliefs, about oneself and the world, in the dusty basement of the mind. Clearing away the grime.

When approximating a demon, remember two things:

1. Demons are shapeshifters. They hide in shelves and take many forms.

2. Demons do not tell the truth.

Because I have found myself here, and because the Instagrammer tells me to,  I descend to face my demon.

It is perhaps one of my oldest friends, and has been dear to me.  It has given me the illusion of safety.  Like many of the people I’ve let close, it has both helped and hurt. But, after many go-arounds, I’ve begun to recognize the parasitic nature of relationships like this. I understand what it demands of me and what I have long delivered on:

In order for this to work between us, you must make yourself quite small.

***

The Instagram guru tells me I should make a date with my demon to sit down for a cup of tea.

There are many ways this meeting might go. I fear the things my demon has said and will undoubtedly keep saying. It will remind me of times I’ve felt utterly, completely alone. It will tell me that this feeling will not pass. It will tell me silly things, like if I hope to feel less utterly alone, I had better not have that slice of cake with my tea. As if the two are contingent. While I’m at it, I should skip dinner, cancel everything, stay in my room and lock the door. I should look at old pictures of myself in the moments before sleep.

Tonight my demon stumbles over smelling like the cheap floral perfume I wore in middle school. We sit across the table from one another. I pour steaming hot water. There is silence. Pretending like we don’t know each other as well as we do, I attempt small talk. I realize it’s not listening to me. It has never, not once, been listening. The longer we sit here, the more my demon begins to look like me. A version of me I have been and hope to never be again.

“There are so many things I’d like to do,” I manage, finally.
“With?”
“My life.
“And?”
“I know I won’t do them with you hanging onto me like this.”

***

There was a time I almost merged with my demon completely, and its residue may linger. I know this won’t be our last time sitting down for tea. Like anything worth reconsidering, worth casting out for good, this will require ongoing conversation. Doing away with a past self means grieving a long while after surrendering it to the universe. Ghostlike, selves reappear unexpectedly.

***

A third note worth bearing in mind:

3. Demons will try to keep their spot on the shelf. They will try to convince you they’re worth holding onto.

Sometimes I let my demon convince me. Sometimes I think what hurts must necessarily stay.  My demon often appears over my shoulder in the middle of the afternoon, when my defenses are down. It asks me why I’ve been ignoring it. It demands my attention. It’s at the moments I most want to push it down that I know I must sit with it.

I indulge it for a moment. I thank it—really thank it— for the things it tried to offer to me. For the things it helped me uncover.

***

The Crowdcast meeting that brought me here comes to a close. I log off.
Walking away from my demon, the dusk presents itself. It occurs to me that each of the ways I hurt myself, and in fact, wished myself to be hurt, were ways of denying more deeply nestled fears. I can imagine how this last bit of sun, the same sun which once felt scalding, now peaks gently and earnestly through the trees.

I imagine safety. The kind of safety that comes from listening, intently, and from telling the truth. I imagine my body as an anchor to this world. Steady metal, something to tether to. Not deceiving, simply holding. I ditch the deal I struck with my demon many years ago. I pursue fresher mantras. I make a promise to myself and my body. To those I care for, and to those I have not met yet but will one day care for: I will not hurt you based on my inability to control you. I will watch passing boats, and if they feel like stopping then we can plunge right into the depths and explore the ocean floor.

I imagine tenderness. I will roll over to face a person I’m beginning to love and say, “I’m hungry,” knowing it is a problem we can, and should, fix. We will pull ourselves out of bed and stand in the kitchen, hair tousled, cracking eggs into a pan. We will not worry what shape they take because we’re busy laughing and adding too much salt, which is, of course, the best amount of salt. We’ll leave our metal blocks with the blue lights in a different room. We will be glad to eat our eggs, and while we’re at it, thick slices of toast, too, with jam. We sit down at the table, which is small. It’s morning now, and I only allow space for us.

Words Haley Joy Harris
Collage Haley Joy Harris
Director Emily Hanson
Editor Emily Spector
Photography Zachery Milewicz

Armour Magazine Season 25 — F/S 2020

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