We all have a monster inside

I took my monster out in public —and it was ok

A few days ago I went to a concert at Stern Grove, in San Francisco, but not only I met artists, I met my monster.

Stern Grove is a natural amphitheater with amazing acoustics —a grassy valley surrounded by hills planted thick with eucalyptus, redwoods and fir trees.

For the last 81 years the city has offered at the Grove free music, dance and theater performances every Sunday from mid-June to mid-August. People arrive hours early to grab a good spot on the grass. They come with kids, blankets and coolers. It’s a festive afternoon full of good music and good will.

That Sunday my husband and I didn’t need to come early, because we had a seat reserved at a table. KPFA, the radio station where my husband broadcasts his Latin music program, had sponsored Anoushka Shankar’s concert. As a sponsor, you get a table with unobstructed views of the stage and free wine. Sweet deal!

When we arrived, there were three guys already seated. I had never met two of them but the other, Bill, I knew quite well. A volunteer came by even before we said hi to offer us a glass of wine. My husband and I both chose a pinot.

I put the cooler down, placed my sweater on the bench to have some cushion, and turned around to leave my bag on the table. Unfortunately, I didn’t see that my husband had already set a glass of wine in my spot. My bag hit the glass, and the wine fell on top of my crotch. My pants were soaked, so were my underpants, and…well, everything under. The wine got inside the bag, on my sweater, on my shawl… It was a disaster.

I jumped up and started swearing and blaming my husband. “Couldn’t you have warned me that you had put a glass of wine there? F%$#! I’m drenched and I smell like a wino. S%4#! You should have told me!”

I was in full monster mode.

“It was an accident,” said Bill.

I wasn’t ready to hear it. The monster still had a lot of fire to spit.

“Let me help you,” offered my husband.

“I’ll do it alone!” I said, while trying to dry my bag with a Kleenex.

The people at the next table offered us paper napkins. I dried the items inside my bag the best I could, still muttering and swearing under my breath. Finally, I went to the bathroom to wet my pants with water so the sour stench of the red wine wouldn’t be so overpowering.

When I came, my husband tried to introduce me to the two men I didn’t know.

“I’m not ready yet,” I said. “I’m still too mad.”

After ten minutes or so, I calmed down. I put all our yummy snacks on the table to share with all and I told my husband “Ok, now I can talk to people.”

He introduced me. “Nice to meet you,” I said, “You’ve seen me in full monster mode. Sorry about that. Now you can see the other side of me.”

They smiled graciously and we spent the rest of the afternoon in harmony, eating, drinking—rosé, thank you, I couldn’t stomach a glass of red when I already smelled like one—and enjoying the marvelous Anoushka Shankar.

Anoushka Shankar—She was the Beauty; I was the Beast.

The significance of this little incident revealed itself that evening, when I was back at home. I noticed something very strange: I was at peace with having made a fool of myself.

A year or two ago, I would have agonized about it for at least two days. “Gosh, I was such a monster. I’m a terrible person! How could I behave like that? What will Bill think of me?”

Now? I didn’t care a bit. I don’t mean I condoned my behavior. It was boorish, and I apologized to my husband for blaming him unjustly. But I’ve been thinking a lot in the last two years about the monster we all carry inside. I’ve realized the best we can do is learn from our mistakes and try to keep our monster in check the next time a challenge, big or small, befalls us.

As for what those men thought of me, it wasn’t my concern. Their opinion wouldn’t change the person I am or who will I become tomorrow.

It’s hopeless to deny our monster. But with thoughtfulness and sheer will, we can cajole him ever more swiftly back to his cave.

Featured photo by Stefano Pollio via Unsplash

Anoushka Shankar photo by Isidra Mencos.

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