Well dressed and well groomed yet somehow still looking disheveled, I greeted the guests at the door.
The first was my Social Anxiety. Always the showboat, that one. He’s tghe biggest and strongest of them and has had the biggest effect on my life. and he knows it. It would have killed him to have anyone else be first through the door.
Might have been worth it.
I greeted him like an old friend. After all, we’ve been together since I was a child. I remember when he was just a tendency towards nervous shyness.
Those were the days.
True to form, he showed off for the crowd, duing his signature bringing and covering his face and pretending to flee into the shadows. The crowd ate it up.
I knew what was expected of me.
“I’m working hard to get rid of you! ” I said with exaggerated exasperation, shaking my fist at him. “Some day I am going to leave you behind forever!”
“Yeah yeah. ” he said loud enough for the crowd of onlookers and papparazzi outside my door to hear. “You keep saying that but I’m still here and I am still in charge. ”
“You know I am going to win. I have time on my side. You can’t hold out forever!”
“I don’t have to. ” he replied. “I only have to last until the day you die, and that’s like, what, four years away at most? ”
“Touche’. ” I said. “You look good, by the way. Have you lost weight?”
That cut him to the quick. Because we both knew he was a lot smaller than he had been in his heydey, when he had me all to himself. I might not have him on the ropes but the trend clearly favored his doom, and he knew it.
He really should have seen that coming. After all, he is part of the mind that planned it. But that’s the thing about fears :
They’re really quite stupid.
“Whatever. ” he retorted lamely, and swept into my home.
Next in line was my Claustrophobia. I noticed how badly his clothes fit, and felt a little pang of guilt. After all, it was my own mental instability that caused him to change size all the time.
“Sorry about your clothes. ” I said.
“What?” he said distractedly as he looked all around as if measuring every surface and using it to judge volume. “Oh, right. They’re fine. Listen, your house… it’s pretty big, right? On the inside?”
I had anticipated this. “Yes, Claus. It’s as big on the inside as it is on the outside. The hallways are spacious and wide, and the balloom has room for three hundred and I’ve only invited my biggest issues, so there shouldn’t be more than 24 or so of us. ”
He smiled in gratitude and shame, but added “It’s just that,. when parties get too crowded I start freaking out and it doesn’t matter if I am having a wonderful time, I have to leave, and… ”
“Shhhh. ” I said. “This is me, remember? I understand. You don’t have to justify yourself to me. Just go on in and if you start to get uncomfortable. one of my servants will show you the shortest route out of the building immediately. ”
He smiled with great relief, and went inside.
The next guest bristled with resentment and paranoia. No, he wasn’t my Rage… he’s far too big and malevolent to fit in any home.
It was my Social Damage, and I knew he’d make things difficult for me.
“So this is a real party?” he asked.
“Yes, SD. ” I replied. I’d anticipated this too. “It’s a real party with people who came here to have a harmless and peaceful good time. ”
“Who’s here?” he said. “There better not be anyone who wants to beat me up. ”
“Trust me. ” I reassured him. “The guest list is very small and I only invited guests I trust to be able to control themselves for an evening. I guarantee that you will be safe inside, and if anyone gets out of line, they will have to answer to ME, and this is MY party inside MY mind, and nobody is going to spoil everything by being mean tonight or they will face my wrath.
He pondered that for a couple of minutes. “So you’re saying that you will beat up anyone who tries to hurt me?
“Absolutely. ” I said with rock-solid. certainty. ”
“Well okay. I guess I’ll go in. ” And, glowering, he cautiously went inside.
Next up was my Inner Accountant. “How much is this costing us? ”
“Nothing. ” I replied. “It’s all in my head. All it is doing is stretching my imagination a little more than my usual blog posts. ”
He scowled. “Are you sure we can afford that? ”
“Positive. ” I said. ” We’re running at a substantial surplus, remember?”
“Still. ” he said crakily. “Must I remind you that everything in the universe is finite and there’s never enough of anything and to waste any amount of anything ever is the worst sin possible and means you are a big stupid idiot who doesn’t deserve anything?”
I rolled my eyes. “No, you don’t need to remind me, because you have never stopped telling me for twenty years!”.
“Well when I stop, you forget!” he said accusingly, wagging a finger at me.
“God forbid. Now please, go inside. I’ve got plenty of optimization exercise inside to keep you busy for a while. ”
“Really? Wonder what the optimal way to solve them is…. ” he said, and entered.
And so it went, guest after guest. There was the kaleidoscopic shimmerimng mist that was my Mental Instability, the emaciated child that represents my Lack of Nurturing, the over-friendly horrifying insectoid that is my Alienation, the frazzled hen that was my Overdeveloped Sense Of Responsibility (screaming “Their PAIN is all your FAULT!” like usual. “: and all the rest.
In fact, I was just about to go inside and shut the door when a quiet yet bonechilling voice said “Haven’t you forgotten someone?”
Slowly, I turned around and looked down at a five foot man dressed in simple black and wearing enormous mirrored sunglasses that, for some reason, I was too scared to look into for more than a second.
I glanced at my guest list, then at him. “I’m sorry, and you are…?”
“You know who I am. ” he said, in a voice as cold as the tomb. “I’m you. I’m your fear of yourself. Your power. Your strength. Your vision. Your intellect. I am the part of you that knows how much damage you can do unless you are very, very careful all the time. ”
“I see. ” I said. “I don’t recall inviting you. ”
“Since when do I need an invitation? ” he asked.
And we locked eyes for a long, long minute.
But eventually, I turned away and let him inside.