“How’s it going with the brain training?” my furry little imaginary friend asks.
“Umm, okay,” I answer. “I’m meditating every day, but I can’t stop falling asleep in the middle of the practice.”
“Sounds like my kind of workout,” my companion says. She yawns as she arches her back and spreads her tiny toes luxuriously. Then she smacks her lips and smiles. Her black eyes glimmer like glass beads in her charcoal bandit markings.
“Must be tough, being a raccoon,” I say.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty sweet,” she answers. “I nap all day and roam all night. People worship me. It’s delightful.”
“People worship you?” I laugh.
“Of course. That’s why they leave me tributes.” She answers.
“What the hell are you talking about?” I ask.
“You know,” she says, pointing to the garbage can beside me, “tributes. Every household maintains an altar in the back lane. People even leave spontaneous offerings on the sidewalk. They rejoice in me. The spirit to praise The Dark Little Critter strikes everywhere.”
“Wow,” I say. I am impressed that my imaginary talking raccoon has more colourful delusions than I do.
“Hey, listen,” I add, “can we chat later? I’m kind of occupied.”
I am sitting on the toilet with my leggings scrunched around my ankles and a notebook on my lap.
Critter tilts her head and regards me.
“You don’t look busy,” she says.
“I am,” I say, and heartburn flares in my chest. “I’m fighting with a blog post again. It’s four days late. I have to get this thing out.”
“Well, why don’t you?” she asks.
“I’m trying!” I whine. “I’ve been working on it all week. It’s stuck. There’s this idea that is driving me nuts, and I’m trying to get down but it won’t come out right.”
“Hmm…” Critter says, “but, why are you writing in the bathroom? Is this some kind of metaphorical gesture, like you’re mentally constipated and you’re trying to push the words out?”
I roll my eyes.
“No, it’s not a metaphor. I really have to poop. My husband took the kids out to play, and I was going to write, but then my guts started to groan. I brought my notebook in here to multitask. The kids will be back any minute.”
“Oh,” she answers, “too bad.” Then, she looks quizzical, “Well, why aren’t you pooping? I can smell a turd from eighty paces, and my stink counter isn’t registering a single pebble.”
Suddenly, my throat feels hot and tight.
“You’re right,” I moan, “I can’t even get the pooping done. I have no time, and here I am, completely wasting what little I’ve got.”
Dark Critter scowls.
“Completely wasting? Some people would be grateful to get an audience with a minor deity,” she pouts.
“This is not a spiritual communion!” I snap. “This is you, harassing me. On the shitter.”
“You’re the one who called me,” she huffs, crossing her short arms.
“I did not!” I burst. “You just barged in here and started bragging about your fan club!”
“You can’t blame me for anything!” she shouts, “I’m a figment of YOUR imagination!”
Our eyes lock, narrowed against imminent battle.
Then, my face drops. The Critter’s face softens. She lets her arms flop to the sides of her fuzzy belly and heaves a deep sigh.
“Listen,” she says, “I’m here to help. It wouldn’t matter if you were in the middle of eating toenails on a toadstool with a… toad. When you need me, I’ll be there. Now, silly human, why did you call me?”
My eyes well up.
“Because I can’t do this,” I whisper. “I can’t be a professional writer. I am terrified to monetize this blog. I feel like it isn’t an honest trade because my writing isn’t good enough. I want my words to be sharp and deep and full, but they’re not. They’re muddled, because I’m so muddled. I can’t run a real business, and I’m wasting my family’s resources by trying.” I close my eyes on this, and hot tears spill down my cheeks.
Dark Critter pads softly over to me. She stands on her hind legs and rests her head on my bare knee. I stroke her coarse fur. I can feel the warmth of her body radiate up my arm. Amazingly, I can even feel the pitter-pat of her heart. It raps out a rhythm in double-time with my own. The soft, steady beat makes my blood feel lighter in my veins.
After a moment, she raises her head and catches my eye.
“What do you need right now?” she asks.
This is her magic question. Whenever I answer it, I find my way.
I think for a minute.
“I just need to poop,” I say. “I need to put down my pen, close my eyes, and have the poop, the whole poop, and nothing but the poop.” As I say it, I start to feel better.
The Critter smiles at me and I smile back, and then I do what I need to do.
It is amazing.
As soon as I let go of my desperation, stillness embraces me. My body does its job effortlessly. I realize that at that very moment, it is quietly completing a million processes. Metabolism, digestion, and elimination are all unfolding in a dance of enzymes and tissues that know exactly what to do. There is no pressure for me to intervene or understand the mysteries at all.
I feel amazed and grateful.
Words start to flow in my head like a glacial stream. Out of nowhere, I start to pray.
Dear god, thank you for this poop. Thank you for my body that is so healthy and more intelligent than my mind. Thank you for the food that it has transformed.
Thank you so much for this quiet. Thank you for this break from the kids, and for my husband who steps in when my head is about to explode.
Thank you for this bathroom, the plumbing that makes it so comfortable to do my business, and our home.
Thank you for this weird world where I can find bliss in the fog of my own stench.
And thank you for Dark Critter, who shows me the way.
When I open my eyes, my friendly racoon is gone. My bowels are empty, my blog post is outlined. Even though I have no idea what my readers will think of this story, I know that somehow, everything is going to be alright. Maybe I can link this to an ad for Metamucil, or something.
The Critter and I hope that comfort finds you wherever you need it. And we hope that you trust your inner raccoon (or giant talking gorilla, or whatever you’ve got) to help you let it go.