What’s Under the Bed

There’s a saying in Swahili: Ukitaka cha mvunguni sharti uiname – “If you want what’s under the bed you must bend down”. It stuck in my head because I told Preston this and he thought it was funny.

The remote control had fallen through the headboard and I wasn’t about to crunch my spine to fetch it. No one likes that part. It feels like going out to dig a trench. Better go to Amazon and order a remote control pouch for $13.99, which will also fall under the bed.

Your reading glasses will do that too. That’s when you want to call 911 to bring the police chief and rescue ladder and descend under your bed to fetch everything that ever got swallowed by that space because your old knees will not lift you back up if you tried. I’m not quite there yet, but that day will come!

I’m sure of one thing though: When the Waswahili made that old wisdom, there were no remote controls or eye glasses falling under the bed. They were talking about intangible needs. It’s a common saying we grew up with.

What they never told us was that the act of crunching your spine to face the dark void “under the bed” will always bring you face to face with your worst nightmares.

It is under the bed that boogeymen live. It is where parents would look before they turned off the lights and assure the child there’s no monster there.


But there are monsters under your bed. I really wish we had been prepared for this reality as part of life’s lessons. Monsters live right where you grow your dreams and nurture your hopes. In the night, before you summon up your most joyful memories to cross you over to daylight, the nightmares will always begin to gather. That’s nature. There’s the sun, and there’s the darkness. Not necessarily physical darkness. I have no recollection of being afraid of the the night. I would have made a good night runner. But there are thoughts that thrive in the dark just as much as there are things that thrive in the light. Sunlight hours can carry a darkness of the mind just as much as midnight hours can carry amazing light in one’s mind. It is wise to prepare humans for this complex reality and not pretend that one is good and the other is evil. I’ll say again that this dry narrative of good/light vs evil/darkness is simplistic and manipulative.


Back to what’s under your bed. The nightmares lie there waiting on an invitation from your fears, doubt, smallness, inadequacies, regrets, and feelings of failure.

You need courage to bend down and tell them they’re not invited to your moment of rest. But the courage you need lives under the same bed too. You have to crunch your spine to fetch what you need from the dark places.

That’s not the end of the story. Swahili sayings are silent on a lot of things. They make you do the work of thinking. When you bend down to fetch your courage, you meet with many eyes staring at you from this dark void. This can be scary.

You come face to face with the eyes that judged you in your moments of weakness, eyes that tried to force-fix you, eyes that threw you mute gods whose love you had to make up and believe in, eyes that projected their own monsters on you…

You saw these eyes during the day, now here they are, under your bed, waiting on an invitation to share your moment of rest with you.

I need to repeat this so I can bring this home: You must bend down to meet this underworld in order to retrieve what you so badly need-

-because if you don’t, someone else will always have to crunch their spines and bend down for you and fetch whatever you wanted from under your bed-

-and they will do it on their terms. They will push to become the heroes in your story. And you will hate it. You’ll just add a new monster of bitterness under your bed.

If you want what’s under your bed, toughen up your own spine so you can eventually fetch that courage, stand-up, opportunities, freedom, ice-cream, love… on your own terms [read these last four words in caps].

PS: This has been a difficult penning of thoughts.. well, it started off easy, what I thought was going to be a paragraph, but more difficult thoughts stitched their way through. I will leave them as is and let you navigate through whatever makes sense to you.

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