Hallway Trolls and Guilt Monsters

When someone asks about my son’s name, I cringe. My son was named after the Boston Red Sox. His father was a huge fan, along with everyone else who jumped aboard that ship after the 2004 World Series. I agreed to name him Boston because the other options presented were horrid. Achilles? You can’t name a kid after a body part. That just seems lazy. I had no idea that naming my son Boston would create such a stir. When people ask about Boston’s name, I feel compelled to go into great detail and ramble on for longer than I should.

It typically goes down like this:

“My son is named after the Boston Red Sox. His biological father was a big fan. We don’t care that much for the team. My husband isn’t his biological dad. They are two different people. But my husband is the only dad Boston knows. I mean, I know his biological father. It wasn’t some one-night stand or anything. I mean, we weren’t really together. Well, we dated for a few years on-and-off. We just didn’t love each other. We thought we did, but we were only kids. I wasn’t a teen mom or anything. I got pregnant when I was 24. I was basically an adult. I just had some depression and low self-esteem issues that I was working through with alcohol. Standard young-adult stuff. I’m for real an adult now. My husband and I own a house. We have furniture and stuff. We have a Keurig and a Swiffer.”

This is usually explained with grand hand gestures, copious head-nodding, and lots of sweating. I ramble on and on while whoever asked about the name watches me and grins politely. They scan the immediate area for someone to help them get away from this crazy person who is vomiting up her promiscuous past in one breath. I never intend to do this. It is almost involuntary. Almost. See, I want the upper hand in the conversation. I want to tell them everything before they can assume anything. I have convinced myself that perfect strangers will see my imperfections and judge me harshly. I have to vomit up my whole story so they don’t see me for the imperfect person that I am. I want to justify. I want to clean it up and make it shiny. I want to make sure they know when, where, why, and how. I become a less suave version of Don Draper. I develop a pitch, because I have convinced myself that I see judgment in their eyes. I see a flinch or a twitch in their facial expression, and I just know they are mentally calling me a sinner. They typically do not know a single thing about me other than my son’s name, but that never matters. My mind is made up. They are judging.

When I was younger, I would always sleep with my door open. Some nights, I could swear I saw little troll-like people running up and down the hallway. With my blankets pulled up to my chin, I would watch their shadows dart across my doorway. I never heard footsteps or the deep sound of troll laughter, but I fully believed I could see their silhouettes. I would not get out of bed. I would not hide. I would just watch. I had no interest in debunking these things. I am not a ghost hunter. Let’s clear that up right now. I am actually the opposite of a ghost hunter. I don’t want to meet up with ghosts of friends and family and see how they are doing on the other side. The only ghost I want to interact with is the Holy Ghost. I don’t even like to hear about ghosts or the possibility of ghosts. I believe in ghosts, but I also believe in Big Foot. I just want you to understand my level of credibility. These troll things, they were real in my mind. I am convinced that I saw them, but I also know that if I stare at a dot on the floor for long enough, it will move. My mind plays tricks on me. I wanted to believe they were there so badly that I persuaded my mind into seeing them. I didn’t want to be scared for no reason at all, so my mind justified my fear.

Now, as a quasi-adult, I am doing the same thing. I am tricking myself into thinking that complete strangers care enough about me to form a long-lasting opinion. So what if they think that I am a Jezebel or that I used to be some kind of tavern wench? That has no impact on my day-to-day. It would not mortally wound me to have someone raise an eyebrow at the fact that my son’s last name is different than mine. The truth is these strangers and their opinions are not what pose a threat. It is my own guilt monster that creates menacing shadows and draws deceptive conclusions. If the people I encounter are anything like me, they are thinking only about what they are going to have for lunch and then what they will eat for dinner. They are not worried about what I fear I failed at in life. They are hungry!

I have to remind myself that I am forgiven for my past. I have to remind myself that my son is one of the best things that God has given me. I have to remind myself that we all have our own drama. I have to remind myself that casting my own judgments about others is unfair and hypocritical. Most importantly, I have to remind myself that this is God’s plan, and it is perfect. Having the bottom fall out of a relationship was His plan. Being a single mom under my parents’ roof was His plan. It was embarrassing, but it was His plan. Meeting a man who would call my son his own despite blood relation was His plan. Hallway trolls and guilt monsters are NOT in His plan for me.

So, the next time someone asks how my son got his name, I will smile and say, “I used to play for the Boston Celtics.”

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