ARE YOU AWAKE?
It starts first thing in the morning. My eyes open and the talking starts. No” hello, how are you?” No “good morning, it’s a beautiful day. Isn’t it incredible to see the hummingbirds feeding and hear the robins chirping?” Instead, it’s “what are you going to do about this problem and here’s some ideas for this project. Do you really think you can do that? No one’s going to want to join you! You don’t have enough experience.”
I can’t really smell much anymore (swollen sinuses from too much dust at the barn) but I’m sure the coffee is brewing. I can smell the cotton of my sheets if I cover my face with them and inhale deeply. I can’t pay attention, though, until I STOP THE TALKING, the incessant chatter.
I’ve got to admit, it wasn’t so bad this morning. I slept well and woke up refreshed. It’s rare for me to let the talking keep me from falling asleep. It’s there though, when I wake up. And then I’m tense when I think of trying to stop it-as if the silence would kill me. It’s there for a reason, I say, but recently it’s out of control. Does it have to talk constantly?
A FAMILIAR VOICE
Why do I say “it” like I’m talking about a separate entity? But it’s not-IT’S ME! And I have control over what it says, when it speaks, when it is quiet and how to take what it says with a big dose of skepticism. “I don’t have to believe everything I think” some wise person once said.
I know the monologue I’m hearing is similar to what others hear, varying only in the context or severity of judgment and criticism. I will say though, I think I’ve become less judgmental, able to see the old conversations coming and stop them before they run to the end. They remind me of an audiotape, the old reel to reel on a clunky box that you see pictured in the re-enactments of sworn statements from criminals on episodes of 20/20. I can rewind and replay the words over and over.
On our answering machine at home (it’s a digital file now instead of a cassette tape) there’s a recording I’ve kept of my daughter, a message from October of 2019 wishing me a happy birthday, that I replay every so often. At the end she says, “Hope you’re having a good day, okay bye” except it was more staccato and stretched out like “Hope you’re havin’ a gud dayeeee and ukay byeeeee” just the way my dad used to say it.
With just those few words and the inflection in her voice comes a flood of emotions. At first, tears of joy hearing her voice, realizing I haven’t seen her in person or hugged her in a year and a half. And then, sad memories of my dad, who is gone now almost 15 years. I last saw him June 22, 2003. I know the exact date because I kept the ticket from a baseball game we went to with my two kids-just the 4 of us. It was a beautiful day of sunshine and smiles.
INTERFERENCE ON THE LINE
I was hopeful at the time that he would stop listening to all the chatter in his head telling him he wasn’t good enough, worried that he would never be able to let go of the negative self-talk and at 71 years old, finally enjoy his life. The inner critic kept him from seeing how beautiful his home was and how lucky he was to live close to a loving family and watch 2 of his grandchildren grow and mature.
And it effected our previously close relationship as he pushed me away just as his life was about to get more difficult with the start of thrice weekly dialysis treatments. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was haunted by old replays, old recordings of youth that reminded him of the sting of judgment and criticism.
IT’S A CHOICE
I know now that how I respond to my message is a choice, a hard lesson learned after years spent listening and responding in the same old outdated way. I can turn my daughter’s message on anytime I want. I can even erase it. I love hearing her voice. It makes me laugh AND cry! But it doesn’t have to pull me away from what I want from this moment. As I feel her sweet love and remember his deep sadness, I want to be able to decide for myself what happens next. If I allow my thoughts to jerk me around, then I’ve given up control of my life to ghosts, instead of giving up hope for a better past.
I can do it! I can ask for peace and quiet. I can learn to be kind and forgiving to the voice that used to protect me and let her know I’m capable of taking care of myself now. I can write about what is on my mind, get it out and let it be on paper instead of in my head where it interrupts my moments of joy, messes with my ability to pay attention to the beauty of a spring morning in my home and appreciate everything I have. I can learn to speak with the voice of one who loves me, understands me and wants only the best for me.
THE COURAGEOUS VOICE RETURNS
I’ve just spent a glorious morning out in the pasture with one of my students of Life Lessons with Horses. As our time together winds down, she walks back to me after saying goodbye to the chestnut mare she’s been brushing. “Being present is beautiful,” she says, tears streaming down her face, a smile brightened by the sun. Discovering the power of paying attention in the moment with her teacher, the horse, brought tears of joy and relief as she grieved the loss of so many moments in her life and looked forward to participating in and celebrating more in the future.
This is definitely turning out to be a “gud dayeeeeee!”
Have you been listening to your scared voice lately, the inner critic that tells you you are not good enough, not worthy of love, kindness and compassion, able to thrive in the life you love? By learning to pay attention to what you hear, you’ll recognize the message for what it is-old recordings that need updating. Find out how you can create a new outgoing message that celebrates who you are now! Contact coach Cathy Mahon today and she’ll help you design the life you love!