Sunday, January 15, 2017

Listening to My Inner Voice

Hello, Invisible Audience.

It’s sunny today, and a whopping 10 degrees. I am safe and warm, my cat is asleep on the couch, and I’m making sweet potato enchiladas for a potluck tomorrow. Life is good. In fact, life is feeling better this last week than it has in a long, long time.

Right after Christmas, I got sick. On top of pretty awful low back pain that made snow removal – a constant chore this year – incredibly painful, I got the mother of all colds. The outside temperature during my illness was about 7 degrees.

I wallowed. I felt bad for myself; like a petulant child. I wanted the snowplow that cleared my road to stop filling my driveway. I tried to will my car over the berm that snow created after the snow blower died, and got it high-centered instead. It took me almost two hours to dig it out, and that was with the help of a nice man who kindly stopped to assist me…because I wasn’t willing to just fucking call someone and ask for help. Of course I was too discombobulated to ask him for his number so I could take him out for a beer when I had some more time. Add yet another shame spiral to the mix.

I was pissed and resentful and knew that day that every decision I made was making things worse. I had other choices (cancel my reasons for leaving the house, for example, or digging out the driveway with a shovel before trying to back out to the road) but I didn’t take them. I didn’t want to. I was too dead set on proving the idea that I was suffering. So I made myself suffer to make it true.

To say the last couple years have been hard for me is a significant understatement. To say I am better off because of them is an essential truth. I am more myself than I have ever been. I now make choices based on what I want instead of what I think others want from me. I spend money on the priorities I have created. I am learning to appreciate and love my friends for what they give me instead of resenting them for what they cannot give. There is no doubt that my life is in an upward trajectory.

But that doesn’t make it easy all the time. And it does not mean that I’m not allowed to have a shitty, shitty day.

When I was sick, I dealt with a lot of inner guilt and shame because I spent days on end watching Criminal Minds and doing little more than lying around. Yet despite all that guilt, I did it anyway. There was a tiny voice in my head that kept saying, quietly but insistently, “I need rest.” Perhaps that’s the most important thing that has led to all the other more important things I’ve learned these last couple years. When I listen to that voice, despite all the other ones I hear, my life gets better.

I now look back on the last couple years and I see I was listening to that voice. I have ended relationships with people who do not feel supportive. I have fostered friendships with people who want to talk about the things that are on my mind and can hold the space for me as I try to figure things out on my own. I have spent months holed up in various sanctuaries; I have started to emerge only for events that really sound like fun instead of ones I think I “should” attend. I have put down a lot, and picked up other things, but at a much slower place. And frankly, I say no more than I say yes.
That small voice helped me make these changes, even when they felt awful, like a betrayal. The voice has helped me find myself in the midst of a cacophony of expectations -- both real and imagined -- from others. When I listen to that voice, I get better. And more than anything, that voice has told me that it’s ok to take my time to get better.

Today I went for a walk. I bundled up in multiple layers and wandered out into the sparkling snow. For the first time in a long time, it felt magical to be alive. It’s a small feat, but I know it wouldn’t have felt that way if I hadn’t spent multiple days holed up in bed with gallons of hot tea and a lot of naps. If I keep listening to that voice, I know I’ll be able to find my way back here, again and again, even if it requires a lot of rest in the process. 

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