You know, if I could type with my thoughts, I would be posting multiple times per day.
When I am in the shower, cooking, on a walk with the dog, driving, sitting in a meeting, or generally doing anything during which it is simply not possible for me to write, I have lots of ideas. Clear thoughts and beautiful poetic phrases dance through my mind as I am unable to write, until they finally die and rot in the cemetery of Thoughts That Never Got Written. When I finally sit down to write, those thoughts are gone, and I'm just left with a lot of anxiety instead. My inner critic (aka "The Bitch") has been giving me a hard time lately, and has made it hard to get anything on paper.
My inner critic has been showing up in pretty much every area of my life -- particularly the past two
weeks. "You're not good enough," she whines. "Not smart enough, not pretty enough, not skinny enough, not kind enough or compassionate enough." "You're not a good enough friend, or listener, or sister or daughter or supervisor or therapist," she chants. She continues, sometimes louder and sometimes more quietly, "...and your house is dirty, and you didn't do laundry, and you have dishes in your sink. You have paperwork that you didn't finish, and you wasted time watching Netflix and knitting when you should have been productive. I don't care that you didn't get home until 10PM...you spent two hours watching Netflix and knitting. Shame. On. You." I had several mini-meltdowns this week about things like: feeling like a bad dog mom because I left my buddy alone so much. And: feeling like a failure because I didn't do the thing that nobody told me was a thing that had to be done. And: feeling like a failure because of things that happened years ago. And: feeling like a failure because I was so exhausted from all the crises and stress this week and I didn't take the introvert time I needed, so my nervous system felt like I could feel every nerve ending in my head and my fingers and my spine.
There have to be better ways of working this shit out.
My body is ruthless in reminding me that I'm doing a crap job. All those articles you see written by wheatgrass-drinking yoginis telling you that, if you listen to your body, it will tell you what you need? They aren't lying. Given, my body does not tell me whether to drink the spinach smoothie or the kombucha...but it does hit me over the head with migraines or complete nervous system overload, which almost requires the same level of listening............right?
So in the midst of all of this, I've been thinking about my word of the year, and about what I'm going to do with this word. Powerful. What does this word even mean?
Honestly? I don't know. I know that this word feels right, and I know that this word has chosen me for the year...but I don't know what I want to do with it yet. And that makes my manic Inner Critic unhappy.
In my good moments, I hear this quiet voice somewhere deep inside of me that gives me this calm, easy answer (probably the same voice that should be able to distinguish if I need the smoothie or the kombucha, come to think of it). If I listen really hard, I hear her telling me that I have the power to choose my thoughts. I have the power to choose to allow the voice of love that must exist somewhere in me, to be louder. I have the power to say yes to taking care of me.
And that's hard. That's harder than anything brave that I did last year. That doesn't require just pushing myself through a little fear to do something. That requires a complete system overhaul. Like, if I were to really internalize and live that, I would be Autodidactpoet 2.0. These patterns are very - very - engrained. It's almost like I wouldn't know myself without my Inner Critic bitching loudly about something, you know? She's awful, with a big nose and ugly teeth, and a voice that sounds like nails on a chalkboard...but we've spent a long time together. She's one of my most reliable pals.
In talking with my friend Examorata today, in a slightly different context, I mentioned the idea that "you can't hate your way into loving yourself." I said it casually, like I believed it, or lived it, even. But it's hard, you know? And it feels radical. It feels like a powerful choice -- to reject the messages around us and the ones we have internalized. To tell your inner critic to shut the hell up, and to allow yourself to feel what loving yourself...or even liking yourself might feel like. To allow that to be what is real and in the forefront, because it's true, isn't it? You can't hate your way into love. Not for others, and not for yourself.
Giving voice to my inner critic here makes me feel vulnerable. We've all got that voice, to varying degrees, but we don't name it, do we? Perfection -- or near perfection -- is just supposed to come easily. But I know for a fact that there is power in naming the ugly voices inside our heads. There is power in externalizing them. They fester and breed in the dark, shame-filled places they reside, so there is power in shining the light on them and exposing them in an act of vulnerability.
So perhaps this is where I start with this word. Perhaps here, in this place of overwhelm, and guilt, and shame, and feeling-too-much, perhaps this is where I start. Perhaps this is where I make that powerful choice to move towards loving myself, without needing to hate myself first.
And maybe, when I wake up tomorrow, I'll make that choice again. And then when I see the dirty dishes in my sink, I'll make the choice again, and again when I struggle with what to wear to work, and again when I see all the paperwork that needs to be done, and again when I come home and watch Netflix and knit after a long day. I will get the opportunity to make the powerful choice of love on a moment-by-moment basis. My guess? I'll choose love sometimes. And sometimes I'll forget. And sometimes I'll choose love, but feel shame, or guilt, or anger, or dislike, or even hatred instead...but the power of the choice is always there. Always.
What will you choose for your powerful self in this moment?
And in this one?
And the next?