Those Pesky Voices

by Pari

I’ve been thinking about the voices that impact my life. I’m talking about the ones I hear when no one else is around. A bevy of naggers, destructors, cheerleaders and optimists that crowd my inner life and influence the way I work, parent, and perceive the world and my relationship to just about everything.

Many cultures believe that naming something gives the namer (yes, it’s not a word, but it should be) –or the named – power. But how many of us have bothered to stop and name our voices? I suspect most of us simply listen without any filters.

Well . . . no more. I’m going to give it a shot right here, right now.

The first are a family of scraggly-haired, snaggletoothed, warty women. They live in the open on a tiny island in the middle of a swamp with an incredible amount of methane gas and sulfur. Only acid rain falls on their muddy, bleak domain. The subsist on moldy, half cooked grains — and bugs — scounged from around their yard. They speak in creaky, cracky, wheedling whispers. The only thing they can successfully grow is decay.

Let’s get out the disinfectant, bug spray, pointed stakes and matches for  . . .

Ms. I’m Crap, My Writing Is Crap, My Life Is Crap

Ms. I’m A Bad Mother and her sister Ms. I’m A Bad Wife

Ms. Why Does Everyone Else Always Get All The Attention?

Ms. This Will Never Work

And their cousins Ms. Why Bother? and Ms. I Don’t Deserve Success

Down the road from these maggots masquerading as ladies is a run down cottage. Its walls used to be white and strong, but now they’re a strange combination of peeling, crumbling shades of brown and gray. A spindly hedge with pale green leaves and large black thorns surrounds the thatched round-roofed building. Three middle-aged sisters, wearing torn dresses and stockings with countless holes, hoe and dig in the hard dirt. They think of having a garden someday, but do nothing to improve the soil. They eat gray flavorless foods. Dust covers their expressionless faces.

Hello to  . . .

Ms. This is Hard, So Why Don’t I Give Up?

Ms. There’s Never Enough, I Need More

Ms. I’m Selfish For Taking Time For Yourself

and everyday, sometimes more than once, their neighbor stops by: Ms. Clean the F*cking House

Several miles away from the other two dwellings is a modest brick home. Its front yard has beds and beds of herbs – borage, basil, lemon balm, rosemary, lavender and so much more – and fruiting apple, apricot, peach and cherry trees. Hummingbirds, bees, ladybugs, spiders and praying mantises find happy refuge here. In the backyard on the other side of the garden’s fence, chickens cluck. The building’s windows are all open, the doors too. Every room is full of natural light. All are welcome to come in and sit in the kitchen at the large wooden table for a cup of coffee, tea, or a slice of homemade bread with butter and honey. Cello practice, fingers clicking on a computer keyboard, grunts from rigorous exercise, singing and laughter – oh, so much laugher – testify to the health of this dwelling.

Let’s embrace the last of my voices . . .

Ms. Isn’t Life Beautiful?

Ms. My Life Is Filled With Love

Ms. I Like The Person I See In The Mirror

Ms. I Am So Fortunate

Ms. There Is Enough

Ms. Thank You For Absolutely Everything

Ms. How Incredibly Interesting! How Cool!

Ms. Maybe This Would Make A Good Story

and Ms. Why Not?

I’m sure there are more names, more voices. But doing this today, taking the time to name and personify some of them, has been fascinating. I’m left feeling a little naked and, strangely, cleansed, lighter, more powerful.

Tell me . . . Who are your voices?

46 thoughts on “Those Pesky Voices

  1. Chris Hamilton

    Mine sound an awful lot like the drill instructor on Full Metal Jacket, though he has a hard time saying "unorganized grabastic piece of amphibian shit." But then there's another voice that I've started to discover over the past four or five years. At first, I couldn't hear it very well. But as time went on, I heard bits and pieces here and there.

    It says that you've built a lot of really good things and if you stop listening to Gunny Hartman, you'll accomplish things you can't even imagine. I like that voice. It sounds an awful lot like me.

  2. Grace

    Thanks for the great post — I could identify with everyone of those voices – I believe you've hit the universal one buried in all of us. How easy it is to take strength from the truth – we are not isolated, we all hear those voices, some more often, blessed few less! The sheer knowledge allows us – I guess I should not presume to speak for others, allows me – to move on past the obnoxious ones.

  3. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Incredibly timely post, Pari – I'm working with the voices in my own head right now. Here was my quote for this morning: "The most important battle we must win is the war waged in mind." (Don't know the author, unfortunately.)

    For me this week the voices aren't people, they're the swords in the Nine of Swords tarot card, I know you know – the one with the dreamer sitting up in the dead of night with nine swords hanging over his head.

    So for every negative thought I find myself having, I have been making myself do nine counter-affirmations. It's hard work – talk about discipline! But it makes me understand how very often my mind will go off on those destructive rants and how big a job it's going to be to change that.

  4. Debbie

    Mine changes from please let me out, there's something I want to say' to the current, 'You're not seriously going to do another pass through that MS? Don't you have the damn thing memorized by now?" and then in a pleading, conjoling, and very manipulative voice, "I'd rather read Rati archives. Come on, they're educational and you've missed so much." and, because it's a lot more fun….

  5. pari noskin taichert

    I know both of those voices. That's one reason I wanted to write this post; I wanted to see what others came up with. I also like your affirmation and encouragement with voice #2. You've done a good job of naming #1. Does #2 have a name?

    Thank you. I wasn't sure when I wrote this how it would be received. I mean, after all, it IS pretty weird. But I had this hunch, and you confirmed it, that many of the ones that influence me also cause despair and joy in others.

    Very cool image. And it's really interesting how they're related — can change either way, but remain birds in your imagery. Fascinating.

  6. pari noskin taichert

    Of course I know that card. It's a powerful image — most of the swords are — in the deck I've got. I can see them hanging there. The idea of an equal amount of affirmations is strong magic, m'dear. You're basically doing cognitive therapy on yourself. Well done.

    Much as we 'Rati would love to distract you, it sounds like that last voice is a real bear to deal with. I'd try to give that "please let me out, I've got something to say" version much more power. Why not have a conversation with her? Interview her and write the questions and results on paper? I've done that with characters on occasion and it's been incredibly revealing.

    Thank you.
    Tell that voice you're taking care of business and to shut up with the insults. <g>

  7. Dudley Forster

    Pari – Great post, I love the imagery. I also don’t think it's weird. Not talking about the voices just gives them more power. Now, have you been in mind uninvited? Just change the gender and all those negative voices are in my head. Unfortunately, the positive ones live in a house surrounded by a high electric fence. Even after cognitive therapy it takes a huge amount of mental energy to tell the voices to shut the hell up. Being Bipolar II doesn’t help (yes, I have read TOUCHED BY FIRE and AN UNQUIET MIND). So I get up every day and fight the good fight. Sometimes it is hour by hour. It is getting better; I win a lot more than I lose.

  8. pari noskin taichert

    Thank you.
    The power of Cognitive Therapy IMHO for intelligent people is that it forces us to look at the mental tricks we're playing on ourselves; the quicker the mind, the more frequent — and often disguised — the tricks.

    I hope that electric fence comes down for you. The positive voices make the others bearable for me.

  9. Tammee

    I totally needed this post today. My voices were in full effect on this weekend and as hard as I tired I couldn't shut them the hell up. In general there was that skank: Ms. You're a loser compared to your friends who are living the dream. She was standing next to her stank-ass sister: Ms.No one sees all the hard work you've been putting into working out and eating right so have another piece of cake. Their brother: Mr. You'll never finish your book and will continue to be a failure was just around the corner.

    But this week, I'm giving them all eviction notices. When those voices are in residence, you are just stuck and I'm tired of being stuck.

    Thanks for the great motivation. Hey, I think I just saw Ms. I'm Hot Shit coming my way 🙂

  10. JT Ellison

    Pari, this one is a print out and keep above the computer post. I know all of your neighbors, the warty ones and the blessed ones. I try, so hard, to listen only to those at the third house. But I have my moments when my voice is Ms Face It, you're the squirrel of publishing, really just a rat with excellent PR.

    Damn voices.

    Stellar, beautiful and honest post. Amen, sister.

  11. pari noskin taichert

    Oh, man, Tammee. What a great comment. Thank you. Although I'm sorry you had to deal with those three snots this weekend, it sounds like you've put them where they belong.

    I've always liked "Ms. I'm Hot Shit"; she's pretty effective at getting things done.

  12. Judy Wirzberger

    Getting older has its advantages. I'm hard of hearing half the time and have selective hearing the other half. Most of them fall in the selective hearing time frame.

    Oh! Ms.Crap. You said I was a turd. I though you said bird and flew away.

  13. pari noskin taichert

    The question is, how do those voices make you feel? Do they impact your work or are you able to push them to the side until you're done?

    Beautiful. Selective hearing is a talent. You seem to have developed it quite well, m'dear.

  14. Marie-Reine

    One of my voices is leading the movement to take control of all others. She is Ms. Disabled Freak. Her rival, Ms. Wheelie Chick, is making a slow advance, and I am cheering her on.

    This week, though … ah month/year(?) aah… Ms. Disabled Freak has a lock on the vocabulary of disability: "They call it a disability for a reason!" And: "The only place you could hold a job was in a university – an INSTITUTION – that was too embarrassed to let you loose on the world because they graduated you– but don't fucking mind letting you take long-term Disability Leave until you reach retirement age!!!"

    Ms. Wheelie Chick gets up early. She turns on her computer, and when her voice-to-text MacSpeech doesn't work she says, "Oh well, pass me that chopstick, and I'll just stick some bubblegum to the tip and plunk away just fine."

    Ms. Disabled Freak says, "Yeh… heh… Dragon Naturally Speaking has killed your MacSpeech, and it will never work again! Yeh, and like that new power wheelchair will really hold your MacBookPro in place so you can do that!"

    But Ms. Wheelie Chic just keeps plunking away one letter at a time… "t-i-m-e."

    Thanks Pari– great post! (Marie-Reine via Wheelie Chick)

  15. Shannon Baker

    Whenever Ms. I'm not Wrothy shows up in any of her forms, such as Ms. If Only I'd lose Five Pounds, I can usually count on Ms. Red Wine and Dark Chocolate to kick some serious butt.

  16. Dudley Forster

    Marie-Reine – Tell Ms. Disabled Freak to fuck off. Ms. Wheelie Chick is an inspiration to all of us to move forward – One day. One hour. One minute. One letter!

  17. pari noskin taichert

    What a great name! (I speak French.)
    You know, it's so amazing to me how our perception colors our experience of the world. Ms. Disabled Freak and Ms. Wheelie Chick are mirror twins, aren't they? But your whole day or hour is affected by which one gets your attention first.

    It just blows me away how much power we do have over ourselves.

    I'm glad to hear that's your baseline with writing . . . the sign of a true professional. That doesn't diminish the effect of those voices, just puts them into perspective on a larger scale.

  18. pari noskin taichert

    Hah! Shannon, I know what you mean. An excellent coping mechanism if they don't show up too often in a day.

    Dudley and Marie-Reine — I love it when conversations carry on in our community w/o prodding. Power to the people.

  19. Marie-Reine

    Thanks, Pari – French was a first language for me, but "Marie-Reine" is a borrowed ancetral name from a few generations back. Hah! My Irish dad won the name toss!

  20. PK the Bookeemonster

    I would say my enemy voice is "The Procrastinator". It says, oh you don't have to do that now…you've got time… let's go do something fun. It also says, you've put in enough time for today so you don't really have to do anything else. So of course then things come up that make you be on Microsoft tech support for two hours (yesterday) and now you're REALLY behind on your project but technically it really doesn't have to be done until the week of Bouchercon (but don't tell The Procrastinator that).
    The other voice, not so much an enemy, but very persuasive: "Let's just read." Don't have to twist my arm.

  21. pari noskin taichert

    Marie-Reine, is it pronounced differently than in French?

    PK, I wish I could give in to that last voice . . . She pulls at me but for some reason I can resist when I have work to do. That's not to say that Ms. Do It Later doesn't have an effect on me. I just use other methods NOT to get work done.

    Answer the phone.

  22. kc

    I know those neighbors.

    Lately I've been tormented by "What's the point?" Sometimes "What's the point?" isn't so bad as he gets me out of worrying about cleaning the house. (I mean really, how often does one need to scrub the house? Unless you have company coming over, what's the point? Surely a nice straightening will do most often.)

    Mostly "WTP" pops up when I've had a crappy day at work. That's when "WTP" has "How did I end up here?" in tow. I try to counter them both with "I am so lucky to have this job," but that's usually when "Yeah, right" pops up. Those days generally end with a visit from "Mr. Dewars."

  23. pari noskin taichert

    I know those voices too. All of them. And you're right about the ambivalence of "What's the point?" If it's in relation to keeping an argument going, it might be beneficial. If it stops you in your tracks with something that matters to you — that might be difficult at that particular moment in time — then I'd put it squarely in the gray cottage.

  24. Ev

    Ah, yes . . . The Voices. Sounds like we keep a lot of the same company–both bad and, thankfully, good. Your descriptions were frightfully (and delightfully) vivid and accurate. Thanks for the fun and encouraging read (commenters, too!). It's so nice to know we go through such similar angst and celebration.

  25. pari noskin taichert

    Uh . . . Chris? No that didn't come out right, though . . . did it?

    Thank you.
    I think the importance of the writing community — at least this one at Murderati — is that we share honestly. And in that sharing we find we're not alone. To know that is incredibly powerful and consoling.

    Thank you so much.

  26. T. L. Cooper

    This is such a universal theme! We all hear those voices and feel those doubts and hopes. It's amazing just how much human beings have in common. Last year I wrote a poem called "The Voice" that addresses this very topic! I was just so upset with my own voices and the havoc they were creating in my life that my inner poetess decided to put it on paper. I felt such release when I was done, and now I have that poem to read when I start being distracted by the voices. I hope writing this post gave you that kind of release as well. Great post!!

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