Hello, dearest Sweatpants & Coffee tribe. This letter finds me rounding the bend on my final “chemo cocktail” infusion. It’s not the end of the battle, but it’s a significant turning point, and I am STOKED. And I’m ready for what comes next, although disappointingly, I’ve been told that the radiation will not give me superpowers. Whatever forever.
This time around, I wanted to talk to you about the bad voices – the ones in my head and yours. If you happen to be one of those people who only hears happy, melodic voices that affirm you and fill you with joy, this is your time to leave the blanket fort. Freak. (Kidding! I love you! But you are not going to relate to the rest of this, trust me.) All right. Is the coast clear? Time to get weird and vulnerable.
I am a walking bundle of insecurities, generally stuffed into a pair of jaunty leggings or sweatpants and masked with a thin layer of lip gloss and hope. I always feel like I’m faking it. What do I mean by “it?” Parenting. Spousing. Friendshiping. Making. Doing. Living. All.Of.It. My husband describes me as a duck: on the surface, everything looks serene, but under the water, I’m paddling furiously. And while I paddle, the bad voices whisper to me that any minute now, everyone will see through me and I’ll end up alone – unloved, ridiculed, failed. The voices get really loud just before I take a big leap, and they get even louder when I land safely, because who am I kidding?
Here’s the really stupid part. There are more good voices than bad voices. In my head. In the world. (I know it might not seem like that right now, but it’s true.) It’s just that the bad ones are so much easier to hear. You know how there are frequencies that dogs can hear that we humans can’t? I have dog hearing, but for shit-talking neurotic internal dialogue. I don’t care what else is going on, I can hear that crap in crystal clear surround sound.
The only solution I can think of, besides curling up in a ball, is to adjust my filters. To practice positivity awareness. I am aware of how doofy that phrase is (the bad voices just helpfully pointed that out), but fuck it. If I told you right now that there are an inordinate number of white cars on the road, the next time you went out driving, you’d totally notice the white cars. There’s no reason you can’t practice hearing the good voices. They sound like your most loving, supportive friend. Or your kindest co-worker. Or that nice person you met last week.
Also, try gratitude. Not the Fakebook, social media kind with pretty pictures and lots of adjectives that most people rightly interpret as a cry for help. The ordinary kind where you get really happy because dinner smells good, or you sorted your emails like an actual adult, or your daughter tells you she’s relieved that you look okay bald (all right, that last one might be specific to me, but you get it). Find small, dumb stuff to celebrate. That shuts the bad voices up, or at least turns the volume down on them. Seriously, try it. If it feels way too cheesy, you’re doing it right. This is also my philosophy for greeting cards and nachos, by the way.
My point is, every time the bad voices crapped on you for being who you are and following your banged-up heart, they were unsuccessful. Because you’re still here, you’re still you, and you’re still doing your thing, which is utterly and indisputably necessary in this world, even if you don’t understand why. Let’s pinky swear to stifle our bad voices with the delicious goopy cheese (or non-dairy symbol of your choosing) of positivity and thankfulness. I KNOW HOW IT SOUNDS, OKAY. I can read what I’m typing! But screw it. I do what works.