48 essays by Elizabeth Shé

Essay #19: tania

In Love on July 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Do you actually need that screaming voice in your head telling you to get out of bed? Is there a kinder way to treat yourself?

Tania is the name of one of my screamers. She’s like a personal assistant: in charge of the mundane parts of my existence — paying bills, doing laundry, looking for work.

She used to push push push, all the time, past the point of exhaustion: query editors! mow the lawn! build a website!

Tania made long, long lists — with tight deadlines — that tired me out just to look at them.

Out of desperation one day, I invited her into my morning meditation. “What!?” I said, “What is the problem?”
“You’re not listening to me,” she said.
“Because you are screaming,” I pointed out.
“I am screaming because you are not listening to me,” she said.
“Oh.”

Neither one of us (and yes, I know I’m talking about a part of my own brain) likes chaos. So we made a deal. I would stop tuning her out, and she would stop screaming. It’s been a slow process, but it started like this:
“Pay the bills!” screams Tania.
“I can’t,” I say, “I don’t have the money.”
“Can you pay one bill?” she asks.
“Yes,” I say, “I can do that. I can pay one bill. But I was going to the library. Can I pay it later?”
“No!” she’d say, at the beginning. “Pay it now!”

After awhile, as I did what she asked when she wanted me to, she was willing to negotiate deadlines. As long as I kept my word, she was quite reasonable.

These days she seldom speaks above a whisper. And I’ve come to rely on her to remind me to take care of business. “The Visa bill is due,” she said last night. “Oh, thanks,” I said, and sat down and paid it.

When I ignore her – screaming.
When I listen and communicate – no screaming.

Which would you choose?

  1. I have been explaining my actions and thoughts, whilst doing them or having them, to my grandfather and father, even after they had ‘passed,’ in my head, as well as to friends, loved ones, my step-mother and my four siblings, in my head.

    Unlike Tania, these people never initiated dialogues or respond to my explanations by screaming or by using quiet words. They merely watched me in silence, and only if I had spoken to them; otherwise, they were not there.

    As each year rolls by I am less subject to these inner-monologues, and am thankful for it. Perhaps this lessening is also a relief to my silent-watchers, depending on their awareness of or affinity for the part which they played.

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