Toward the end of my midlife crisis, my soul got older and fatter and sat down crossed legged; it felt very visual, very tied to that metaphor/concept.
In part of becoming more grounded and more comfortable there, I became engaged in a gradual but constant process of trying to be more okay with myself, with what we do, with the things that don't look like what other people are doing, whether it be the dirty carpet or the lack of artwork on the walls, and most importantly, with the flaws that the boys and I show.
Someone said today, "You're especially too hard on yourself." It was a really comforting sentiment to hear--because I interpret it to mean that I must not be as bad as I let myself think I am sometimes--and I can't tell you how much I appreciate the people around me right now.
I've thought a lot about inner voices the past few months.
When I started thinking about painting the living room, I thought, over and over, "I can't paint a room."
Really? It's four fucking walls, not brain surgery.
After a couple weeks of listening to that discouraging voice, I called my friend for the basics of painting and a much-appreciated pep talk (between that conversation and this post, she became a mother, and I am so happy for her baby that he gets to have this person who has been an encouraging voice in my life for twenty-six years as his mother), and I was off. It was easy, and it makes everything feel so much cheerier, but while painting, I tracked the voice I was hearing in my mind to two specific memories where that was said to me.
Regardless of how those lines were delivered, regardless of the intent of the speaker, those were the words that stuck for a long time, and as a mother, you know you have that potential. What you say to your children will become their inner voice.
Of course, there's always room for forgiveness, always room to say something kinder, to alleviate pain, to try to explain a joke, but you can't take it back. You can't take back anything you say, at least not easily.
Beyond what we say to each other, the way we cast each other is important too. For a long time, I was casting my kids as bad, and myself as a horrible mother--of course, I've also been looking at some of the voices that have explicitly delivered those sentiments to me as much as to the scenes where I just thought that was what everybody thought.
I'm always happy to jump in with my faults--it's just better to get them out of the way before someone notices and calls you on them, and I do the same thing with the boys. Yesterday, my neighbor was telling me how nice my son was, and then, I had to go on and on about what a fire-birthing-fuckstick he can be at times. She's like, "Your son is so nice and polite and honest and gentle," and I'm like, "Oh, wait until he loses his temper. He can get really angry and crazy."
Just, take the compliment and move on.
There are times when I lie in bed next to them and whisper nice things to them to try and undo some of the damage, but beyond words, I notice that the days I believe they are good, are the best days. The days I can distance myself from the voices in my head that make me feel like I need to cast them or myself in a certain negative light are the best days.
And a lot of that is about settling in, about not feeling that I constantly have to explain away some issue that someone may be seeing or that they may eventually see.
At least once, Max has said, "Can you hear me, or are the voices in your head too loud?"
He was referring to the captivating voices that make me not notice anything that is happening regardless of how near it is, but in the context of this, it underlines an important issue, the voices can be loud, and for three people, I have the potential to encourage their voices to be pleasantly loud or encouragingly loud. And in my own mind, I have the power to cast them as good little creatures rather than issues that need to be managed.
And so, finally, for my uncle who has said he likes kids' quotes and who deserves a prize if he's read this far, my favorite few things that these good little creatures said yesterday:
"I need a levitating shirt." --the sun-burnt one while crying in dramatic agony.
"You know what happens when you leave me alone with a sink." --the little one.
"I'll just tell the cops I'm a seventeen year-old midget with bad knees. It'll be fine." --the free range one
"I need a new outfit for every day of the year. It's important to have style. I need to get my panache on." --the one who (please, god, please) is going to have an act a a drag bar some day