We all have a voice in our heads. I said a voice, not voices – in that case you might have a problem. But most of us have that voice that tells us to do things even when we don’t want to do them. Necessary things. Like wake up when the alarm goes off. Get the kids ready for school and take them there. Go to work. Wash the laundry before it becomes your new carpet. Etc.
This voice is comprised of many voices from our pasts, but most often it is the voice of parents. After all, when you grow up, there’s no parent there anymore to tell you to do these things, so you have to do it yourself. The problem comes with the tone of the voice. Think of your boss. Your boss wants you to do something. He can either tell you nicely and be understanding, or he can act like a big jerk and yell at you. Either one will get the job accomplished. But one way is much worse than the other.
I have the big jerk in my head. And yes, it sounds like my parents. My parents didn’t abuse me physically. They didn’t neglect me. They love me. I know this. But they are also critical. I never really know if I will hear approval or disapproval from them. It’s like a slot machine. Every tenth time or so, I might get cherries. I keep pulling the lever, hoping for the cherries.
They mean well. They want what is best for me, at least what is best for me in their eyes. Where others might see a road bump, they see the road going off of a cliff. Best be prepared for the worst. If you miss work, you’ll get fired. If you buy this expensive item, you’ll be penniless. If you make the wrong decision, the world could explode. Are you upset, Alice? Did you remember to take your meds, Alice? That must be it.
There must be a way to motivate myself without being so cruel. I do have to go to work, and the longer I’m away from responsibilities like this, the harder it is to go back. But if I’m sick, what then? Do I go to work sick? Am I even really sick? You know how kids sometimes get those mysterious stomach aches? My daughter, Thing One, had what is known as “the barking cough of adolescence.” I had never heard of such a thing. Basically, she developed a habitual hacking cough because she dreaded school – specifically P.E. As soon as I heard this, I thought “the barking cough of adolescence” would be an awesome name for a post. Or possibly a band name.
I am off of work today. I have a deep cough. I’m often sick like this because of asthma. At least I think I have asthma – it depends on the doctor. But sometimes I question myself. Am I really sick enough to stay home, or am I faking it? Is this the barking cough of middle age? My father went to work while vomiting. I’m certain the rest of the staff was thankful to him for it. But he never missed a day!
If I was good enough, I wouldn’t get sick so much. I’m probably not even sick. It’s all in my head. Right? If I was normal, I wouldn’t miss any days. I would be a better parent, wife, worker, friend. Why can’t I do that? Why can’t I make myself just clean my blooming house? Why can’t I keep from getting these stupid minor illnesses over and over? Why can’t I do what I need to do without kicking myself into action, and then continuing to kick again, and again?
Allie Brosh is the writer of the famous blog “Hyperbole and a Half”. Even if you haven’t read her blog, you’ve probably seen memes of it. The funny person holding up the broom and shouting “Clean all the things!” That’s her work. She has the ability to make you laugh so hard you fall over. But she also has depression. She has the mean voice. And she shows the voice, in pictures, and I find myself saying “No, Allie, don’t be so mean. You aren’t so bad. It’s okay!” I’d do the same thing for any friend. I’d do the same for my own daughters. But I have a hard time doing it for myself.
So how do you do it? How do you motivate yourself to do what needs to be done, while still being kind?