2: The Little Voice

2: The Little Voice

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive

The Little Voice

Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world.

~Buddha

I’m lying on the massage table when David, my massage therapist, hits a tender spot along the top of my shoulder. I groan. He digs a little deeper. I groan a little louder. When he moves higher and hits the mother lode of pain, I yelp.

“A tad tender?” he asks. “Do you want me to back off a bit?”

“Yes,” I mutter through clenched teeth.

David works on the area more gently and my groans become softer. “You’re really tense this week,” he says, as his fingers try to unravel the knot of tight muscles that have formed from my neck to my shoulder. “I haven’t seen you this bad in months. What’s up?”

“April,” I say. “Just April. Shakespeare was right when he said it was the cruelest month.”

“How can it be cruel?” David asked. “Spring is here. Tulips are everywhere. Trees are in bud.”

“Taxes,” I mutter.

“Well, there’s that. But you still have time to get them done.”

“They’re already in. I did them early this year. I’m actually getting a nice refund.”

“So you should be happy and relaxed, not tied up in knots.”

I grunt as another one of those knots makes its presence felt. “And lessons. By April, I hate all my teaching material and have to spend hours developing new stuff.”

David digs a little deeper into the knot and into me. “Can you reuse the new material next year?”

“Yes, and some of it is really good. I’ve changed my teaching style and it shows in the material. I’m building in a lot more review and the students are doing better.”

David’s hands continue their probing and pushing. “That’s a good thing, right?”

I grunt, less from the pain and more because we’re getting to the real reason I hate April. Failure. Disappointment. Regrets.

“Come on, Harriet. You’re holding back and I can feel it in your body. Work with me on this.”

I sigh. “Okay, since you seem as determined to massage my mind as my body today. I hate April because it’s my birthday. Because I turn a year older and there’s this voice that keeps telling me I haven’t accomplished anything this year. That I haven’t lost those twenty pounds. That I haven’t finished the book I started six years ago. That I haven’t sent out at least one query a week.”

David’s hands stop. “What voice? Who’s saying that to you? I can’t believe you’re letting someone push you around like that.”

I open my mouth to say he’s right, that I wouldn’t take that crap from someone. Then I realize that I’ve been doing just that — only the someone pushing me around is me. That voice in my head is mine. I’ve taken all my fears, insecurities and disappointments and literally given them a voice. And then I’ve used it against myself.

“It’s me,” I say quietly, as much to myself as to him. “It’s me,” I say a little louder. And then a third time even louder.

David’s hands resume their kneading of knotted muscles. “So, what are you going to do about it?”

I’d lived with the voice for so long that it had never occurred to me that I could do something about it. I begin to understand that I have options. I decide to exercise one of those options. “I’m going to tell that little voice to shut up.” I pause, thinking of how powerful that voice is. Maybe there’s a better option. I start again. “No, I’m not going to tell it to shut up. I’m going to tell it to speak louder. Only I’m going to teach it to say positive things. To remind me of what I have done, not what I haven’t.”

I think about the students who like me, the other teachers who ask my advice, the writers in my online writing group who value my critiques, and the editors at magazines, newspapers and anthologies who have published my articles and stories. Suddenly I realize that my little voice will have lots of nice things to say to me — if I let it.

As for the twenty pounds and the unfinished book and all the other things that I’ve meant to do but somehow never did? I already know that beating myself up about my failures doesn’t work. Who knows what the effect of being positive to myself will be? And what better time to test it out than in April.

For the first time this month I relax and David’s fingers go from being tools of torture to being instruments of pleasure. And a little voice says, “Good for you. See what happens when you believe in yourself?”

Now that’s a voice I could listen to for hours.

~Harriet Cooper

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