I finally mustered up the courage to pick up the phone and call my friend. She’s been suffering from so many medical complications that I can’t even keep track of them anymore. Her two young children must also be devastated to see their sweet mom in and out of the hospital, wondering when things will get back to normal. My heart ached for her.
After a heartfelt conversation, I was relieved to hear that she was slowly getting things back under control. Her health had improved, the kids were doing just fine, and her husband was being an absolute angel through it all.
A few days later, I had a slump day when the weight of my life caught up to me for a moment.
One daughter was dealing with bullying at school, the other couldn’t shake off her night-terrors, and I missed having my parents nearby. The incessant pain in my lower back and the results of my blood panel were troublesome – not as bad as my friend, but enough to have to reach out to some specialists and beg to get on their calendars. I felt defeated. I cried and then went for a walk.
And that’s when it happened … again…. my inner voice decided to chime in.
My Inner Voice Speaks Up Again:
“Doesn’t the fresh air feel wonderful?” inner voice asked.
“It sure does, and I definitely feel a little better already,” I responded with a sigh.
“A little better? Have you already forgotten about your friend who has been suffering for so long? What should she be saying now? Get yourself together!” My inner voice was getting louder and more intense. I felt the pressure and tears swelled up again.
This went on for the rest of the walk until I decided to head back and preoccupy myself with my work.
What I was refusing to do was to acknowledge my own pain and suffering. I refused to address it with respect and undivided attention. I refused to admit that I too was in pain. That I too was emotionally and physically drained. That even beyond the back pain and kid issues, I was carrying my own heavy weights and worrying about where to set them down.
But why refuse my own pain?
Because I did not like to argue with my inner voice. She was always louder, more intense, and looking for a way to shut me down. At least that’s what I thought at first.
Until I learned to see her from a new perspective, and that’s when everything changed, in a big way!
A New Perspective
In law school, they taught us to see every problem from multiple angles before even taking on the case. This simple mindset shift does not necessarily come naturally to a 20-something year-old law student, who just came out of the trenches of teenage-hood and college.
I, for one, was still in fight or flight mode when I entered law school at the tender age of 21. All I knew was to keep moving forward, to ignore peer pressure, and to crawl through life’s challenges. I was clueless that I could see situations from various perspectives to understand them better. Yet it made a lot of sense.
Decades after law school, I still seemed to be in emotional fight or flight mode. To get through the day, I chose to drown my problems, hoping they would just disappear. I was comparing my challenges to others around me, and feeling this underlying guilt that their problems were worse than mine! Because of my self-talk, I stayed quiet when friends asked how I was doing. I became good at pretending.
As a lawyer, though, I was doing exactly what they had taught us. I listened to my clients, dissected their legal issues, and then offered different perspectives of how the opposing side might see the situation. That’s how I would help them find optimal solutions to their legal problems.
So why the discrepancy? I had to face my inner voice.
A Magical Dialogue with My Inner Voice:
Me: Inner voice, are you there?
Inner voice (IV): Yes I’m here.
Me: I see you, vaguely. You’re a blur in my mind’s eye, but I see you. Can I ask you something?
Me: Do you agree that we have challenges in my life?
IV: I agree. Yes, you do.
Me: Do you agree that sometimes these challenges get overwhelming?
IV: Sure they do.
Me: Do you agree that you and I are one and the same?
IV: Well, kinda.
Me: Are you a part of me?
IV: Yes, I am. But I am also separate from you or else you wouldn’t hear me.
Me: Well, I hear you because I choose to hear you. You and I are one and the same.
IV: Ok, I guess we are.
Me: Why do you make me feel guilty about acknowledging my own pain and suffering?
IV: Because I know you feel hurt and sad when you do. Because I know you can get over them and move on to happier things, instead of worrying about the tough stuff.
Me: So you’re trying to protect me from sadness and hurt?
IV: Yes, that’s my job. To protect you from anything that may harm you emotionally.
Me: Thank you! I appreciate you. Thank you for looking out for me and for wanting the least amount of hurt for me.
IV: You’re welcome?
Me: Do you trust me?
Me: Moving forward, can you trust me more, especially when I’m feeling sad and overwhelmed? Can you be my guide to remind me to speak up about my problems instead of swallowing them? Can you remind me to pick up my journal and write my heart out, tears and all?
IV: Sure, if that’s what you want. I only want what’s best for you.
Me: You sound like my Mom. I love you for that. Thank you.
And that’s when it clicked. My inner voice was my nurturing motherly self, trying to protect me.
We all have an inner voice. Some louder than others. It’s the voice that tells us to act or not act. The one that pops up when we feel torn about an important decision. The one that often sounds like our primary caregiver, when we were young.
I realized that by understanding the intention behind my inner voice, and by seeing it from her perspective, I could unify myself with my inner voice. I had to update my inner voice to my current life circumstances and my current needs.
My journey today is unique to me and my circumstances. I am blessed to be surrounded by amazing humans, opportunities, and experiences. As the protagonist of my life story, I have every right to also feel the heaviness, pain, and frustrations of my problems. But I also owe it to myself to find ways to offload the weight and to seek guidance or at a minimum a shoulder to lean on.
I will continue to be a shoulder for my friends to lean on, and a lawyer to solve people’s problems. I will also continue to count my blessings daily, and to appreciate the beautiful balance in my life.
But most importantly, I will give my own hardships the same amount of attention and respect as I give others. No more comparisons and no more judgment.