Tuesday Thoughts: Return to Sender
Ready to return those negative voices to their rightful owners?
Whose voices get in your head and water little poisonous seeds of self-doubt?
Whose voices echo when you write something powerful or raise your rates, speak your mind, or set a clear boundary?
Whose voices make your throat catch, your stomach clench, your thoughts race?
Saying "no" to those voices doesn't happen overnight. It takes time, repetition, and so much self-compassion. It takes surrounding yourself with people who truly see you and celebrate your courage and your spirit.
And over time, it gets easier to see it coming or recognize it in the moment or perhaps sooner than later – the icky feeling you have after certain exchanges, the person who is always quick to point out what you could do differently or better, the one who compliments you but in a way that makes you feel shitty and you can't quite put your finger on why.
This is real. It is a hallmark of Whiteness and a hallmark of patriarchy. If that language makes you a little bristle-y, that's because we are all swimming in it, all products of it, all reflections of it to varying degrees, it is IN us, we are OF it, so it's very close to home and doesn't feel good to begin to see.
But seeing it, hearing it, and identifying it are steps towards freedom. Yes, it's fun to joke about not giving any fucks, but as I've written in the past, it isn't as easy as it sounds.
Not everyone is going to like you. You've heard it a thousand damn times.
Not everyone is going to appreciate you or get you. Not everyone is going to agree with you or see where you're coming from or like the way you're speaking, writing, creating, appearing, behaving, and being. Not everyone is going to buy what you're selling, read what you're writing, take in what you're expressing, or approve of what you're representing or putting into the world.
What a bland world it would be if we all tried to conform, keep the peace, and fit in. The problem is, to not do these things also carries a risk – a risk of alienation, a risk of rejection, risk of exclusion.
We are hardwired for belonging; it's the most basic survival instinct there is, to do what is necessary to be accepted.
At what cost, though?
In high school, I was a loner. I was lonely. I had some friends, but not a group of friends, not really. I knew a lot of people but spent a lot of my time listening to music, writing, reading my own journals, looking at books, pining, wishing, and waiting, though I wasn't quite sure for what.
When I was 16 and Nothing Compares 2 U came out, I figured out the chords on the piano and sang that song ad nauseum. Today when I took Chalupa out to pee, right after seeing the news that Sinéad O'Connor died, I sang the whole thing out loud on the gravel road (no one was around!), amazed that I hadn't forgotten a single lyric.
I remembered the fledgling feminist poem I wrote the year it came out, 1990, called Glad 2 B Female. I thought about how pent-up I felt, how not known, how full to bursting and also empty, how small and quiet, how writing was the only way I could harness my voice.
I will be 50 in six months. That self-conscious teenager is still in me, and as much as I'd like to tell you I don't care what anything thinks of me, it wouldn't be a lie but it also wouldn't be all the way true.
Shedding the voices that told me I was too much, to lower my hand, to back off, to tone it down, to be careful, to be grateful – in a word, to know my place – is something that continues. It comes and goes in waves, this becoming, and I have learned to be more patient with myself.
It's not perfect. I am susceptible and sensitive; I still take in things that are not mine. But I'm learning, every single day, how to put a "return to sender" stamp on unwanted messages and voices.
Ready to return some negative voices of your own to their rightful owners?
I designed Getting Words on the Page to help you do just that.
Become your own witness. Strengthen your capacity to just write – not for an audience, not for feedback, not for publication, but for you. Be sure to use the coupon code CREATIVESUMMER at checkout to get a 50% discount on the course!