Soft Talk

Soft Talk

I just started talking to myself. I’m not sure it’s a good thing. Besides myself, there are two other voices involved. One voice is highly critical, very unforgiving and holding me to high standards. It might even call me stupid. It alludes to my inferiority and asks me hurtful questions like why have so many people abandoned me. What response can I give? I say it’s obvious that I’m not likeable. I never have been, not really. Some people have put up for me for as long as they could.

The other voice tries to protect me. It reiterates all the things that are worthwhile, nice, and acceptable about me. I can’t remember the adjectives it uses, but they are like a cooling balm against a wound. I do appreciate it. I feel it doesn’t want to give up on me.

Yet the critical voice is scowling leaning back on a lawn chair in my cerebral cortex. The legs of the chair dig into my gray matter. I’m not sure what part of the brain deals with emotions, self-esteem, and the repair of the ego. The ego is the problem. The critical voice says mine is too big, that I’ve only done good things in life for the recognition. My motives have always been suspect.

I wait for the kind self to respond. Maybe I’ll get a glass of wine. What is taking so long? Finally, it says you do care about people. You want to help. You were put on this earth to help, and you have. The kind self reassures me.

But the critical self is not ready to nod off yet. In fact, it sits up straight on its lawn chair. (I should rename it brain chair.) Your major problem is your lack of confidence. You flatter yourself and call yourself open-minded to disguise the fact that you can’t make decisions, that you are a waffler. What have you done? What are you capable of doing? Most importantly, what motivates you to do anything?

The kind self doesn’t respond which makes me nervous. Are they going to join together and condemn me? Am I doomed to float around in a boat with a hole in its bottom? In a short time I will sink.

Let’s be honest, shall we, critical self says. Why do you write? I think you are a masochist. Look it up. It means you thrive on pain, just like when you pulled you own teeth out as a child, the way you twisted the membranes until they separated from the gum. You would stare at the extracted tooth with a bloody root resting in the palm of your hand as if it represented a great accomplishment.

You don’t have to listen any more. Kind self says. I know you are disappointed. Everyone likes to think they are likeable and talented, but c’est la vie. You know you don’t harbor ill will toward anyone, except for maybe two people.  But even them you don’t actually wish harm. They can live out their lives. I know what you are going to say next. You’ve said it so many times. I know how you like to quote that line of Tolstoy that you are so fond of. What is it now? Oh, yes—“To understand all is to forgive all.” In the end isn’t that what we all want—forgiveness?

You sound so Catholic I say. I think I’ll get that glass of wine now.


About the Author

Elaine lives in Southampton, Mass with her husband where they are both avid bird-watchers and gardeners. She is an advocate for people with disabilities. Her poems have been published in Peregrine. She is currently at work on a novel.


Photo by BUDDHI Kumar SHRESTHA on Unsplash