Sometimes, internal voices happen outside my mind. Words are spoken, and received by my ears, rather than merely bubbling up in my brain. Who do these words belong to? Me. But not me. Both a better version…and a worse one. The proverbial devil and angel. The cartoon characters dressed in red and white perched atop opposing shoulders.
It’s simple, really. The devil with the red dress on is selfish, easily agitated and aloof. The ethereal one speaks softly, reacts slowly and remains engaged at all times. To be honest, sometimes she annoys me. Sometimes I just want to hang out and wallow in self satisfaction with the one in stilettos. But I can’t trust her. She doesn’t have my best interest in mind, even though she thinks of my needs more than the other. The other encourages me to become a better version of myself, constantly giving and evolving. Much like an exercise routine, it’s not always easy to follow, but you’re healthier if you do. She’s encouraging, yet firm. And always kind. Until today.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang blasted from the TV speakers in the living room. The washing machine hummed in watery agitation as yet another load cycled through. A text alert notified me severe thunderstorms may be on the way. I buzzed from room to room, putting things away, straightening, picking up, the action without end of motherhood. My girls sat side by side on a bench at the dining room table, kicking their feet and coloring, their energy having already been spent on a days of errands.
It was a good day. One of those sunny spring Saturdays where you let your daughter buy six different packs of gum (on sale) just so she can try each flavor one by one. And you join her. You decide strawberry is the best, and you exchange a squinty-eyed smile in the rear-view mirror on the drive home.
And yet, that voice. The mean one. The selfish one. The b*tch. She pipes in.
Your children beckon you to look at their coloring pages, and beg you to “cut them out, cut them out mommy!” You go search for the scissors, and her words slice through your heart.
“You should be doing something more important. More productive.”
You grab the scissors from the cabinet, turn on your heel, and the words of the usually mild-mannered one punch you in the gut.
“SHUT up. Shut the f*ck up. This is important. The most important thing. Do you know how many others would like to be in your shoes? How dare you be ungrateful!”
As you carefully clip around multi-colored kittes in tutus and duckies with sunbonnets, a crooked smile creeps onto your face, and you realize something. She’s your maternal instinct. The one who prods you to rise in the middle of the night when your wild-eyed child cries out, the one who stifles your urge to vomit while cleaning the remains of liquid feces off your child’s leg and the one who whispers in your ear, “Let her buy the gum, what does it hurt?” She’s the voice of love and reason amid the chaos of child-rearing.
But today, she lost her cool. She’d had enough. She could only put up with the self-absorbed voice of unreason for so long. So she lost her temper. Raised her voice. And laid down the law. Just like any good mother would do.