In my head, there are two voices. Those voices speak in many different harmonies, but they basically sing two tunes.
There’s the voice that likes me.
And the voice that wants more.
One is inherently satisfied with who I am, wishes my heart to be well, and feels full with things as they are.
The other is not satisfied. It desires bigger and better things. It turns on via comparison to friend’s successes, broadcast on social media. It boils when it’s bored, wondering why it doesn’t have more tasks to complete, more rungs on the career ladder to climb. And New York City, the city of endless possibility, fuels it with daily opportunities to pine for what could be.
This is the voice that sets my standards. It convinces me I “deserve” a certain level of attractiveness in a loving partner and writes off anyone that doesn’t fit the bill. It expects my performance in any of show to meet the highest level of excellence. Mediocre will not do. Mediocre is as bad as bad. And when I do succeed, this voice enjoys a moment of exultation as it truly gets more than it had before.
But then, of course, it wants more than that. It’s set a new standard to meet, and anything less will be a setback. Insatiable, it seeks to unlock ever higher achievements. It can glimpse the violet-hued majesty of being crowned king for a day. It wants the crown and the scepter and the kingdom and the whole world and then...who knows what else.
I know a lot more about the voice that wants more than the voice that likes me. I’ve been driven as long as I can remember by the call of, “More, more, more.” This siren song has made me a hustler, but it has also made the process of working in and of itself not rewarding. Only a successful outcome makes the hard work satisfying in retrospect. And since life isn’t fair, and you don’t always get what you want even when you work very hard, this has made Doing a drag, instead of a satisfying effort.
How do you switch the mic from one voice to the other? Sometimes, it helps to hear these thoughts spoken by a third party — as happened to me at church the other day. Not Catholic Church, where I was raised and from which I am recovering, but a majestic, ludicrous affair known as “Church With a Two Drink Minimum,” that is equal parts serious soul-searching and a rompous good time downing Bloody Marys under the leadership of drag queen Reverand Yolanda. Her last service spoke to the voice in my head that likes me, empowering it to be heard.
Meditation has been the other way to make room for the voice that likes me. Whether by practicing loving kindness meditation or simply experiencing the quiet warmth that suffuses me after ten minutes of sitting still, the voice that likes me makes itself known.
Because the voice that likes me is too polite to grab the mic. It allows itself to be drowned out by the voice that wants more. It takes a seat, waiting in the wings, until the stage of my mind is free.
It forgives me for all my failures. It loves me for all I am. It doesn’t mind what I lack. It likes the journey I’m on. It gently whispers the truth, even if I don’t want to hear it. It brings me closer to loving myself, and thereby closer to loving the world.