“Turn down the mean voice. You’re not being nice, Momma.”
It was a Sunday. Lucas and I were enjoying a sunny afternoon lunch.
In a moment of incurable human frustration, I made a negative remark about a friend.
Lucas’ eyes narrowed, and with tiny fingers he made a twisting motion as if to hold the nob of a radio and adjust the volume accordingly.
“That was rude! Turn down the mean voice.” He giggled and again motioned to soften the volume.
I was stunned, embarrassed, humbled. I wanted to say, “Hey! That’s no way to speak to your mother.”
But he was right. I was being rude. I made an impulsive, mean comment. But I was frustrated.
My view was clouded.
Lucas searched my face for a reaction, as children do, and I smiled.
“Thank you, Lucas. You’re right, that was a mean thing to say about my friend. I’ll turn that mean voice down now. Thank you for reminding me to be kind.”
He went about eating his sandwich and hummed a silly song to himself.
The image of his tiny fingers quieting my meanness remained.
I wonder, how many other people have allowed their mean voices to speak louder than the innate kindness that runs its course through us all?
How many times have we become frustrated and sent a nasty text message to a loved one in a fit of sadness and hurt feelings? Or rolled our eyes at the bank teller because he miscounted our money for the second time? Or yelled at the customer service representative because our impatience flooded a sense of understanding that we are just one of millions waiting to be helped? Or how about cursing the driver in front of us who cut us off in an unpleasant manner?
When did frustration and headaches replace patience and kindness?
The words of my favorite author and poet come to mind:
Mark Nepo says, “Underneath every headache is a heartache.”
There is so much value in this simple, yet deeply profound sentence. Underneath every headache we have, underneath every impulsive, mean comment or gesture that we make, underneath our impatience and misunderstanding, the innocence of our aching heart remains.
This explains why I am frustrated with my friend. She hurt me, and in the confusion of how best to express my hurt feelings, I become angry and speak ill of her.
This is an isolated incident, but this small hurt can turn into years of misunderstanding and estrangement – that is, if I choose not to properly express what is going on inside of me.
My suggestion to you, my wonderful readers, is to pay attention to how you outwardly express what is happening inside of you.
Why do you send the nasty text message?
Why do you roll your eyes at the bank teller?
Why do you yell at the customer service rep?
Why do you allow yourself to become upset with other drivers?
Only when you become aware of these ineffective, damaging habits, can you begin to address what is going on inside of you.
Truthfully, when I am hurting, when I feel as though no one hears what I am saying, when I feel like I’ve been wronged in some way, I become defensive, reactive, and I shut down. My hurt becomes anger, my anger becomes tears. My tears become confusion, distortion of words and phrases, a mess of emotions and fear, a chaotic swirl of truth that so desperately wants to be heard. It has taken years for me to observe these outward reactions and address the inward truths that drive my behaviors. I’m not saying this has been easy. Every day is a practice. Living continues to be a process, a challenge, a mighty work of art in the making for me.
To my lovely little lights, underneath our behaviors are the untouched hurts within us.
I challenge you to silence that mean voice and let the real you begin to speak.
Let’s be kinder to others — and to ourselves.
The change always begins with you.
Light and love,
Ki & Lucas