I’ve been letting those voices get into my head.
Not schizophrenic type voices. No worries there. As a therapist friend once told me, “You’re so solid and Midwestern it’s scary. Freak out a little, for God’s sake.”
What I’ve been hearing are the voices of the people I interact with in my life.
If you’re a creative type like me, then you’re sensitive. You take things in. You intuit things people never say and you’re usually uncannily correct. You can feel others’ feelings as an energy. Sometimes you just know things as true and have no idea how—but generally, they are proven to be true.
It is a win/win when you tune into this capacity to tap energy beyond your own. When you use it to bring new thoughts, ideas and creations into the world. You open new vistas for you and those that consume what you bring forth.
But shutting off this capacity, being able to tune out what is coming from others, is also essential. Because delicate flowers tend to do best in a hothouse, isolated from the elements. To survive in our world, you need to have some stamina, some filters, a shut-off valve for taking on what others bring to the table.
My shut-off valve has been faulty the past couple of weeks.
So before I write, I hear the voice of a trusted corporate mentor cautioning me not to reveal too much in my blogs because the screaming meanies of corporate America value toughness, not tenderness.
The voice of a good friend who advises on love and other matters, warning me to “move quickly” before I get any older. I think she sees woman as a marketable commodity as long as they’re of a certain age. And she is, unfortunately, mirroring what much of society (at least male society) seemed to echo to me when I was trying out online dating.
The voice of someone who is neither friend nor foe but wants to make me doubt myself because I’ve been asked to take on her duties and responsibilities. And she is having a hard time figuring out how someone almost 10 years her junior could best her in a career she has spent decades building.
The voice of an ambitious colleague who asks me why I choose the off-ramp, working project to project rather than in a hefty role managing a large global team. Who reminds me my kids will be gone and I will be alone—and then how will I fill my time?
Here’s what I did in the short term: Bungled it. I let their fears and biases fill my head. Instead of sorting through and saying thank you very much, this is mine, this is not, I doubted. Wondered why our thinking diverged so much. Wondered if that divergence meant my thinking is faulty.
Head on straight again, eating healthy again, balanced again, I smile at my own self-doubt. I know better.
So here’s what I do now: I tell my ambitious executive friend what I do with my life after my children have moved away won’t involve making my work my life. Unless that work is something about which I am very passionate.
I remain neutral with the woman who sees me as a threat and cannot figure out why. It is for her to figure out why she stayed so long at one company and never broadened her experience. Not for me to tell her.
I share with my friend that even though many men view women with an expiration date, I am not interested in those men. That falling in love again, or not, does not come just because I will it to be so. And that settling for any less makes for misery, not happiness. Compromise is one thing; settling is another. And the qualitative difference between the two is miles wide.
To the mentor I say: “Thanks. I truly appreciate your advice.” And then write this blog entry. Did I share too much? Reveal too much of myself? Well, I’m still standing so I guess I’ll withstand the impact. And oh, by the way, I’m done with the screaming meanies of corporate America. I am choosing to work with those who behave like decent human beings. The cost of doing otherwise is too high and I’m too far into life to deny that fact.
None of these people are technically wrong. They are giving advice that has worked for them. But I am not them. I ask people for their thoughts to keep me honest, to ensure I have considered alternatives.
But in reality, I know what works. I know where I should head, what I should do. If I get very quiet.
Stilling the cacophony is harder for some of us than others.