I was recently organizing files on my computer (something I do when I intend to write, but instead find busy work…) and came across a piece I wrote just over a year ago. Why I didn’t post it then, why I didn’t work with it more, I do not know…Well, I have a hunch, but I’ll get to that at the end. First, the writing I found…
Perhaps this isn’t news to you, but I just realized this morning that the voice of the inner critic inside of me is the patriarchy; even more specifically, the patriarchal god. This actually came as a shock to me – one I am still sitting with and trying to make sense of. But the second I wrote the words (which I will share in a moment), I knew this was true. And now that I know this is true, I have a clarity and certainty about some other things that I didn’t before (which I’ll also share in a moment). First, how I got to this realization in the first place.
As is my normal routine, I journal in the morning. I set the alarm and, with the best of intentions, try my hardest to not look at the emails that have accumulated overnight on my phone. I go to the kitchen, fill the teakettle with water, get coffee measured into my French press, and then open up my 3-ring binder and take out two sheets of college-ruled paper. I take the cap off my very favorite pen and write the date in neat script on the top line.
By then the water is hot enough to pour into the press. I wait the four interminable minutes it takes for the coffee to steep, gratefully pour it into my waiting mug, then return to my chair, my notebook, the paper, my pen.
This morning I was recounting details of my previous day, reflecting on what was ahead in the hours to come, scribing a litany of words and questions and feelings. Nothing monumental. Nothing transformational. Just the practice of pen on paper, page after page, day after day.
In the midst of these musings, I began to write about my writing – this writing – this practice of pen on paper, page after page, day after day. As often happens, I dropped down a level – from information to reflection – and then, not surprisingly, to critique.
Why am I writing any of this? What is the point? What is its value?
And only because I have gotten just slightly wiser to its ways over the years, I began to write out exactly what my inner critic had to say:
What a ridiculous waste of time! How arrogant of you to think that your writing has the capacity to impact anyone. Are you kidding? Just because you’ve filled pages and pages over the years, doesn’t make you some kind of expert. And clearly, it’s not made any difference in your life. After all, you’re still listening to me, aren’t you? Why you don’t finally and once-and-for-all give up fighting me and trying to hear any other voice than mine? You know I’m going to endure, defeat, and conquer. I mean, really! What other voice has this much staying power, this much resolve, this much potency, this much influence? I am undefeatable! I am impossible to silence. I am all-powerful. I am God!
What? What? Wait! Go back. What did I just write?
A smile spread over my face and I immediately knew two things: 1) my daily writing practice which often, admittedly, seems trivial at times, actually matters – made obvious through three small words that are now out in the open and exposed; and 2) that “God” comment needs a LOT more attention!
My writing continued:
There. That’s the bottom line. The critic within me is God. Which is crazy – and not. This IS the God I’ve learned of, at least in part: the God I must fear, the God that keeps me in my place and silent, the God of the patriarchy.
More wheels turn as I speedily scribe and watch myself write these words:
Could it be that the inner critic IS the patriarchy, is the patriarchal God?
So, there you have it. That’s how I got to this realization and awareness. Now, as promised, the clarity and certainty about some other things.
I have understood the voice of the inner critic to come from, well, the inner-me. I have seen it as the collective voice of all those spoken to me throughout the years – negative messages I’ve heard, taken in, and believed. But even more, I have convinced myself that its volume and tenacity is because I have fed and fueled those messages, because I have not had the will or fortitude to disavow them. I have seen the inner critic itself as something inherently within me, as part of me. And because of such, it is something to be exorcised out of me, something aberrant or wrong about me, something I must be blamed for and ultimately responsible for. The inner critic is clearly and resolutely my character flaw.
The problems with this are so prolific, I don’t even know where to start. Stories flood my mind – each one sticky with shame. And, truth-be-told, shame that has been self-inflicted: I should have done better. I should have tried harder. I should have stopped sooner. I should have said yes. I should have said no. I should have known.
Let me intentionally stop this tirade and go back to my earlier revelation: the inner critic is the patriarchy and even more specifically, the patriarchal god.
This is a big deal. A huge deal. A game-changer.
It’s like the great eye in Lord of the Rings (my VERY favorite movie, by the way). It turns, the focus shifts, and I recognize that the force that has controlled me for far too long and for which I have blamed myself, is something that is not me, something I could have no more stopped or controlled than been able to fly. And this not-of-me external force has allowed my shame because in so doing it has remained undiscovered, off the hook, and fancy free to wreak as much havoc as it likes.
As long as the patriarchy can keep me thinking that I am the one to blame, it has accomplished its greatest feat and highest aspiration. And oh, how successful it has been.
I write some more.
Now you have revealed your cards. Now I know what I’m dealing with here. And now I know exactly what is needed to soother the beast, to tame this savage, to calm my very soul.
I need the God who speaks just the opposite, who reminds me who I am, who blesses and honors, who loves. I need the God of the women I know and the stories I tell. I need the God who speaks wisdom and grace. I need the God who is mother. I need the God who is feminine. I need the God who is far more fierce and powerful and all-consuming than the little god who isn’t one at all, but has somehow become confused.
And this God, though not often enough named as such, is alive and well and waiting within. She rises still – and strong. She will yet roar.
Do you have a hunch as to why I didn’t post this piece until now, until just happening to stumble across it almost a year later?
Well, there’s this: the patriarchy (and/or the inner critic, and/or the Imposter Complex, call it what you will) is still alive and well – within me. The subconscious messaging that tells me to keep such things to myself, to only say what’s acceptable, to not expose it…ever.
Well, until now.
Maybe you, too?