March 20, 2009


"Toleration is the greatest gift of the mind; it requires the same effort of the brain that it takes to balance oneself on a bicycle." -Helen Keller

My daughter said, "Every time you try to put chili in the crock pot..." The first time I sliced my finger open. The next time I opened the refrigerator and, for the second time in as many months, one of my glass milk bottles had shattered. There was a quart of milk dribbling all down my fridge and onto the floor. I thought about screaming, but instead I wiped a bit, walked out of the kitchen, read some e-mails, came back to the kitchen, covered the chopped onions so they wouldn't dry out and proceeded to empty and clean the refrigerator. I was fuming, but calm, and I tried to think about what happens inside of me at moments like this. I present to you some inner dialogue:

There are these three voices inside me. Voice one is my "Inner Bitch" (IB). She's a rebel. She swears (so please forgive her). She's gritty and edgy. She wears black and does funky things to her hair. She's powerful, but not terribly compassionate. She blames everyone and everything for her problems. She is put-upon. I like some things about her. She's funny and strong.

Voice two is my "Inner Priss" (IP). She is a scold. She knows very well what is right and what is wrong. She is quick to judge IB (and everybody else). She stuffs her feelings. She is everything on the outside that IB isn't -- socially appropriate, polite. Nothing is ever anyone else's fault. She thinks she's compassionate and loving, but really she is a repressed phony. I don't like her as well as I like IB, but she's around a lot more. Maybe I'm just sick of her. What I do like about her is that she keeps the IB in check. She allows my outward behavior to be appropriate, even when my inside feelings are not. She protects other people -- and me -- from the havoc that IB would like to wreck, which is good.

Finally, voice three is the mature adult me (ME). She is trying desperately to acknowledge IB and honor her voice while not letting her take over. She encourages IP to be more honest.

When we opened the refrigerator and saw all that milk, IB was on fire. She was so mad! Here we were, trying to get dinner ready in advance -- SO RESPONSIBLE! Now, instead of everything being ready we had to spend the whole blessed morning cleaning the refrigerator. And we just washed the floor too. And we're out a half-gallon of milk. Do you know how expensive milk is? Why does this keep happening? Maybe we need to stop getting glass bottles. Someone needs to fix that stupid refrigerator. Shouldn't someone be able to figure something out so this doesn't happen again? This is a real pain, you know?

But then there's IP twittering in the background. She's got the voice of every person on earth who is having a good day when we're not. She says that we should just calm down. What a lovely opportunity to learn something. Isn't it wonderful that the refrigerator will be clean?! Just go with the flow, let go and let God. IB wants to kick her ass.

Then, there is ME. You know what she did? She shut our mouth, because anything that was going to come out of it would be NOT HELPFUL. She picked up a rag and a roll of paper towels and little by little cleaned the refrigerator.

It takes the greatest act of tolerance for ME to accept the dueling IB and IP. But when I do, we don't fall off the bicycle.

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