Critical Ally

“How would you feel if someone outside really started talking to you the way your inner voice does? How would you relate to a person who opened their mouth to say everything your mental voice says? After a very short period of time, you would tell them to leave and never come back.” -Michael  A. Singer 

I felt the heaviness of winter coats and boots slipping off my body’s memory as I thawed in the Floridian sunshine. With solar power serving as an understudy for sleep, I drove south to my boyfriend’s place.

We’d barely spent enough time apart to miss one another, but were nevertheless thrilled to reunite. That first day was an absolute blissfest.

I chose beach yoga over watching him play that evening. I usually loved going to his shows but this was the night he performed with a dancer, one who clearly had a thing for him. I’m not the jealous type but I didn’t feel any great need to watch her gyrate in front of him for three hours, especially not when I knew the restaurant would be packed with drunken tourists.

I delighted in unforecasted downpours – the energetic force of the storms and sight of distant lightning reflecting in the water added to my yoga practice. Just as I was finishing, I got his text saying the rain shortened his show; he was free to enjoy the rest of the night with me.

Once again, the elements were conspiring for our togetherness!

The following day, he asked if we could go to the Miami Open. It wasn’t something I was burning to do after another virtually sleepless night but my only true objection was driving.

By this point, he was driving my rental cars on a regular basis. I couldn’t add him as a driver – he didn’t have a U.S. license. Neither of us was fearful about the risk we’d been taking until we approached downtown Miami that evening.

The Ultra Music Festival had drawn a strong police presence and a ton of traffic to the area. I took the wheel, energized by the buzz of the electronic crowd. Sometimes, being an empath and soaking up other people’s moods has its merits. It fueled the rest of our drive to Key Biscayne.

The Open was fun! I’m not a big tennis fan but we saw a miraculous come-from-behind attempt by the underdog and a very close match. I was excited for my boyfriend who loves the sport, which made it enjoyable for me also. 

I would have left much earlier if I’d known he was too nervous to drive back. I understood his fear, but was frustrated to feel stuck doing the one thing I said I didn’t want to that night.

What would have served me would have been a contemplation of alternatives and the meeting of my own needs. Instead, I drove home against my will.

It was late on a Saturday night and I felt like the only sober driver on the road. It was a stressful drive, made much worse by my boyfriend’s inexplicable attitude.

In retrospect, I can see when I expressed negative emotions, he often gave me a hard time about my feelings, even when they had nothing to do with him. “What was wrong with me?” he’d ask. “Why was I so moody? I had no reason to be unhappy in the face of so many blessings!”

I was months from hearing the term “defining” for the first time, and didn’t grasp how strange it was for someone to tell me how I should or shouldn’t feel at any given moment. The fact that he was starting to use spiritual principles like gratitude against me sailed over my head with the Goodyear blimp. As did the fact that he continuously told me how happy a person he was – literally while he was reprimanding me for being human.

With my superpowers diminished by fatigue, I completely lost my ability to discern where his issues ended and their effects on me began. There was no longer enough space between his critical nature and my understanding that it had nothing to do with me. Because now it actually did – he knew me well enough to berate me in ways that actually hurt.

It’s strange to look back and see how much I accepted as truth, just because he said it. I started to judge myself and my feelings instead of looking at the very obvious fact that a happy person would not judge me for feeling otherwise. A happy person would be compassionate and loving.

The problem was, it was no longer just his judgment and lack of compassion at play. My inner critic, sidelined by years of ever-increasing self-love and acceptance, was happy to have a new ally to help bring back her A-game.

I thought my critical voice had lost her voice, but it turned out she’d just been resting it. I was beginning to internalize his every unkind word as the truth of who I really was, much as I’d done with criticisms in childhood when I hadn’t known better. 

When we got home, he insisted he’d offered several times to drive the rest of the way home. This time, even though I did not hear him do so once, I didn’t question the validity of his words. My confidence shaken, I began to trust what passed through his lips over what did so through my ears. 

What I deserved that night was appreciation for driving to Miami when I really didn’t feel up to it and understanding for the stress I felt dodging such a large collection of drunk lane-weavers. 

What I needed was to recognize that the person I was dating either wasn’t actually capable of delivering what I deserved or chose not to. Even worse, he also seemed incapable of not delivering what I didn’t.

What I accepted was another unsolicited attack. 

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