A Conversation with “The Voice”

I was scrounging around in my computer’s archives today, and I found this. It’s a document I typed up at a coffee house, one afternoon about ten years ago. I had had a bad day. It seems I had done something wrong at St. Stephen’s, where I was then working. I had made some sort of mistake, and thought that I had hurt people through it…at this point, I have no idea what that mistake was. But it upset me then, and so I just started typing. I guess I thought it would turn into a therapeutic journal entry or something. It actually quickly became a conversation between me and the Voice within me that tells me such nasty things. I’ve adapted it somewhat from its original form to make it more understandable. (The original was loaded with references that only I would understand.) It was never intended for public consumption, but when I found it today, I thought it makes a good glimpse into the kind of things we tell ourselves so often. It started with me just slamming my fingers on some keys…




Yes. SOS.

What makes you say that.

What makes you think I said that?

It’s written above.

I understand that, Sherlock. But why do you think it was me?

Who are you, anyway? Are you the voice?

What voice? Metatron? The God of all voices, voice of all Gods?

No, I mean the voice of one crying in the wilderness of my mind, “Prepare the way of getting your ass kicked repeatedly.”

Ah. That voice. Yes. That’s me. At least it is now.

So what do you want?

I want to protect you.

From what?

From yourself. From fear. From sadness. I want to protect you from the world. You are not ready. 

Not ready for what?

For anything. You are alone. You are a child. You haven’t figured it out yet. You need me to protect you.

No, I don’t.

What do you mean? Of course you do. You should know that better.

No, really. I don’t need you to protect me.

I told you long ago that you should be doing math for your career. Then you wouldn’t be able to hurt people with your inexperience.

That’s interesting. I distinctly remember you showing up at the MathCounts contest in seventh grade, telling me I’d completely fouled that up, that I was worthless.

Ah. But you were on the spot then. You were interacting with others, and you didn’t do your best work. If it was a written test, or better, a take-home test, I wouldn’t have had any problem with it. And more than that, the team was counting on you. You don’t have it in you to be part of a team.  It wasn’t fair. To them.

But, if you recall, dear friend, I won. I won every single award on the local level at MathCounts two years in a row.

See? You’re a genius. But nobody’s good at everything. You have the ability to be good at something. So you MUST do that. You can’t take risks, not when you have such a gift. Use THAT gift. Don’t try to play around with others you don’t have.

I have friends.

Excuse me? 

I said, I have friends. They love me.

They don’t know you. They don’t know the real you. The one that I do.

That’s simply not true. You are, sadly, stuck in a time that isn’t here anymore. The only things I have left from that time are one pair of shoes, and you. Oh, and Doctor Who.

You knew who you were back then. You listened to me. You made your girlfriends hurt.

You made them tell me over and over that they loved me. And that pushed them away. Don’t blame me for that.

So it’s my fault now? You’re the one in control, not me. I’m just a trusted advisor.

Interesting point. You’re not going to drag me down, though. I have tricks now.

Tricks? You hear that? TRICKS. The same sort of tricks you’ve been fooling everyone with for years. Sure, you became a good boyfriend, a good husband. You know why? Because you are so SMART you can think of the right thing to do, and then FORCE yourself to do it. It’s not in you. It’s just a trick you’ve learned.

How could I trick so many people?

You’re VERY SMART. I’ve always told you that. You’re a freaking genius. That’s no secret. But it’s also the ONLY thing going for you. Remember gym class? Remember shop class? Remember playing football or kickball? SMARTS ARE ALL YOU HAVE. So of course you’ve adapted them to help you mimic real human behavior.

Damn, you’re good.

I’m only observing what I see. I don’t hate you; you’ve got to understand that. I’m not here to try to kill you, try to ruin you. I’m trying to help you become the best you can be. And you know what that is. A hermit. A hermit with a computer and a CRC book.  You can do wonders with your mind. 

I’m called to be a pastor.

Says who? Says some people at a retreat? Says a bunch of coincidences? Who knows you better? A song on the radio, or ME?

I’m called to be a pastor. God is calling me to do that.

GOD? What makes you think you have a connection to God? You know what you’re “called” to? The path of least resistance! That’s what you always do! You should be in grad school, studying and learning math! But you don’t know that system, so you got scared, and went to seminary, where you knew what was expected. YOU BELONG IN GRAD SCHOOL, STUDYING MATH. YOU BELONG WITH JOHN NASH. You could have been as good as him.

What do you know about John Nash? What you’ve seen in a movie? He was married to Jennifer Connelly. He had friends.

He had IMAGINARY friends. I’m more real than imaginary friends. I can be your friend. I can be the best friend you’ve ever had. Wait until you see what I’m like when you’re NOT AROUND PEOPLE.

Oh. I see. You’re jealous. You’re jealous that I spend so much time with other people. You’re that side of me that used to just play games by myself. That used to draw maps. That used to record tapes, and then transcribe them. You miss that. You want me to stop spending time with other people.

That’s not it at all. I want you to be alone. I want you to be happy. 

You want me to be alone, so you can be happy.


You’re not convincing me anymore. There’s a chink in your armor.

Look, what’s been driving you nuts lately? Losing your friends! Losing your connections! If you didn’t HAVE those connections, you wouldn’t be sad right now!

So you’re saying I should just go and be a pastor in Montana, and screw my friends?

No. I don’t want you to be a pastor. You’re not a good friend. You won’t be a good pastor. You know this. 

No, really I don’t. I listen to you sometimes. You’re very loud. But lots of other people have told me otherwise. Besides, I think I hit on something a few lines ago, with your reaction of NONO etc.

What makes you so sure that was me, and not you making another end run? Don’t you see you’ll never be rid of me? You’re not SMART enough.

Now that doesn’t make sense. You told me I’m plenty smart.

You’re book smart. You’re so book smart you’re stupid. You don’t have empathy, you don’t have compassion. You don’t have a heart. You just have a brain.

That’s just not true. That’s just not true. Where are you really from?

I’m from you. I am you. I’m your protector. 

Then I would like to renounce your protection. You’re like a cancer. Whatever your real purpose, you’ve gone bad.

I’m not leaving. You know that.

I understand. But I’m getting better at ignoring you.

Really?  Then why did you run to me so quickly when things got tough today? Is it because someone told you something that you know to be true, something I tell you over and over?

How can I trust you? Why should I trust you? Why am I even going this direction? I don’t need to trust you. What’s your name, anyway?

Michael. Everyman. Superman. GOD.

No, really. What should I call you?

A cab. You obviously don’t want me here. If you don’t want to talk, we’ll talk later. I’m not going anywhere. See you around.

That was good. I feel relieved. Tired, but relieved. Time to drive home.

2 thoughts on “A Conversation with “The Voice”

  1. I hate my voice. I will be doing great, everything going so good and then I might make a mistake at work, say something dumb in front of others…and then my voice tells me you’re stupid, you can’t do anything right can you? You know if you just drove faster and maybe missed the turn…no one would really miss you. Then I cry on the way home thinking I’m nobody. Only to arrive home, wipe my eyes, walk in the house and pretend everything is fine. Until the next time. I hate my voice.


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