I saw lots of heroes on television last night during the Super Bowl. There were human-interest stories about players on both teams and the good they do with the notoriety they have; ads that gave patients an opportunity to thank their first responders; stories about folks who bought a Hyundai and inadvertently contributed to cancer treatments. Those commercials get my emotions all in a tangle.
There was also an NBC Olympics commercial about Lindsay Vonn’s journey to Seoul. It was set to Alicia Keys’ “This Girl is On Fire” and depicted Lindsay from both home movie clips of her as a little girl on the slopes, to news footage of her being airlifted to a hospital after a horrific collision on a course. We saw highlights of her defeats and glories, challenges and accomplishments. The ad ended with Lindsay looking straight ahead, super focused and strong and ready to dominate in what may very likely be the last Olympics of her career. It gave me chills.
I felt the same way a few weeks ago, after I watched Oprah’s speech at the Golden Globes. She talked about women being powerful storytellers and used phrases like, “I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor and women who have children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue.” I felt empowered and confident. She spoke about everyone having “a story to tell.” Listening to Oprah made me feel proud and strong. I got chills then, too.
Sometimes, that feeling of empowerment lingers a day or two. I can even manufacture it with an upbeat song or a “Carpe Diem” speech to Jack and Colin before they go to school. On those days, I feel confident and self-assured. I know my place in the world and use words like “authentic” and “best-self.” I feel smart and accomplished. I help with homework while cooking a healthy supper. I fold the laundry as it comes out of the dryer and put it away neatly.
But, not every day can be an Oprah day. Some days, I’m not nice to myself. Those days are tough. On those days, mean thoughts sneak into my mind, slinking like a feral cat: creeping, dark and menacing.
On mean days, the voice in my head starts in on me with a litany of mistakes and shortcomings and middle-school hatefulness. That voice that has venom behind it and spews out quick, sharp sore hurt like the kind when you accidently grate your finger instead of the carrot: You ought to be ashamed of yourself. This house is a mess. Your mother would be so disappointed in you if she walked in right now and saw dishes in the drain. I see you didn’t sweep the mudroom. You are so lazy. Why are these laundry baskets always full? Are you ever going to schedule that appointment to get your contacts? You look like a complete dork in those glasses. And that hair – it’s a wreck. Speaking of a wreck, it wouldn’t take too much to lose some weight, but you’re not even trying. You’re so fat.
Maybe it’s hormones? Maybe it’s anxiety? Or, maybe it’s normal?
One day, you’re in your element. Nothing can go wrong. The world is your oyster! The next minute, you’ve got one of your husband’s old white undershirts in your hand dabbing at a big blue Gatorade spill on the sofa, because you didn’t pay extra to have it Scotch guarded and begging the dog not to throw up on the sisal rug. It happens.
It would be irresponsible of me to give a list of the Top Five Ways to Make the Mean Voice Stop. I know what sometimes works for me. Writing all this down makes me feel better. Knowing that I’m not the only one in the world who feels this way provides some comfort.
Sure would be nice, though, if I saw a commercial with a realistic woman in it and not a caricature. A woman who has put on a little extra weight, who curses under her breath while struggling to find her black flats in the early morning of a dark closet. A woman who hasn’t made time to go get her hair cut or colored. A woman who gets up early every morning and goes to a job she doesn’t necessarily love or chooses to stay home with her children. A woman living in a lived-in house, not a Pottery Barn advertisement; that has breakfast dishes in the sink, laundry dumped in a living room chair, and left the bed unmade.
Somewhere out there is a mom whose first grader said on the way to school this morning, “Oh, yeah. I had homework this weekend. I forgot.” Yesterday, she ran to WalMart in yoga pants with no makeup and made a grocery list at church during the sermon. The dog knocked over the brand new potted hibiscus tree, too. I get it. I really, truly do. We all do.
There are no Super Bowl commercials tonight. It’s just a good, old-fashioned Monday, for which I am grateful. Tonight, though, I hold close those millions of women wrestling their pint-sized children into a bathtub. I’ll say a whispered prayer for the mom determined to have supper at the table, even though everybody else wants to eat in the living room. I’ll close my eyes in solidarity with my sister in-the-trenches whose toenails still have chipped polish from the last pedicure of the summer. As I fling that laundry into the big pile in the chair in the living room tonight, knowing in my inner-most soul not all the socks are going to match, I’m going to tell my mean voice to pound sand. I’m busy.
And tomorrow, I’m going to get all hopped up on Oprah and crush it, just like Lindsay Vonn.