Shut Up, Helga

“I embrace my inner wisdom to do what is best for me.”

That’s the mantra I came up with this morning in response to a yoga prompt. For a moment, saying it, I felt happy and peaceful — and then my competing inner selves started fighting over my right to relax:

“People are dying in floods. Trump is still president. White-power pamphlets. India monsoons. Trans soldiers. What the fuck are you doing just lying here [doing yoga and saying mantras]?”

“Shhh, no, this is good. I need to take care of myself before I can take care of anyone else.”

“That is some indulgent, privileged bullshit right there. You might as well be Tina Fey eating sheetcake.”

“Ha, good one. But hey, where is the rest of that gluten-free cake? Oh, right, I ate it. OK, what else have we got?”

And now I’m in the kitchen, typing on my laptop with the stove as my desk because I like to write standing up (and because the pets don’t walk on the keyboard up here). I just ate many bites of different things, my favorite! Alone in my kitchen, I’m at a magical buffet with no manners. But for some reason instead of just enjoying my brunch (of, in case you’re curious, buttered English muffin, sweet coffee, and bites of cauliflower and broccoli baked in Slap Ya Mama seasoning, rice, eggplant parm, red grapes, and cantaloupe), I feel the need to be confessional.

I spent the first two of my awake hours this morning scrolling on Facebook. And my inner voices have been doing a lot of squabbling about this, as well.

“This is terrible, you always feel terrible after you spend a lot of time on here, what are you doing? Seriously, why are your reading this? Why are you even clicking on that? You need to pee! Put down the phone!”

“Shhh, no, this is good. I need to stay informed and connected with people. A lot of what I’m reading here is real journalism, brilliant essays, poetry.  What’s wrong with me spending a little time reading and checking in on the world at the start of my day?”

“Oh, please, who are you trying to sound moderate for? You have got to put that shit down for good. You are an addict. You check for likes and comments all day.”

“Ouch. But… I don’t want to read things without being able to share ideas with a community of thinkers. I don’t want to miss photos of my grandkids.  And with everything terrible happening I feel like staying current is truly–.”

“– the least you can do? Yeah, that’s for sure. As for the sharing you want to do, people read or watched the news in years past and saved their knowledge up for dinner conversation or a cocktail party. You don’t need to be sharing your feelings about every outrage. Everyone is outraged. What is your point in posting an article every ten minutes and announcing that you’re horrified. Again.”

(Mumbling). “Well, I don’t know… maybe people haven’t heard about a thing. I get a lot of my news first through Facebook.”

“So? Really? You think if you aren’t there to share an article your public will be deprived of vital information?”

“God, no need to be a bitch.”

(This is so fun, I think I’m going to give that inner bitch a name: Helga.)

“That’s probably anti-German …

“Shut up, Helga.”

That’s it, that’s going to be my new response to all my negative thoughts: “Shut up, Helga.”

If a few of you want to join me in this, we can tell each other’s Helgas to shut up, too, if they start saying negative things about any of us.  (Just writing this feels so transgressive; I don’t use the phrase “Shut up,” and I’m sure my children were forbidden to say it. ) But think of it: you look in the mirror wearing some outfit you really love and suddenly find yourself flashing on how disappointed your mother would be with your new look, and bam, “Shut up, Helga!” You have shut that down. You are in charge of what you say to you! Not Helga.

OK, just now the dog interrupted me and demanded I take her outside and holy crap, people, are you aware this is the most glorious day of the whole year here in Western Mass? Get outside if you possibly can. I literally broke out into the chorus from Zip-a-DeeDooDah when the sun hit my face.  So I gotta go for now.

“Two weeks and three days until Kyle’s memorial and you still don’t know what you’re doing. You really think you can spare time outside when you’re supposed to be up in his room poring over his poetry? Figuring out how this could have happened and what you’re supposed to say and how you can honor him when you’re still this devastated?”

“Shut up, Helga. He’d want me to go outside. “And do the yoga. Not sure about the Facebook, but he’d want you to speak more kindly to me in any case, so if you don’t have anything nice to say, peace out.”

Author: Lanette Sweeney

Mothering adult children is hard. Being an adult child isn't easy, either.

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