Vail Daily column: A voice within
“Good day ahead,” I say to myself, out loud, as I drag myself out of bed and onto the carpet. The room is nearly absent of heat. I prefer pushups in the dark, and alone. After a handful, my breath comes quicker, and wisps of the struggle linger below my face against the carpet.
“I don’t know why you bother doing this — a few pushups aren’t really going to make a difference. Besides, you look ridiculous on the floor.” The voice is angrier than mine.
“It all starts with small numbers,” I remind myself. I fly through my morning routine. I catch myself in the mirror for a brief moment and can’t help but notice the worry lines and bags around my eyes. I suck in my gut a bit, trying to flatten out the rough years.
“Ha — what are you doing? You’ve looked the same way for 10 years. Stop adjusting your hair like there’s going to suddenly be more of it.”
I smile at myself. I have to. I’ve been hearing the same feedback for most of my life.
The coffee I guzzle heats me up as I get into my old frozen car. The windshield is cracked severely and completely covered in ice, which I barely have time or patience to remove. A few stop signs later, I get to the endless line of cars on Highway 6 waiting for the freeway entrance.
“You’re going to be late. They’re going to think you don’t care about your job. It’s construction season, and your life will be wasted waiting in traffic. Walking dead freeway graveyard. Oh, by the way, this is great ammunition for your boss. You know he thinks you’re a clown right? And your car is a mess — and you’re a mess.”
Now I let myself chuckle. “I don’t think any of those comments are entirely accurate. You sound desperate this morning.” My fingers find the volume, and suddenly Drake is making the other voice completely inaudible. I actually start to get a little riled up and excited for the day.
The 20-minute drive flies by. I find myself in the office lot and reach into the back to grab my bag. As I stumble into the office and careen through the hallway, I cheerfully greet everyone.
“Nobody cares that you are here. What are you smiling about?”
“It doesn’t cost me anything to say hi.” Sit down, plug in, another cup of coffee and open my email. My eyes squint against the screen, hoping the emails are “good.” They’re not good.
“I knew it. You’re done. Thirty emails before 9. How are you going to handle this before your meeting, huh? You’re day is toast. You won’t even have time to look at the client’s documents.”
“Get your s— together. They’re emails, not bullets.” The customary conference call and a few more cups of coffee get the emails cleared. I grab a pad and start scribbling away my notes for the meeting. I write a one page outline, then a half page, then reduce it to a sticky note, which I then stick on the returns I’m taking with me. I’m back in the car now and driving. I pull up to the client’s office, turn off the car and take a few quick breaths.
“I have no idea why you bother planning like that. You’re talking about a loan, not giving the State of the Union. You seriously think you can do anything good for these guys in half an hour? Who the hell do you think you are anyway? Your life has no substance! You’ve gone soft. You’re crazy. You’ll never amount to be anything. You hear me?! You’re nothing!”
For a moment, I make the mistake of listening to that other voice. I feel the immense weight of every personal loss of my life so far, and the voice continues to pile on the desperation. My shoulders slouch. The voice whispers for me to give up everything worth doing, shy away from every risk, run from anxiety. Then, in a moment of lucidity, and simply because of practice, I remember the most important truth about this other voice: I get to decide if I listen. I remember that lives are won and lost on the sacred ground of the mind.
I grip the steering wheel hard and stretch against it, taking a deep breath.
“That’s quite enough,” I say. “You’re too predictable these days my friend. You need some new material. How about you wait in the car? I’ve got this one.”
I stand for a moment outside the door of my client’s office and turn my face into the icy wind. I close my eyes to listen inside, trying to ensure that the other voice is completely gone. When I open my eyes and hastily reach for the door, everything is quiet.
Ben Gochberg is a commercial lender and business finance consultant. He plays, lives, works and is trying to do a little good in Eagle County. He can be reached for business inquiries or free consultation at 970-471-3546.
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