There was a time when the voices in my head delivered a running commentary on my performance as a human being. Most of the time the consensus was I did a pretty crappy job. Now, the voices weren’t the auditory hallucinations of mental illness nor were they the intercepted signals of aliens being broadcast through my fillings. No, they were my own tortured mind.
What did the voices say? Most of the time they kept up an incessant barrage of all of the things I had or would do wrong on a variety of topics. They were well-informed and knowledgeable about proper social behavior, normal parenting skills, and health and beauty concerns. It was a little like having the entire editorial board of a women’s magazine in my head, constantly pointing out my shortcomings. The voices seemed to enjoy their full-time job as the background chorus of my life.
I maintain there is only so much second guessing one can do, but the voices never tired of it. The comment made at work in anger? The voices would chew that like a juicy morsel of steak, deriving every last meaty bit of satisfaction before letting it go. Going to a conference? A scathing look at my wardrobe, my weight, and my inability to have a “look” occupied the hours it took me to pick out an outfit. Social cues? The voices assumed I had Asperger’s syndrome rendering me unfit to make friends or attend social events. If there was a fault to find, the voices found it.
Surprisingly, I put up with this for a long time. I would have put up with it for my entire life. But then Key West happened.
If you haven’t been to Key West, go. Now. Don’t wait. Stay at the Southernmost Hotel on the Beach. I’d tell you to say I sent you, but they’d only look at you blankly. Go anyway.
Because in Key West, the most amazing thing happened. The voices stopped. One minute they were there, chattering away in the background, the next minute gone. In retrospect, as soon as we got off the plane in Key West they started to quiet. Maybe it was the view from the tarmac.
Or maybe it was the Gay Pride parade, or the frosty drinks, or the drag queen show, or the roosters, or even the sunset. Whatever it was, the voices chilled. Day by day, they had a little less to say.
And then, on our third day there, we went on a snorkeling trip. Imagine being piled onto a boat with a group of strangers and the promise of diving in the cool offshore waters and seeing all variety of marine life. Exciting, right? Even better, on the way back to shore the crew would provide all the beer or wine one could drink. Who wouldn’t enjoy this experience?
My voices, that’s who. Yes, what should I wear that would be appropriate to snorkel while hiding the parts of me that needed hiding? How was I going to see the shark that was sure to attack me when I had to take off my glasses to put on a facemask? How could I breathe through a snorkel when my gag reflex kicked in every time I put the snorkel in my mouth? What if I got separated from the group and was left in the ocean? What if I couldn’t follow the directions on jumping in and everyone laughed at me? By the time I got to the boat in my carefully picked out bathing suit/shorts combination with strategic coverup, every scenario on how to die or be humiliated snorkeling had been painstakingly considered and accepted. I walked up the plank as if I was, well, walking the plank. And then we were off.
Glancing around the boat, I noticed a couple animatedly chatting in German. He was tall, dark haired, great looking, and, when he removed his t-shirt, I saw he was incredibly well muscled. She was short and squat. Her hair was cut indifferently and held back with an elastic band. She wore a shapeless white cover up that contrasted nicely with her sunburnt face. Then she pulled off the cover up.
She wore a one piece cut high on the thighs, low on her cleavage. Her skin had the porcelain whiteness of someone that didn’t get a lot of sun exposure. She had fat rolls. Not to be unkind, but to report the facts, she had back rolls and side rolls and thick, chunky thighs. Thick, chunky, white thighs.
The voices in my head, coming out of their heat and/or alcohol induced torpor, tried to chime in, but for once, I shut them down. And, without the voices giving their opinion, I thought, why the hell not? Why shouldn’t she relax on a boat in her swimsuit when the temperature’s over 95 degrees. Why shouldn’t she be comfortable in her own skin. Why shouldn’t she enjoy a day on the water with a man who obviously adores her.
And with that, the voices in my head disappeared, never to be heard from again. I spent the rest of my time in Key West wearing what I wanted and doing what I wanted. I was finally free. Not only that, but the voices kept gone even after I left Key West and returned home.
I am sure there are all sorts of rational, science based explanations for the transformation I underwent, but I give the credit to Key West. There are sacred places in the world, full of magic and wonder. For me, Key West is one of those places. Some nights I imagine the voices, seven miles off shore under the white sand of the ocean floor, making nasty comments to each other to pass the time while they wait for me to return and retrieve them.
Their wait will be in vain. There’s no room in my head for them any more.
- Sneak Peek: Key West (quirkydirt.wordpress.com)
- The Feds Can Tell Ernest Hemingway’s Cats What To Do; Here’s Why (npr.org)