I have a confession to make.
I hear voices. Pretty much all the time.
I have all of my life.
When I was in my twenties I was urged to leave my first marriage.
Like Liz, I too was guided away from motherhood.
A voice told me to start a blog four years ago when I’d never even read one before that moment.
Eighteen months ago one particularly pushy voice insisted I write a screenplay (something I had neither the skill nor desire to do.) But… with her help I did it.
When I think about it they help me with every decision I make IF I take the time to listen. And trust.
Except for confiding in a few of my friends and family, I’ve tip-toed around this subject for years because I didn’t know how to write about it without sounding, well, batshit crazy. But yesterday, Liz did an amazing job explaining a particularly woo-woo occurence—so I’ll just let her tell you about something that I once viewed as a curse but have come to realize is a gift.
This is something I wrote in my journal a few months ago.
These words came to me through a powerful internal voice.
Allow me to explain.
I hear voices sometimes.
It’s cool. Don’t be alarmed. It’s all good. I’m willing to bet you hear voices sometimes, too.
AT LEAST I HOPE YOU DO.
Every powerful woman I know is guided by voices.
Here’s a story:
I have a brilliant friend who used to work in academia. She told me once that she’d been conducting a series of interviews of accomplished women, for a research project about women’s success in the workplace. On the outside, all these women appeared to have nothing in common. They came from all different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, and all worked in different fields — corporate and non-profit, secular and religious. But each woman carried herself with confidence and ease, and all of them had become quite powerful in their own corners of the world. When my friend asked these women how they had gotten so far, they all began by dutifully reporting the same sorts of standard statements about the importance of hard work, and cultivating discipline, and fostering good professional contacts, and staying positive, and uplifting other women, and seeking out mentors, and blah, blah, blah..
Sounds perfectly logical, right?
But then there would come a moment in each interview where EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE WOMEN would seem to get bored with the questions, or maybe she was just feeling mischievous. Then each woman (EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM!) would ask my friend to turn off the recording device. Then the woman would lean in really close to my friend, and say in a conspiratorial whisper, “But do you want to hear what REALLY happened?” And then EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE WOMEN would report how — at some point in her life — she had heard a voice.
A mystical voice.
An otherworldly voice.
A powerful and certain voice.
A commanding voice.
A voice that could not be explained away rationally.
And each of these women reported that this voice had told her exactly what she needed to do next. And she had done it.
“I know it sounds crazy…” they would say. But it was true.
They had heard a voice, and they had followed the voice.
It hadn’t been easy for any of them, they reported. The voices often told them to do really, really hard things — things that often felt like total disruptions of their lives.
Maybe the voice had said, “It’s time for you to move to Los Angeles now” — even though the woman had just signed a lease on an apartment in Houston.
Or maybe the voice had said, “It’s time for you to go to medical school” — even though she’d just had a baby.
Or maybe the voice had said, “It’s time for you to leave that boyfriend” — even though her parents really liked him.
Or maybe the voice had said, “This religious path is no longer authentic or meaningful for you” — even though she had been raised by fundamentalists.
Or maybe the voice had said, “It’s time for you to learn Mandarin” — even though she’d never been to China.
But the voice had come. And whatever the voice said, the woman in question had taken the enormous risk of deciding to follow it. Even when it was inconvenient. Even when it was challenging. Even when it seemed prohibitively expensive. Even when it meant cutting her losses and walking away from any sense of security whatsoever. Even when it cost her the approval of friends and family.
Even when everyone thought she was insane.
And THAT’S how she had gotten there, to her place of power in the world. It really had nothing to do with professional contacts, or mentors…it was just that she heard a voice, and she chose to listen.
EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM.
I hear voices, too.
I heard voices when I was a teenager, saying, “You are meant to be a writer,” and when people said, “But how will you make a living at THAT?”, those voices were still like, “Yeah, whatever…you are meant to be a writer.” And when I got rejection letters for years and years, and nobody was interested in my work, those voices were STILL like, “Yup…you are definitely meant to be a writer.” And those voices STILL tell me I’m meant to be a writer. I’ll stop writing when the voices stop telling me to write.
I heard voices telling me to move to New York City when I was young. I heard voices telling me that it was imperative that I see the world, and that I learn how to travel alone as a woman — no matter what the cost or risk. I heard voices telling me not to settle for the security of getting a “real job” — but instead to just work odd jobs, and to keep traveling, and to keep writing, and to keep gambling everything for creativity and an exploratory life of the mind. (You guys, I can’t tell you how many times the voices tell me never to choose security over creativity. It’s exhausting and sometimes scary. But they seem to REALLY MEAN IT.)
When I was in my 20’s, I heard voices warning me not to get married, but I went ahead and got married anyway (side note: it’s REALLY HARD for young women to push back against the forces of culture and tradition sometimes) and then I SERIOUSLY started hearing voices when I was 30 years old, and firmly married, and living in a shiny new house in the suburbs, and my mind and body were absolutely falling to pieces, and I was supposed to be trying to have a baby that year, and the voices started screaming, “OH, NO YOU DON’T, MISSY!” And then I had to leave everything behind, in order to re-calibrate my path to my own truth. (This was awfully inconvenient and horrible and expensive and terrifying. And it’s REALLY HARD to decide not to have a child in a culture that still tells women that having children, ultimately, is the only thing that shall fulfill them. But the voices were like “NOPE”, so I had to leave it all behind. We call that “a course adjustment”. It’s never easy. But you don’t get to chart your own life without making some pretty hardcore course corrections along the way.)
I still hear voices.
I heard voices this spring telling me to leave everything behind yet again, and to gamble everything for love. (Very hard. Very scary. Very ACCURATE.)
Where do the voices come from? Beats me. You can call it “intuition”. You can call it “the still small voice within”. You can call it your “inner compass”. You can call it “God”. You can call it “Angels”. You can call it your “spirit guides”. You can call it your “gut instinct”. You can call it your “dead ancestors speaking though you.” You can call it “the flow”…but whatever it is, those voices exist. And you must train yourself to trust them, and to risk everything in order to follow them.
Notice that I didn’t say, “You must train yourself to hear them.”
I don’t think you have to practice hearing them. I think they are always talking to you. I just think you have to train yourself to TRUST THEM. That’s the hard part.
Learning to trust those voices is a practice that you can cultivate. Just like any other craft or skill, it is worth the effort to learn how to master it.
So…Today, I want to tell you what my voices have started telling me lately.
It’s just these two words:
Here’s the thing about my voices. They can be merciless. They are not always sweet and gentle. Sure, there are times when my voices say, “Poor baby! Poor little small one…we are so sorry that you are suffering, please take care of yourself, and lie down in a soft and safe place with a warm towel over your head”….but there are also times when my voices are like, “Oh for God’s sake, FIND YOUR STRENGTH. Grow a fucking spine, woman, and take the action you need to take right now, and stop wasting time…we didn’t send you here to let you pretend to be damn weak.” (Interesting side note: The difference between THAT voice and my dark internal voice of self-hatred is that the dark internal voice of self-hatred says, “You’re such a baby, you aren’t worthy, you are a scum person, just curl up on the floor in a pile of dirty towels and die,” but the mystical all-knowing voice says, “We love you too much to let you keep pretending that you are so powerless…COME ON! Let’s DO THIS! GROW A FUCKING SPINE! WE HAVE THINGS TO DO! WE HAVE A DESTINY TO CREATE! STAND UP OFF THE FLOOR!!!! LET’S GOOOOOOO!!!!!” See the difference? Good.)
There have been times in my life (this year, among them) where my voices have needed to get really firm with me. They have challenged me, and they have pushed back against my arguments. They will hold my face in the truth and make me look at it, even when the truth hurts. They will not baby me. They refuse to enable me. This is good. They will not say, “It’s OK, honey! Don’t worry! It’s all good! It doesn’t matter — you’re doing your best, and everyone’s human!”, but instead they say, “Actually, honey, it’s NOT ALL GOOD. This situation is NOT OK, and the way you are behaving is NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU, and it’s time for you to grow a spine, and challenge yourself more, get creative, and change everything. Let’s GO!”
But mostly, this year, my voices have been saying to me just these two words: “START KNOWING.”
Anytime I am faced with a dilemma, and I start to feel very small and confused, and I hear myself saying, “I don’t know what to do!”, some voice from deep within me rises in full power and says, “START KNOWING.”
(I even wrote it down in my journal one day, for my entire entry that day. So that is what this picture is all about START KNOWING.)
What my voices are challenging me is to realize is that when I am feeling sad and scared and small, and I keep saying, “I don’t know what to do!” — the truth is that usually I DO know.
In fact, my voices are pretty certain that I always know. Somewhere, deep within me, I have always known what I need to do. I just don’t want to do it sometimes, because it’s too hard, or too scary, or seems to wild or too risky. Or I don’t want to hurt anyone. Or I don’t want to be judged. Or I don’t want to lose what I have already attained. But still — I do know. Secretly, I do know. And my voices get impatient with me, because they’re like, “Look, lady, we don’t have forever, OK? You have all the information you need. Nothing will change now unless you change it. Make a move right here. Stop pretending you don’t know what you need to do. START KNOWING.”
I’m sensing this in so many women whom I encounter these days, too. They seem stuck and frustrated and confused and insecure and afraid. They have grown too comfortable/uncomfortable in the realm of “not knowing” what to do. They come up to me at my speaking events, and they introduce themselves by telling me about their injuries and their wounds. Before they have even told me what they want to create in this world, or who they long to become, they tell me the worst thing that has ever happened to them. Then I hear them start spinning and spinning and spinning the same story they’ve been telling for years about what happened to them, and how it damaged them, and what they want, but what they aren’t getting, and why they can’t change it, and why this situation is impossible, and what they wish would happen, and why can’t it all be different, and why it’s too late…and then they say, “I just don’t know what to do!”
And I swear to God, this fearsome strong voice starts to rise out from the center of my spine, and all I want to do is take that woman by her shoulders, shake her, and shout at the top of my lungs: “START KNOWING!”
(But in a loving way. I love you all! Seriously, I love you guys! Smiley face! You go, girl!)
But seriously…this voice that rises within me is not a voice of judgment or contempt. It’s not a disgusted voice. This is just the voice of the Archangel of Womanhood — a divine force who cannot abide seeing any woman who has ANY power in her life pretending that she has no power in her life. Not you, not me, not your sisters, not your daughters, not your mothers. She just can’t take it anymore. So voice of the Archangel of Womanhood says (out of a sense of fierce but merciless compassion, and a desire to liberate us all), “START KNOWING!”
Yes, it’s hard. Of course it’s hard. What did you think — it would be easy?
Did you think they would just hand your destiny to you, cost-free? Yes, you might have to risk everything. Yes, you might have to cut your losses. Yes, some people will hate it. Yes, some people may never understand and never forgive you. Yes, you may walk away from the situation with a permanent scar, or a bad limp, or a battered heart. Yes, yes, yes, blah, blah, blah…
But come ON!
Stop saying, “I don’t know what to do!” Because I believe that — somewhere deep in your center — there is some powerful truth about your life which YOU ALREADY DO KNOW.
If you’re afraid of making a hasty decision, just remember that the alternative is to stay stuck in the same bullshit garbage death swamp you’ve been stuck in for years. (I say that lovingly! I love you! Smiley face!)
So start knowing. Start knowing what you already know. Start knowing what is so damn obvious about your life that a perfect stranger could see the problem, if you told her about your situation in a five-minute conversation. Start knowing that you will no longer degrade yourself with the illusion that are powerless, that you’re in a trap. (Here’s the evidence of that: Tell me your story of how powerless you are, and I will find you a story of a woman who was in EXACTLY the same situation, and she changed it. I know…that sounds harsh. But it’s true. Start knowing that it’s true.)
Start knowing that you have far more agency than you think. Start knowing that the story you’ve been telling yourself about your limitations, or your helplessness in this situation, is NO LONGER GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU. Start being honest with yourself about something that your body has been trying to tell you for years. (Listen to your body’s pain — IT KNOWS. The body always knows. The body knows exactly the thing that is causing you suffering, and holding you back. I had a boyfriend once who I was madly in love with, but every time I got in his bed, my body would explode into pain, because my body already knew, “This man is no good for you.” I didn’t want to know it, because I was blinded by love — but my body knew. Start knowing what your body already knows.)
Start knowing the kind of woman you need to become — so that your daughters can have a better chance of becoming that kind of woman, too. Start knowing that the universe didn’t send you here to this fearsome planet of change and danger so that you could practice being more afraid…but rather, the universe sent you here to this fearsome planet of change and danger so that you could practice being more BRAVE. (Stop waiting for the world to feel safe, before you live your life. The world never will never feel safe. This planet has a nickname in the universe, you know. It’s called: THE ADVANCED SCHOOL FOR UTMOST HUMAN BRAVERY. They do not call our planet: THE COMFY RESTING PLACE FOR PRACTICING EASE AND SECURITY.)
Start knowing how brave you are. Start knowing how resilient you are. Start knowing how resourceful you are. Start knowing that you are the descendent of thousands of years of survivors, and that have you inherited all their wiles. Start knowing that the Archangel of Womanhood loves you too much to let you keep acting meek and degraded. Start knowing how willing you are to walk away from all of it, if you must. Start knowing that there are no victims in this room. (I can’t tell you how many times my voices say to me, “THERE ARE NO VICTIMS IN THIS ROOM.” I hate it sometimes when they say that to me. But the Archangel of Womanhood is quite firm on the matter. There are no victims in this room, she says. Period.)
START KNOWING, you guys.
Try saying those two words to yourself in a very calm, very wise, very ancient, very adamant voice — the next time you panic. Just say it (START KNOWING) and then breathe. Then get quiet and see what comes up.
I promise you that your very next thought will be the truth.
It might not be easy, but it will be true.
And you are ready for it.
Seriously, you are.
Start right there. That’s what every powerful woman I know has done.
Because the voices within you already know everything. But they can’t work with you until you are willing to START KNOWING, too.
I love you. Smiley face. Let’s do this.