• Meditation on les saboteurs

    Inside my head I have a Catholic saboteur. She is part nun, part Father Flack. This saboteur tries to frame the simplest things in terms of worthiness, even lunch. When I sit at the table with something as simple as a sandwich, she says, “Let the men eat first, they need it more.” I tell her to shut up, especially when I am eating alone.

    My saboteur says I am not worthy. I am not worthy of love, of time to write, of great sex, of a weed free garden, or the tools I need to accomplish my tasks. She says, “It doesn’t matter. I don’t matter. I have so much, why should ‘I’need or want more?”

    Sometimes she sits on my chest when I want to get out of bed. She’s there, in her black and white habit, judging me. Pinning my arms like a wrestling move. “So what if you need help. You should be able to do it yourself,” she says. And I argue, but I can’t do it myself. She says, “Then stay in bed. What does it matter?”
    I think she gets fatter when she sits on my chest. My breathing gets harder. I go to sleep.

    My saboteur doesn’t like me to write. This is when she switches over to Father Flack. He says, “What do you have to say? Are you Thomas Aquinas? No. Are you Aristotle? No. Did you read the Great Books of the Western World like your father told you? No. You started and didn’t finish. You are a disappointment. You aren’t smart enough to write.” I tell him to fuck off and stay away from children.

    Sometimes I just drink enough beer that he can’t actually surface. He’s such an asshole. He’s the same guy that told me that I would never get a college degree. Oh, I proved him wrong. We must always prove him wrong.

    Go to bed Father Flack. You’re drunk.

    Sometimes my saboteur sneaks in my head. He says, “You are not important. You aren’t smart enough. You aren’t pretty enough. You aren’t thin enough. And, can’t you borrow things instead of spending money? Sheesh, you borrow things and you don’t even finish everything you start. You’re such an ass. You aren’t even a good person.” My saboteur knows that he has crossed the line. I say, YOU don’t get to judge me. Nobody gets to judge me. I know I am a good person. You shut the fuck up. Then I bolt out of bed and laugh.

    Sometimes I can’t remember what the hell I was doing before the saboteur piped up. I say, “I can’t even remember what I was doing. I must be stupid.” The saboteur has won. I have internalized the message. I have cut off my pretty nose to spite my beautiful, aging face.

    The saboteur is not common sense. It is not the subconscious. It is an adult’s doubt-puppet that has been created over years of feeding it. Mine is a wooden puppet on a stool waiting to be animated. It needs a hand up its ass.

    If it needs a hand up its ass — why is it still here?

    Stupid puppet. I say, You are not essential to the act 3, let alone act 5 of my life. I am smarter. I am worthy. I am important. My life has a purpose and it matters. I matter! I will point you out. I will name you, and you will have no power over me! I say.

    Poof, I grow stronger. I make lists. I execute my list — even if it is out of order, I just jump in like skipping rope. If I stop and sit, my hand silently moves toward the puppet and I know, I fucking know, that it’s more important to just jump into action than it is to sit still and give that doubt puppet an audience.

    My puppet likes Facebook too. It would rather I waste two hours finding out about everyone’s worlds than pay attention to my own. I have shit to do. My fitness isn’t improving from my easy chair! My list is waiting, but my saboteur says, “What is 10 more minutes, what is one more hour, so what? You aren’t that important.”

    I close the computer and hear a faint part of me say, “Limit your time on the machine. You have good things to do!” And I remember, YES, I have good things to do, and I smile. I take my hand out of the puppet skirt and wipe my fingers.

    Yesterday, I won the battle with it. I did everything. I stayed true to my self. I spoke my truth even when my voice was shaking. I listened and loved, and remained honest to myself. It was everything I thought it would be. It was more. I am more. Today I will watch my hands. I will not go near that doubt puppet. I will not feed the saboteur. When it wants to demean my purpose I will laugh and wave goodbye.

    And I hope it will end there, but it does not.

    I am learning. It is the voice that says, “Do not try,” when I really must “try harder.” It is the voice that says, “Stay comfortable,” when it really means, “Get out of your comfort zone and try something new.” It says, “Inertia is good.” It means, “Action is counter force to this inertia. Just start somewhere!” The little voice, the counter voice is good. It is inspiration clothed in doubt. It says, “Have you noticed how comfortable a coffin is?” And I say yes, I can be this soft and comfortable when I die. But today I am alive. I feed the cat, I feed my heart, I paddle the kayak over the white caps and see the many beaches along the water’s edge. The water is moving. I do not stand in the same water. I follow the edge of the bouys as far as my arms can take me. This kayak has no room for a puppet. My hands are busy paddling right and left, up and down, breathing in the salt air, taking in the black shouldered kites diving and hovering, diving and hovering.

    Tonight, I will write all over the edges of the paper when the middle is full. My hands will be filled with beauty and words. When the saboteur comes, I will be too filled with joy to hear the voice.

    • Absolutely FANTASTIC column! One of your best ever! I have an inner saboteur too… she’s not Catholic though. I think she’s an amalgam of several of the deadly sins, and has a counter-approach to yours. Mine tells me.. “Relax. Do something fun. You deserve it. You can do this later. There’s always more time.” She’s a big, fat fucking liar! “Do it NOW” needs to be my response to her. And also, “Shut up.”

      • Maya North

      • September 15, 2014 at 9:01 am
      • Reply

      Mine says “Y’know, you were born worthless.” The pain lashes across my heart like acid has just been flung across it. But then I mop up the slow, thick tears that drench my face and reply that this was never true, and You Will Not Win. I love you, Jesse Loren, and I am infinitely proud of you. ♡♡♡♡♡

      • Sivan Butler-Rotholz

      • September 15, 2014 at 12:04 pm
      • Reply

      I’m with Debra. I have an inner saboteur. Not Catholic. Not even borne of Jewish guilt. Just there. All the freakin’ time. Just when I think I’ve quieted her she pops up and can ruin a day, a week even. But, like you, I push past her and tell her to shut the eff up. What else can we do? I particularly liked the part where you linked yours to Facebook. I have been trying to spend less time there, and hadn’t thought of it as an extension of my inner naysayer. But of course it is! Thank you for a beautiful and thoughtful piece, Jesse.

      • spring warren

      • September 15, 2014 at 4:17 pm
      • Reply

      What a wonderful article. You certainly kicked the saboteur’s ass on this one!

    • We all have one, mine is a cross dressing Catholic. Thanks for reading this piece. I really put a lot of thought into what my saboteur says and also, the counterpoint, which is inspiration. JL

      • Kate Hutchinson

      • September 19, 2014 at 5:33 am
      • Reply

      I meant to read this article four days ago, but my saboteur…well you know. I love, love, love your last paragraph, your poetry of the kayak will stay with me, and hopefully budge out my creeping saboteur when he comes to call.

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