I Hear Voices

First Grade, NYC

First Grade, NYC

I imagine people don’t know what a recluse I am. I socialize at church and in the homeschool gatherings stand tall, take initiative, make announcements. My parents, struggling to piece together a life in a country where they were Other, taught their little girl to write large and speak loudly. That’s me in the school play, mike in hand. (My husband would now like me to lower my voice by 20%.) I’m usually the one to notice inefficient or unjust ways things are done in our different communities and the one to speak up. So I can pull off extrovert and can be sociable because I know it’s rude to sit next to someone for half an hour and say nothing. But all I want, oh all I want is to bolt the door and write. Bury myself in what novelist Dani Shapiro calls the Cave to give attention to the voices in my head, meet myself on the page. Because inside is where so much of my life is.

I would probably long for love and community if I were granted the hermit’s wish (er, I think). ‘Tis human to want what is out of reach. Look at me glaringly not in step with the vogue practice of being present. No, I can’t be fully feeling the current of the moment around my feet when my head is in books, ideas, memory. In my defense: we women are wicked multitaskers.

Speaking of tasks, I asked Husband to scrape the stovetop stains last week. With equanimity he announced that he had just vacuumed and was done for the day. “I’ve done enough,” he declared pleasantly. I marveled at the male self-preservation mechanism in action. Granted, that was a lot of carpet. But it was the question corporate executives, business owners, moms, students knot themselves in angst over. When is enough? And he had solved the cosmic conundrum with such ease. Buddha Man just might be able to undo the problem of world peace. I laughed, “Done enough. Imagine mothers saying that. The world would stop.” No skin off his nose, he agreed – feet up, on the couch. I shouldn’t grouse about the responsibilities. It’s a blessing, not a burden, to have places to go, people to see, (aaalll these) things to do. George Eliot debuted at 50, Laura Ingalls Wilder at 65. There are others enjoying their second life publishing in their 70s and 80s. I don’t plan to wait another 30 years to go and to see all that’s in my head but in the meantime, I show up where I’m needed. Whether or not I can show up for myself, I will keep writing large and speak to be heard. Poor Husband.

176 thoughts on “I Hear Voices

  1. Oh, I can so relate to what you are saying. I too hear voices.

    This just cracked me up, “I marveled at the male self-preservation apparatus in action.” Now is that not the most annoying thing ever? I don’t know whether to be envious or admiring. 😉

  2. I woulda been a happy singer banging away as loud as I could with cleaning while he watched football. but that’s just me and I’ve been accused of being a royal PITA.

  3. This is funny. My husband would say something similar, which irks me and induces envy. Gosh, I wish I could stop well before my version of enough which is nebulous and rarely perceived to have been reached. Oh well, I think, at least the garage floor looks spotless.


  4. I am the same way. People think I am this outgoing extrovert, but that’s because I have to be that way. I always said if I didn’t have kids that force me into life I would be living the life of an old hermit.

  5. Yes, it is kind of nice that writing as a career isn’t as age dependent as most.
    My husband will clean if I ask him to but it’s usually fueled by a tantrum, if you can imagine a grown man pushing a mop along as if he wants to strangle it.

  6. I love the fact that late in life one can publish! I love to write and have self-published, but it doesn’t feel the same. The second novel is taking longer than I wish simply because I can’t seem to manage the time to do so. My honey contributes a lot around the house. He also fixes what’s broken and will cook if I ask him. A jewel!

    • “I love to write and have self-published, but it doesn’t feel the same.” What exactly doesn’t feel the same, C? And yes, he is a doll. Mine does more than his share. Just on his timetable (laugh/frown) ha ha ha.

      • Oh, I meant I wish I had success with the traditional way of publishing. Finding an agent is next to impossible and selling it to a publishing house is like wanting to be a rock star. So do a billion others….;)

    • A lot of it probably is thAT GREEN GRASS OVER THERE syndrome. A part of me can’t help envy the life of writers who have the TIME. But I also have friends who are pursuing their passion and career (PhD hitting 40) who would kill for my life.

  7. Great post. Obviously everyone can relate from one side or the other. Age changes things subtly.
    I used to do crash cleaning as catch up from binge writing or involvement in activities outside the home. Don’t have the stamina anymore. Need to set aside some time most days, so can manage it without pain or fear of the health department. 🙂 Surprisingly, at 78 I don’t really have that much less to do than when I had five children at home, just have to do everything slower with more breaks now. Frustrating.

  8. Hehe, yes, the self preservation tactic…I have learned from my husband that when I’ve done enough, if I ignore the dishwasher that needs unloading, he will do it. Baby steps. Nice post.

  9. Oh Diana, I’m back and gee you really do not need to visit my blog just because I comment on yours. You see it’s not always tit or tat. I comment on a few that never say peep on mine. But that’s ok. But on your blog the writing is so good I just have to comment-can’t help myself. Today’s post is a good one and for Pete’s sake, when will you seriously put your “voices” in book form. You know that you can self publish. I know that you are extremely busy but you’re writing here so you might as well put your time to good use and BEGIN.- a little bit at a time.


    • I’ve thought of you, my friend. I hope you’re well and enjoyed the month of being blacklisted from here. Ha ha ha. (You’re reinstated.) You’re also incredibly sweet. You remembered his name? =) “For P’s sake…” So P’s said the same thing, leaving me with jaws hanging. Because he of ALL people sees (should see, at least) how that is not possible with the limitations on my life. But thank you dearly for the cheerleading.


  10. “Because inside is where so much of my life is.” I think many, many writers feel the same way. Beautifully said.

  11. Every Sunday we drive to church I sulk in the passenger seat. I say, “I just don’t feel social today.”
    My husband says, “You say that every week so why do you do so much talking there?”
    The kids laugh, too.

    They just don’t understand the hermit.

    My husband does vacuum and help with dishes when he’s not working 16 hour days!

  12. Diana, I have to work at it to be an extrovert, then I want to come home and just be by myself. Nowadays, that’s harder since my husband is semi-retired. On the positive side, he does vacuum more than me and he likes doing the laundry. I wish I could get him doing more in the kitchen. Although, I know I should be grateful for what he is already doing!

  13. I have to say my partner is very neat and naturally cleans home on his call. No problem. I am messier and cluttered than he. (My mother would vouch for that.) He is naturally helpful around home but then it’s 2 homes to look after…whichever household a person is spending the most time occupying. So it all works out even in the end.

    Have you gone on vacation without hubby…? Maybe one day..:)

  14. The first part of this post really spoke to what I have had to do for the last 20-25 years. I am a peaceful person, an introvert. I was raised in a family where my parents never argued or fought in front of us. Fighting and arguing is not my way. Never will be. But for those last 20-25 years, I have had to play a role. Both at work, as an attorney working for a state office where I have to constantly “fight” with others to assert the interests of the office I work for; and at home, as my children went through their growing up years, I had to pick “fights” to defend their interests at school, in their sports, and in other areas as well. I had to do these things because (a) it was my job and I have to do my job; and (b) they are my kids, if I don’t stand up for them, who will. So, I have lived this life that is not me … I can totally relate to this statement … “how I would long for love and community if I were to be granted the hermit’s wish (er, I think).” My kids are now both at college and I am so eager for them to take over the responsibility of their lives so I no longer have to fight their fights for them — it’s not going as smoothly as I had hoped. And, at work, I am hopefully now less than four years from retirement, when I can stop living somebody else’s life and live the life I was meant to live. Writing, painting, walking, baking, cooking, just being. And I fear that my revulsion at all I have had to do and all that I have had to deal with over the years will drive me firmly into the hermit’s camp. I want it so desperately, yet I don’t.

    As for the second part … I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. 😉

    • LOL (the last sentence. lol). Hey, yeah I get it (except I think I fighting’s in my blood. Something I’ve considered writing about). I grew up having to fight my parents’ battles with one foot in American culture and the other in their immigrant struggles. That will be most interesting to see how you do as a hermit. =)

      • It’s interesting how some people thrive in conflict. I simply do not. And that’s not a judgment on those who do better in such situations. I’ll get back to you on how I do as a hermit. There is such a huge piece of me these days that really wants that experience, at least for a time. I feel like, once my kids have achieved full independence and i can quit my job, I’ll need something like that to clean out a lot of crap and toxicity it has all injected into me.

      • Actually, it’s something I’ve realized recently in dealing with how my kids handle things now that they are sort of on their own. I wouldn’t say we were extreme helicopter parents, but we could have done a better job of giving them age appropriate responsibilities and ensuring that if they didn’t fulfill those responsibilities, they would suffer the consequences. It’s hard when you’re in the middle of the parenting years to step back, but if I had to do it over again, I would have given them more opportunities to take responsibility and fail. I think the consequence of this is that they both seem far too willing to let things go and let things go — because, you know, things always work out. But they didn’t see the effort and stress that was some times necessary to make sure things worked out. Who knows. Maybe I’m also over-analyzing it. But I do think the best thing you can do is make sure your kids have some independence and age appropriate opportunities to fail. And when you do, you can pick them up and wipe their tears and make sure they know they’re still loved … and then push them back out there to try again. Good luck. It’s a difficult thing about parenting. No matter how hard you try, when you look back on it you realize the places you could have done better.

      • “No matter how hard you try, when you look back on it you realize the places you could have done better.” I don’t think you could’ve wrapped up parenting better. And the advice is noted. Thanks.

      • I am far from a perfect father and have made my share of mistakes. To the extent I can help others learn from my mistakes and the things I’ve learned in the making of those mistakes, I want to do that.

  15. My anxiety is that all of the writing I do, and reading for that matter, is in little bits. I ache for stretches of time. Ah well, I guess I’ll grab what I can and enjoy it for all it is worth.

  16. I do not think you need to hear this voice of mine any more than you have, but still I have to confess my admiration and understanding with hearing voices, and for me (as with most men I suspect) when the words “I’ve Done Enough” are heard in the back recess of our mind we listen. Taking action on such voices is brilliantly executed by your husband ~ I bow my head to his ability to be in the present and to utilize this time his way…seems like Mrs. Husband could learn a thing or two from the wise sage called Husband.

    One day when your voice says “lock the door, they will figure out life themselves for a few hours…” you should surprise the men in your life and do it. You may be amazed at what gets done (with your writing, not with the men & housework). Wish you a great week and moments to lose yourself in your writing 🙂

    • “You may be amazed at what gets done (with your writing, not with the men & housework).” Ha ha ha. No — I nurse no delusions that they will pick up what I leave behind.

      “I do not think you need to hear this voice of mine any more than you have” On the contrary, my friend. =) Thank you.

  17. Yes, exactly! That’s old Mr. Me’s dream to disappear and live as a recluse only surrounded by beauty, and with as little shores to do as possible… In the meantime, the cave helps.

  18. I loved reading this post – the introvert who looks like an extrovert … I get that. And the extrovert part is exhausting but its demands never stop. As for husbands, mine is the half of our partnership who does the majority of the housework. I am truly blessed (not just because he knows how the washing machine works). And then you remind me that writing is not age-bound. I self-published because, being in my fifties, I don’t have as much time left as in my thirties. Always a late developer, I am full of the anticipation that unexpected achievements promise, as well as the feet-on-the-ground reality that experience proves.

    Thank you.

  19. Imagine the hunter gatherer laying down in a bed of pine needles, after a run of 100 kilometers chasing a prey that was never caught, but the hunter had enough for one day …? The Elk stood in the woods laughing like a Far Side cartoon …

  20. I planed and studied for two years before I started submitting; submitted and was rejected for another year before getting published–at 61. I just had a piece picked up by Antioch University for their literary journal–at 62. But I have no demands on my time now but feeding the dog. 🙂 Just keep plugging away and snatch every minute you can for your dream.

  21. Diana,
    Since retiring I’ve found how much I’ve missed being with me. I’ve come to know myself much more now than when I was administering to others as a teacher and coach. The gift God gives us is meant to be shared with others, because that is what love is all about. I strangely am at peace separated from my one time professional life despite the fulfillment gained from it. I now have a greater fulfillment in discovering myself as God now desires of me.
    So be patient and don’t stress over the fact that you are comfortable right where you are at this moment.
    “Grow where you are planted.” – Saint Mother Teresa

  22. Haha your husband responded the way my grandson does. Ah little boys grow up to be bigger boys;). I am kidding of course (tongue stuck to the side of my cheek). How I love how you write about the ordinary day to day and make it into a piece of art. You made me smile. Ponder on my writing that screams at me to visit on my breaks at work rather than chat with a colleague. The stovetop can wait. Trust me it is very patient.

      • Darn microbes!!! It’s a conspiracy I say!!! You know in French “un microbe” is masculine gender. My shoulders are shaking as I laugh sat my joke and NO ONE understands my behavior on the Métro. But Thalys ok. Im too old to care

      • LOL. You know this linguist gets it. Well, if they’re male they should take their time growing. HA! (Love that you’re reading & writing from the metro. Yes, you’ve told me you do that.)

  23. I am also an artist, not a writer, though. My kids are grown, where does my time go? I often have wished I had all the time in the world to do my art (clay), so I could be as good as those I envied, as good as I knew I had it in me. On the rare occasions I now get my own time, I have learned to relish the opportunity I have had for a full life. I still strive to be a “famous” artist, but I am also content to have been able to savor my children & grandchildren, which I would not change for the world.

    • I’ve read of more than one writer who – given the actual TIME to write to his heart’s content – panicked under the pressure. No more excuses. He had to be good now. LOL. Gee, people. Of course we would never trade our loved ones for the golden carrot of our art. But it remains a difficult question when so much of our essence is in that art. Thank you for being here.


  24. So glad that you do hear voices and that your own voice is loud and true – not to mention laced with a wit. So much of writing is about living off the page and on and you, my friend, do both quite well.

  25. “I’ve done enough.” I’m going to run with that one! Simple and direct.

    As for writing, I can’t say enough good things about having a room of your own (with a lock on the door!) and letting other things wait for later. It took me over 70 years to figure this out. My husband has been wired this way for years, and I often resented it. But having tried it, I’m not going back! Somehow it all works out (what needs to be done gets done; the other part doesn’t). And the sun still comes up and goes down every day!

  26. I hear you, D. Writing is time consuming, and so is chores. You really are very patient with Mr H. Some men think that doing the bear minimum means they’ve earned a break. As for women being multitaskers, agreed. We are also good with paying attention to detail 🙂

  27. Pingback: My Article Read (11-10-2015) | My Daily Musing

  28. I theorize that the person with the highest standards does the most work. The solution? Lower your standards.

    Also, I get some of my best ideas, and clear the clutter in my head, when I’m doing mindless chores like cleaning and yardwork. Clean house and clean writing seem to go together.

    • “Clean house and clean writing seem to go together.” Great. =) My ideas come at all times, esp when I’m driving (er, a bit dangerous, yes). What you say about standards is profound, actually. I noted that in an old post The Secret to Happiness (which is to lower those standards). Thanks for connecting.


  29. Nice to hear your voice again Diana. Seems to be the unanimous wish for all writers – to have all the time we wish to write and read. Imagine the world if all women just stopped doing everything they’re counted on for doing. I had to laugh when your husband declared he had enough. Maybe I’ll try that, lol. 🙂

  30. Love your honest forthright approach to life. You will find being true to yourself and your thoughts makes this world an easier place to live in. As for men (being one), we are as diverse as the universe itself. In fact, I believe we have a specific affinity for Mars according to author John Gray.

  31. Help, help! Here I am, not a cave-dweller, not longing to be alone to write, not someone who has to force herself to socialise … am I a ‘real writer’? Possibly it take a long while to find oneself. My kids are grown, and yes, that makes life so much easier. Message is ignore impatience, you younger ones will reach the stage when you wave them off to college, have the time to write, and even miss the necessities of all that being a mom time. Possibly. As for men… we want one, and when we have one, we complain! 🙂 Love it. Remember being there.

  32. Praise God! I am thankful that you stumbled across Land. I thank God for you and YOUR voice.

    “I imagine people don’t know what a recluse I am.” I read this opening line and something stirred in me–more when I continued reading. Because of my upbringing, its still fuzzy if my bent was towards being an extrovert or introvert. However, I remember most of my childhood and adolescence as being a very shy girl. I had to learn how to be an extrovert–which felt at times both fake and liberating.

    Today, I’ve a near aversion to those personality profile tests (only sort of jesting). In the world, we can become directly and indirectly boxed up and labeled by the lies of the enemy and because of this, I am resisting. I’ve set out on a journey to Know more deeply what Abba Father calls me and thinks about me in Christ instead of [insert a person or group of people or survey or organization or statistical analysis, etcetera].

    I am not so unwise or unreasonable to regard all labels as unhelpful, or without good use, but I no longer want to agree to any identifiers that Abba does not give me, does not whisper to me or sing over me from the garden of my heart.

    Keep writing large and speaking to be heard, please…we need you!

  33. Laura Ingalls Wilder debuted at sixty-five???? You, honey, just made my day. I poured over those books once upon a time. I remember when I was forty, my brother told me if you aren’t out there by your thirties, you don’t make it as a writer.

    To your husband, self-preservation and work that is never done: don’t know this for a scientific fact, but men seem better at compartmentalizing. Also at finding ways to get paid for what they do; otherwise they don’t do them. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Either way, my husband seems to hate being told what to do as much as I do, so we are good at getting our wishes expressed without actually expressing them. Took thirty years.

    On extrovert and introvert — pah. You have a rich inner life. It’s marvelous that you recognize it, cherish it, feed it.

    • Ha ha ha. Wilder did it at 65 at least as a novelist. Don’t know if she got out any short stories or the like before that. My guy sure does compartmentalize. He gets overwhelmed when I present more than 3 (ok, 2) requests at once. “so we are good at getting our wishes expressed without actually expressing them.” Wow. I don’t think I have the patience for such graceful subliminal or understated communication, lol.

  34. My computer recently crashed. I was bereft. So used to sitting and writing I’ve totally forgotten I can do it long hand too 🙂

  35. Oh how I know what you mean about being a recluse at heart! I can be and do enjoy being quite social when I force myself although I suspect my prime motive is studying people. I’m just fascinated by what makes them tick inside and am forever invention stories in my head about those I watch. If I could just find the time to lock myself up and write about it, that would be heaven. A large cash drop so I could quite my job would be nice too…;)

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