Monday, October 20, 2008

I've Seen the Devil

My mother used to say if you heard someone call your name when no one was there that it must be the devil.

I've heard the devil, and he is not calling my name. He is telling me to eat fried chicken.

He whispers for me to stop on the way home from work to eat something in the car quickly so my husband won't know.

He tells me the lunch I brought isn't very exciting. He blocks my vocal cords from ordering my turkey burger on whole wheat bread and moves my hand to add a layer of "real" mayo to the golden brown buttered bun it arrives on.

He taunts me that my exercise last week was useless since I didn't exercise over the weekend. And he convinces me that my eating out on Sat. night and munching freely from the bread basket as I waited hungrily for our guests to arrive is worthy of my completely throwing in the towel on reframing my identity.

The devil hits my snooze alarm so many times that I feel uncompelled to get up because I have lost sight of the fact that there are events and feelings and aspirations in the day that are worth being awake for.

It must be the devil who suddenly fills me with incomprehensible angst about working out with Trainer D. Only the devil could allow me to sit at my desk standing D up like a rejected date, pretending I have too much work to do to reap the benefits of a workout.

I have seen the devil. He looks a lot like Colonel Sanders and Mrs. Winners and Popeye (of Popeye's chicken) and especially like the Church people (of Church's chicken). [Ahh. . .you Yankees are spared the various forms of the devil that we have down South.]

The problem is, I don't believe in the devil.

I believe the devil and god are both within me. I believe stories of the devil are best used to explain how we become separated from the good within us--the god within us; that is, the best part of ourselves.

I've long been interested in the word genius for this very reason. The OED shows that in Latin, the word genius usually meant "The tutelary god or attendant spirit allotted to every person at his birth, to govern his fortunes and determine his character, and finally to conduct him out of the world."

I love this idea because it doesn't keep any person from being able to experience genius. It makes life about tapping into our genius. About tuning into our guiding spirit. About determining our character.

Sometimes upon hearing the devil, I give in. Sometimes I do what my friend used to call "white knuckle it" through. Both are hard and not wholly satisfying.

Sometimes, I make a good, last minute decision, which my PhD calls using my window of opportunity (a healthy decision before the window slams shut).

Sometimes, like tonight, I falter a bit, but before I hit the ground hard, I share a bit of the devil's words with my hubby. Not the words, but their tenor. "No, nothing happened at work, today." "No, I don't know what's wrong." I don't say I'm hearing the devil call my name. But I say enough to make my need for help be known. I reach out. And because he loves me, he usually reaches back. And that's what I believe is necessary oftentimes to tap my genius--by reaching out and connecting with others.

And the real genius is being content with that, and embracing the transcendence that comes with shared love--not listening to the devil murmur. . ."You should be able to get through it by yourself. . ."


  1. Your post is pure genius. Beautifully written and wonderfully inspiring. It gives me chills.

  2. I love your writing style! The devil you speak of has said the exact things to me. Most recently it whispered that I should stop and eat an order of french fries on my drive home. My thought was how do I get rid of the 'fry smell' in my car that lasts a good 12 hours? Loved the post!

  3. This is wonderful. I love that "you can handle this on your own.." Yes, those are the words of the devil his'self. Setting you up for failure. Brilliant.

    Peace - Rene


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