I’m rusty. I haven’t written anything in a while. I don’t want this to sound like I’m trying too hard, because I don’t want to try too hard to get across what I want to say. Truthfully, there’s not a ton of depth to the revelation I had the other day. Well, what I mean to say is I’ve only just scratched the surface of this one. It was more of a nugget of truth that I needed a new perspective on - and I got it. Tonight, I got it.

It’s the fourth of July. Well, not really. It’s the first of July. But I went with my family to see the fireworks tonight because in the City of Ithaca, it costs more money to do your fireworks on the fourth.

My mom, dad, sister, her husband, their baby, little ole me, and Ed. Ed, of course, only visible by me. He sat with me at dinner and told me I was too fat to eat that. But I did anyway. He stood in line with me for ice cream at the park, and tried to talk me out of getting it for about 25 minutes. He told me I was going to have to run that off later, and he warned me that he’d torment me the whole time I was eating it if I decided to cave. Ice cream is weakness. Ice cream is failure, Ed says.

When I ordered, he tried to convince me to go with the low fat flavor, or at least the sugar free one. Less calories. Less fat. Less sugar. Less to burn off later. Less. Just, less. But I didn’t want low fat vanilla, or the sugar free vanilla. I wanted what I wanted, despite what Ed had to say about it. So I got what I wanted. What I got doesn’t really matter. Suffice it to say that I ordered what I wanted and let’s let that be enough.

As we were walking back through the crowded park to our lawn blanket, Ed followed closely behind. Saying hurtful things to me because of the ice cream I was eating. Nice, right? Just the kind of person you’d like to have around you all the time.

I have a theory, though. I think we all carry some form of this person around with us from time to time. Tell me you don’t know the voice that makes you feel utterly insecure, counts you out of the good things in life because you simply don’t deserve them, and is somehow so believable that you’ll believe what he says. He could drive you to do anything. He just happens to try and drive me to be small. To be less than I am. And he talks and talks and talks until he gets to me. Sometimes I find myself in the fetal position on the couch with my hands cupped over my ears just trying to escape the unending reel of negativity that flows from the ever-present, ever-annoying voice of Ed.

I looked around the park at the children while the fireworks were happening. I’m a wallflower like that. I’ll watch the people watch the fireworks before I actually watch them myself. I looked around at the children, specifically. Some weren’t paying attention at all, some were sound asleep, and others sat in the fetal position, curled up alone with their hands cupped over their ears and their eyes shut tightly out of fear of the next big boom that would inevitably follow the last one.

Paul is my four-month-old nephew. He startles easily. So, in preparation for the loud booms of the fireworks, I suggested we bring some big noise-canceling headphones for him to wear.

After looking around at the rest of the park children, I looked at Paul. He was happily nestled in his mother’s arms with his noise canceling headphones placed purposefully on his too-big-for-his-body head, and he was staring, utterly amazed, at the lights in the sky. He wasn’t missing the lights because he wasn’t afraid of the noise. He was deaf to the noise, and it freed him up to devote all of his focus on the lights.

It was then that I realized… I miss the lights because I’m afraid of the noise. I’m not deaf to the noise - and I spend a lot of my time covering my ears and shutting my eyes, unable to see the lights.

The voice that follows me around, torments me at mealtimes, makes me feel less than, and swallows me up in darkness - he doesn’t just make me deaf to other voices - he makes me blind to the lights.

I’m having a hard time articulating that revelation any other way. I hope it’s a clear one. It was so crystal to me.

We miss the lights. The good things, the things that make us smile uncontrollably, the things that make us stand in amazement. We miss those things when we listen only to the chatterbox of lies that we tuck into bed with us every night and put in our backpacks before we leave the house each morning. We miss the lights. We miss the Light.

Let’s walk around with noise canceling headphones. Always. Let’s literally cancel the voices inside our heads that aren’t for us. Maybe if we stop listening to the reel titled “not enough,“ we’ll be freed up to open our eyes, and look at the good things. Look at the lights. You deserve the good things. You deserve to see the lights.

I promise they’re not so scary when you no longer hear the voice that tells you you don’t deserve the lights.

You deserve to see the lights.

Written and loved on by Michaela Birek