Hearing Voices

I remember the first time someone told me I was a good writer. It was a woman. She said, “Hey, you’re a good writer.” That was all. Five words.

Nobody had ever said this to me before. It’s kind of funny how one sentence can change a guy. Which is why I am writing to you. You know who you are.

No, I don’t know you, and no, you don’t know me, but you’re reading this. So in a way that means that these words are happening inside your head. That’s how reading works.

It’s kind of like I’m wandering around inside your brain, talking to you. And let me tell you, it’s pretty spacious up here in your head. Have you ever been up here? You should see this place. There is a lot of junk up here you need to get rid of.

Over there by that patch of brain matter is an old memory of your ex-boyfriend. Why are you still keeping that memory around? And over here, behind your cerebrum is the one from when you peed your pants in the backseat of your aunt’s Oldsmobile. You really ought to throw that one away.

Since I’m in your head right now, this means I can say things and they might—if I’m lucky—stick with you. This is the magic of reading. I could write anything at all, and you’d sort of read it using your own internal voice.

For example: I could say, “Do not envision your grandmother sitting on the toilet.” Whereupon your brain would not only read that sentence in your own personal voice, you would immediately picture Mamaw reading her morning paper.

But I’m not going to say anything like that. Because that would be totally uncalled for. Still, I do have something important I want to say. So here it is:

You’re pretty great.

A lot of people don’t believe this about themselves. Usually, I can pick these people out of a lineup because I am one of them.

Maybe you are too. Maybe this is because other people have gotten inside your brain and made a mess. In fact, I know they have. In fact, I can see their footprints up here. They didn’t wipe their shoes.

Your teacher called you a bad student. The P.E. instructor said you couldn’t play basketball if you’d been born with a rubber ball shoved up your cerebrum. Your ex-boyfriend said you weren’t worth his time. Your local Amway representative said you were foolish for passing up on a ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY!

You get the idea. The words worked themselves into your ear canals and you were finished. I have lots of these little soundbites in my head, too.

Once, a Billy Wilder called me fat. I’ll never forget it. He was not wrong, of course, I was chubby. We were in the boy’s locker room, with the guys, I was changing my clothes. He looked at me and said, “Man, you’re fat.”

I still hear Billy’s voice in my head. Just like I hear the voice of the young woman who told me that I was a terrible first baseman. I was playing with a community team. I was in my twenties. It was an informal game. I muffed a crucial play because I’m not very flexible. First basemen are traditionally flexible, sometimes even doing the splits while placing their foot behind their head to make a catch.

That’s not me. I haven’t touched my toes since, well… I’ve never touched my toes. In fact, I just tried to touch them before I wrote that last sentence and I got as far as my belly button.

So after that baseball game, this young woman said, “You’re a horrible athlete. Maybe you shouldn’t play baseball anymore.” Just like that. So matter-of-factly.

And do you know what? I didn’t play again. Even though I love baseball, I never touched an infield again, except when I helped coach my cousin’s Little League team. Which turned out to be a unique disaster.

But I have good news. The great thing about this brain business is that you don’t just remember those who call you fat, stupid, or unflexible. You also remember OTHER things, too. Things of great importance. Like the lyrics to the State Farm jingle. And the way your dentist’s breath smelled in 1978. And ridiculous jokes about nuns.

And every nice thing anyone ever said to you.

At least this is how it works for me. I remember the first time someone told me I was handsome, someone other than my mother. This woman said it and she meant it. At the time, she was eighty-six years old and half blind, but the point is it was special.

I remember when my boss told me I was a quick learner when it came to running a commercial lawnmower. I remember when the director for my school musical said I had “impeccable timing.” I don’t even know what this means. But he said it.

And the first time someone told me I was a good writer. Yeah, I remember that one. It stunned me. Me? A good writer? The highschool dropout? The kid with the overbite? The chubby boy with all the flexibility of a municipal fire hydrant? A few words can mean a lot.

I can still remember that voice. That sweet voice. I can still bring it back any time I want. And I still remember the woman who said it. It’s hard to forget her. She’s been sharing my life for the past seventeen years.

Don’t forget how great you are today.

43 comments

  1. Joy - April 7, 2020 7:10 am

    You ARE a good writer. Thank you for your every post. I read them all and share many. From Joy in Massachusetts, but from Anniston, Alabama. You invoke many memories of “home.” Than you, dear Sean.

    Reply
  2. Sharon Lawson - April 7, 2020 8:19 am

    Wow!! Thank you!!

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  3. Heidi Gilbert - April 7, 2020 10:51 am

    💝

    Reply
  4. Beth Ann Chiles - April 7, 2020 11:12 am

    Great way to start my day. I wondered why my head hurt a little bit this morning and it was because you were stomping around in my brain. Please make sure you close the screen door on your way out. 🙂

    Reply
  5. fromthetexascoast - April 7, 2020 11:15 am

    Good one, lot of truth there.

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  6. Jill Jeffrey - April 7, 2020 11:25 am

    So glad you took her praise to heart ( or Brain)!

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  7. Mary Martin - April 7, 2020 11:32 am

    Sean, thank you again and again for your heartwarming perspective on life. This brought back memories of my 7th grade English teacher who praised my essay”My Life As A Pink Princess Telephone.”. She even read it aloud to the class. She loved to hear me say “nine” for some reason I never understood, she just liked my accent. Her name was Miss Rice and she instilled in me a love of reading and our English language. I never became a writer or did anything special with my talents except I could always spell better than nearly everyone I worked with. They would always say to go ask Mary how to spell something in those pre-spellcheck days. Anyway, please don’t ever stop your writing. It gives so many of us such a lift every day. God bless you and your wife and your dogs during this difficult time and know that you do make a difference in our lives! We will be better on the other side of this crisis!
    Mary

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  8. Hazel c. King - April 7, 2020 11:54 am

    Thanks. I needed that.

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  9. Becky - April 7, 2020 12:05 pm

    This’s is one of my favorites! You area good writer!!

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  10. Ruth Ann - April 7, 2020 12:37 pm

    And just as important as being a good writer, Sean, you have wonderful insight. Please keep it up.

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  11. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - April 7, 2020 12:39 pm

    You’re a pretty good writer. Maybe a little inflexible, but pretty good.

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  12. John Talbert - April 7, 2020 12:57 pm

    Someone shard your blog with me the other week. I read it everyday now. How uplifting and feel good it is. Thanks, you are a good writer!!

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  13. Bill - April 7, 2020 1:05 pm

    My goodness, the stay home order did not include orders not to respond to Sean’s column. Only two? Well, I thought this was one of your best Sean. Of course you are a good writer, but having Jamie say it would make anyone take notice. Glad you did!

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  14. Susan - April 7, 2020 1:08 pm

    You are a good writer. This column hit home.

    Reply
  15. Ala Red Clay Girl - April 7, 2020 1:25 pm

    I feel like I’ve just spent a few minutes with my grandmother – such good advice! It’s easy to believe all the negative stuff that’s in your head, but with some effort you can pull forward the positive stuff. Believing in these positive thoughts can change your life for the better.

    Reply
  16. Jeanie Evans Walker - April 7, 2020 1:26 pm

    I get up in the morning excited because I know they’ll be another story from you. Thank you.
    This one really touched me – inside my brain. Sure wish I could get rid of those negative voices. I need a brain wash.
    It kinda sounds like this might be your anniversary. If so, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY.
    And keep writing – you ARE a GREAT writer.

    Reply
  17. Sharon - April 7, 2020 1:31 pm

    Thank you, I needed that! You are an answer to prayer, literally.

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  18. Keloth Anne - April 7, 2020 1:53 pm

    You ARE a great writer!! This was much needed this morning🥰🥰

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  19. Gwen@ Monroe - April 7, 2020 1:54 pm

    Well Sean, I let you wander around in my brain every morning and it benefits me because you say such good things to start my morning off right. I’m glad I found you.

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  20. Cynthia Woods - April 7, 2020 2:00 pm

    You do have “great timing,” Sean. Thank you!

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  21. Tammy S. - April 7, 2020 2:14 pm

    Words can build up, or tear down. Thanks for adding a couple bricks 🧱 to my mental home today. You are something special. Please tell your
    bricklayer my husband, Dickie, and I said hello from NC. And are sending you both a virtual hug! 🤗🤗

    Reply
  22. Anne Arthur - April 7, 2020 2:32 pm

    How true, all of it. Thanks for walking through my brain and reminding me what needs to get thrown out… and put the voices on display that made a shining impact. Well written, Sean. Well written!

    Reply
  23. Gordon - April 7, 2020 3:29 pm

    You are great, Sean! You truly are!!! And you are so like my dear deceased friend Kathryn Tucker Windham who frequently made such kind, positive statements to individuals to whom she would engage. She would be SO pleased with your writings.

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  24. Kat Leon - April 7, 2020 3:59 pm

    This was so on….how we let all that negativity or hurts ramble around and take up space. This was a great eyeopener. Thanks

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  25. Carole Cornell - April 7, 2020 4:06 pm

    I love this piece!

    Reply
  26. Linda Moon - April 7, 2020 4:47 pm

    Reading words from you, Good Writer, is always free to wander inside my brain. I hope you and the woman of seventeen years live long enough together so that only positive voices are allowed in your heads. That’s one of the absolute JOYS of growing older….you clean out JUNK up there regularly. And, you get to watch movies whenever you feel like it. I just watched one of THE Billy Wilder’s best movies a couple of days ago: “THE APARTMENT”, starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley McClain. But I digress. You two, Jamie and Sean, are great and so is that person who knows who they are….while reading your post!

    Reply
  27. Jackie - April 7, 2020 4:54 pm

    Not only can I picture my grandma on the toilet, I can remember it. She had a ‘two holer’ and I guess she was tired of changing my diapers. She taught me to use the small one while she used the big one. She had already raised fifteen others before me so she had learned a lot.

    When the ‘Billy Wilders’ in my life told me I was fat, I responded with, “Yeah, and you’re ugly. I can lose weight but you can’t fix your problem.”

    Reply
  28. Martha Black - April 7, 2020 6:22 pm

    I remember your words a good bit as I go through each day. Never doubt that young lady spoke the truth to you. Your words are always good, comforting & uplifting. As Homer Pyle would say, “Thankee, Thankee, Thankee!” Everytime another post ftom you pops up, its “Good News, Good News, Good News!”

    Reply
  29. Carolyn Cantrell - April 7, 2020 6:23 pm

    Beth Ann, YOU are a good writer!

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  30. Carolyn Cantrell - April 7, 2020 6:25 pm

    Beth Ann, that is such a clever comment. YOU are a good writer!

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  31. Sandra McGullion - April 7, 2020 6:32 pm

    She was right! You are a good writer!

    Reply
  32. Peggy Boggus - April 7, 2020 6:47 pm

    Love your writing….read your columns everyday…..Born and raising in Georgia. But take it easy on the Amway folks….we built that business for 40 years and helped a lot of other people who needed it to do that also. Raised our kids there and now have 10 grandkids. Our kids say they wish their kids could have experienced what they did as we built that business and included them. I know you will not understand this but felt compelled to write it as I felt your depiction misrepresented the people we spent those years working with. We are now 73 and 75 and these were salt of the earth people….even some Yankees…ha ha! Blessings to you and keep writing….sometimes you make me laugh….sometimes you make me cry. I lost my father the same way you lost yours. Blessings…..

    Reply
  33. Steve Winfield (Lifer) - April 8, 2020 12:13 am

    Maw maw would have expelled the proverbial golden brick. Just the way she was.
    Good writer? Check. All around nice guy? Check. Dog lover extraordinaire? Double Check. Connoisseur of Southern BBQ? Check. Sweetheart to all women? Check.
    Pretty good list of credentials right there. And I’m very certain that there’s many more I didn’t list.
    Oh yeah . . . Loved by thousands!
    Including me.

    Reply
  34. Sandra - April 8, 2020 12:54 am

    A good reminder of how important our words are!

    Reply
  35. Judy Tayloe - April 8, 2020 1:57 am

    Sean, you ARE a good writer, and Jamie was right when she spoke the truth to you. Thanks for getting inside my brain today. Your words caused me to remember the pediatrician who cared for our 3 boys. At one of our office visits, he edified me by saying “you’re doing a good job raising these boys”. His words lifted my spirits so much and remained with me all through those tough years of child rearing. Words matter. Don’t forget how great YOU are today!

    Reply
  36. Carolyn Cantrell - April 8, 2020 3:35 am

    Kellee Michael

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  37. Karen Greatrix - April 8, 2020 5:13 am

    Thank you, just what I needed on a stressful day.

    Reply
  38. Ann Marie Bouchet - April 8, 2020 6:14 am

    Jamie is right. You are a great writer. And we get to read it everyday. Thank you, Sean

    Reply
  39. Elizabeth - April 8, 2020 11:13 am

    🙂

    Reply
  40. Mary Craig - May 19, 2020 9:55 pm

    I DO know a ridiculous joke about nuns. Funny you should mention. And you are not a good writer; you’re a great one. I know that because I read a lot and I know great writing when I see it. God bless you for making me laugh, cry, tear up, re-read because you’re so good, and for everything else that I do when I read your musings. Thanks.

    Reply
  41. Cindy Neill - May 19, 2020 10:07 pm

    Heavens to Betsy, Mr. Sean. Now I have the words…..”And like a good neighbor, State Farm is here” embedded in my susceptible feeble brain. Arghhhhh….but you are a good writer.

    Reply
  42. Sam Seetin - May 19, 2020 11:45 pm

    It is no wonder why you have talent Sean. Your grandma’s maiden name was Eliot related to TS Eliot, who won the Nobel Prize for literature. Your Great Grandma a talented singer and piano player attended the Julliard school of music. Your grandpa played may instruments and sang. It’s in your nature to write well and joyfully so others see hope and extract the goodness from your inspirational stories.
    Uncle Sam

    Reply
  43. Mary Hicks - May 20, 2020 9:38 pm

    You, Sean are a great writer! I love everything you share. Thanks for all the wonderful memories that you bring back to mind! God bless you and Jamie.

    Reply

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