Cousin Irene

A few weeks ago I wrote about how to make your internal critics go away by writing about them, and told you that my critic was named Ed.  But Ed is only one of them – like most of us, I have several internal critics, nearly all of them nasty.  Here is a piece I wrote years ago about Cousin Irene, the voice inside my head who is in charge of procrastination, laziness, and all the addictive distractions there are.

Cousin Irene lurches into the room, trailing leavings from her purse – a dried-up lipstick, a wallet with a broken zipper, a scarf that has gum wadded in it, and of course those old used Kleenexes. She doesn’t pick anything up, because that is my job. She plops down on the most comfortable chair in the room. Her bulk overflows the cushion and her dress rides up on her thighs; she is wearing nylon socks that only reach halfway up her meaty calves. She tells me it’s too hot to write today, and besides there is nothing interesting to write about, and even if there was something interesting, I would not be able to find it. She demands a glass of wine, even though it’s only two in the afternoon. She asks what’s in the refrigerator, and then says I should make her a plate of something, whatever is there. She turns on the TV; it is Judge Judy, which suits her fine, she likes to sneer at all those stupid people. She spills her wine on the front of her dress but doesn’t bother to wipe it off.

Writing the above was pretty effective at keeping Cousin Irene fairly quiet – any time I felt the urge to give in, I just re-read my description of her. But a few years after I wrote it, Cousin Irene starting shaking her bootie at me again. So this time I didn’t just write about her – I made her into visual art, picturing her in both a drawing and a sculpture. Then I put the sculpture in a birdcage (without the bird) and have kept her there since. I plan to keep her there forever, although sometimes she moans and cajoles and lies in attempts to make me release her. She’s also been known to burp and fart when she knows I’m listening.

Cousin Irene does not give in easily.


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