My conscience is persistent, if not strong. It's a constant voice in my head that criticizes everything I do.
I'm sure you have the same voice in your head -- you know, the one that's always saying, "Wow, did you really just say that? What did that guy ever do to you?" Or, more frequently, "What did you just eat? You weren't even hungry!"
To be honest, I hardly ever listen to it. At my age, I rarely need it, since I've reduced the circumstances of my life to the point of utter triviality. Almost nothing I engage in is important and/or complex enough to require a moral compass for guidance. Issues of state never hang in the balance of my choices.
Still, my conscience persists, unerringly diagnosing all the wrong things I do, usually before I actually do them.
"You should be writing," it will say to me. "But all you're going to do today is watch TV or re-read a book you've already memorized."
I've gotten used to it.
"Try to summon the strength to do some house-cleaning," it will say as I get out of bed. "Before you waste a whole afternoon browsing the internet."
This is usually when I give myself the finger in the bathroom mirror. The most pathetic runt in a litter still has the right to stick up for itself, does it not?
Still, I know my conscience is absolutely right about me.
Indeed, this is why I'm so uncomfortable with compliments. Someone will say something nice to me about something I may have done, and my conscience will retort with a crack along the lines of "If they only knew about..."
Luckily, I still possess enough self-control to thank the complimenter and be as gracious as possible, even as my own brain begins reciting a litany of my failings.
I may be a loser, but I still know how to mind my manners.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing my conscience does is sum up my life. Several times a day, or even several times an hour, the voice in my head will blurt out a biting snippet of judgement that sends a pang all the way through me.
"You've wasted your life," it will say. "And nobody really loves you."
The conviction with which these words roll through my brain is stunning. No matter how many times these phrases pop up, they carry a sting that I just can't get used to.
I can't help believing that it's in these moments that I'm being the most honest and the most insightful about myself.
It seems ridiculous that a man my age has such thoughts. (At some point, we should make ourselves comfortable in the beds we've made, yes?) And it's certainly ludicrous that these thoughts occur with such frequency and force.
But they do. They honestly do. So, I must surmise, they must be true.
I am ridiculous. I am frequently wrong. And I have wasted the potential of my life.
Still, I cling to the virtue of honesty. In the broadest measure of things, I may be a failure, but at least I'm forthright about it.
I'm just not sure what all this truthfulness is good for. What could anyone possibly gain by reading about it?
After all, I'm a man plagued with voices in his head.