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Ducks don’t belong in a row

“I know I’m being a bit silly, but what on earth would they want to hear from me for?” Tom, my client, said. 

Two vertical lines had appeared between his eyebrows. His lips were thin and tight. His eyes narrow. My computer and its screen were perched on the hi-tech stand of 2 reams of printer paper in front of me. The halo light behind it glowed yellow as the daylight through the French doors to my right was in the fade of early evening. My hands lay flat on the office desk. The A5 notebook page between them was blank apart from the words “Tom” and “March 27” in the top left-hand corner. One popcorn kernel lay next to my half-empty mug of green tea.

“Why wouldn’t they?” I said back.

Tom gave me a list of ‘reasons’ why every single person on the planet would not want to hear from him. I heard excuses. They were ‘reasons’ to the insecure thoughts that made them spurt out. ‘Reasons’ to the self that thinks it needs protecting. Protecting from possible disappointment. Protecting from possible rejection. Protecting from the death sentence of the word ‘No’.

Darn it. I know all of those so well. Put on a priest’s robe and hear my own ‘reasons’ and excuses…

“I’ll record that video program when my face is less fat”.

“I’ll send out that e-mail when I have my words right”.

“I’ll get round to it tomorrow after a better night’s sleep”.

“I’ll start running again when my foot has healed…. and when I get earbuds that don’t fall out of my ears… and when I get better running shoes…. and when I get a band to keep my glasses on… and when the weather’s better… and… and… and… ”


And… here’s a list of things that have, at one time or another, looked relevant to me to not doing something: Not tall enough. Not old enough. Not young enough. Not talented enough. Not handsome enough. Not wealthy enough. Not experienced enough. Not credible enough. Not tough enough. Not empathetic enough. Not fun enough. Not serious enough. Not stable enough. Not strong enough.

There are more.

A lot more.

Here are some other niggles about me that have seemed noteworthy: Having a nail missing on one of my toes. Having one eye a little bit bigger than the other. Having short, fat, hairy legs. Having pores on my nose.

Being 5 foot 7 on a good day. Being too tight in my joints to restart yoga. Being safer sitting in the garden than walking through the fields. Being fascinated by the identity of Jack the Ripper. Being fascinated by who killed JFK. Being worried that these 2 things make me weird – or worse. Being annoying in anything longer than in short doses. Being fond of rats, spiders and even pineapple on a pizza. Being too much. Being not enough: enough of all of those things I said a minute ago.


Hearing cookies and ice cream talk from the cupboard and freezer for me to come to get them. Hearing “Who the hell do you think you are?” when I think of doing something out of my comfort zone. Hearing “What if your breath smells?”. Hearing “What if you eff-up?”. Hearing all of these things at night and I don’t sleep.


All the women I never asked to go out for a drink. All the things I never said in business meetings. All the business contacts I don’t approach. All the bills I delay in opening. All the business proposals I spent days delaying to write. All the programs I’ve never got around to finishing.






Listening to that voice. The voice that thinks it knows best for me. The scared little voice that sounds big.

The voice that thinks I’ll be ready when I have all my ducks in a row.

The voice that thinks ducks in a row protect me.

Then I remember.

I would go on to do nothing ever if my ducks needed to be in a row.

They never are.

It might feel better to think I’ve got it all together, that all my ducks are in a row.

And nobody cares.

No one cares about the foibles I’ve listed. No one hears my various neuroses. No one, but me.


And I don’t have to listen.


Nothing is at risk, apart from feeling bad for a while. Which I have always got over. And I always will. Not sometimes. All the time.


Hey, loud little voice: thanks, but no thanks. I know you think you know best. I know you want me to save me from myself.


I’m fine just as I am. Sometimes I forget that. Sometimes I don’t. Either way, I’m fine.

Scratch that. Here’s something bigger:

It’s because of all of these things that I’m qualified to do what I do.


My ducks all over the place.


Tom heard me say some of these things I’ve just confessed. And I asked him what his own insecure voice wanted. And what that insecure voice meant.

He sat back. Paused. For maybe 2 minutes.

And knew.

His face softened. His jaw relaxed.

His voice meant nothing. Regardless of how convincing it might sound.


With love and gratitude, 



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