The Asshole Who Lives Upstairs

Don’t go up there.

There is a voice inside my head. It’s inside everyone’s head, near as I can tell, though admittedly my statistical sample is small.*

This ubiquitous little tribe of head-voices are not the fun kind. They are the kind that only come out when you’re halfway through a project, or nearly done with a run, or trying to ask for a raise. It’s the voice that tells you that you can’t.

I call this voice the Asshole Upstairs. Because that’s what he** is: an unpleasant upstairs neighbour who only makes himself known when he’s ruining something.

Like: You can’t do that, what will people think?

Or: Skipped a workout today? Never mind that sprain, you’re weak.

And the always popular: No one will ever want to read what you just wrote.

See? Asshole.

Writers hear this little voice a lot. Maybe because we’re used to listening to the shit that happens inside our heads more closely than the average person. Our imaginations are strong. Unfortunately, not every part of your imagination is positive. Some parts of it are downright awful: the paranoia, the anxiety, the inferiority complex. All the parts that go into the voice of the Asshole Upstairs.

Having this guy around is like having a really shitty roommate that you can’t evict. You can try ignoring him and hope the lack of attention starves him to death. However, he never really goes away.

But, like many unpleasant things, it doesn’t mean the little shit can’t be useful.

I always work best if I have an enemy to aim at. If the enemy is inside my own head…well, that just means I’m keeping him nice and close, doesn’t it?

Never underestimate the power of spite. You might hear more noble rallying calls***, but I personally get a great deal of satisfaction out of making a delightfully obscene gesture at those who try to tear me down. Even if they’re a part of me. Especially if they’re a part of me.

It’s probably the vestiges of Angry Punk Teenager Me, living somewhere near the Asshole Upstairs, stomping on his ceiling with her big boots and scrawling graffiti on his door. When he gets started, she turns up some NOFX or Dayglo Abortions and drowns him out.

To everyone out there with their own version of the Asshole Upstairs camped out in their brain: you’re not alone. And neither is he. You just need to find another voice up there to drown the little fucker out while you raise a pair of middle fingers and get on with your day.

Because the best revenge is living well. Followed shortly by telling naysayers to fuck the fuck right off.

*In other words, I just asked a bunch of people I know about it. SCIENCE.

**Yes, I always think of it as a he. Don’t know why. Choose your own gender or let it be a mystery.

***I mean, not here, but somewhere.


When you do as much research as I do, and especially when that research tends to be of the internet variety, some things change for the worse inside your head. Example? Glad to provide one: every random pain/ache/illness becomes a life-threatening condition. It goes like this:

 Ow. I have a headache.
Headache? Fuck, that’s not good. Is it one of those stabbing ice-pick ones?
No, more of a dull throb.
OH GOD. That’s no headache, that’s the feeling of a brain parasite chewing its way through our frontal lobe!
Does this hand look shaky to you?
Only because you had nine cups of coffee again.
Irrelevant! Or…maybe the brain parasite wants coffee. I think I read that somewhere. Maybe it needs the energy to gnaw our brain.
Can’t be getting much sustenance from it. Look, if  we had a brain parasite, we wouldn’t have a headache. There’s no pain receptors in brain tissue.
Where did you hear that?
Read it somewhere.
Yeah…well…shut up. How do I know you’re not the parasite?
…The parasite is talking to you now?
Hah! You admit it!
I’m going back to editing. You feel free to join me whenever you finish twitching.
I can’t edit! I have to go research sentient brain parasites.

And so on. I’d write more, but I seem to have done something stabby to my rotator cuff and typing is not helping, Funny that. I’m going to eat Easter chocolate and read Locke and Key until I stop thinking that I have some kind of shoulder gangrene. Or until my arm drops off. Either or.