“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!”
I cannot count the many times I recited that mantra, to only walk away feeling more wounded than before. You would think that turning 52 in a few weeks, I would have gotten over many of those nasty and poisonous tongue darts; but I have not. I find myself haunted by the evil spirit daggers once hurled upon me decades ago. I still get nauseous from the meanness disguised as joking. Who were the throwers of such poison? Family. I cannot recall a stranger ever teasing me or calling me horrific names. Only those whose blood runs through my veins did such nasty things. We have all heard old axiom, ‘blood is thicker than water’; but so is mud.
I keep myself busy with positive activities. I love to paint, write, practice guitar, and workout. I love being outside and enjoying the beauty of nature. I try hard not to focus on the pains of yester year. Unresolved jolts of evil I have tried to avoid violated my peace. Now, I have to begin the healing by speaking out about the damage words can do to the human spirit.
I’m sure there are more than four words can hurt forever; but I want to keep this article as succinct as possible. The following are my top four that have branded my soul.
“You’ll never be anything!”
As a child, I was told how dumb I was for the craziest things. I was told I was dumb because I could not cook a meal. I was stupid because I didn’t clean the house good enough. I wouldn’t amount to anything because I couldn’t change a diaper. I wasn’t yet eight years old. Not only was I called dumb, I was beaten ruthlessly for not cooking a decent meal for my younger siblings. No matter how hard I tried, I just could get those damn spaghetti noodles fully cooked or the oatmeal less clumpy. I knew my siblings were hungry, and they ate whatever I cooked. However, for the adult in the house, it wasn’t good enough. I was just too dumb to do it right.
“Ugly, gap-toothed mouth!”
I was a very skinny kid, but I had gorgeous legs. My Aunt Lynelle used to always tell me when I was a baby, the first thing she noticed were my beautify legs. I held on to her compliment like a last breath because she would be one of two people who would complement me during my entire childhood and teenage years. The other person is my late cousin Mike.
My Aunt D constantly called me ‘Bird Woman’ because I was very skinny and had thin hair. She even taught her 15 children to call me Bird Woman. I hated going to her house because the teasing never stopped. Hearing the choir of voices chanting, “Bird Woman, Bird Woman, Bird Woman “drove me nuts. However, there wasn’t anything I could do about it because they were family and I had nowhere else to retreat to.
I was called ‘bald head’ and ‘nappy head’ by several relatives. I remember my favorite uncle telling me my lips were too big and my gap between my teeth too wide. He told me that people with big gaps between their teeth were born evil liars. If my favorite uncle didn’t like how I looked and questioned my character, I must have been ugly, right? I stashed my agony and pain deeply inside. Who was I going to tell, my mother?
“I don’t love you, but I care for you . . .”
“If I could have had an abortion back then, I would have.”
I often thought I was unlovable, particularly because my mother never told me she loved me nor did she show affection. Physical attention from her was from her from a punch, slap, or kick. The amazing part is she did not begin physically abusing me until I was about eight years old. Previously, she was kind and sweet. She took care of my younger brother and me. But, something snapped when my sister was born. I don’t know if it was postpartum depression or stress. I do know my mother became very anger and bitter, taking out her frustrations on my siblings and me. When I was 15, I asked her if she loved us. Her response was, “. . . I don’t love you, but I care for you . . .” According to the woman who birthed us, we are unlovable.
No matter how hard I tried to please my mother, she never acknowledged my worth. She was gorgeous, talented, and smart. However, somewhere along her life span someone called her dumb, unlovable, ugly, and worthless. In turn, she passed that garbage down to me through her actions and words. It didn’t matter if I was a scholar athlete, she often informed me how worthless I was and would be for eternity. For years, I fought her words with all my might; and for many years, I lost the fight. It’s a type of war no one survives without serious internal damage.
THE END GAME
It took many years for me to realize the people who hurled nastiness at me themselves were damaged souls. They needed someone to cast their hurts and pains upon. I was the unloved child of an unloved mother. I didn’t want to be like my mother. I wanted my son and daughters to know they were beautiful, smart, and talented. I wanted them to know they had value and no one had a right to tell them different. I told my children not listen to anyone’s opinion about them. The only opinion that mattered was mine, and I dared my children to believe they were less than wonderful. I am not very affectionate due to childhood sexual abuse. I’m confident my abusers saw me like low, hanging fruit due to the lack of care and love of my parents. However, I’ll save the explanation for another time.
I stay away from the individuals who caused me the most pain, including my parents. I have forgiven everyone who has hurt me; but I can never forget. Memories are like that, you know. Before you chime in with, ‘If you forgive you must forget’, I would like to ask you if you have forgotten the hurts you’ve received once you have forgiven? Unless you have Alzheimer’s, that will never happen. You can deny your memories; but they somehow find their way back.
Remembering can be a curse. It can also be a blessing. Remembering allowed me to want to love my children more deeply than I thought I could love anything. Remembering sometimes made me overly protective. I became a better human being by treating people with kindness and love, the way I was not treated as a child or teen, is worth those memories. Remembering has allowed me to my corner of the world as an opportunity to show love through art, music, and writing.
I wish I had lived a safe and loving childhood; but that wasn’t my life. I will continue to heal by sharing my stories. Someone out there needs a lift out of his or her darkness. All it takes is a little light to kill that dark abyss; and I hope I am that small light.