“Silly words cause trills
because they’re ludicrous and funny.
Happy words paint endless smiles
and swallow troubles whole.
Thoughtful words are thus
because they make the day feel sunny.
But hurtful words are such
that pierce the heart and weigh the soul.”
― Richelle E. Goodrich, Smile Anyway
There are times when I am haunted by the memory of words–simple, sarcastic, flippant combinations of words said without thought. Some were comments made when I was just a kid–others when I was older–when I thought I was an “adult.”
Some comments were in jest–a nonchalant observation that became a label I absorbed for the rest of my life because it comes from a person of power. One of those tapes replays like this:
Running to the door to greet my Dad as he comes home from work.
Me: “Dad, how was your work today? Do you want to see the picture I colored?”
Dad: “Oh. (Seconds pass as he turns the page this way and that way.) It looks like you color just like me–I never could stay in the lines.”
From that day on, I no longer liked to color. I tried to do adult coloring books–from the moment I picked up the colored pencil I feared not staying in the lines. My Dad’s approval was every thing to me. With one short comment, I believed I was not good enough. That feeling of unworthiness slowly oozed into other areas of my life.
Other comments were made by relatives trying to help me through the difficulties I was going through after my Mom died. I’d pulled back into myself. I did not understand how this could have really happened–moms do not die. Even though I was only ten years old–I was reminded I was the oldest. I needed to be strong for my sisters. I needed to set a good example. No one asked me how I was doing. My great-aunt who came to take care of Mom stayed to take care of us after Mom died. She told me she was worried about me. After awhile, I didn’t want to come home from school. The minute I walked through the door she’d ask me about my day. I’d shrug my shoulders and tell her it was okay. What else could I say? I didn’t think I could tell her what was really going on–I had to be strong. Eventually she tired of asking and I withdrew more. She began to just watch me–which felt like she didn’t trust me. We were both frustrated. An example of our conversations:
Aunt: ” I heard you talking with Ellen. Is everything okay?”
Me: “Ya. I’m okay.”
Aunt: “I heard you laughing. You sure you’re okay because it didn’t sound like your laugh. Were you forcing yourself to laugh?”
I took a minute to answer because she’d caught me off guard. Had she been eavesdropping on my conversations? Wow. She’d listened to me laugh? Had I forced my laugh? Did I remember how to laugh?
Me: “I think I need to take my hay fever medicine because my nose is all stuffy. That’s probably why my laugh sounds funny.”
Even today, unless I am surprised by something incredibly funny, I listen to myself and wonder if whether my laugh is genuine or forced.
One of the most significant things said to me happened during the course of a very traumatic breakup. It had been a long and difficult time in our lives. We were young. We were both tired–tired of a lot of things. We’d both been hurt. There wasn’t much good about any of what was left. Our exchange of words remains a part of the baggage I carry today.
Me: “I am sorry. This is never going to work. It is time we both go our own way.”
We are standing in the kitchen I loved in the house on the corner that was so special to me. I was losing it–literally and figuratively. Eventually he walked closer to me, leaned in, and said:
Him: “Well, I guess you’re right. It’s over. I gotta tell you, though, just so you know. I never thought you were good enough for me anyway.”
Words–like arrows to the heart.
Words can’t be weighed on a scale but they burden the soul. Words can be forgiven but forgetting them is difficult if not impossible. The stain left behind from that wound bleeds through during times of stress and self-doubt.
Words are wicked weapons. Use them carefully.
“Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.” This is a lie. What we say matters. The unkind things we communicate can soil the best of relationships; even with the deepest of regrets…what lingers is a stain of hurt that may fade but will never truly go away. The wounding words we say are like feathers released in a harsh wind, once said; we will never get them back. ~Jason Versey”
― Jason Versey, A Walk with Prudence
God bless you.
Thank you, Thinking Art, for allowing me to share the image from your post on your Facebook page.