Diapers and Dragons

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Words to Bind or Make Us Free

Is that a double chin I see?

You really aren't very good at that, are you?

Boy, breastfeeding really does a number on your breasts, doesn't it?

I think you should stick to non-fiction writing. Your fiction just isn't very good.

Sometimes you're just so stupid. You may be smart, but you're so lacking in common sense.

It's not fair to you for us to keep dating. I just don't see you as a top priority.

I just can't love you any more. I need to find something better.
Words. That's all they are. Vowels and consonants formed on the tongue, breath pushed through vibrating vocal cords, a few simple sounds projected into the waiting ear.

Sticks and stones, they say, will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

That's a lie. Sticks and stones may bruise and break the physical body, but words can tear gaping wounds in the soul. Usually they heal, but scars remain indelibly etched, ready to break open and bleed anew. Sometimes the wounds keep bleeding, draining the soul and withering the spirit and destroying the mind until the body has no choice but to follow.

They also say, The pen is mightier than the sword.

And they're referring to words. Words that have the strength to destroy, to heal, to divide, to unite. Words that cause action. Words of power.

I do not remember where I get every bruise on my body, every cut or scrape or physical scar. I do remember words that have been spoken to me as far back as my memory will take me. The wounding words stay with me the most, the words that tore me up and broke me down and drained away my confidence, my self-respect, my sense of worth. Over the years my reaction changed. I grew accustomed to hearing them, and I no longer had a sense of affront or negation. They must be right. They said these things so often, in so many forms.

By the time the boy I dated my junior year told me that he was breaking up with me because he realized a pick-up game of soccer was more important than spending time with me, I was so accustomed to the concept of insignificance that I accepted his statement without prejudice. Well, of course he felt that way. I was, pitifully enough, grateful that at least he was being "kind" enough to be honest with me.

When another significant person continually commented on my lack of common sense and my physical flaws, always in a subtle I'm just concerned about you way, I began to believe that I simply wasn't very bright in non-academic areas; I also began to consider whether I really should look into some basic plastic surgery. Nothing major, of course. A breast lift. Perhaps a subtle face lift. Maybe some minor tummy work. Exercise and diet only go so far, you know.

When, in high school, an English teacher told me that I really should just stick to writing essays and non-fiction because I wasn't very good at creative writing, I stopped writing stories. She must be right. I knew my academic papers were almost always excellent, but I lost all confidence in my ability to craft fiction. To this day, even my poetry is founded in reality.

I'm learning to say No to the lies, and Yes to the truth.

Yes. I am worth taking time to know. I am worth more than a pick-up game of soccer. I am significant. I am lovable.

Yes. I do have common sense. I mix intuition and reason to make leaps of logic. I can take care of myself, of  my children. I am intelligent in multiple areas of life. I do not need another person to guide me through reality.

Yes. I am beautiful. Lack of physical flaws means lack of living, an absence of reality. My body reflects my experiences. I do not need to grace the cover of a magazine to know that I am lovely. It's all in the eyes that see me.

And now--Yes. I can write fiction.

When the idea for a story popped into my head on Saturday and begged me to write it, at first I recoiled.

I can't write fiction, I told the Muse.

Who says? Some teacher who didn't know how to build up instead of tear down? Who didn't know how to offer constructive criticism instead of dismissing all possibilities? It isn't that you can't. It's that you DON'T, she replied.

I should have known better than to argue with a personified supernatural concept.

So I wrote. And when I was stuck, not knowing what should happen next, I took a chance and read what I had to Joe. And he listened, and he asked simply, What happens next?

So I wrote some more. And when I was done, I typed my story and I took another chance and I emailed it to some coworkers and family and friends.

Be gentle, I begged. Please be honest, but be gentle.

And they were. And they said, What happens next?

Yes. I can write. I will keep writing. Because this story, it keeps asking me to write some more. It has not ended.

Words are powerful. They can hurt, and they can heal. And because of that power, I must use my own words wisely. I hope I never am the teacher, the mother, or the friend who tears down instead of building up, who wields words to wound rather than restore.

You are so beautiful.

I really respect what you do.

You seem to be struggling a bit. How about trying this?

You have such enormous potential.

I love you.
“If the word has the potency to revive and make us free,
it has also the power to blind, imprison, and destroy."
--Ralph Ellison

7 bits of love:

Kathleen said...

So well said, TeacherMommy! I have struggled with some of the same feelings of inadequacy throughout different points of my life, and I found a fabulous book that really helped me: "Captivating" by Stasi Eldredge. Of course she does focus much on a girl's relationship with her father (which was/is almost lacking in my life), and I think you have a better relationship with your dad, but still, you might find it encouraging. Your confidence now, though, is inspiring! :)

The Kampers said...

So now I want to know, "what happens next?" You have me intrigued! Good job with the words:)

Draft Queen said...

I had an entire relationship based on words so I can't agree more on their importance.

(And your writing is great.)

Stone Fox said...

i cannot believe that you ever doubted your own ability to write. you are a fantastic storyteller!

A Teacher said...

At the ongoing risk of abusing the English language I'm forced to ask about your story: "I can has Beta to reading now?" Sorry.... it's been a long day.

Todd said...

Hell yes, you can write! There's a reason I saved yours for last when I started going through my RSS feeds tonight.

I haven't been lucky enough to read your story yet, but I look forward to the opportunity. For now, I'll ask a different question: "What happens first?"

GingerB said...

I love you.

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