I hurt. Really bad. At some point, a given pain is so excruciating and unrelenting that your mind just disassociates from the body. I laid in bed and held my stomach with one hand and my heart with the other.
“You are well. You are healthy and strong. You are not going to die. Your everything is not over or lost. Be at peace. Sleep is what will heal, do not let your body take it from you.” I tell myself.
The thoughts come rushing in. Those awful, unsettling words. The evil, hateful, berating words like vomit. The smell alone, like a gag reflex, issues an urge to spill my mental lunch. (It was a tasty little TED talk)
“Be still. Be well. Now is not the time for thoughts. Now is the time to be centered, breathe.” I take a deep, controlled breath. My heart lights up, beats on my ribs, and squeezes battery acid into my guts.
The thoughts come back. And the smell. Like a trickle of water over a dam wall, I feel it in the front of my brain. “You know what, bitch!?” are the words of my father and a hundred drunkards dripping on my tongue. Don’t worry though, I’ve spent my whole life building and reinforcing that dam.
“Breathe. You are well. You are a great human being because you can feel. You are great because you bring so much to your endeavors. You are valuable. Your words are valuable. Your actions are valuable. Your feelings. They are part of being human, and they are valuable.”
Our counselor poked that scar a couple weeks ago, and I didn’t even know what she poked or why it hurt. It hurts now.
I was in the 5th grade. I don’t have many memories of that period of my life, so I have to do some math here… I would have been 9, making my sister about 2. I was playing cards with my dad. I suppose she felt left out, so she did what a toddler might be expected to do: kicked me in the back. Continously. I know I told her to stop. Over and over. I imagine I yelled it at her, but I don’t recall. My dad didn’t intervene. The kicking continued. I uncrossed my legs and squished her against the sofa with my back. I didn’t even see it coming. Do you know what a drunken layman’s fist does to a 9 year old boy? Well, nothing that left a permanent mark, though at the time I was sure my arm was broken. It’s what his fist told me in that flight. “You are not valuable enough to deserve not being physically attacked.”
I will let myself vent this hatred though: I hate that “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it” has suddenly become a trendy way of implying someone simply ought to know what their audience wants to hear.
Moreover, I hate that it’s used as a gateway to render all context invalid any time the audience is offended, and the words are picked up, balled together with their emotions, then hurled back at the speaker.
I am pressed for words. “You have to use your words. You must speak.” I am not a novice in vocabulary, but I don’t know what words to use to express how I feel. Sometimes (more often than is helpful) I don’t even know for myself what I’m experiencing. But I must speak, because that is what is demanded of me. I breathe. I think. I carefully, cautiously, pick words to assemble the best sentences I can. I draft it in my mind, check the tone, edit out any absolutes, ensure my audience is not being unwittingly included, and do my best to make sure it is completely objective so as to not sound like I’m treating my subjective views as any kind of fact. Finally, I release the anticipated final draft, and I think it just might be NYT best seller material.
What I said, the context, gets thrown at my feet. How I said it gets thrown in the cauldron, with a boiling hot stew of emotion, before being thrown in my face. If I speak, I get doled out another round. If I remain silent, the cauldron boils over. The words don’t hurt that bad, and I can deal with the third degree burns. What really hurts is that scar. It’s been torn open again by the reinforcement of, “You are not valuable enough to express your thoughts.”
The burning feeling has gone down. I know I may not sleep well, but the least I can do is rest my body, hold my oozing wound, and keep telling myself that I am valuable.