I was thinking about various vile words thrown at me throughout my life, from formative years to adulthood, weighing the pros and cons of the ones I never forgot. The ones that stuck. It's just one of the things my brain likes to do; sift through sediment and fluff, sticky treacle and drifting infection from different memories. Makes it easier to try and clean up the damage when I can categorize them. My dad called me parasite, the ass words and "accidental squirt," which referred to my being an unwanted pregnancy. My two husbands called me incompetent, money pit and manatee (the mammal with the largest percentage of body fat) and my son called me all the rest. There are quite a few choice foul-worded insults that have been thrown at me, by other family members, friends and ex-friends, but the above list are the ones that still have the gangrenous wound feel to them. They're the ones which still hurt.
There's a phrase that crippled me with self-loathing when I was a kid. Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me. It's a well meaning phrase, designed to help kids deal with cruel words, but to an insecurity addict like me, that quip became both sticks and stones I beat myself up with. Here's how an insecurity addict's brain will perceive those words: So you're so much of a pussy you let somebody's big mouth hurt you? Get over it already, you wimpy bitch. He didn't hit you, nobody kicked you, you're not bleeding. Stop whining. No tears. Don't you let me see you cry, you stupid little baby. You cry and I'll give you something to cry about. I'd whip myself into a frenzy and usually end up with self-inflicted scratches and hard slaps to my own face. All this self abuse because I was human enough to be crushed by heavy words and unforgiving enough to hate because of it. I didn't pour my hatred on others. I drowned myself in it.
When a person gets enough bullying words thrown at them, their thinking becomes skewed. Obviously. Sadistic or thoughtless bandits come in and steal our self worth with a little bit of blab. The wounds they leave behind are every bit as damaging as sticks and stones but take a hell of a lot longer to heal from. The main reason for this is, we never slap a bandage on. We flounder from abuse as a kid to abuse as an adult because we think we deserve it. Sure, I fooled myself with tough talk and high IQ reasoning, certain I was getting away from my past, marching straight and tall and bravely forward. But I was marching straight and tall and bravely right back into its arms. Subconsciously, I chose what I was familiar with and wanted so desperately to fix. Daddy was mean because he'd been abused as a kid. I married a verbally abusive sack of shit who was skewed from his own childhood, and egotistically thought I could make it all better. If I tried harder, loved deeper, did everything right, then the wounds inflicted on him as a kid would be healed by benevolent and loving me. In his gratitude and love, he'd heal me right back. It would be perfect. A romantic and childish notion. In the end, the only thing my forbearance achieved was to make him addicted to hurting me and my kids, drove me and my daughter to the brink of suicide and my son to drugs.
The stupidity of brave insecurity addicts with big hearts. My God, we're stupid. What's worse, we're stubborn. This is what I have set out to do and I'm going to stick to it to the bitter end. That's a prophetic determination and yes, it always ends bitterly.
The difference between the me of the now and the Rebecca of the past is what thoughts I cling to. I used to have a strange fondness for the ugly memories. I carried them around on a big silver platter, showing them off to anyone who'd listen, hungry for their pity and aghast expression; proof that yes, everything was every bit as bad as I suspected it was, as my memory had categorized it. Surviving the terrible was the only self worth I had as a person. Sure, I knew I was a talented artist, etcetera, but a person? A funny, slightly repulsive loser clown. That's how I viewed myself. That mindset still grabs and stomps on me from time to time, but its attacks are getting fewer and less virulent, with only the occasional werewolf assault of self-loathing to rend and tear. My daily exercises of self love are keeping the monster at bay.
It's very weird at first to change the mindset of a lifetime. I clung to words like the ghastly list at the top of this post. They're the ones my mind held on to. It's like the line Julia Roberts says in Pretty Woman: The bad stuff is always easier to believe.
Nowadays, I concentrate on kindness. Kindness to me, kindness to others, world kindness to the suffering masses everywhere. Sure, there's shit and scumballs and sadistic morons everywhere, but there are saints and angels and gruff saviors everywhere too. It's just that survival instinct makes our fight or flight reflex take snapshots of the bad; future reference that was always supposed to be a survival tool. But it's been stomping our self confidence for millennia now and is no easy task to overcome. Tough but not impossible. So try to concentrate on the kind words, my dear friends. Hang on to good thoughts and start a new picture album with bright and grinning photos. As to the bad words and cruel memories and wounded spirit portfolios...I've been there, done that. Got a whole closet full of those. I've started a new collection, very proud of my tiny little shelf in the corner of good words to warm me on cold nights.
You're a kind person.
You radiate goodness.
You're so damn funny.
I think you're a great mom.
Ah, treasures, bright lamps to chase away all the many, many shadows from a brutalized past. Good luck with your own list, my friends. Take care to work at it every day. You'll be surprised how fast and gloriously it'll grow.