Friday, March 13, 2009

The words that hurt you

I realize it is a direct resultof the angry, often-violent home I grew up in, that I learned so well, so very young that words were weapons and best hurled by those that claim to love you for maximum sting. I also remember hearing my mom cry for hours after the words were vapor and Dad was gone.

In high school I took a class called "Human Behavior", I took it because it was open to both juniors and seniors and my dearest friend at the time was a junior and it gave us an excuse to spend another hour together. It was a great class that I did get a lot out of, which is something I can't say about the vast majority of my high school career.

One of the discussions I remembered today while driving around in the rain, we were talking about how in a court of law, a judge can instruct a jury to "disregard previously heard testimony" and were asked if we thought that was really possible.

All around the classroom, we all agreed that No, it wasn't possible, a bell can't be unrung.

All my life I've been a lover of words, of what they can conjure up in one's imagination, the good, the evil, and everything in between.

To this day I can tell you the best compliments I ever received. How the simple words "I'm proud of you" said at an airport one cold November morning choked me up and left me speechless for hours. I can recite the written words of a poem dedicated to me that make me feel more cherished and more loved in 4 simple stanzas than every single utterance of love I have ever heard all stacked up.

These are the words I cling to when I need to remember how much I am/was loved. They are sometimes, the only things that work. They have a value I can't name. They are quite simply everything I want to be worthy of.

Unforunately, I can also recite to you the worst things ever said to me. I remember the day my dad told me my bleach blonde hair made me look "cheaper than dime store candy" (him being right didn't make it hurt less). I remember the Valentine's Day, my boyfriend at the time, Rob, told me he was dumping me for his previous girlfriend because "after all she has the better body", I remember the boyfriend that told me the woman he cheated on me with was no more than "a hole and a hearbeat" (while not speaking of me the fact that I meant so little to be betrayed for "a hole and a heartbeat" was just as painful) and then, most recently, I had someone wish me "a long and lonely life" -- the power of that little phrase has been nothing short of gut wrenching and heart-breaking. That one echoes, loudly and deep in me. It left a big hole going in, but the injury inside is immeasurable.

It is these words that pile on when I am low and hurt and feeling unworthy of any sort of happiness. Most of these words and others like them, were uttered a decade or more ago, and I can honestly say that for me, I'd rather take a punch. I can say that because I've taken a few, also by people that claimed to love me and somehow these words hurt me more*.

I still love words, and wish I could use them better in every situation -- I just don't love those words; admire/detest their power over me, yes, but love them, no. These words make me feel like that last one -- is all I deserve.

I know I will get past this, I have done it before, I will do it again. I will wake up one day soon and know this is just a really bad day, and of course I deserve better/more than that and it was just an incredibly hurtful string of words.

In the meantime, I am trying to remember Dr. Err's advice -- Two tears in a bucket, Fuck it.

*In NO way is this meant to downplay domestic violence/spousal abuse situations. I speak only for myself in *this* situation and am not in any way making light of violent relationships.


tiff said...

Oooh - let me at 'em. Whoever it was, they am a fucker. No fair hurting Jenny.

kenju said...

What Tiff said. No fair at all. And 100% undeserved.

In my home, it was my mom who said the hurtful words. I have never forgotten any of them either. But I am still fighting against the bad feelings they gave me....55 years later.

Doctor Err said...

How 'bout these words....'the fuck said that, Jenny Lou?' I got some words for 'em... and maybe a tugboat if need be. clearly, this was someone who doesn't know dr. err.... cuz my people are not to be fucked with.

'nuf said.

JustRun said...

I have a hard time letting go of words, too. That's actually putting it lightly. I know where you're coming from, if only a little. It's really hard to say fuck it, even if you really do feel that way.

But in some ways, more subtle ways to you maybe, this has taught you to be so careful with your words. You've said (written?) things to me that are so kind and well thought out and mean so much. You've taken that from hearing the bad words, and that really means more to others than you might ever know.

Mojo said...

oh hell no.

I can't even begin to imagine how utterly bitter and fucked up the speaker of that wish must be. That they'd say that to anyone tells me more than I need to know about them. That they'd say it to someone who could.not.possibly deserve it less... well it suggests that this is an individual with a lot of self loathing who chooses to turn it on someone else rather than deal with it.

But I get it. I get why it eats at you. I remember shit said to me 35 years ago when I was not so wise and well adjusted and the way it almost convinced me that I really was as feeble as everybody said.

So even though it won't take the hurt out of it, and even though you'll hear it from anybody who's known you for more than about five minutes I'm gonna say it anyway. You ain't ever, ever gonna be lonely because the people who know you love you. It's unavoidable. And me personally... I'm not just glad to call you a friend, I'm proud to call you a friend. So the notion of you leading a lonely life... not while I have the strength to draw breath you won't.

Those other words are still there, hanging around, probing for a crack to squeeze through, waiting for a weak moment when they can do their damage. I'm hoping mine -- and the others here -- are stronger. And they will be if you feed 'em. And let those other ones starve.

I don't know if that helps or not. But for whatever it's worth, I'm just sayin...

Tracy Lynn said...

Fuck that, Binky. I wish you a long and fruitful life, full off dogs and friends and love. And everyone knows that my mad skills beat out everything else.

And Binky? Stop listening to stupid people.

Kris said...

It would be nice if that old rhyme that begins with "sticks and stones" were true.

I hope you are able to evict those hurtful words from you head soon. They say far more about the person who uttered them than they ever will about you. Your friends who commented before me proves that.

Brianf said...

The hell with them. Though hurtful words do linger within us I try everyday to look to the future and I try not to let those past hurts hurt me anymore. All they have done for me is to allow me to be a stronger person. I am better than my past hurts and SO ARE YOU.
Even though we have never met I get, from your writing, that you are a strong, intellegent and nice person. I don't mean plastic, smiley nice but a good person.

rennratt said...

What a horrible thing to say. Sadly, the terrible things seem to stick with us longer than the kindest of words.

I'm with the others, JC. You are a treasure of a person - and even more so as a friend!

May the speaker come to know (and feel) just how terrible those words really were.

Carmi said...

Since words are my business, my career, this entry had particular resonance for me. I decided to pursue writing professionally because, somewhat idealistically, I believed in their power to influence complete strangers. I had visions of writing something so meaningful, so powerful that someone far away who didn't know me from Adam would read it and be moved.

I also heeded a j-school prof's advice on the power of the words I wrote. He said we needed to consciously decide if we were going to use them for good or for evil, because they could be powerful weapons in either case.

Your words here illustrate that beautifully. I'm inspired that you've used the painful experiences as a catalyst for growth. I wish more folks take the time to learn just how much impact they can have with supposedly forgettable words.

disa said...
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