Sunday, September 30, 2012

When the Words Hurt

Our words, our thoughts and our feelings all have immense power in this world and, sometimes, those around us can say things that cut us right to the quick.

I have Fibromyalgia and suspected Systemic Lupus. Because of these things, I have lots of doctors appointments, take many medications and have tests run on me fairly regularly. I have this idea in my head that my friends care about how I'm doing, so I guess I run down the latest medical updates, unbidden, at times.

It seems that someone who I thought was a close friend just, apparently, got tired of hearing about it and said, "So, what's wrong with you, today?" His eyes rolled behind his glasses. My heart skipped, my reply froze in my throat and I turned in upon myself. How deflated I felt. How utterly betrayed. In that moment, I was not supported in my illnesses by one of my best friends and his words tore through me like a knife.

My conditions are chronic and incurable. I've made lifestyle changes and gone through many different drugs and therapies in order to get some relief. I've had more tests run on me in the past year than I've ever had done, in my life, and all of a sudden my friend's words just punched me in the gut. He knocked the spirit of the extrovert right out of me.

In my life, I am normally an extrovert. But, in an environment that I'm either uncomfortable in or unfamiliar with, I tend to pull back into myself like a turtle and just observe. I remain silent, watching the interactions of people around me. I need to know what the social terrain looks like before I can feel comfortable skipping about in it.

Before my friend's question, I felt free. I was in my own house with friends, hubby, dog and baby. In my element and surrounded by those I trusted, my emotional walls were down and I was at ease. The second he sneered my way, I closed up. My shoulders got tight and scrunched up around my ears and I quit joining in the conversation. I was no longer interested in being social, in interaction at all. I just wanted to crawl under the soft, gray, jersey cotton sheets of my bed and watch re-runs of Netflix until I fell asleep.

This is probably obvious, but I was never in the "in" crowd, growing up. ("Au contraire, Bri," I hear you saying. "You're so free and artistic and we just know that kids are supportive of each others differences in public schools!" *end sarcasm*) Thus, I spent a lot of time on the outside of social groups, looking in and watching. I was teased and bullied and ostracized from my peers because 1) I was smart and 2) I wasn't like them. Somehow, I was always fundamentally "different" and we all know that different equals bad when you're young.

Some of those old social hot buttons still exist in me, though I've grown leaps and bounds and have even learned how to fire back, on occasion.

My friends' cutting remark took me right back to being a child, to being small. There I was, right back in elementary school with brown pigtails and one front tooth missing, my only "friend" telling me with venom dripping from her lips, "If I stop being your friend, the popular girls said I could be friends with them." Then, being left in the grass of the playground to sit, alone, I watched the roan-colored cows graze in the field beside the school and I promised myself while biting my tongue that I would not let them see me cry. Inside, I was betrayed and another gray brick was placed in that wall that I built up around my young, red, vulnerable heart.

Yours truly in 1st grade

The sarcastic question of my friend, it sprung from nowhere. "So, what's wrong with you, today?" Hurt. Feeling small. I'm powerless, again.

Then, later in the night, after our guests left the house, anger seethed in my veins like black poison. How dare he!?! As if I wanted to be sick. As if I wanted to choke down 6 pills every morning and 5 pills every night. As if I wanted to be seen in the emergency room when the doctors thought I was going into renal failure. As if it was fun to be in so much pain, some days, that I can't pick up my 1 year old daughter for fear of dropping her. As if I have told my body to attack itself!

My darling readers, I am not perfect. I am not saintly nor do I have this life entirely figured out. Sometimes, I don't choose the wisest or most thoughtful path when I feel betrayed. When I'm hurt, I can shut down or I lash out. I have flaws and, sometimes, I don't handle situations as well as I could have. I know what it's like, my gentle one. I know what it's like to sit in the sun or the shade of a tree and feel so utterly alone and powerless to change anything that's going on around you. I know what it feels like when one day, a person says "I love you," and the next they're literally trying to choke the life out of you. I've been there.

I know what it's like when the words that come from another persons' mouth fly like razor bladed homing beacons and pierce directly into my fragile self, making me wish upon wish that I could just learn to be numb and not care, anymore. I have stood right there in those shoes and bled my heart out from the pain that this world can cause us. But this is not the path, my babies.

The path through this life is not one that is closed off to other people, no. The path through this life that takes you to your dreams, that leads you to boundless joy, that walks you right up to the best and brightest YOU that you can be? It's not a walled one. It's not one that shuts out the pain. The path to creativity, in this life, leads through pain. It heals our past injuries and brings us out more willing to trust, more willing to give, more willing to share, more willing to be in the this world with a heart that is joyful because it has come through the other side of injury.

Have you ever heard of Frida Kahlo? She was one amazing person. Whenever things are getting me down, I pop in the movie "Frida" with Salma Hayek and I'm inspired to push on.

My gentle soul, maybe you're in pain right now. Maybe my words have brought up some memories for you that you'd rather not remember. Please remember that I have been standing right there. Right there on the spot in life that you are and there is one thing that I can tell you for certain. It gets better. In each moment, we can choose to dwell on the pain in our hearts or we can choose to work with it and release it.

George Carlin said, "Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist.." And Twyla Tharp said, "Optimism with some experience behind it is much more energizing than plain old experience with a certain degree of cynicism."

I have chosen to not let the taunting of my old classmates define who I am, today. In fact, some of them have even come back around and apologized to me for childhood transgressions. Each and every time, I accept those apologies with an open heart, as it is a firm belief of mine that people can change. In every moment, we can choose to forgive. We can choose to live big, live open, live awake to the beauty in this world and live that life that we've always wanted. And, even if our pasts get the better of us now and again, we can still choose again, tomorrow.

When the words hurt, my babies, I know it's hard not to fall back into the patterns we established in early life. I know that forgiveness can be difficult. It's okay. Take your time. Let the beauty of this life and the fires you walk through transform you. But do not take this blog post as a message that you should stay ANYWHERE or with ANYONE who hurts or abuses you. If you're being hurt or abused, get out as fast as your little butt can move, got me?

But when the words hurt us, what do we do? In the case of my friend, I realized that maybe the details of my medical stuff is something he didn't need to hear. I don't know what his reasons are, but my being sick is something he just can't handle. And that's okay. When his words hurt, I forgave him. Oh, sure. I was sad, then angry first, but I went to my Sketchbook and I put it all down in there. I wrote furiously about what had happened. Through my creativity, I was able to work through the situation in my head to a place of logic and acceptance. This man has been my friend for a very long time. I don't think he actually meant to hurt me with what he said. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and just let it be. I've made my peace with his words and, in the end, it's okay.

Getting creative is going to unlock some things that may not be the most pleasant. But know that people, for centuries, having been using various creative methods to work through their emotional and mental issues. If things come up for you, write it down or draw it in your sketchbook / journal. Put it down on the paper. Get it out of you, all out of you so that you don't have to carry it around in your spirit, anymore. It's okay. I've been there, many a time, crying so hard that I could barely see the page while writing out what needed to be said. It is truly cathartic. And, catharsis for its own sake, is worth it.

In this life, we all dealing with our own little piles of poo. Your creative projects can be your springboard to working some things out for yourself. And, if you think you need to, I would highly suggest seeing a licensed therapist or counselor. I've been in therapy for about a year, now, and have found it very helpful. If you can't afford therapy, though, still pour yourself out in your sketchbook. Record your demons and your angels in your journal. Let all your experiences just flow out of you on to the page.

Keep plugging along, my dears. We're all in this together.

And please remember to keep in your heart that we are all visionaries. We just have to figure out where we excel.