Saturday, June 20, 2015

How You Say It

I don't know when I started to notice that people are kind of mean to each other a lot. Probably when I was a little girl and the modus operandi in my family was a sharp tongue full of insult and jab. Something like this:

"Oh! I love horses! They're so beautiful! I wish I could get one."

"Like that would ever happen. Horses are too expensive, and you wouldn't take care of it anyway. Horse. Yeah, right." Laughter.

Yep. How funny.

When I remember things like this I always feel guilty for thinking of the people I love most in the world with such unkind thinking. Were they really mean to me? Did they really act like I was stupid? Stupid to have big dreams? Ridiculous to think that big things could happen for me? Like getting a horse? Was it a form of protection? Don't dream too big, you might get hurt. As hurt as both my parents were by their parents who didn't indulge their dreams either. If you act like something is stupid then no one gets too hurt when it doesn't come true.

The other day in the woods I had this moment of forgiveness for my father. I realized what a broken heart he must have had from his own childhood. How hard it must have been for him to be open hearted and love someone like me: someone he loved fiercely and with fear because I could hurt him too. How he knew exactly what it felt like to imagine the magic and then see the reality.

I am sensitive to the smart ass way people talk to me. I have a lot of people around me who aren't able to have polite conversation, they just string together tiny insults and act like that's communicating. Maybe that's been me and I'm finally growing out of it.

Once when I was at my naturopath she did guided imagery with me. Afterwards she told me she could tell when I stopped holding up my protected version of me and became myself. The funny thing about that was I could tell, too. I knew exactly what she meant. I can tell all the time when I'm my safe version of myself and when I can feel just like me.

Drinking made it easy to forget that a me existed. It made it easier to put myself out into a world that I felt unsafe and crazy in. It made it easier to hate myself so when people talked to me like I was an idiot I could easily believe it was true. Years of this built a shell that isn't so easy to slough off even though I really really want to.

It isn't really so much what you say as how you say it. It's letting down the I'm so stupid of it all and just being who you really are. It's knowing that even if the whole world lined up and pointed at you and said "Yeah, right" you can still say to yourself "Yeah. RIGHT."


  1. My family was similar. My mom was completely passive aggressive and unloving. I feel mean writing it, but she was.
    I still have a lot of self protectiveness blocked up inside. I am chipping at it, but I'm still afraid to let myself be seen.

    1. It's so hard to put defenses down. I try not to feel like everyone is looking for a reason to call me wrong but that habit is a hard one to wrangle. I sometimes just tell myself "I am safe/ok" when I can tell I'm feeling defensive.

  2. fantastic post.... such great insights... good on you and thanks for sharing (to use a well-worn cliche!) xxx

  3. Great post, makes for a thought provoking post. A little kindness can go such a long way.

    1. It can go such a long way. Thinking before I speak is becoming something I practice. I used to always come off with a witty/smart ass comment for a lot of things trying to be funny/liked/tough. Now I'm trying to concentrate on just being myself- and sometimes not saying things just to have something to fill space.

  4. I went to parochial school until I was twelve and I was so shielded. We were not allowed to be mean or speak meanly to our classmates. We were trained to always put others ahead of ourselves. It was a very small class and believe me, the nuns knew if we broke this rule. Boy, did I experience culture shock when I hit junior high. I thought people hated me, then I realized that was how they spoke to each other, even the people they liked.
    Sometimes I sit these days and try to imagine a world where everyone was kind, a world that had prevailing peace, a world where we put others first. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

    1. I don't think we need to put others first necessarily, but I do think we need to choose our words and actions with care. To slow down and be where we actually are at the moment.

  5. Hi Amy,
    It can become routine to talk like that and over time it really erodes any sense of 'being special' or being 'cherished' or that we are part of a once in a lifetime unique moment.
    It becomes as though we are all just grinding on with this underwhelming ordinariness.
    And then, I reach for a bottle.
    Being sober and grateful is about really valuing the present moment and making day to day life meaningful. Looking back, all I can offer is forgiveness and letting go.
    Thanks for prompting these thoughts,
    Bren Murphy

  6. Thought provoking. For me it was not so much at home, but more in the other relationships that became so important as I got older. Being sniped at, told I was not "all that" in many big and small ways. Then multiply that x 10 in the work force and especially in some of the health related fields. The constant "you do not know what you are talking about", being treated with vague or overt disrespect. This is largely in the past now but so vivid.
    It is deep within us to want to belong, but in order for there to be an "us", there has to be a "them". There has to be an outgroup, a different group, an inferior group. And so the troubles begin.

    Learning to make new choices now.

  7. So smart and so right on. I just re-read this after a particularly insulting exchange with my father that I felt dragged into. I am so happy to be moving past the old me who would have hidden in the defensive, and so glad to know there are people out there who understand all of this stuff. xo