I need to get something out… There are words that have worked their way under my skin, and, like splinters, are working their way back out again.
I want to let them go. I want to write them down on pieces of paper and burn them – but even that wouldn’t be enough. Because I have cut myself over these words. I have beaten myself over these words. And I have had enough.
I want to find forgiveness. Forgiveness for those who spoke the words and forgiveness for myself. I took those words into my heart, let them twist me into something I don’t want to be.
I was born into a place of honor.
I was born into an honored place in my family. I am the eldest daughter. It was my role, my responsibility to set an example for my sisters. This is what my mother told me.
At least, that’s what I heard. And I heard it many times, so I’m pretty sure I got it right.
I took my role seriously. I was always trying to be good. I was always trying to be helpful. My brothers and sisters took that the wrong way. My shining example was seen as “goody-two-shoes” behavior. I hated lying, so they couldn’t trust me with secrets.
They made fun of me – joked about how I was racking up points for my mansion in heaven. Every now and then my parents would join in the fun. It’s the things my parents said that dug deepest under my skin.
My nickname was “Mom2.” I was an authority figure to my brothers and sisters. Of course they ridiculed me every chance they got, and I was okay with that at the time – as long as they respected their parents.
But I’m not okay with it now. Now, I’m realizing just how much pain I have stored up inside. Now, I’m realizing how desperately I want sibling relationships. Here are some of the things I heard growing up that have stuck with me. I’m writing about them because I don’t want them to stick with me anymore. I’m tired of thinking about them – tired of being defined by them.
“The rest of us have to look at you.”
This was said to me by my mother. I was 12 or 13. It’s funny how I can remember exactly what I was wearing when she told me this. How I can remember that I’d just had a shower. How I can remember that I told her “I don’t care how I look” when she shoved the lotion in my hand. But I can’t remember how old I was.
I inherited my father’s sensitive skin. I have rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis. At the time of this statement, I didn’t know that’s what was going on. My face was a dry, flaky mess. I hated it – hated the way I looked and hated the way I felt. Lotion just sat on the surface of my skin. I could scrape my fingernail down my cheek and come away with big clumps of dry flakes. I felt disgusting.
“The rest of us have to look at you.”
This statement still echoes in my head today. Short of actual medication (which I can’t afford), I have tried everything to control my rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis. During the first year of my marriage, my husband would get frustrated with me because I would not leave the house without makeup on my face. Because other people have to look at me. I’m better now, but these words still hurt.
“The ones who are hardest to love are the ones who need it the most.”
I don’t know if I will ever overcome this statement – said to me by my mother when I was 14 or 15 years old. My brothers were acting wild, again, and I had gone to her to try to talk about something that was bothering me. Something personal – I don’t remember what now. But she was busy with my brothers – and they needed her love more.
I know now that my parents did the best they could with what they had. But I still wish that they could have given me something. I was good. I was so good.
I wish they had known that I wasn’t sleeping at night, that I wasn’t eating, that I was hurting myself. I wish the chores I did weren’t expected. I wish…my parents could love me the way I need to be loved.
My parents do the best they can with what they have.
“She’s just too pretty.”
I was 15 or 16 and trying on dresses for my very last piano recital. There were two dresses to choose from, and both had to be reviewed by my father and my older brother (we can get into the fucked up hierarchy in my family later…the point here is that my father and older brother got to decide what I wore).
The dress that almost fit earned a, “She’s just too pretty.” Said by my father.
The dress that was six sizes too big got the vote of approval.
This exchange crushed me, objectified me, and terrified me. I wore the larger dress because I was dutiful and a good daughter, but I played my recital piece without heart. So much of my life at that point had no heart.
“You’ve got to shave!”
I was 14 or 15. We were going white water rafting, so I was wearing shorts. It was my older brother who made the first comment and then my mom who echoed it.
Now, I had never shaved my legs before. There was a moment at a summer camp when I was 12 or 13 when a couple of friends had encouraged me to shave my legs. They both offered to let me borrow a razor. They talked about how wonderful smooth legs felt. I refused, and I was proud of myself for not giving in to peer pressure. I thought Mom would be proud of me too.
Looking back, I think she expected peer pressure to take care of a few things for her. Things like make up and shaving and hair styling. I just never caught on.
Anyway, I shaved my legs (to the knee) for the first time – burning with embarrassment. And I think about that moment every time I shave. I’m tired of thinking about that moment.
The impact words have on us…
Words can either build up or destroy. I have seen how quickly my words can destroy someone. I have lashed out angrily at my husband, wanting to hurt him as much as I could. I have spewed hate and anger at my brothers and sisters. I don’t remember the things I said in the heat of those moments, as I’m sure my parents don’t remember saying the above things to me – but I shudder to think of the damage I have caused to those I love.
Reaching for forgiveness
I can let these things go now – now that I have written about them and acknowledged the pain they caused. I can become self aware – working to build people up with my words rather than tear them down.
I can seek to forgive not only my parents and my family but also myself. I can seek to live with a forgiving spirit rather than a spirit of bitterness and sorrow.
Unbelievably, I can choose freedom. I can choose to take these splinters from my skin and cast them into the fire. The wounds will heal. I can choose today how I will interact with the world.
I choose gentleness. I choose kindness. I choose love.