“Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.”
I remember the first time I ever heard that rhyme. I had been telling mom about a kid that called me names. It was the first day of high school. Okay, okay, I was just seeing if you were really reading or skimming. It was my first day in a new school. By the way, it was elementary school.
Mom looked at me and said the next time it happened I was to just say “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never harm me!”
Ahh, go on, you’re kidding me?
You mean, that is all I needed to do to thwart verbal blows of a mean kid? Huh! So, if the words didn’t “harm me” why were my feelings hurt? Why do I still know how that pain felt after all these years?
I finally decided that sticks and stones may break bones, but, those breaks will eventually heal. On the other hand, words – hurtful, demeaning words can be so caustic they turn to emotional scar tissue that becomes a sort of mental adhesion. Oh, they can be quite harmless for long spurts of time. Then, something is said, and Crikey! the pain hits with such an intensity it takes your breath away. The brain turns to fire as the words thrown so long ago re-inflict their blows and it’s like you’re hearing them for the first time.
Well, at least that is how it has been for me. And, for whatever reason, this wheel chair can be a trigger for those feelings. Whenever I have to pass a group of people in my power chair I turn into that kid on the first day of a new school. It’s an automatic transport to that schoolyard day feeling those same pensive, insecure, embarrassed feelings.
Can I really be that shallow?
I hate that I can still feel this way at *blurbing noise* years old! Hmm, actually, as a way to emphasize what I mean I think I should go ahead and say my age. I am 25 yea…ohh, okay, okay, I am 50 years old, and yet, in the blink of an eye that 8 year old pops up with the carry-over feelings from words spoken so long ago. Again, I ask myself if I can really be that shallow?
I mean, when I see someone in a wheelchair there aren’t snide, unkind or judgmental thoughts going through my mind. If anything, I wonder if they were in an accident or if it was something they have had to deal with since birth, etc. But, most certainly, I am not scrutinizing if they have a right to be out in public or calculating what their worth as a human being could be – so why do I impute such attitudes on others when I see them looking at me? What is my problem?
I am my problem.
At least, after a little scrutiny, that is the conclusion I have reached. It all boils down to something I talk about often. Perception. Attitude. I can be my own worst enemy. I am usually at the root of some of the ugliest, soul-destroying thoughts regarding my worth and my right to be out in public among the so-called “beautiful, able-bodied” people.
Now, if I pull back and look at the scene in landscape mode then I am left asking myself a few questions. For instance, when out in public do I really think I am so incredibly important, I mean, do I make such an entrance that every stranger within a certain radius feels compelled to immediately stop what they’re doing in order to look at me? Do they really expend energy weighing in on what I am doing invading their public space?
The answer, of course, is no! Big N big O. It is quite normal, very natural, to look up when someone rolls past in a power chair. I do it myself. And, actually, truth be told, what I often run into – uh, that’s not literal, well, at least, not in this particular instance. Though I have been known to run into all sorts of, er, things …ok, I have run over toes before. Yeeess, of course it’s unintentional. Hmm, must be something in my eye, it keeps winkin… uh, I mean, blinking. Anyway, what I, mostly, run into, when noticing stares, are smiles along with the occasional person approaching me to say something kind.
In fact, it is a recent experience that is the impetus for this post. I was racing Gene to the van when I noticed a lady sitting in a car parked in front of our van. She just sat and watched as I lined my power chair up with the side door. Gene was standing at the back where a toggle switch is that can open the sliding door and engage the ramp to descend which I, then, roll up and turn into the lock-down on the passenger side. She continued to stare while I waited for the ramp and, then, when I could finally roll in and park my chair in the lock-down I saw she was standing next to her car but still looking ( read staring!) over at us.
Yes, there were different thoughts going through my head. Interestingly, and I have no idea why, but one thought was the Sticks and Stones quip. Anyway, I was busy helping Gene get my seat belt on when I hear a loud knock on my window. I look over and it is the lady. She has a huge smile on her face and, with a thumbs up, says “I love your independance!”
I must admit to having all sorts of warm fuzzies go through me. I looked over at Gene and we just sat there for a few minutes smiling at one another. “Wow. Wasn’t that nice!” is all I could say. Later, when reflecting on that experience, I was pondering the power of words – especially words spoken in our past and it dawned on me the polarizing effect they can exert on our emotional reactions … causing a reaction that is opposite to the reality. For instance, the lady had been watching with a positive attitude, however, because I had allowed negative words from my past to manipulate my reaction, my attitude was negative.
So, what is the solution? To be honest, I am still asking myself that question. As is true of anything to do with feelings, there isn’t one simple answer. And before you tell me it’s just a matter of my “getting over myself” whenever in those situations, well, while that is a start, it really isn’t that easy – just as our feelings are complex, so, too, are the ways to counter the negative/controlling feelings. However, I do have a few ideas on ways to circumvent the pensive, insecure, negative feelings that start creeping up whenever I find myself in a crowd of strangers.
If my mind starts whirring with hurtful words someone strung together and tossed at me when I was a kid, I try to recognize what is going on and stop the thoughts. I’m sure it’s going to be an on-going process – any ground-breaking progress, or, well, any progress period, will likely be shared in a future post. Until then, all I can say is if you’re ever out somewhere and find you’re staring at some lady in a power chair … watch your toes.
The next post is going to be a little different – I have a video to share so I hope you will check back and tune in.