I did remember. I remembered it quite clearly because she was devastated and it broke my heart for her that someone could say such a thing to her. Her sensitive soul can barely take constructive criticism much less an outright hateful thing. I remember the sting of the same words being said to me when I was not much older than she. I can, to this day, remember the little boy who said it to me. I remember wanting the ground to open up and swallow me. I remember feeling so worthless. And, as quickly as I was taken back to that moment, I had to take Libby out of hers.
I grabbed my phone. I told her to smile for me and I took a picture of her. I flipped my phone around and asked her if she saw what I saw. She shrugged. I told her that what I saw was a girl who was beautiful – not because she wasn’t fat, not because of her gorgeous brown eyes, not because of her chestnut hair, not because of the adorable spray of freckles across the bridge of her nose and dusting her cute little cheeks – not for just those reasons, but because she’s kind. Because she rarely says anything out of anger. Because she wouldn’t just come out and say anything just to be mean to someone (well, except maybe the occasional dig at a little brother…). She didn’t seem totally convinced, so I had no choice but to grab her and commence to counting ribs. That brought on the raucous laughter and, for a moment at least, those stinging words were forgotten.
I know she’ll remember them again. She will have a lull. Her mind will wander. She’ll go back to that place. I wish I could snap my fingers and make it never happen again. I can’t. Almost 30 years later, I still go back to that same place. I hate it. I wish I could erase it. I wish I could never think of it again. The power of words is sometimes too great. Sometimes no amount of time or space can erase their bite. I have struggled with self-image issues for most of my life although my weight has only been a problem for the last decade or so. I know I am what my daughter was called. But, she is not. She is beautiful inside and out. She is kind. She is loving. She is warm. She is sensitive. She is smart. She is funny. She is silly. She is my baby.
When I think about everything that goes on in this world, and how hurt people are by the words of others, I wish there was any way I could make young people, in particular, understand the power of their words. As I reflect on the recent news of another teen suicide spurred in large part by the cruel taunts of others, I am saddened to know there will be more tears from my sensitive daughter. There will be more hurtful words in the future. I can only hope as a parent that the words I choose for her will be powerful enough to overshadow the misguided and misdirected thoughtless and angry words of others. Think before you speak. Words really do hurt. Sometimes the wounds run so deep they never heal. Sometimes they overtake people before they find the strength to get past them. That’s the greatest tragedy of all.
I won't lie and pretend wearing smaller size clothes and "looking better" aren't awesome motivations for me when it comes to doing my DDPYOGA and eating clean. I do want to look better and wear smaller clothes. What I want more than that now though is to FEEL better and to BE healthy; to feel good about myself not because I'm runway ready but because I could run up a flight of stairs without being winded; to have the energy to ALWAYS keep up with my kids; etc. I want to be able to feel better not because of what others think about me but because I am learning just how strong an impact my own personal thoughts of myself affect my physical health. The mind is a terrible thing to waste. Don't waste it on self-loathing and tearing yourself down. Use to bring yourself up and others with you!