Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Kind Word

I like to talk about trivial things. There's just something I love about fluff... a sweet, guilty pleasure. Today, however, I'm leaving the fluff behind, and touching on a serious subject.

I don't talk about my personal life, my past life, much. It's a topic I intentionally steer clear of for a reason, and I have no plans to divulge my ancient history other than within my writing... and before I go any further, you must understand that it is just that. Ancient history.

I sit here tonight in a brand new house, have a loving husband, wonderful kids, a good job, and I've been able to turn my dream of becoming a published author into reality. I'm blessed, and I know it, but I walked a very dark path to get here. Yeah, I caught a few breaks that lead me out of a very bad situation, but ultimately it was me that made the decision to be strong and walk away.

Maybe, at some point in my life, I thought of myself as a victim. Not only did I live through, I survived years of domestic abuse, and I believe I came out the other side a stronger person. It's no small debt that I owe my husband for helping me grow into the person I am today, and he probably doesn't even realize how much he helped me by simply being the kind soul that he is. I've grown so much over the past decade, and even though there are still some lingering issues, some scars that refuse to completely fade away, I am happy with the person I am today. I will never think of myself as a victim again.

But that's not the story I want to write about tonight. I will leave the darkest part of my life in the shadows, only to break free in bits and pieces in my books. What I want to talk about is the road I walked that lead me there.

We were all born a clean, pristine slate, to be shaped partly by nature and probably a lot more by nurture. The house I grew up in was rife with bitterness and negativity. Two things that really don't come close to what I suffered in my early adulthood, but they paved the way nevertheless. The passive aggressive comments and outright degrading statements getting thrown at me at a very young age shattered my self-esteem. Remember, as a child, you have no basis of comparison. This was the norm. This was how I thought the world was supposed to work.

I very keenly remember sharing my dreams with the adults around me - those that I trusted, loved, and respected unconditional because that's simple what children do - and I was laughed at. By adults. I didn't even get humored or patronized, my thoughts were simply shot down.

I sang a song and was told "You'll never sound like Pasty Cline."

When I told another member of my family, "I want to write a story," I can still remember her laughing at me and saying "You don't have anything to write about."

But the worst thing was that I believed it.

I'll never forget how hard I tried to achieve their standards, how I strove for a complement, and yet I could never satisfy. It left me feeling completely unwanted and that anything I would accomplish would be worthless and a waste of time. I'm sure there are thousands upon thousands of people that have suffered through similar situations, I can't imagine that it's really all that uncommon, and that's a sad thought indeed.

Years later, as an adult, I finally understand that the problem was never with me, but more a reflection of the insecurities and doubts of my caregivers projected at me. Now, as a mother, I can't even fathom saying these things, or the like, to my children. Even though I witnessed it, lived through it, and bore the brunt of many hurtful statements, I still do not understand the thought process behind 'knocking' a child's self-esteem.

And really, this is what I want to talk about.

Watch what you say around and to the young-ins. What you think is an offhand remark that doesn't mean anything to you might linger in their thoughts for years. It could hit them at a critical time and shape who they are, affecting their decisions and reasonings for decades.

And even though I was nearly crushed under the weight of the overwhelming negativity, I do remember the good things too. Not that it came from my immediate family, but the applause from an unlikely source stands out like a bright pillar in my memories. It was the encouragement I was starved for, and it was enough to keep the spark burning.

I remember that vividly as well, Mrs Duke. Thank you.

So never withhold a kind word from a child. If you have young children around you, keep in mind that you are their everything. Everything you say, everything you do is being inscribed into their memories. It doesn't even have to be your own child, especially if it's not your own child, because you never know, can't know what they live with. The kind word you say to them could just be the only one that they'll hear that day, that week, that month, that year.

Encourage them, listen, spare that moment to really focus on what they've brought before you. It will mean the absolute world to them. Those kind little words may be the ones they remember, the ones they cling to during the tough times, the ones that will give them that extra, little push when they want to give up, and the ones they smile back on after they accomplish something amazing.

You may never know what you've done for a child with your kind words, but they'll know, and that's what matters most of all.