Stick, stones and words

24-laurel-pattenden-webBy Laurel Pattenden

May is a time when we unburden ourselves of overcoats and boots and celebrate the open season for window shopping.

Dressing for the occasion calls us to put on our trendiest garb. Even in our graceful aging we will call upon our niftiest orthopedic sandals (yes we even can think of orthopedic sandals as being nifty!) to stroll in. I enjoy artsy stuff so I adorn myself with it. Hanging artsy jewelry off my ears and around my neck. What better place for it to be! Expressing itself on me. Making statements.

Now, if you can’t relate to artsy jewelry think about properly faded jeans, T-shirts or whatever look you want to achieve while strolling. You must be “ready” to be seen while out and about.

So properly attired, I proceed down main street dressed in my “statements”. Feeling quite good about myself. Now, I don’t know if this was just a unique experience or if it has ever happened to you (let me know if it has), but as I was transfixed by what was shown in a shop window, my eyes slowly travelled up and met my own reflection. Have you ever wanted to melt right into your nifty orthopedic sandals?

Cool I was not! In fact, I was anti-cool! I was old, overweight, face wrinkled and age spotted. Is this what they mean by a total out of body experience? Quite frankly the experience ruined my day. I limped home in my “ortho” sandals.

I would like to meet whoever wrote the English children’s verse “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me”. I think they got it wrong. Words do hurt and we all have been hurt. And these words do not need to be said by others. We can quite easily say them to ourselves.

The shop window that day was reflecting my words loaded with society’s meaning back at me. Old. Grey hair. Wrinkles. Age spots. Now I do not believe it is the actual word and dictionary meaning that hurt but that subtle meaning that society attaches to the word. Usually this meaning carries with it a value of our worth. Because, let’s face it, I do have age spots and more chub than needed to keep warm. But these words are loaded with feelings attached that pull us down. They colour our day and the world we live in. These loaded words can separate us from ourselves, each other and God.

Our conversations with ourselves and others contain many trigger words. The media and internet flourish with the use of them. Words that can make our emotions bubble up without us noticing. Loaded words can take away the ability to have honest dialogue with ourselves and others.

Just think of some trigger words and note the rollercoaster your feelings will ride. Can’t think of any try these ones:  old, obese, liberal, conservative, pro-life, pro-choice, homosexual, heterosexual, right, wrong, black, white, rich, poor, immigrant, citizen, uneducated, educated, girl, boy, slow, energetic, Christian, Jew,  Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, ugly, beautiful, them, us… and on into infinity. Are you able to say these words without some feelings or baggage creeping in?

Just as I needed to unload the words that stung me at my reflection in the shop window, I need to be aware of other loaded or trigger words and their effect on me.

Do you react to trigger words? Perhaps we all need to step back in our awesome “ortho” sandals and recognize the feelings that hide behind words. We need to take the sting out of them. If not, will we ever be able to reach some common level of understanding? Will we ever be able to cultivate a heart of peace?

Laurel Pattenden fills the pew at All Saints’, Corunna.

(Featured photo: Columbine, Rgbstocks)