Unforgettable Utterings

Posted: September 24, 2010 in Uncategorized

I’ve been in “sponge” mode for a couple of weeks now, soaking in, reading, evaluating while feeling restless and tired at the same time. Who knows, season changing the whole back to school thing. I don’t transition well. Things don’t feel right. The inside of the house no longer matches what is going outside. I’m extremely sensitive about that and redecorate accordingly until my surroundings are in sync. Something got me thinking, it was after a conversation with my daughter yesterday. Why, after a whole lifetime of talking and listening do some words  just stick in your head?  It’s about the words that have been spoken to you over a period of time that you will never forget. Words that rocked you to  the core, words that have been tattooed onto your brain along with the very moment they were spoken. As if they were burned onto a dvd and you are able to replay them exactly as if you were still there. At the end of a rather emotional talk with my daughter, she said, “I feel better now”. Those words, I know, will stick. Those are an example of some good, heartfelt words. The rest of this blog is about the opposite, some words that were far more than unpleasant and caused fairly dramatic changes in how I tick.

Words can really make you feel great, the flip side is some can knock you off your feet, their echos continue to make you reel long after the fact. A strange phenomenon for sure. Here are some of my “unforgettable utterings”. The worst of the worst.

At about age 4, something a cousin said just disintegrated me. It was my very first taste of reality and how cruel words and people can be. I was born with a congenital hip defect and required tons of medical treatment from the start. Casts, braces, x-rays, pushing, pulling, tugging and twisting my little body.  I was a little different, it affected my gait and the shoes, don’t even get me started. Hideous, as one leg refused to catch up to other.  Having the parents I had, the first four years of my life I was oblivious that anything was wrong. I did everything my siblings did, ride a bike, run, ice skate. I knew nothing of the “outside” world at that point, other than the frequent doctor visits and lying alone under the huge x-ray machine and having strangers yank on me. I had known nothing else, so at my young age this was status quo.

Visiting a maternal uncle, aunt and cousins one afternoon, I remember clear as if it were happening now. My cousin and I were standing in a hallway near the kitchen and my dear cousin uttered to me, “my mom says you’re crippled” . That was the first time I remember words punching me in the stomach and knocking the wind out of my puffed up sails. I had a retort of some kind but all I remember is hating my Aunt forever after that. I had never even heard the word “crippled” at that point. The only “crippled” individual I knew of was Tiny Tim from the Christmas story Scrooge. Now he seemed to be “crippled” , with needing to be carried about on his father’s shoulders as well as his little cane that sat along with his little hat and coat. I wasn’t crippled, I was perfect so my parents made me  believe. I could do anything, I just did it my way. Crippled, indeed. The words said though, put much doubt and insecurity where there was none before. It was my introduction to pain, rejection and cruelty that would continue throughout my young life. It was blow and dose of how one word, “crippled” attached itself to me, like a noose forever getting tighter around my young and delicate neck.

Age 16, having been uprooted from a small New Jersey high school to a very large Connecticut high school beginning my junior year was just awful. I was missing everything about my old home, friends and just terrified to have to start all over again. Trying to make friends, waiting for someone to make fun of me for the hip thing. Still wearing those custom-made, glamorous orthopedic shoes.  One looking like a brick was attached to the bottom, one looking normal. To me, having to wear those shoes made me more self-conscious than if I had a neon sign stuck into my head saying, yeah, go ahead look at the gimp. All those things aside, I still plodded along hoping for someone to befriend me, despite my obvious problem. Taking the stares in stride and trying to find clothing that would cover my shoes up entirely, they were that ugly! Thank goodness for those, dragging on the floor bell bottoms.

At some point I got called into the nurses office, just a formality because I was a new student. I don’t remember much. She must have done some kind of exam on me, checked to make sure my shots were up to date and whatever else a school nurse is supposed to do. I’m sure we discussed my hip, as by that time I was old enough to talk about it and it was a medical issue I had. The only one up to that point. The only one until the nurse, having finished her exam said to me, “you would be a pretty girl if you got your teeth fixed” . Oh My God! I had such a mega reaction to this that I felt like I was made out wax and was melting right on that nurses examination table. 16 years old, in a new school, with weird, ugly shoes and now this!!?? My teeth? I’m not pretty? Sheer terror. I don’t know how I made it through the day with out flying out the double doors and running home. I was seething. Just for the record, I did have a lot of teeth and a large over bite, up until that day it wasn’t something that my parents felt the need to have me treated for.

I walked into the house after the episode  with the evil nurse and just fell to pieces. I was hysterical, telling my mother what the nurse had said to me and demanding to have braces put on right this second or I will die! When my father came home from work and found out what had happened, he was pissed! I know part of him wanted to go to that school and smack that nurse around because she harmed his baby girl. My father was very protective of me and  had spent countless hours over the years guarding over my hip condition. Measuring my legs in hopes the left one would start catching up to the right. Though he was protective, he also taught me how to handle being different. When I was at an age to notice that people were staring at me, my father basically told me to suck it up, look the gawker straight in eyes and say  “what are you looking at?”   Although, I never said this out loud to anyone it was a truly inspiring life lesson that helped years and years into the future. My father instilled the moxy in me, the bad ass, the you can do anything you want mentality. Despite all that, he was very gun-shy about me being hurt in any way. To see me in such terrible emotional condition after a day at the new school really rocked him. He wasn’t a fan of orthodontics, he felt very strongly about not wanting me to go through any more uncomfortable medical procedures. Finally, after some urging from my mother and due to the fact that this nurse was so out of line, inflicting some very serious damage to my already shaky self-esteem, the appointment for the orthodontist was made. Excuse my French, but fuck that nurse. I had my teeth fixed, which in itself became a medical nightmare. A quarter size cyst was found in my jaw, requiring major jaw surgery to remove it prior to even having the braces applied. Then, the removal of 10 very good teeth, all this time my dad squirming because his little one had to go through all of this complicated and painful stuff just to be “pretty”. In the end, life went on, it took over  3 years for me to open my mouth again. So thank you nurse, I can only hope that you did not utter equally shattering words to other teenage girls because you really f’d me up good.

The rest of my life after that was lived. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 18. I got married and had a family. The next unforgettable uttering would have been after my mom passed away. She was having regular visits with her doctor, having survived 20 years after her initial surgery. The family was under the impression she was ok. Things took a turn for the worse very quickly after an early morning phone call from her to me asking me to stop by on the way to work because she wasn’t feeling well. One thing led to another and within two weeks she had passed away. I was staying at her house during her hospice time, spending most of the time at the hospital. A day or so after she died, I found a large yellow envelope in her bedroom. I took out the contents and saw that was a bone scan. There were white splotches everywhere! I couldn’t believe my eyes, the cancer was all through her body and we didn’t know. To this day we don’t know. I got on the phone to her GP, whom I share and told him what I was looking at. I was very shaken and confused that my mom was this sick and needed to know how this could have happened. The doctor’s reply was, “yeah, she was lit up like a Christmas tree.” I certainly don’t have to explain how insensitive this comment was. I can tell you, it was unforgettable.

There are more, utterings in my life. So many more. The ones I shared here were some of the most painful and confusing ones. I relive these statements occasionally and now by writing them down, perhaps I can purge them once and for all.

Words………one must choose them carefully. Having been the recipient of some doozies, I have learned to be sensitive and careful with my words. Perhaps all of the above was not in vain. I certainly hope so.

September 24, 2010

Coventry CT

  1. Dani H says:

    I’m lucky I guess that I have literally blocked out most of the first eleven years of my life.Like every human being, I’ve felt the hurt of the words said to me without thought. My worst trait, one that I am aware of but have not yet been able to change, or even soften, is striking out viciously and intentionally with the words I know will hurt the most when hurt by someone I love ~ or even think I’m going to be hurt. Somewhere in the childhood I do not remember, I apparently learned that the way to protect myself was to strike first and with such venom and accuracy that the other person would be left reeling and unable to hurt me. Mostly I have done this with the few men I have loved. Thank God, never with my daughter. I know as I am doing it that the wounds will be deep and never heal, that there is nothing I can do to make up for it. I don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t want to remember whatever it was that taught me to behave that way. As you so elequently show, the pain caused by some words never, ever goes away. And weren’t those bell bottoms made just for you! Love you so much, bunny! *Hugging you tight*

    • joannefirth says:

      Dani, I’m so sorry. For some reason I thought I already replied to your ever so honest comment. Please forgive me. I wish I could take back your first 11 years and the pain that they left you with. It’s so hard to come to terms with that type of deep pain and some of it never goes away. Some it may manifest itself, like you said, in lashing out at others. We are so layered as human beings. It would be nice if the layers of pain would just stay put, buried underneath the layers of all the good stuff. You are a wonderful person, so generous with your love and kindness. Men have felt my wrath as well, more than any other people……. Big bear hugs to you my dearest. Thank you for sharing what was most difficult for you and again, so sorry for the delay in replying. ❤

  2. j says:

    It’s so easy to forget or never fully grasp the damage we can do with our words when we use them carelessly… or let others. Thank you for the reminder, sweetie.

  3. MissPanache says:

    You never fail to surprise me WITH YOUR WORDS!! You
    give so much thought before you speak, which is such
    a lovely trait to have. I too, try to always think before I
    speak. There is so much negativity in the world. I choose
    not to be a party to it…obviously, you do too!

    • joannefirth says:

      Thank you! I have my moments believe me. Also, I was for my entire working life in jobs that had very heavy customer contact. In person or on the phone. It taught me, I think well, how to choose words carefully as it was my responsibily to represent what ever company I was with at the time. Even with the most difficult people, there is usually a way to settle things down with carefully chosen words….and tone of voice. It is always unpleasant to be on either side of harsh words. Thank you, Joanne for your visit and lovely comment. Since I”ve met you I have always admired your class and graciousness. A very important pair of traits to have. I feel so lucky to know you. ❤

  4. Becky says:

    This is so true and point on Joanne. I’m so glad you were able to share these words here with all of us.
    I’ve been the one who has done the hurting with words and I have been the one one got hurt by words.
    I wish I could take all of it back — but we can’t retract our words, we can only try to do better, to be better, to forgive and seek forgiveness. I guess that’s all we have.

    • joannefirth says:

      Thank you Becky, you are so right. Writing this was hard and just and example of how painful words can be. I have been on the other side of the coin many tiimes. Spouting off, wishing I could take it back and I’m sure I’ve done my own damage with hurtful things I’ve said. No, we can’t take it back once it comes out of our mouth. To forgive and be forgiven are the only way to make ammends. I’m sorry you’re hurting and hope that you can resolve things and put things back on track between yourself and whomever else is causing your pain. Thank you again for sharing. It would be great to have a giant, magical eraser some times, but if words got us into a jam, they can just as well get us out. ❤ ❤

  5. Sue Jeeves says:

    I see now why I seem to understand you. We have had very similar childhoods! I had rickets so my legs did not look right when they work. I had a brace too & ugly shoes. I had an abdomen that looked pregnant & the doctors didn’t know why. Skinny arms & legs & a tummy. I looked like a poster child. My mom was traumatized by my pediatrician the first visit since he told her I was malnourished & it seemed he blamed her. I had been adopted by her in this condition so she corrected him but the sting stayed with her. I don’t need to rehash it since you have said it so well. *linking arms with you* I hope all the poking, prodding, staring, hurtful words, hospital stays, fear & pain only made us more aware of others feelings, pain & potential pain. Some hospitals have come a long way in dealing with kids so they are not scared out of their minds when someone says “it is time for your xray. They will be coming to get you soon” What the heck is a xray? I was alone, a small child, in the hospital, so I did what any smart,scared, small child would do. I hid in the public bathroom until the “person” that “came to get me” gave up! 🙂

    • joannefirth says:

      Thank you Sue, yes we do seem to understand eachother. Perhaps we keyed in on eachother’s sensitivity from the get go. I’m sad that you had a very similar experience as a child, you know all too well what I was trying to articulate here. Medical practitioners especially, (my pet peeve) can truly level us with their words because they are held in such high esteem. Despite the respect they think they deserve for having such credentials, they certainly can say some dumb and hurtful things. Bedside manner is a rare commodity with any of the doctors I’ve ever had. That’s before I set them straight about who their dealing with….bad ass me. Thank you so much, I know sharing what you have must have hashed up some very intense pain, locking arms with you as well, my dear friend. ❤

    • Dani H says:

      I LOVE that you hid till they gave up! I think you and Joanne have both taken your pain and used it in the best possible way ~ loving your children and making sure they know it. *Group Hug*

  6. Deirdre says:

    I do remember how you disliked the shoes and longed for normal ones, but I think you only brought them up once to me after you got a new pair one time.

    Jo, I always admired you (and wanted a mom just like yours!) in our youthful years and always looked up to you. You were so cool to my awkward, tom-boy self. You have always been beautiful both on the inside and out. Your way of expressing yourself with your writing makes you the queen of cool. *Kudos* old friend.

    • joannefirth says:

      Wow! Thank you Dee, we did tear up that neighborhood together. Unstoppable duo for sure. I always admired your special and unique ways to have fun, regardless if it was “tomboyish” or not. I don’t think we spent too much time playing with barbie dolls together, we had adventures and we danced in the streets. Probably cussing out any cars getting in our way. Thank you for stopping by with your memories and beautiful complement of me and my mom, those were some very good years. Love to you. ❤

  7. Mia Rose says:

    Wow Joanne, what a wonderful write. I feel your pain. I wish you healing, peace and joy! 🙂

    • joannefirth says:

      Thank you Mia, at this point the pain is water under the bridge. Ocasionally, I do feel the ripples of current. It’s all in the past. Much healing has taken place, for if it hadn’t I would never be able to write these words down and share them with others. I so appreciate your kind words and the time you took to stop by and read. I wish you peace and joy in return. 🙂

  8. Ralph says:

    People can be really stupid and insensitive. For such a good person to have gone through these traumas is a crime.
    If that nurse had done that to one of my kids, I would have been at that school immediately and I shudder to think what I would have done.
    In fact, my wife was almost arrested, really, because she went to the school to protect my youngest son who was being picked on by the school nurse and a horrible, busybody teacher.
    Words can be more hurtful than a physical attack because they last a lifetime, as we all know.
    However, you had the last laugh on all of these insensitive buffoons with the help of a loving family. God bless.

    • joannefirth says:

      Thank you Ralph for understanding. It’s seems like you know all too well how words can strike us down, especially when we are young. Bravo to your wife for standing up for your son. The fact that there was intervention by a loving caring mother and father will soften the blow and erase the memory for your son. I am like that with my children, very protective and willing to put my butt on the line for their safety and well being. Dealing with issues as they happen as a family is key. My parents were the best at making me feel special, beautiful and loved. If not for that, I don’t know how I could have gotten by. What’s up with these school nurses anyway? Geeze. ❤

  9. joannefirth says:

    Thank you Marsha, for reading and your most sincere comment. I know I’m not the only one on earth who a. had an issue that made me insecure and b. took some hard blows in worded form.

    I have come to the understanding that people just say unexpexcted and inappropriate things sometimes. They may not have a clue in the world that what they have uttered caused great and sometimes permanent harm to another.

    We all have to be resiliant, if not from words, then all things that have a way that make us question ourselves. Or see ourselves in an over exagerated negative light. Damage done, time to move on.

    If I’ve opened a wound for you, I’m sorry. You are such a wonderful friend I can only hope that once we let go of the painful past, we can free ourselves from all doubt and insecurity once and for all.

    Much love to you my twitter sis. Be kind to yourself. Hugs and ❤

  10. Thank you for letting us in. I am incredibly moved by this powerful piece and your portrayal of how destructive words can be.

    I teared up as you recount some pretty tough ordeals. Your generosity, resilience and positive energy inspirational. Thank you for sharing some painful events as it gives me the courage to examine some of the pain and words I experienced.

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