This is going to be a response to a bunch of things bouncing around my mind today -among them, this TED talk by Brene Brown that I’ve referenced before, and this, a little acceptance speech by -yes, it is- Mister Rogers himself.
There’s a phrase here that he uses that just reached out and grabbed me, because it’s so full of truth: “All of us have special ones who have loved us into being…” What a way to put it. Truth.
I quit my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) project about 4,000 words in this year. I started out with a mission to write out a story inspired by my own experience of being bullied in middle school. For years, I’ve carted around a lot of anger and resentment and ugliness that’s gradually faded into the background, but I can’t say that it doesn’t still affect me. I still hear the voices in my head sometimes, telling me that I’m just talking to nobody, that nobody wants to hear what I have to say, that I’m too smart, too stuck up, too weird. Voices that tell me to temper my enthusiasm and just fade back into the crowd so I won’t bother anybody else. Voices that groan when I won’t let something go of that matters to me. Those voices are quieter now, mainly because I’ve had years of experience telling them to sit down and shut up. But they’re quieter for another reason, really.
I started out writing that novel, which was supposed to be about a young woman who gets an invitation to her ten year reunion, immediately throws it aside in anger, but reconsiders. Her best friend in high school committed suicide her junior year as a result of the treatment she and her best friend (my main character) received. She’s angry about that invitation because she doesn’t want to go back –she’d rather imagine she’s over all that now (she isn’t), and go on with life. As she goes through the next week of her life, though, she realizes that she hasn’t at all gotten over it, and needs to figure out what happened to make her the bitter and angry woman she finds herself to be through a “chance” meeting with a patient of hers who winds up in juvenile hall after a failed murder-suicide. Her patient is a victim of bullying as well (the person he failed to murder was his primary tormentor), and through listening and counseling him, she sees enough of herself to realize that the only way out and through her experience is to forgive. She goes to her reunion, and discovers that not only can her classmates not recall much of her experiences being mistreated (except, of course, that her friend committed suicide -although they’ve all given her condolences, she doesn’t get the apology she so desperately wants. They don’t realize or acknowledge that their treatment may have caused her death), but they themselves are carrying wounds from their own childhoods. (Confused yet? …Sorry about that -I’m not very skilled at writing synopses.)
But the more I wrote, the angrier I got, and words crept into the story that I’d not say in polite company, and to be honest, it scared me. And it brought me to a place of anger and resentment myself. I’m not sure I want to go there now -I’m not sure I need to, really.
In a way, the suicide was added because during those years, fifth and sixth grade to be specific, I thought about what it would be like if I killed myself. It wasn’t even so much that I hated life all that much -it was tough to deal with stuff like being called names (The little third-grade brother of a classmate calling me “Spaz” still echoes in my brain, decades later), but there was more to it. My motive was that maybe, just maybe, somebody would see what they’d done and be sorry. It was a sick way of wreaking vengeance, really. And supremely idiotic. I mean, if I was dead, how would I even know what my death would accomplish? Maybe it’d just make things worse, and the treatment of me and the other different kids would just go on anyway. The suicide was a twist on “It’s a Wonderful Life,” where a man gets to see just how the world would be if he weren’t in it. Adding that element allowed me to play with that idea I had back then –what would it have accomplished if I had done it?
So, yeah. Maybe not the best choice for NaNoWriMo. Way too deep and painful to run through in a month. Writing it made me tired. I get tired just thinking about picking it up again -I haven’t worked on it for a solid week now. I’m not ready to go back to it now.
So, the question still is in my mind -have I forgiven? Have I forgiven the kids in fifth and sixth grade? I think so. Forgiveness -as I see it- is a process sometimes. Like a game of Whac-a-Mole, taking those angry thoughts captive as they pop up and speaking truth to myself. Drowning out the voices that tell me that I’m just a misfit that’s too confident for my own good. Realizing that nobody should have the power at the age of ten or eleven to speak condemnation on someone’s life. Nobody that small should have the right to have such a hold on my life so many years later and hold me back from being who I am.
So, the video…
I was thinking on all this on my way home from dropping the kids off to school, and trying to decide whether to even continue this story I’m writing. No way is it going to be done or even 50,000 words by November 30, but should I finish it anyway, or abandon it? I still don’t know. And then I thought about my own kids –how important it is that they have people in their life who, like in mine, spoke worth into me. Who reminded me that my worth doesn’t come from what I do, from where I live, what I wear, how my personality chooses to exhibit itself (or not); but that my worth comes from being a child of God, his Beloved.
So, today, I’m taking a little more than ten seconds -and being thankful for those who loved me into being. Who loved me into a knowledge of what was important, and who helped me stumble into the person I am now, the person I believe God made me to be, the person who was made stronger by the struggles that once made me question whether I should continue living, and be that person without fear. It’s still a struggle some days, but I have learned to hear the truth more loudly than the lies. And for that, I have many people to thank.
God has put somebody in your path that needs to hear the truth louder than the lies in their head. Be that voice. Speak worth to somebody today.