sticks and stones

Sticks and Stones” is an English language children’s rhyme. It persuades the child victim of name-calling to ignore the taunt, to refrain from physical retaliation, and to remain calm and good-natured. It is reported[1] to have appeared in The Christian Recorder of March 1862, a publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, where it is presented as an “old adage” in this form:

Sticks and stones will break my bones
But words will never harm me.


It’s a total lie of course. Words harm. Worse, the lingering effects of harmful words hurt and haunt.

The past several weeks have been remarkable uncomfortable, even painful.

I’ve been thinking a lot about balance lately. I saw my doctor this morning and he presented me with a real, viable, pragmatic process which would allow me to breathe out a sigh of relief and provide a respite from the battle within. The more I think about it, though, I realize that taking it would put me back where I started nearly three years ago. I would relegate that part of me I’m just getting to know back down into the dark recesses of myself, where it would be a changeling left to fend for itself…and inevitably because there would be no long-term resolution or satisfaction, the cycle would go on.

It’s a frightening thing to feel something within grow. After years of being, in essence, dead inside, finding a heart that feels and hurts and yearns, there is profound knowledge that there is something more than the abuse, something more than the words or the fists or the instrument of choice hurled.

My life is more than an account about unspeakable acts inflicted on a child or an acutely sick family in chaos or the death of innocents and innocence, but about hurt—both intentional and non-intentional, physical and emotional—how all involved are affected and in the line of fire, and how we get scorched on the sidelines, collateral damage. It’s also about hope, about how hope and grace can permeate the deadness of a heart and nurse it back to life, through the hurt, into that something more.

But still there has to be balance somewhere. It seems just outside of my reach these days.

Once upon a time, I wrote schedules and kept multiple calendars and had daily to do lists as a measure for whether or not I was doing a good job or not.

I threw them away earlier this year and decided my worth should not be based on whether or not I completed a to-do list or did everything on the schedule well. It felt good initially. But in moments of angst and uncertainty I craved them, because even if they pointed to me as a failure, they were comfortable and known.

I’ve learned that while I don’t need the prescriptive methods designed to provide a false sense of control, I do need a routine and constants in my life. I need the same breakfast every morning. I need a consistent morning rhythm, especially before work, and I need an equally consistent one after the work day has ended. Not as a measure of anything, but more as a guide to ensure that my anxiety doesn’t go off the charts…a balance of sorts.

Even at the office there’s a rhythm to the day that is both familiar and comforting. It varies some from day to day, and even from season to season, but there’s a definite ebb and flow that allows for unexpected opportunities without being overly alarming and unmanageable.

I haven’t found that in my home life (yet). There have been too many changes, too much uncertainty for those constants to be made known in the new way they will be, or at least I hope they will evolve and develop. Soon.

And then maybe the old scripts, the hurtful voices and words, will finally fade away.

Time, Give It Time

The fear and anxiety surround me. It’s like being sucked into a black hole.

After all the assurances that talking about memories will help, it turns out that was a lie too. Talking about them has resulted in shame ever-increasing anxiety. I’m aware that I’m a mess but seemingly helpless to do anything about it other than make it worse.

Time, give it time.

I’ve heard that over and over lately.

Those are easy words if you’re not being ripped apart inside.

Have more faith. Trust.

I’ve heard those words even more than time, give it time.

It sounds simple…if you’re not plunging into a terrifying darkness alone, with negative thoughts and old scripts roaring, commanding attention.

I make plans, write lists, determined to get myself together and move on.

And go nowhere.

This is the longest I’ve struggled with the same set of related memories for a sustained period of time.

At first I tried to dismiss them, only to have enough of them confirmed by a relative that dismissing them is no longer viable.

I’ve tried to distract myself (using not always so safe much less healthy means) from them, only to find it even more difficult to deal with the fallout from the distractions along with the real issue.

Maybe it’s time to stop fighting them and see what happens. Just possibly, that’s the bravest thing I can do right now.