Sticks and Stones

Saturday 24th February

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”.  This was one of those mantras we learnt as children.  And when insults were hurled we would chant it back and run away.  Well, I can tell you sticks didn’t quite break my bones – but it wasn’t for the sake of trying.  Stones were rarely thrown, but words were.  And words, despite the brave mantra did hurt me.  Words have always hurt me. From the dread word ‘Adopted’ to it’s just as nasty epithet ‘Bastard’, these two really did hurt – because I was both.  Later, as girls called me ugly and I stared into the mirror and spent far too long combing my hair and squeezing spots – to little visible improvement, those words hurt me too.

And then the inevitable “But I don’t love you anymore” as another relationship faltered and fell apart.  Those words never went away.  I would lie in bed, trying to lose myself in delirious sleep, but those words would revolve over and over in my head.  I would, and still do, relive every slight and insult, every bitter word shouted in anger ringing in my brain like finality’s bell.  And I too, am often guilty of using words to hurt.

Why we do it, I do not know.  Does it really make us feel any better?  I doubt it, but words are a form of violence we deploy with little thought.  We rarely resort to sticks and stones, but words we carelessly hurl, can really hurt you.  And why is it always our loved ones we hurt with words.  We may justify them as ‘only telling the truth’, or ‘well, they started it’, but we may well have ended it.

I am one of those unfortunate people who cannot simply shrug them off, they stick to me like super glue and are just as hard to wash off.  Words.  I live by words, lyrics of songs mean so much to me.  Books I read are full of words which I find comfort in.  I absorb the news, which is mostly spoken, and the papers full of written words.  Yes, words mean a lot to me.  And many times, I have wished that sticks and stones had been deployed rather than the sharpest stones and hardest sticks that words carry.  I am reminded of a couplet in a poem I once wrote..

“and the sharpest stone in your armoury store, the one that cut me to the core, was soft at the edges, rounded and smooth, a net to bathe my deepest wounds.”

So, just think before letting out those hurtful words, because yes, they really do hurt, just as much as sticks and stones.”