“I’m going inside now”. These are the words, as a child, that I said when my parents called me in for dinner or the end of the day bedtime routine. Sometimes I said these words simply because I was mad at my playmate. I was tired of being called dumb, ugly or any of the harsh words that are often spoken in child’s play. I thought that if I went inside, I would not be bothered and would maybe find some reassurance in the shelter of my home. What I didn’t often plan on was the disturbance of any one of my six brothers. So if I wanted to go inside and not be bothered, I would go a little farther and head upstairs to “my room”. I was the only girl and my room was all my own. It was there that I could think about anything, I could play with dolls and draw pictures. I think my first drawing was of an egg plant. I fell in love with this vegetable/fruit because of it’s brilliant color. The picture I drew was magnificent but misunderstood by my mother because it was on the wall of my closet. Sorry Mom. If I wasn’t drawing, I would make up little songs and sing about my day. I wrote some poems and on occasion I played with dolls. I have to say that my playing with dolls may have been greatly influenced by all the boys in the house. When I played with Barbie she was with GI Joe and they fought against the green army men from a big Tonka Truck. Nonetheless, I played on my own often and because I was tired of the outside influences telling me how to play and what to play. I wanted to think on my own, create what I saw in my mind and ultimately I was on an early quest to find out who I was.
As children we believe what adults tell us because they are our authority figures and therefore they must always be right. If a parent tells their child that they are beautiful and intelligent, rarely does a child set out on a mission to prove them different. But somewhere along the way another person, perhaps a schoolmate, tells them that they are not the person of their parent’s pride. They begin to question themselves and start to see themselves in an ugly light. They head home, back inside, where their parents reaffirm their sense of worth. They “pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start all over again” as the song goes.
Not all children are fortunate to have parents who speak words of life to their tender little souls. I once heard a mom say to her child in a store, “you stupid little bastard, you will never learn, will you?” The child was three or four and immediately began crying. Her mother then said, “stop crying like a baby, you are going to make this lady mad”, gesturing toward me. I walked over to the child, got down on her level and said, “a beautiful little girl like you could never make me mad”. The little girl smiled for a second through her tears and the mom snatched her up as quickly as she could to head in a different direction. I still think of this scene and wonder where that young girl is today. Did she give up in school because her mom told her she was stupid? Did she have other people in her life to give her words of kindness and encouragement that she could cling to? Was she ever able to “go inside” even if that simply meant finding a way to think and to become who she believed she could be?
Sometimes I still find it necessary to “go inside”. When the pace of work is too much, and I begin to doubt my own abilities, I sometimes am caught replaying what irresponsible adults told me as a child; words of negativity and discouragement. In these negative moments, though they are few and far between, I will sit down to write, draw or play my keys until I am convinced that I am capable of so much more than the limitations of my own understanding.
The flower in this picture represents beauty, the border surrounding it represents the people who have helped to create, promote and protect that same inner beauty. I am fortunate to have a life-mate who helps me to see my beauty, when I can't seem to find it. I am grateful.
Sometimes we become the negative words spoken over us and sometimes we find the strength from within to rise above them; we find the ability to sift through the noise of discouragement to hear the words of hope becoming so much more than we imagined.
Amy Lynn Michael