The Power Of Your Words
Anyone who knows me can affirm that I am honest.
I can be bitchy, outspoken, and speak without packaging my words, but you know that I’ll tell you exactly what I’m thinking.
I am polite, but I also swear a lot. I don’t filter what I say, because when I filtered myself in the past, it created anxiety in my body. I am, however, thoughtful when I speak. Not thoughtful as in kind, thoughtful as in I know what I am saying and I’m comfortable with it.
As I follow my way down the rabbit hole of Instagram stories, I see a lot of repeats. I see people talking about their lives or their offerings in ways that I know are pre-planned and sugar coated. That’s not the way that I want to present myself. It isn’t the way that I present myself.
Creating boundaries around what I receive and process is important. When I see someone who recycles and shovels up someone else’s words, I stop watching them. I also ask myself why it bothers me and what it triggers in me.
As a kid, I protected the people I loved by covering for little and big disappointments that I felt around their behavior. One that always comes to mind is from a time that my father had to travel to Indonesia. I was in third grade and didn’t want him to leave for a ten day trip away, and he felt that sadness but needed to go. He offered up a gem of a promise, something to turn things around so that he wouldn’t have to witness my expression of sadness. He told me that he would bring me back a kinkajou. I didn’t know what they were, and someone (maybe him, I cannot remember) told me that there were like little koalas.
Now, in those days, we had these little clip-on koala bears that people would put on their lamps, backpacks, anywhere. This caused me to assume that koalas were very small. (This is important to the story.)
After my father left for his business trip, I went to school missing him. Instead of focusing on the sadness, I focused on his promise, so excited to know that he was returning (he always did, but I always worried that he wouldn’t). For those ten days, I missed my father terribly but chose to focus on the kinkajou instead. The missing was too painful.
I never wanted anything. I just really didn’t want my dad to go away. I had the offer of something shiny to distract me, which was what he’d wanted for me (the distraction). When I felt the missing, I flipped it and focused on the promise.
I remember telling everyone at school that he’d be home soon, and he’d be bringing me a kinkajou. I told them that I would bring it to school, for show and tell, because they accused me of lying. I was telling them what my father had told me, and my father (my hero) was telling the truth.
It didn’t matter, really, whether he brought me something back or not. And when, in the end, he didn’t, I wasn’t upset about what I didn’t get. I was upset that he didn’t do what he said he’d do. He said something to soothe me, and I am sure that his intentions were good. But I also felt disappointed. I felt like a fool for believing him. I felt ashamed that I shared his promise with my classmates.
At school the next day, embarrassed at my own trusting, my friends asked me to show them the kinkajou that I promised I’d bring for show and tell. I felt my face flush. I didn’t have the courage to tell them that I’d been tricked. I didn’t want them to see me cry, or let them know that I had been so severely let down (not by the lack of this wild present, but by the false promise). So I lied. I said the kinkajou was in a box on the secretary’s desk in the office. I thought that it would be small, like a clip-on koala, so the story I’d created made perfect sense to me.
That afternoon, before school let out, the entire class lined up single file by the door. For whatever reason, my mother arrived earlier than anyone else’s parent, and all the kids shot questions at her, asking about my new pet. I didn’t know what was going to happen and prayed that my mother would protect my ego.
“Kinkajou? What? Her father didn’t bring her back a kinkajou!” she exclaimed to the class, and then to me, “Tiffany, why are you lying?”
I will never forget that day. I didn’t lie to be cool, or to pretend to be something I wasn’t. I lied because I was lied to, and because I was let down. I lied because I didn’t know what else to do. Would it have been better for me to tell the truth? I probably would’ve been laughed at and made fun of, but I do believe telling the truth would have been better. I was hurt either way, but by lying, I also ended up betraying myself.
I still feel that pain and the embarrassment that came along with the experience. I still have a hard time trusting people who waffle, who don’t keep consistent with their word. I have never, nor will I ever, lie to push away other people’s feelings that might cause me discomfort.
So that’s what it is. That’s what the words without actions trigger in me. I’m really uncomfortable with people who pretend that they are sharing, offering, or creating something merely for the sake of a reaction.
One day, this wound will heal. One day, I will shrug it off. But right now, I’m still in the thick of trying to navigate through what’s real and what isn’t; it’s still super uncomfortable for me.
But I see it, and I understand, and I bravely continue to breathe into the unknown, hopeful that old experience will come up and find its way out through the breath.
Until then, I just keep breathing.