spine + tingle = spingle

“If it’s not broken, it can’t be fixed.”

Such powerful words from a dear friend.  She shared them with me during a painful moment and I understood completely. She’s been hoping and working towards a goal that she finally realized was unattainable because it was the wrong goal all along.

“Ugly is in the heart of the beholder.  Ugly, as far as a child is concerned, is only what’s projected onto her from ugly adults.”

More powerful words from another dear friend. These words touched a chord so deep inside me that I seldom acknowledge it. It stays deep down in the darkness so I don’t have to look at it. The vibration of this chord has affected every part of my life for so long that it’s difficult to recognize unless I’m really looking.

I’ve written before about being an ugly child. I’ve dealt with the consequences of being an ugly child for as long as I can remember. I’ve felt like an ugly child for my entire life and at almost 42, it’s been years since I’ve seen my childhood. Hell, I’m almost done with my children’s childhoods.

As a little girl, as far back as I can remember, I knew I was ugly. I don’t remember knowing why I was ugly but I remember knowing I was. Looking back after all these years of therapy and hard work, I know that I believed I was ugly because ugly things happened to me. And why else would ugly things happen to a child? It couldn’t possibly be the fault of her caregivers because if it was, then what? Logically, I totally get that.

As a child, as children, we have absolute reliance on our caregivers. Without them we’d never survive. We know that somewhere inside us even as babies. That, in itself, is completely amazing to me.

So here’s the rub. If we as small babies know that we are completely reliant on our caregivers and our caregivers totally suck, what are we to do? Without those caregivers, we would die. Sometimes with our caregivers we still die. That said, as a species our goal is to survive. To mature. To procreate. To assure our continued survival. Surviving is what it’s all about. How do babies survive? By being loud! If we’re hungry, we cry. If we’re wet, we cry. If we’re tired, we cry. If we’re bored, we cry. No matter what our need at this stage of our life, we must cry. We. Must. Cry.

What happens to a child who cries and gets beaten? What happens to a child who cries to have her needs met and from the age of 4 days old, those needs are never met without being beaten? If this child learns that crying will end up hurting, does she cry where others can see her? Does she grow up asking for help when she needs it? Or does this child begin to hide…everything.

When this child hides things and gets found out, what happens then? Do her caregivers, her providers, her life lines help her with what she needs? If they do, wonderful. If they do not, the cycle begins and continues. What if those providers, those life lines, beat the child for hiding things… for lying (by omission) in effect, for hiding things that get broken, for hiding owies, abcessed teeth, infections, blood, threats, wet beds, nasty step siblings, half eaten food, nightmares or any of a bazillion other possibilities?

I’ll tell you what happened to me. I learned to be invisible. The quieter, the better. I became as close to invisible as I could become. I said nothing. I remembered nothing. I stuffed it all. Deep.

At the age of one year, my mother found me sitting in a mound of cereal and sugar one morning. Eating. My diaper was disgusting. I was wet clear through. But I was not hungry. I’d gotten my own breakfast. Why did I have to do that at one year old? My mother wouldn’t get out of bed. I figured out how to get out of my crib and took care of it myself. Whenever my mom would tell this story, she would laugh. Every single time I heard this story (including the first time), I thought :::how is it funny that a baby had to get out of her crib and find her own breakfast?::: That was my thought even before I knew what I know now.

I don’t remember thinking my mommy was beautiful. I don’t remember wanting her at my school ‘stuff’. I don’t remember wanting to tell her anything. I don’t remember much about her when I was little that could be good. I know there were times when things were good and fun. I have the pictures to prove it. As I got older, there were more fun times and the bad ones were just more bad. The things I could write about my mother alone…but this is not the point of my thoughts right now.

What I want to explore is how does a child go from knowing she’s ugly and bad to believing she isn’t. Is it even possible? How does the ugly in the heart of the beholder become the ugly in the heart of the beholdee? (is that even a word?) And how does one get it out? How is that replaced with something we don’t even recognize? If the bad things that happened to me really weren’t my fault, does that mean I’m not broken? If I’m not broken, can I still be fixed? If I can’t be fixed, what am I doing in therapy?

AhhhhhHaaaaa…(are you seeing my lightbulb moment now?) Maybe, just maybe, I’m not in therapy to be fixed. Maybe I’ve been pursuing the wrong goal all along. Maybe I received the gift of special words from special friends at just the right moment. Maybe I will be closer to figuring out whatever it is I need to figure out.

Maybe, just maybe, there really are no coincidences.

Now that is a true spingle moment.



14 responses to this post.

  1. i can understand thinking you are an ugly child…my childhood was no where near as traumatic as yours; relatively speaking, my childhood was idylic…but i do understand where you are coming from…and although the things that you endured were not your fault…you didn’t cause them…doesn’t mean they didn’t break you. your spirit was broken…yes, you need fixed…but perhaps what about you needs fixed, isn’t what you think needs fixed. i am by no means trained in this…am not any kind of expert…but you need to learn that you are not responsible for what others think/do…the things your endured were not your problem and you can’t fix/change what did happen…you can’t “fix your childhood into something it wasn’t”…you can’t :”fix” your mother into something she wasn’t…what you can do is realize that you are a survivor, that you learned from your experiences, you can rise above it….be stronger because of it…be a better person than those that tried their best to destroy you…you didn’t make it to 42 to dwell it the “what was”…you made it to 42 to bask in the joy of what is…look at what you have accomplished in spite of the obstacles…rejoice that you are a survivor…be grateful that you were able to stop the chain of abuse and be a better person than those that came before you. Family is a strong bond, indeed…but just because people are blood doesn’t mean thay have your best interest at heart. Okay…i’ve rambled, i probably over-stepped…but you are not ugly, your heart is pure in intention…and i pray you have many more spingle moments!


  2. Woohoo! Yes! It’s not about getting fixed. You will need to find the language you need to use for it. It’s about coming to terms, making (internal) peace with things beyond your control, and (my personal preference for describing the process): integration. You (I, everyone) don’t have the option of being who we would have been if XYZ hadn’t happened. We also don’t have to be the person that our earlier experiences would stereotypically suggest that we be. You have it in you to rise above, as evidenced by your getting your breakfast at one. Those of us who came from such backgrounds have to (or may choose to) recognize that we did what we did for how every many years we did it because it worked. At first. The ways we needed to be (invisible, angry, ugly, whatever) in order to survive, not call attention, not appear to be contradicting those in power, we developed those skills because they were needed. And good for us, for having the wisdom and flexibility to adapt. Then there comes a time when those aren’t the skills that are needed, but they’ve become such a part of us, that it’s excruciating to recognize that they aren’t us; they’re learned. And now they’re no longer relevant to the lives we’ve created, found, earned. So we have to let those old survival ways of being go, and replace them with what’s needed to live the lives we have now. The lives over which we do have some control, some power.
    This is an exciting post, Traci. 🙂


  3. Maybe, Traci, your therapy is about understanding enough that you can let it go. I suspect that the sense of “being ugly” is something that was passed down through the generations. I’m betting your mom felt like an ugly child, too. So yes … understanding the “how” might be freeing. Or understanding any one of many other factors that led to the door of therapy in the first place.

    Traci, another thought … perhaps therapy can help you to understand that *you* are in control, not the past injuries and those who flung them at you. Just something to chew on.

    Good luck, dear girl.


  4. “You will always be fat and ugly and no one is ever going to love you.”

    Those words were spoken to me by my mother, when I was 5.

    “I’ve hated you since the day you were born.”

    Those words were spoken to me by my mother when I was 12.

    I can’t tell you what you should do, or how you should work through what you’re feeling. I just decided at a young age to prove her wrong. She was the only one who treated me like that, so I decided she was wrong. I did the exact opposite thing… I made myself very visible. I went on stage, literally. First, I studied music and was awarded many things from an early age. I made the all state band in 7th grade. I won academic contests. I was in the gifted and talented program. Then I started singing and was recognized throughout my state by the time I was 17. I just did things that would not only prove to her that she was wrong, but would do it in a public way. A great deal of it was also an effort to prove to myself she was wrong, but I finally believed it when I was 21.

    My mom was wrong. So was yours. Believe it.


  5. Oh Traci, I’m spingly too now, reading this. Maybe you’re NOT broken!! Maybe you don’t need “fixing”. Maybe, you’re ready to launch the beautiful you you’ve been re-creating during your years of healing. Maybe you’ll soon be able to see how beautiful you are!


  6. Happy Cupid Day, or just Wednesday, whichever. 😉


  7. Posted by The Boston Pobble on Thursday, February 15, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    I just got a spingle.

    This is so exciting…Painful, perhaps. Scary, definitely. And still Exciting. Don’t lose sight of the exciting. You are loved.


  8. I think it is about letting go of what others did (or didn’t do) to us as children..as teens. Letting go and knowing we can only move forward and treat ourselves with the very respect and goodness we deserve and have always deserved. That we can hug that little girl inside and show her how it feels to enjoy life. That is what therapy did for me anyway. No one in my past..can take back what happened or didn’t happen. But I can create days filled with things that make me happy. That’s the only way I have been able to move forward. Hugs to you on your journey–you deserve to shine brightly and do things that make you smile and feel warm.


  9. Traci, I had no idea what to say when I first read your post. I decided to keep my big yap shut because… I felt as if I could have written this very post and I was afraid that I would slap up some distorted, unhealthy idea in your comments. I really, really like what Susie had to say.


  10. This was one of the most painful posts I have ever read. I think being pregnant is adding to the sensitivity.

    Traci, I’m at a complete loss for words. I personally can’t identify with what you went through in your childhood; however, it doesn’t mean I can’t empathise.

    It literally crushes me to see in black and white how a person’s spirit had been crushed from jump street. It escapes me how anyone can do that to a child.

    I resound what everyone here has said, you are a special and beautiful person, and not just because others say it … it’s because you truly know it.

    “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt


  11. Truly powerful statements. I wanted to argue at first, but then I read on to what you said, and I found myself agreeing.


  12. Someone said once to me that the cosmos doesn’t want anything more from you than that you are being. Growing is a bonus. Understand, and let go of whatever you hold onto for (negative) comfort. But even before you have gotten enough insight to do that – there is something even better.

    Start telling yourself the new stories – the _real_ new stories. The stories that you imagine you might hear your children tell your grandchildren.

    Take the moment, and make it special one for someone else – the whole random acts of beauty and kindness thing.

    That’s a feedback loop of love – the one where you receive more than you ever thought to give. It’s a magnifier, a resonator. You craft who you become by the habits that you form, the choices that you keep on making. It doesn’t take much, really, to turn the tide…and that’s the only way I know to really break a cycle of negativity. New habits, new messages, attention, focus.

    I love to say “stop, right now, what?” to myself. (I said it very, very quietly – lol)


  13. spingling over here. I read this a while ago and I was too choked up to comment, and Susie’s post reminded me to come back.

    Thank you for sharing yourself here.

    I agree, it’s not about fixing, or making it as though what’s happened has never happened. It’s about what’s next, and it’s about this moment.


  14. I think you are beautiful for sharing this spingle with us. I grew up feeling I was an ugly child and sometimes I catch myself in the mirror and think “Wow, maybe I’m not that ugly” and then other times I think how I could have ever thought I looked good.


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