“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.