I think I was six years old when someone told me to stop looking her in the eye because it is rude as I was a child and she was older. To date, I still struggle with maintaining eye contact especially with older people. I still get mini-panic attacks when I have to hold a conversation with an older acquaintance because part of my brain thinks it is rude to look someone in the eye. This misinformation has stuck with me, fifteen years later. Long after I have learnt that maintaining eye contact isn’t rude and in fact is an essential part of having a fulfilling conversation. I constantly need to remind myself to look at people when I am talking to them. Sometimes I have to practice in the mirror before I go out. And sometimes I fail horribly and just say screw it and look anywhere else but at someone’s face. I am not proud of this, but there are people I have had conversations with and I do not know what their faces look like. I could tell you the colour of their shoes, the size of their fingernails, the design on their shirts, but not a single detail about their face. So what’s the point of this? This is about those things that we cannot talk about, those things that still hurt, those things that eat away at us and we can’t vent because someone told us that we should be over it. That we should stop bringing it up because it is in the past and what is done is done. This is because sometimes, what is done is never quite done.
It is said that actions speak louder than words. Every single time I read this somewhere or hear someone say it, there is a voice in my head that goes, “but do they really?” Because the things that have hurt me are more of the things people said than what they actually did. But maybe that is just me. Maybe it is because I have always considered words my fortress; the place I run to when I need to run away. My arsenal; what I wield when I want to win a fight. Because honestly, I am so little, I could never win a physical fight with anyone. And that is even before life wears me down. I think words are the best part of me; the glue that hold my disintegrated attempts at being a better person, a better friend, a better sister, a better daughter. Because I may not be the easiest person to approach, or the easiest person to talk to and I never know what to do in a social situation but I could always write you an email or send you a text that pulls at a few of your heart strings and feebly hope that makes me worth your while. So I guess that is why words hurt the most, when someone uses your best feature against you. Because words have a way of getting under your skin, itching at your brain, corroding your very being.
That being said, let’s talk about abuse. Verbal and emotional abuse to be specific. I think the saddest thing these kinds of abuse is that they are perpetrated by the people we care about. Because words only hurt if you care about who’s saying them. And the occasional vile utterance of a complete stranger. More times than not, we forget about the latter but never do we get over a parent calling you useless, a loved one thinking of you as pathetic, or a friend calling you stupid. You know it’s just words, and the opinions of others are in no way a measure of your self-worth and abilities or whatever self-help banter you chant before you leave the house every morning, and a lot of times, you believe it. And then there are those nights when you’ve had a bad day and you want to call your best friend but you don’t because you don’t want to seem pathetic. Or the days you don’t understand a concept and it doesn’t quite surprise you because part of you has always felt stupid. So is this an aversion of responsibility? No. I am in no way saying that other people are to blame for our self-destructive thoughts and unhealthy perception of self. I am saying, that maybe if we were nicer to each other and mindful of what we said to one another, then maybe loving ourselves wouldn’t be a daunting task after all. That maybe if we didn’t grow up in abusive homes, we wouldn’t be so abusive after all.
There is this song by The Script, my all-time favourite band, titled “The End Where I Begin.” My favourite line is “sometimes your first scars don’t ever fade away.” The first time I made my best friend listen to this song, he teasingly asked me, “What is wrong with your taste in music?” which was his way of asking, “Why do you listen to such sad music?” I just shrugged. Years later, I still think about that question. It is because of how painfully true the aforementioned line is. Yes, we heal. We move on. We are able to tell our stories without shedding a tear and sometimes we even find those same stories funny. But the scars remain. And while scars are proof that you’ve lived, that you’ve been knocked down but didn’t stay down. Scars are proof that you can survive, that you are much stronger than you seem, sometimes they are just reminders that you were hurt. That you are still hurting. So be nice. Because sometimes, what’s done is never quite done.