Tag Archives: words as weapons

Susan Speaks: Words as Weapons (Take Two)


With a respectful nod to Seether

All I really want is something beautiful to say

Most of us grow up with that old sticks and stones maxim. As kids, we like it. It’s our defense against bullies and the mean kids and situations. It gives us a sense of power and a coating of teflon.

I was a kid who needed that teflon.

I was also a kid who grew up to be a wordsmith. I know that words can never hurt me simply isn’t true. Words can hurt. Sometimes, words do hurt.

Take last night, for example. Someone I hadn’t seen since before the accident called across a crowded room, “Hey, where’s your eye patch?”

“There never was one,” I said.

She kept going. I kept repeating the phrase.

She thought she was funny.

I … can’t say as how I agreed.

Keep me dumb, keep me paralyzed
Why try swimming? I’m drowning in fable
You’re not that saint that you externalize
You’re not anything at all

Now, here’s the thing. I had a client who made eye patch jokes… twelve weeks ago. A good friend in Texas who suggested I wear a gorgeous scarf she’d sent me years ago because it would match the patch… twelve weeks ago. Hell, even my mother made a joke about wearing an eye patch… seven weeks ago.

And the first and third were jokes, asked by people who’d checked in with me from time to time before they’d let ’em rip. Lord knows, I’ve made plenty of jokes myself about this whole thing. My favorite still remains the “Just like riding a bike. Oh, wait. We all know what happened last time I rode a bike” that I left on a friend’s Facebook wall after she discovered that after ten or more years, she still remembered how to roller skate.

The second? My friend in Texas? She truly didn’t know. And we had an absolutely fascinating discussion about the elegance and brutality of modern medicine. We theorized why I didn’t have a patch, or what circumstances might have occurred that would have resulted in having one. We talked about it. Yeah, we probably joked, too. I like to joke.

Last night? Wasn’t a joke.

That’s because this woman is someone in my community. She has my phone numbers. She knows where I live. We have shared parties and rituals. We have watched each other’s kids grow up.

She is someone I’d reached out to when the accident first happened, asking if she could help.

I probably don’t need to tell you what she said.

And last night, she was looking at me as I stood near my son. I had my new glasses on. People had been telling me through the evening that they couldn’t tell anything was wrong with my eye until I looked to my left, and then they could see it’s still pretty red, thirteen weeks later. One dad had commented that I’d been a regular at this, our weekly meeting place, and then I’d stopped showing up, and now I was back again. Was I okay? Had something happened?

So I told him the story. That I almost lost my eye. That I shouldn’t have vision.

That I have both.

That I am one lucky woman.

It’s all so playful when you demonize
To spit out the hateful, you’re willing and able
Your words are weapons of the terrified
You’re nothing in my world

And then her. Repeated demands to know where my eye patch was.

In front of my friends, my community.

In front of my son.

Say, “Can you help me?” right before the fall
Take what you can and leave me to the wolves

It’s been over thirteen weeks. I still wake up at night, scared that I’ve lost my vision; this is where the PTSD about the whole thing seems to lurk. Cloudy days are stressful days; when it’s not bright and sunny, my eye feels swollen — even though it’s not — and things are darker. Walking out of a well-lit area (like my family room) into a darkened area (like going up the stairs without turning the hall light on)? It’s like walking into a cave at first. It takes a bit longer to adjust. Zombie apocalypse? I am so toast.

In other words: I have vision, but it’s not perfect. The new glasses, with the lens that’s thicker than you can get your mind around, help.

My vision was perfect enough, though, that I could see this woman, across a room that was becoming more crowded as we drew closer to dismissal time, continue to make jokes. About me. About what I’d been through. She was just doing it softly enough that I couldn’t hear her.

I wanted to ask if she knew I could read her lips.

But I didn’t think she was succeeding in diminshing me at all. Nope. I looked at her, and I thought that I had been through so much in the past thirteen weeks (and three days) — and she didn’t care a whit to check on me once.

I thought that I continue to stop multiple times a day and say a silent thank you for my vision. That I look around and appreciate the way things look. The sharp lines of a tree that hasn’t yet blossomed or opened its buds. An angry storm, snow on the ground, the obnoxious shirt my son thinks is funny that I keep waiting for phone calls from school about. I was grateful when I got up at 4:15 in the morning last week to put my daughter on a bus for a school field trip, and that I didn’t have to sit in a dark living room with her and wait for someone to pitch in, help out, and give her a ride while I stayed home, acutely aware that life was passing by as I sat inside and healed.

And I thought that this woman was too… whatever… to realize the value in any of it.

That yeah, her words were weapons. Except…

They missed the mark.

All I really want is something beautiful to say
To never fade away
I wanna live forever

Funny how much better I’m seeing the world these days, as I wait for my vision to “resolve” (whatever that means; it’s the surgeon’s term) and I switch pairs of glasses depending on what I’m looking at, as the cataract grows and my eye heals and as I learn to live with a new reality, the outcome of which remains anyone’s guess.

Again, thanks to Seether for the amazing lyrics which may or may not fit, but suit my mood and give my roiling emotions a safe outlet. I am amused that the name of their new album is “Isolate and Medicate.”


#SaysTheEditor: Words as Weapons


There’s real unrest in our world these days. We all turn on the news and see it: earthquakes, terrorists, riots, injustice.

We feel protected from it. It’s happening over there, on other people’s Facebook feeds, on Twitter, on the news. It’s not happening here.

Except, you know what? The suspicion these situations breeds manages to worm its way into our consciousness anyway. It may be happening there, but what if it’s going to happen here? When does the hammer fall, when it is my turn to face evil or hardship? When do the zombies bang on my door and try to eat me?

When I went to bed last night, I wouldn’t have believed that people have grown so suspicious so fast. Rude, yes, like the jerk who turns exercise bikes into his own personal charging station at the Hoity Toity Health Club.

But so damn suspicious of each other?

It’s sad.

And it’s powered by words. By Tweets, by status updates, by conversation we have with each other.

Words have power. Anyone who’s ever listened to a caring adult whisper, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Go on, say it. You’ll feel better” knows the mantra simply isn’t true. Words hurt.

Like Seether says, Words as Weapons.

Into this new environment comes one other element you may not have expected. I sure didn’t: the loss of the ability to joke.

Case in point: One of the small businesses who works for West of Mars made a post on Facebook that he was trying to squeeze more work into the end of the month. I made a comment about him learning to stretch time. Turn on your TV. Super hero shows are full of characters stretching time. We are big Flash fans around here, and time is very much an element in that show. Go to the movies. Hello, Matrix? And that’s an old one.

An innocent comment. A compliment, really. If anyone could figure out how to make time stretch out so he could pack more into a day, it’s him.

I admire this guy. I like him. I respect him. And most of all, I trust him and the work he does. That’s why I employ him.

But… apparently, not everyone holds him in such high esteem. Accusations began to fly about him padding his billable hours.

Umm… what? Seriously?

First off, if you don’t trust the guy, why do you interact with him? Or is it that this new culture we’re in doesn’t allow for that sort of rational thought? Are we all are being brainwashed into not trusting the cops, teenage girls who may beat you up after the movie you’ve shushed their chatter during, people who’ve pulled their hoods up over their heads, your own friends… it’s sad. What happened to community? To the simple idea of trust?

Second, why so negative? You’ve just jumped to a conclusion that has zero basis in fact, and, in fact, has been disproven time and again concerning this particular man. It worries me that you are willing to read something so unethical into one of the most upright people I know.

The problem, folks, lies with you, who misinterpreted the compliment.

Yeah, okay, I was wrong to have underestimated the culture of fear and suspicion we’re now living in. I was wrong to have not realized it’s sitting in my backyard, even after someone I haven’t spoken to since 1991 used a Facebook friendship to wound a bunch of people I love.

When I paid the compliment, it never entered my mind that anyone would consider the worst about this man. It … I still can’t get my brain around it. I just can’t. James, pad his hours? JAMES????

What sort of crack are these people smoking? I mean, really.

Sticks and stones may break bones. No argument there. But the rest of that mantra is simply wrong. Words can and do harm us. Sometimes, words can wound deeper and harder than a stick, a stone, a bullet, a sword ever could. Because we survive those wounds, seemingly intact, and yet we carry the pain with us.

Those so-called friends of my service provider have done more damage than they expected. They didn’t just hurt one man and possibly his business. They’ve hurt me, too, beyond belief. And while they don’t give a damn about me — like I’d even want them to, watching how they treat our mutual friend — it’s too bad that they don’t give enough of a damn about this guy to see a compliment as a compliment, and to trust his good word and the actions that back him up as being above the deplorable behavior they’re so quick to accuse him of engaging in.

James, I’m sorry. As I’ve said, I meant to pay you the highest of compliments. I can only control the words I write, the words I say. I can’t control how others interpret them.

As a wordsmith, I know this. I work with clients daily to make sure their intent is crystal clear. I had thought my intent concerning you was every bit as clear. In my eyes, you’re a superman. And as we all know from super hero TV shows and movies, supermen accomplish the impossible.

Supermen accomplish the impossible.

Except, I guess, this time.