words and affirmations

I sometimes have dreams as I am falling asleep, in that odd twilight before I am fully asleep, when my brain is still capable of conscious thought, but the subconscious starts to take over.

In that twilight I sometimes have panic attacks, or vivid dreams. In my dreams, vividness is usually bad. But fortunately because I am still slightly awake, I can wake myself out of the dream fairly quickly.

Last night I dreamed I was in the middle of the bottle dance scene from Fiddler on the Roof – all the Jewish men dressed in black, dancing around with bottles on their head, then the music got wilder, as in the movie, but instead of setting down the bottles and changing to the next part of the dance, the men all changed, suddenly there were bright clothes and familiar, but undefinable, faces. I thought I knew them all, but I could not actually point out who any of them were. They broke their bottles and began scratching words into my skin, wherever there was room.

bad mom, bad wife, bad woman

diet failure, sickly, weak, lazy

ugly, unlovable

loser, incapable


failure, hopeless


I could not see the words as much as I could feel them, all cut into my skin, my arms, my legs, my chest – pushing my dress up, shoving my neckline aside to make more room for the words, stinging, bleeding words.  Everyone was crowding up to me, pushing others aside to get to me.

And I just stood their, still and quiet, crying.

And then I was not seeing it from my eyes in the dream, but watching it, watching all the bright people, and me, in my pretty white ‘Thelma Lou’ dress, the one all covered in purple and pink flowers, covered in all those words. This all takes much longer to tell than it took to see. It all was very quick. It was slow and quick; dream speed. And I willed myself to move, to shake off all the people with their broken glass and their labels. And in the dream I started flailing my arms, fighting them off, and watching the dream, I shook inside my brain and woke myself up just as my dream self was starting to chase off the people.

I was in bed.

I curled against Luke with a whimper, and he wrapped his arms around me, shhhhhh, I’ve got you, I love you.

Safe with Luke, who builds me up, who creates me with words –

beautiful, precious,

talented, creative,

good cook, good wife, good mom, helpmate,

worth more than jewels,

kind, beloved,



But the other words are still there. They did not come from my dream, and they did not brush off when I shook off the dream.

I wrote that a few years ago. Some dreams have to be told. that one burned in me all day until I got a chance to write it.
Words mean a lot to me. Harsh, hateful, judgemental words cut me deep.

We went to the Renaissance Faire this weekend. I got dozens of compliments on my purple, pixie cut hair. I felt giddy each time. I couldn’t help but smile, every single time anyone mentioned it.
I wrote a comment on a blog today, about an experience i’d had, and the writer responded calling me ‘courageous’. I smiled and almost cried and felt very silly. i just got a comment saying something i wrote was ‘well written’. Well written! I wrote well!

I feel silly, for being so happy when people affirm my unusual hair choice, or say i was courageous, or that ‘from what i see, you seem like a really nice person’ (from a new twitter friend), or that i wrote well. I almost want to squelch that little glow. After all, it can be dangerous to accept what others say about you. It can be really dangerous to rely on other people for affirmation.

But when you have been controlled and hurt by words, and wrong expectations, and judgments of your heart and motives, any little affirmation of your choices and efforts are like a healing balm – if you allow yourself to feel them, to admit you need the healing and that, in a sense, you are worthy of it.
I allow myself to accept compliments, instead of deflecting them. And, when i can, i give them to myself. I call myself strong words:

I am brave. I am smart. I am a writer. I am passionate and I am angry and I am healing and I am not sure who I am, exactly, but I know I am not weak or worthless.
I have depression. I get unfairly angry at times. I worry a lot. Those are strong words too, because they are true, and they help me to heal and change into the person i want to be. But the real strength in them come from the fact that i choose to take them on myself, to help me heal and not to burden myself. I know they don’t mean ‘i am a bad person’, as i so frequently say when i am spent and sad and speaking from the dark places inside.

I used to think that to be humble, I had to think i was worthless. That to help others, I had to think they were better and worthier than me. That to be a good mom, i had to always put myself aside and serve everyone like a willing, doting slave.

But i think humility is not self-deprecation, and helping others and parenting from a place of strength, of conscious decisions and a healthy mind, is better for everyone involved than slavish dependency on constantly serving and finding my identity in my children and others.  I have my own identity, and from there I can help others and raise my children to be their own, strong people.

i wonder sometimes if i’m just very vain and self centered. but i think i’m just finding my voice, my identity, and my strength. The old cuts are healing into scars that are part of who I am, but don’t have to define me any more. I am learning to accept both the good and difficult words about myself.

While we’re on the subject of words, Defeating the Dragons is doing a series on learning (or reclaiming) certain words, as a part of healing and growing, called Learning the Words. In fact, it’s part of why i was thinking of that old piece about words that cut me and had to dust it up and reflect on it again. There are some good posts in the Learning the Words series so far, and i saw a few people tweeting their ideas, so i am excited to read the upcoming posts too. I hope to write something to submit this week, because I’m a little obsessed with words. they shape how we talk and think about ourselves, the world, and our lives, and therefore how we feel, act, and live.

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