Words of Life
Hers is the voice in my head.
When I leave the house, “Put on mascara, I can’t see your eyes.”
“Don’t do anything stupid.”
“There will always be somebody better and somebody worse.”
“You need to learn to putz in the car and bip at home.”
“Many are the plans in the heart of a man but the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs.”
“I will bring you cookies but I will not bail you out.”
“There is never any reason to be unkind.”
My mother’s maxims and mantras follow me through my days, echo as I drive and work and teach and get ready every morning. I catch them coming out of my own mouth at times. It’s amazing the power of her words.
I never believed the old “sticks and stones” rhyme because words have always held power for me. Life words build me up and the tiniest criticisms can send me spiraling. Even if I speak them. They reverberate and intensify over and above any of the day’s compliments. They forge paths into my psyche until I believe the lies that I am unwanted, unworthy, not enough.
In high school these ripples were almost crippling. My own perfectionism and imagination working against me. The battlefront, my own heart working to implode inside my chest. I’d find myself hunching, waiting for air. Panic filling my lungs instead of breath, insecurities lying to my tense shoulders, feeding on failure.
These were the moments that my time acting on stage was not helpful at all. I was dramatic, crying wolf to some. But she always believed me, drew up close despite her Norwegian stoic space bubble, and quoted these short phrases:
It doesn’t matter.
I like it.
It’s not my fault.
I don’t have to.
She spoke truth into my heart when my body would only believe lies.
I’ve needed these phrases over the years. I needed them this past weekend. When the world threatened to cave in and my inadequacies couldn’t seem to bail the water out fast enough in the currents of grief and exhaustion.
Then her voice. Again. Telling me it is going to be okay. And I believe her.
Stephanie Platter is a teacher, writer, film critic, and coffee lover who likes the idea of becoming more like her mother when she grows up.