* This is a post that I wrote nearly 3 years ago. But I think the message is something that we need to be reminded of.
If you’ve ever dropped a stone in the water, then you’ve experienced the incredible difference one small action can make. A simple stone, round and smooth, or misshapen and craggy. A simple plop. The resulting ripples vibrate out from the center and dance across the water’s surface in a repeating pattern that is simply beautiful. Now imagine your words as stones and you have an idea of the effect they can have on someone– creating ripples that continue to resonate long after the water has settled.
Words can build you up just as quickly as they can tear you down. Their power can be both constructive and destructive. But with age, and a very wise thirteen year old on my side, I’m beginning to see that they are only words and I am responsible for their impact on my life.
In the past few years, I have fought and won a battle with one word in particular – Tourette’s - a word that changed my life and nearly destroyed my spirit. My son, Jacob, was diagnosed with Tourette’s at the age of five. For years I avoided saying the word because it was surrounded by so many negative, media-propelled stereotypes. And since I’ve let go and started saying the word out loud, I’ve experienced both good and bad ripples.
Recently, someone dropped a stone in my water that more closely resembled a boulder being catapulted from across enemy lines. I was playing Tourette’s advocate, with a with a new acquaintance when he asked, “So does your son go around yelling screw you to everyone?’ And he started laughing. Bad ripples. The ripples quickly turned to waves and capsized my soapbox boat.
I explained that only 10% of those with Tourette’s have “the cursing disease” known as coprolalia yada, yada, yada – I had it memorized. My ears were buzzing and my heart was racing as I struggled to stay above water.
I shared the story with Jacob on the way home. As I ranted about the ignorance of some people, Jacob snorted and sniffed (two of his vocal tics), which only served to confirm my right to be angry. “It makes me so mad that you have to deal with this stuff,” I said as I pounded my fists on the steering wheel. “You must get so sick and tired of people saying such stupid things.”
In a brief moment of quiet between the tics, Jacob said, “Not really, Mom. I can’t get mad at them because they don’t know any better. It’s not their fault. You shouldn’t get mad either.” I was floored with Jacob’s profound insight.
Thanks to Jacob I am learning to let go of other words that have had a hold on my life for quite some time - words that have left me feeling empty and undeserving over the years. Some of those words I recall as if it was yesterday. All she said was, it looks like you put on a little weight over the summer. And although I shrugged the hurtful words off, it seems they chose to linger much longer than I ever thought possible.
I was fourteen. A self-conscious, awkward girl with short hair, glasses and braces. I always struggled with loving myself, and most days I wasn’t even sure I liked myself.
Fast forward 30 years, 15 pounds and two kids later - I’m slowly beginning to understand that all those years I spent trying to perfect the outer me, and live up to the words others carelessly dropped in my pond, would have been better spent calming my inner waters.
Despite the fact that people often stare or make rude comments about Jacob, he has never faltered in his self-esteem. He’s happy with the person he is and so am I because he has taught me an invaluable life lesson: words are powerful, but people are empowered.