Proverbial sticks and stones are not supposed to hurt. Having been struck by the pebbles, rocks, and boulders of hurtful words, I beg to differ. The holidays are supposed to bring out the best in all of us but I find they also exacerbate old tensions. Whether it’s my Mom cranking up on the volume on her characteristic fussiness or those sharp little wisecracks aimed my way, Christmas(or any other winter holiday) wouldn’t be, without its awkward(and painful) moments.
Most of the time, I’m okay with myself. I have come a very long way over the years. I have spent time in therapy, exercise, prayer, and writing so that I could learn to be my own best friend. Like any friendship, there are highs and lows. I consider myself strong. Still, certain themes of conversation don’t sit well, not even after all these years:
*My weight: Half-marathon medal aside, I often feel huge, fat, undesirable. When others mention my appetite for carbs or the size of my waist, I get quiet.
*My failures in love/dating: Vestir santos. Te paso el tren. Vieja. Spinster. Old maid. English or Spanish, it is clear that I have failed to live happily ever after by the appropriate deadline. I try not to buy into this antiquated thinking. I usually feel that my life is wonderful. But I’m only human. I get lonely. I get down on myself. I wonder if I’ll ever meet anyone or if I even know how. Most of the time, I take great pride in being true to myself, in not being willing to settle. I look in the mirror and I see a woman who is stable, independent, committed to integrity. Then the wrong joke is made and I feel hopeless. For example, fracasada. The word means failure. It means broken. It means your plans were smashed to bits. Truth hurts.
So what to do with those remarks relatives make? They sting. I retreat to a quiet room, breathe, swallow back the familiar lump in the throat. But I am thirty-four and I can’t hold onto to old fears and scars. Maybe those sensitive subjects are gifts in themselves. Maybe they help motivate me to do what is right and true.