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Ellen Anne Eddy
Author of Thread Magic: The Enchanted World of Ellen Anne Eddy Fiber artist, author and teacher
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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Musing: Art outside the Box: The Voice in the Dark

We all have a voice track in our head that never goes away. It's full of all kinds of nonsense: music that plays in endless loops, the thing we could have said at a bad moment if we'd been more quick on our feet, the arguments, never said,  with friends long lost and gone. The auditory flotsam and jetsam of our lives, scraped out of an old verbal closet that haunt us.

My worst fear is that I will die saying the same cruel things to myself that were said to me as a child. I am in no way alone. If you teach you get to hear exactly what people were told as a child. Because when their blood sugar drops or they get frightened or threatened, they'll start saying it to themselves. It's an agony to listen to. It never should have been said to anyone in the first place. 
"I'm so dumb."
"I'm not an artist."
"I'm not creative."
"I can't draw, see colors, try, find time, find space, do this ............"
The words hardly matter. It's almost always about the tone of cruelty. It's an echo of bullying.

I always shut it down in class. It's like watching someone dig a hole through their heart with a jagged knife. I tell them no one can talk to my students that way. Not even them about themselves.They'll tell it to you in a cold and clinical way at 9:30 in the morning. At 3 PM they're crying about it in the bathroom.

Oddly enough, it's never anything provable or true. Or it's true but utterly harmless. We are all, in our physicality, fat, or skinny, tall or short, and I think it's impossible to be alive and not be funny looking at some point. What gives it weight is not it's accuracy of the statement but the accuracy involved in having chosen that thing to say. No one could have told me I was dumb. It never worked. I knew better. But they told me daily I was the ugliest girl in the school. 

There wasn't exactly a contest. It wasn't like someone proved that.But with the unerring aim of all bullies, they knew that had a sting. Having the normal number of hands, feet, arms legs and heads, I do believe as an adult that I look pretty normal and that this was chosen and said simply for the impact they knew it would have. It was nothing but bullying.

So what happens if we choose different words? What happens if like the video, we choose to define ourselves differently?

I do follow religious seasons and this is the season of Lent. For those of us who do, you usually do what is called a Lenten discipline. This used to be regularly fasting. The current view is that you give up something like chocolate or tv.

But it does me more good to do something rather than to stop doing something. This year, I promised myself to remember my meds and do my face care every day. It sounds like vanity, but it's not. There's a little girl in me who has heard too many ugly words and needs to hear actions rather than words. We're almost at the end of Lent and this time I've held on. A really good Lenten discipline is one you want to continue after Lent for the good it did you.

It's my own anti bullying campaign. It's my beautiful frogs. If they are beautiful, perhaps I am too. It's the ability to listen to that dark inner voice and change the channel. It's the ability to change my world with my words.


Anonymous said...

Oh Ellen, how true..when I taught, I used to teach the kids in my class how to talk to themselves when someone says harsh/mean/cruel things to them.
Having had this as a child I know all too well how crippling this can be for Creativity!!It has taken me a Long , Long time to be kind to myself.
I almost weep at the lost potential for how many thousands, millions who are crippled by their inner voices.
Oh how wonderful too to see what you must see when you empower your students, by helping them still those inner voices, and replace the mean words with positive ones.What a joy that is to see what happens...I wish the world could be liberated in such a way!!

Pat Winter said...

Beautiful post Ellen and I can't imagine you being the ugliest at all, perhaps the cutest and well, you know what that gets you? Bullying and name calling...no winning for them.
Enjoy your day my beautiful and most talented friend.

Carol said...

I saw your art in Pat Winter's blog roll and it blew me away. But this post is so significant to many. I see myself. I was always told I had big horsey teeth and I am sure its why I don't smile. And was convinced that I would break any machine built which has caused me to be intimidated by even my sewing machine.


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