“Hey, fatty! You gonna make it up that hill anytime today?” he shouted above the din of his football teammates’ catcalls and whistles.
Encouraged by his friend’s behavior, another kid chimed in, “Nice tricycle, Grandma.”
“Can’t make that thing go any faster, huh?” hollered a third youngster. Searing flames of shame and not-good-enoughness licked at my heels.
Suppressing an overwhelming urge to offer these bullying punks a single-digit salute, I willed myself to turn and smile at them hoping that it would confuse them just enough to quiet them. It worked! They immediately fell silent, and I continued laboring up the rise in peace. But my heart was bruised.
I have been harassed about my size since I was in middle school, so I’m a bit sensitive about my appearance. I am six feet tall and have a large frame for a woman. Plus, I’m at least 30-40 pounds overweight. Then there’s the love handles, the double chin, and the saddlebags on my thighs. My shoulders rival those of a Dallas Cowboys linebacker, and from the knees down, I have itty-bitty chicken legs. But wait — there’s more! Because of decreased function and nerve damage in my legs, I stumble frequently, I have a pronounced limp, and am virtually unable to walk a straight line — even with my cane. I usually carry myself pretty rigidly in an attempt to minimize pain that everyday twisting, bending, and walking can cause. Oh, and even with a tan, my skin is as bronze and beautiful as bleached snow.
Add all of that together, and I am quite the sight to behold. If you were to see me walking down the street toward you, your first thought would probably be, “Is that a drunkard or the bride of Frankenstein?” So, yeah, I look pretty funny. (The Trikke Nut image from the previous blog has been Photoshopped within an inch of its life, by the way.) In all honesty, I am easy prey for insecure, second-string JV footballers. But that doesn’t give them the right to insult me.
As I carved on, the self-pity swelled. I began to feel heavier, and my head dropped an inch or two. I usually try to smile at other folks on the park path, but my eyes were suddenly super-glued to the ground, and the corners of my mouth weighed too much to lift. It was all I could do to propel the Trikke up that tiny incline. So. Very. Heavy.
Then, almost imperceptibly, that recording in my head started — you know, the one that automatically stores and replays hurtful comments from the past: “You can’t do it,” “You’ll never amount to anything,” “Why do you bother? You’re gonna fail anyway.” “Why can’t you be like your sister?” “You’d look so much better if you lost weight,” “You’re okay-looking, I guess…” The volume grew with each insulting comment.
“STOP THIS R I G H T N O W!” my inner conqueror-diva screamed at the top of her lungs. My head snapped upright before the sentence ended. Aw, man! I let intimidation get to me again. Dad used to do that to me. So did kids at school. As did my ex. And it crushed me every time. But! When I decided in the summer of 2011 that it was time to get a divorce because I actually am a worthwhile, worthy individual who has unlimited potential, and no one has the right to belittle me for their amusement, I swore a solemn oath to myself and my higher power that I would never let anyone intimidate me or break my spirit again. Ever.
Old habits die may hard, my friends, but pure will and determination is stronger than any habit.
When my conqueror-diva kicked in, I made a conscious choice to dig deep; I forced myself to carve harder, breathe deeper, look people in the eyes, and turn that frown upside down. And, with each sweet S-turn, I recited a piece of my motivation mantra: I am enough, I am worthy, I have unlimited potential, I can make a difference, I have come such a long way, I will go even farther; I am unstoppable.
A scant tenth of a mile past that football field, I was stronger than I had ever been – renewed, rededicated to succeed and be confident in spite of myself and the myriad obstacles in my path. Go ahead and insult me again, twerps. I’ll take it your searing flames and use them to refine my soul. Thanks, guys; you did me a favor.