“STOP YELLING AT ME!”

In the course of any given day,
and probably at least once a week
possibly for months,
Joy would find a reason to raise her voice in irritation
and firmly command,  “STOP YELLING AT ME.”
This would accompany an about-face
as she turned to walk out of the room
and stomp down the hall.
A few times, there was a door slam
but that stopped quickly as I assured her,
“One more time and your door comes off the hinges
and sits in the hall for a week.”
She wouldn’t be the first girl in this house who was offered that furniture arrangement.

The conversations very well could have been about how eggs make her stomach queasy,
but at some point, she would feel she was being attacked and she would retreat.
Keep in mind, it doesn’t take much for her to feel attacked.
“You just don’t like eggs,” sounds like
“You’re being picky. Eat what I give you and I will like you.”
“You need to pull up your pants. I can see your underwear” becomes
“I don’t like the way you dress, so I don’t like you.”
“You HAVE to get the trash cans out on the street tonight” is
“YOU are failing at your chores, so you are a failure.”
Something as simple as, “Please go wash your hands,” could make her feel jabbed.

And, ya know what? I get it.
I’ve heard those same voices.
In fact, they . probably . have . the . same . roots . and . origin.
Joy
The thing is, I almost never, ever raise my voice.
It’s in my blood to be loud … but not when I get angry.
When James and Glory were young and Joy was a toddler,
I would find that I would yell …. simply explode upon everyone.
After refraining from caffeine for two years of nursing,
it was the reintroduction of chocolate after weaning Joy that helped me
put a finger my chocolate allergy.
It was that reintroduction to chocolate that illuminated
that mocha was the catalyst for those frightful eruptions.
But, when they were happening, I had not made the connection.
I had to use pure self-control to stop my outbursts
lest I leave my children verbally wounded and emotionally bleeding.
I learned to pay attention to my physical cues (because I had a physical reaction to chocolate)
and intentionally whisper when I became angry.
So, I don’t struggle with YELLING at my kids any more (because I don’t eat chocolate).
More than once, Glory assured her, “Oh, girl. Mom isn’t yelling.
Trust me on that one. You don’t remember what is sounds like when mom re.a.l.l.y yells.”
Joy just F.E.L.T  like I was yelling.
But, the Lord gently reminds me of the quote that I have heard over and over
during the past few years ; It isn’t what you say or do, it’s how you make them feel.

Joy has felt a great deal of rejection that has injured her in ways that
only she will be able to unravel, examine and knit back together into a healthy tapestry.
That rejection, coupled with her Introverted soul, has caused her to be
much more hard on herself than anyone that remains in this house has ever been towards her.
So, the smallest glance of displeasure or word that isn’t complimentary
can wound her in ways that it never would have hurt my other two children at age fourteen
because our family life was much different.
The older two were strengthened by the security of being home for school …
not protected from harm or injury …. not secluded and sheltered,
but exposed to life with the support of a teacher who
knew them, loved them and supported them
day in … day out.

Through many difficult afternoons,
Joy and I have had talks about
how you can’t always walk away from tough conversations,
but that we should remove ourselves from friendships that consistently injure our spirit.
We have discussed being disrespectful and what that looks like and sounds like.
We have conceded to the idea that life will always have people who say things that wound us.
Sometimes, those people are strangers … but they can, in fact, be from within your family.

But, one afternoon, we had this wonderful thing happen.
I asked Joy to do something simple that I knew she wouldn’t want to do.
We had a playful banter back and forth that was full of jest
and completely okay with me. It was Avoidance Comedy, I suppose.
At some point she teasingly yelled , “STOP YELLING AT ME!!”
Out of nowhere, I said,
“You mean, ‘STOP SAYING THINGS I DON’T WANT TO HEAR.”

It was a magical moment of revelation. That was it!
When someone says something that she internalizes as critical,
it is LOUD inside her head and SCREAMS inside her tender heart …
and she feels attacked and wounded and raw.
You could say, “That red flower is ugly,”
but if her favorite color is red, it would lance her open wide.
This was a wonderful new understanding.

All of life is a dance, isn’t it?
We learn new steps, figure out the rhythm and the moves
and then the song ends and a new one begins.
I’m thankful for the chance to live with and love upon this girl.
She’s a thinker who ponders and contemplates. She has rich observation skills.
She mulls things over and thinks them through. She’s learning not to be so hard on herself.
And she’s learning that she may HEAR things in her heart
that feel like yelling,
when in fact that are not intended that way.
Just as important as my being careful not to further injure her healing wounds
is that she learns to calm the lions that yell within
and value her own worth, value and beauty … no matter what messages she has heard in the past.

So, we have learned to have fun with the new phrase.
We understand the enormity  of it,
but we all toss back and forth teasingly.
It has become a valid response to most any statement.
“No, I’m not buying dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets” “STOP SAYING THINGS I DON’T WANT TO HEAR”
“Hey. Your car is now out of gas.” “STOP SAYING THINGS I DON’T WANT TO HEAR.”
“Are you using the dryer as a closet now?” “STOP SAYING THINGS I DON’T WANT TO HEAR.”
“Have you finished your homework?” “STOP SAYING THINGS I DON’T WANT TO HEAR.”
“Don’t let the cat out!” “STOP SAYING THINGS I DON’T WANT TO HEAR.”
“Your hair is sticking up.” “STOP SAYING THINGS I DON’T WANT TO HEAR”
“I think I’m catching a cold.” “STOP SAYING THINGS I DON’T WANT TO HEAR.”
or “I really need to go to the bathroom.” “STOP SAYING THINGS I DON’T WANT TO HEAR.”

And, through Joy and like Joy,
I am learning that
the words of other people
don’t need to be internalized.
I don’t need to let every person that crosses my path,
speak into my life and influence my heart.
Because, like I wrote about here,
not all of us were cut out to own an Ice Cream Truck.

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