Tag: emotions

Words are the new sticks and stones.

Everyone’s heard that saying:

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

I’m sure the expression was created with the best of intentions many years ago, with the message that it’s important to be resilient and have a tougher skin when people say mean things (which is fair enough on some levels and that’s for a whole other blog post), but in all reality, words are so important and shouldn’t be given less significance than physical hurts. It is our responsibility to use our words wisely. I know that as the Little Mister grows up, that is one very important thing (of many) that I want him to know.

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While we’re always drilling home the important idea that we must be strong and choose the way we react to a challenging situation or person, we need to remember that we also need to be considerate of what words we put out into the world for others to react to. Should we be hurting them in the first place? Of course not. Will everyone in the world be nice to us and use kind words? Of course not. But should we try to do/be better than that? F*ck yeah.

Even though, we are supposed to all be ‘tough’ and ‘strong’, some of the worst hurts we look back on in our lives can be very emotional or involve something horrible someone has said that has made you feel a certain way. While in my mind, physical violence is abhorrent and should never ever be tolerated, we need to also remember to never use our words violently – even in the heat of the moment.

Words can constitute emotional violence and abuse. Yes. It’s a thing. A very real, awful, damaging thing. People don’t realise it, but physical violence is actually a tool that abusers use to reinforce their verbal and psychological bullying. It can make or break a person’s self esteem, whether it is a child or a partner. You can only put a person down or use controlling language and threats for so long before they start to believe what you are saying, too afraid to escape a situation. According to the ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics), one in four women report to having experienced emotional abuse, and one in seven men. We need to teach our children not only to not accept this behaviour from others, but also to never be the perpetrators. It starts now. While they’re young. We need to teach them that words matter.

“Whatever. It’s just words. It’s not like I hit anyone…” should never be uttered as an excuse. Ever.

Personally, my worst memories involve the words that people have used. They are the hardest to shake. Sometimes people don’t mean to use their words hurtfully, but can be careless. Once something is said, it cannot be completely unsaid. We need to think before we speak (or type). Especially in this modern age of social media and internet anonymity. Of trolling and cyber bullying.

Think words aren’t that powerful? That words should just be ignored? That people should just ‘get over it’? Maybe consider these things:

Words can make or break a politician’s career. How many times have we judged them on what they’ve said and whether they’ve meant it or not? How many times have we seen a pollie crash and burn because they’ve said something completely intolerable or ridiculous (I can think of several very recent examples)? Or remembered the politicians who said such powerful things that they are forever immortalised by their inspiring speeches?

Without words, blogs (and bloggers like myself) would not exist (nor would lively debates in the comments sections). Books wouldn’t be so powerful. When’s the last time you read a book and thought, ‘Wow. That was so amazing that I couldn’t put it down. That writer really brought the story to life. I shall never read another book again because no book could ever be as good as the book I just read!’
Unless it was a picture book…I’m pretty sure the words mattered the most. With the exception of 50 Shades of Grey of course – I’ve heard it’s terribly written, but somehow it’s sold about a bajillion copies. Still, it consists of words. Words that make people feel things *shudders*.

Same goes for the scripts of TV shows or movies. We fall in love with, or loathe, characters because of the words they use. The way they speak. The stories they tell. We quote them and they become iconic. Sure, there are a lot of things we can like about movies without even hearing the dialogue (hello Channing Tatum!), but it’s the things characters say that tell us the most about them (um…every word ever in The Notebook)!

Without words, we wouldn’t be sucked into clicking everything on the internet ever. Have you ever heard of click bait? Those few words designed to lure you into clicking a link to a blog about something that’s ‘sure to go viral’? You know the type. If it wasn’t for those ‘You’ll never believe what happened next…” thingies, you wouldn’t waste hours of your life in a rabbit hole of crazy internet stories that may or may not be true.

*ahem* not talking about myself here of course *cough cough*

Words are how we sell something. Sure, people would argue that sex sells, but work with me here. If you walk into a store, who is going to convince you to buy that thing? The person who mumbles, accidentally offends you, doesn’t know what they’re talking about and sounds like they’re lying? Or the person who is confident, well spoken, whose words seem honest and genuine? Communication skills are important.

If we’re worried about a loved one, perhaps they’ve gained a little weight or we’re worried about some of their habits, do our words matter then? Um, hell yes. What do you think makes things better?

“Honey, you’re so fat now. Go to the gym. You’re hurting my eyes.”

or…”Honey, I’ve noticed you are not feeling like yourself lately and you’ve lost a bit of confidence because you seem self conscious about your weight. Is there anything I can do to help? Wanna work out together?”

I know what I’d rather hear!! Even for selfish reasons, we need to consider what our words can do. If the result we want is for someone to do something for us, will insults and put downs really work or will kindness and sensitivity get us the results? The way we speak to someone we care about truly matters. It can definitely make or break a relationship. Tact can go a long way.

Why do people go to therapy? Because talking is important.

I can only imagine how many family feuds began because somebody said something that hurt somebody else. Hello, Dr Phil would be out of business if that wasn’t the case!

If words were not a thing, we wouldn’t be able to sue each other for saying nasty, untrue things about each other in the public eye. If words are not that important, we wouldn’t be outraged when somebody writes offensive things on picket signs at funerals or abortion clinics.

We can’t just stand there, quoting our ‘sticks and stones’ crap while living a life that says we do actually really really care what people say. It would be hypocritical. Language and words exist for a reason.

We care if someone is telling us the truth or lying. We care about those text messages that come without emoji to tell us whether it’s a nice one or a mean one (and we won’t admit that we sometimes lose sleep over it). We care about the passive aggressive tactics someone uses to make us feel bad about ourselves (have you ever seen the mother in law on Everybody Loves Raymond?). Entire social movements and campaigns have been created, based on some careless words somebody has said somewhere in the world. For better or worse.

I want my Little Mister to know that words matter. That he can be strong when somebody uses them badly, but that he shouldn’t tolerate it either. I want him to know that if he speaks ill of somebody it will come back to bite him. I want him to know that he can enrich his relationships by using his words lovingly. That if he speaks out of line, he should be quick to mend it with an apology and a heartfelt, “I’m sorry, what I meant to say was…”

That what he writes on the internet can stay there forever.

I want him to be clever. Not to resort to physical blows over some horrible words that have been thrown around. It’s not enough to tell boys and young men to just punch someone to fix a problem. Even if the other person is in the wrong.

Words are used to convey our emotions. To clarify something. To present ourselves in resumes and job interviews. To tell people who we are. To show we care.

I want to use my words to encourage, inspire and uplift my child. I don’t ever want to squash his spirit or hurt his confidence. My words will matter too. There is a best way to use your voice or to say anything important that you feel (even if it’s a touchy subject or it’s not what someone wants to hear). I hope I can lead by example and that person by person, we might make a difference in this world where people seem to have forgotten that words have so much power.

Let’s think before we add more meaningless noise to the world (and even the internet)! Who’s in? x

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How it feels to revisit the place I was born.

This is one of my (sure to be) many posts about my family’s journey to Singapore (for stopovers both ways), South Korea and Japan. I have thought about how I want to document this trip and have decided that it won’t necessarily be a chronological type of thing, but more a bunch of posts about various themes, thoughts and events etc. Hope it will still put together a picture for you all xx

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So I’m typing this in real time, so to speak. As in, I’m posting it while I am still here (and will publish it on the same day I wrote it too – go me)! Where am I? I’m in the bustling seaside city of Busan, South Korea. I am slightly hungover (another blog post to be written I am sure) and looking out of the big windows of my suite (upgrade – hells yeah!) as the morning sun gently caresses my view of the famous Haeundae Beach. This seaside location is amazing. So many great places to eat, drink (trust me) and shop. We’ve experienced the city in disjointed instalments. It’s so huge that we’ve caught subway trains, gone through tunnels or caught taxis to who knows where with drivers who care not for the road rules. I’ve spent so much time underground or fiercely protecting my Little Mister against bad driving that it is hard to piece together a mental map of the city.

Still, it is a place I could really like. It’s known for its beaches, its shopping (it houses the world’s biggest shopping mall) and its seafood. Hello, have you met me?

Interestingly, it is also the place I was born. That’s the real clincher.

I was adopted at the age of five months from Korea and found my way to my loving family in Australia. I had never been back. Until now. Whether I’d like to admit it or not, being adopted has shaped a lot of who I am today. The good (amazing) things and some of those deep scars you just have to work through over time.

Coming here was a slightly confusing issue. On the one hand it has been considered a once in a lifetime pilgrimage to experience the places my brother and I were born in for the first time, but on the other hand it has been a great tourism adventure. A holiday. We collectively decided not to place pressure on ourselves to do anything overly emotionally tough (a lot of people might track down biological families or visit old orphanages etc while in their birth place for the first time since they left). It would be a holiday, with a twist. If feelings came up we would deal with them.

Well, feelings did come up. It all started bubbling away under the surface as we got closer and closer to the trip away. My anxiety (while initially driven by something else less related) was at its worst and I did my best to manage it (although admittedly I felt like a ridiculous basket case). It still wasn’t real. We were having a great travel adventure until we left my brother’s place of birth. I watched him as he appeared to take it all in his stride. I was proud of him as he navigated the streets with confidence and met new people on his night time excursions. He seemed to genuinely enjoy the place and I thought, “Wow. I think I’ll really like this experience. I hope mine is the same.”

Despite my optimism, I started to get anxious, emotional, and downright grumpy the closer we got. It’s not like I was overthinking anything. I wasn’t going over my adoption and what it meant in my mind all day. I wasn’t even trying to make myself feel something. It just was there. Something. Emotions I couldn’t even place in a specific way. Like, “Oh I’m feeling this way because I was thinking about x, y or z.”

They were just creeping up on me. Sneaky little bastards.

I started to feel extremely sad while we were in Gyeongju (the place we were in before we got to Busan). At one point I bawled my eyes out like crazy. There was an incident where there was a miscommunication with my family and when we got to the place we thought they would be, they had left and I felt like a sad, abandoned little kid again. I knew in my head that they hadn’t rejected me, but my damn emotions just took me back to some place I didn’t expect to revisit so strongly.

When we arrived in Busan, it felt surreal. We had experienced a taxi ride out of the train station (to the hotel) that had made me feel gross inside. The driver was one of those guys who likes to test the brakes and accelerator whenever possible and the Little Mister did not even have a suitable seatbelt (car safety seats/harnesses for little ones seem to be very optional here). I felt edgy and overwhelmed. Daunted. Not a great initiation to Busan. However, realising we had an amazing hotel room (after being in dark, cramped hotels which were otherwise very acceptable for a couple of weeks) did help. It feels spacious here and ocean views will never get old.

I was tired and feeling fragile. I was craving time alone and became obsessed with getting a manicure. Maybe I just figured it would be therapeutic. Time out from our crazy holiday and space to process things. Not to mention, pretty girly things always do wonders.

By the end of the first night I felt happy. I made a joke about street drinking being legal here on Facebook and went to sleep. Easy, right?

The second full day in Busan (yesterday) shit got real. I was getting really stressed out about the Little Mister. He’s having a ball but he’s regressed in some ways (some practical and some emotional – another post for another day) and I was feeling like a bad parent for a lovely variety of reasons. He was anxious, had been playing up all morning and I had perhaps made a call that wasn’t helping him too much and it was brought to my attention by caring family members. It struck a nerve and I got really really really angry. I marched for city block after city block, my husband trailing behind me to make sure I was safe. Eventually he caught up and I bawled my eyes out on the streets, behind my sunglasses. I was sick of being stared at. I felt like we were a walking freak show (Eurasian children get so much attention here – it’s like they’re celebrities and it is very overwhelming). The Little Mister had finally dropped off to sleep (bless his soul) and we sat on the walled edge of a garden bed. People kept trying to sneak a peek at our bi-racial child and then would see me wiping away my tears. I had had enough. In that moment I wanted to go home. Home where there was a life I knew. Home where I felt like I belonged somewhere. Familiarity for the Little Mister. A place where I could be a better parent. I felt like I had made the biggest mistake and I was heartbroken and disappointed that I had all these stupid feelings which were inconveniencing my lovely holiday.

I was in a place where the trauma of adoption had begun (not that I would have my life any other way but it is what it is). My child was anxious and insecure in the place I had been born and then given away (I’d been having dreams about him being kidnapped and me knowing I’d never see him again – it doesn’t take Freud to figure that shit out). Everything had just bubbled over. I was no longer in control.

Eventually the rest of my family caught up with me. I managed to articulate my feelings and their reassurances were so comforting. My husband’s support was invaluable. My sleeping little cherub filled me with love (insert joke here about them being so much more precious when they’re slumbering). I felt broken and exhausted, but we all soldiered on as best we could.

My parents took the Little Mister home in a taxi and Mr Unprepared and I fulfilled the round trip subway tickets we had left outstanding. We stood on a peak hour train completely anonymous (celebrity toddler free). It was tiring and I was feeling the hangover that emotions and lack of appetite from stress tend to give you, but it was healing. It’s hard to heal in public, with the eyes of a whole city on you everywhere you go with your child (do not get me wrong – 99% of the people here are so friendly if a little overbearing with their enthusiasm).

Dinner was the best meal I have EVER eaten (no joke – I was in heaven after the day we’d had) and later we took my parents up on their generous babysitting offer and headed out on the town with my brother. We met new people, drank ridiculously affordable cocktails (think at least 50% off the price of a good Aussie cocktail) and it was much needed time out. I was back in love with my birth place. I was just an Aussie with a twist who was having a good time. I was me.

I think that’s what I’ve taken from this journey so far. I am still me. For all my points of difference. My identity is still strong and thriving. I needed to come here to realise that nothing and no-one can change who I am at my core. I own my identity and it is withstanding all of the confusions that get thrown at me. Race, cultural norms, ignorant people and all.

I have a loving family, full of oddballs who love each other fiercely. I may have been rejected once in the worst way a very long time ago, but since then my life has been so full of people who truly care and will never leave me. I am blessed. I appreciate my Aussie home so much more (even though I already did times a million). I will never feel as ‘different’ there as I have felt here. It’s HOME. There are Eurasian actors and actresses all over our televisions and in that really Aussie way, we don’t really give a f*ck (although obviously it means a lot to me personally). In the best way. All the things I get annoyed by at home will exist wherever I go (minus the disgusting sleazy older Aussie white guys with the yellow fever) and that is just life. I love my crazy life.

I also love Korea. As a tourist. A people watcher. A person hungry for new food experiences and adventures. As a person who really really needed this, but didn’t want to truly admit it.