Last week, I leaned out the window at my morning job (Starbucks) to take a customer’s payment. The girl in the car handed me her credit card, as she glanced at me sideways.
“Holy cow, your eyes are so cool!”, I practically yelled, catching a glimpse of green eyes that reminded me of a cat. Immediately, she lifted her chin and gave me a dead-on stare, while her mouth crept into a smile.
“What?” She asked. “Really?” It’s like she couldn’t believe that instead of looking at her, I saw her. And when I saw her, I saw her beauty. And when I saw it, I said it.
My ex used to wax on all the time about how useless words were.
Actions speak louder than words. Take your talk and shove it. I only care about how you treat me. We don’t need to discuss this any longer. These are just words – this is nothing but words.
He was a perpetual liar, an emotional abuser, and an alcoholic. He almost convinced me he was right. But he was wrong.
Your words are power. They are the story of your soul, exiting your body. They are weapons and wands. Their weight is immense.
I am a writer because I love words. Because I acknowledge their power and I want to wield it.
This past December, I wrote an essay about why I don’t like to call my husband ‘my husband.’ It has a lot to do with an inner discomfort at having found myself in what I tend to see as a cookie-cutter, traditional lifestyle. It also has a lot to do with the desire to validate all relationships – each coupling – no matter their government-deemed status. Which is to say, I thought it a positive piece. I wouldn’t have published it if I did not believe it to be.
Mere days after the publication with xoJane, the piece was picked up by Yahoo.com. I found out when an old co-worker sent me an email with the headline “Kelly’s famous!” I was shocked, to say the least. There I was, on the cover of a ‘big’ website – a picture of me and my husband next to the headline and my author name. I did a double take. I called my sister to tell her. And then – I noticed the comment section. I was standing up in the kitchen when I began scrolling through them.
My piece had 2,246 comments. Ninety-nine percent of them were cruel or hateful.
Run, Nic–RUN!! was a comment by one reader. His comment alone garnered 1,298 likes.
Dear Nic: Immediately pursue the label Ex-husband if you have any chance to survive. (748 likes)
This was F**ked up. Sorry I even read this dribble of mindless shit….
This is an article on a woman refusing to grow up. Not exactly news.
The comments continued…and continued…and continued…in the same vein. My eyes were scanning wildly, waiting for one person to say something nice, when suddenly I realised my vision was a little blurred and I couldn’t feel my legs underneath me. I was going to faint. Because of their words.
I grabbed onto the kitchen table and found the chair. I sat down, staring at the screen, willing myself to look away. This isn’t responsible, I told myself – to sit here and read these things that are virtually pulling the life out of you. Your body needs you. Your life needs you. Shut the computer.
I did – but only after I scanned a few minutes longer but came up empty. No one liked my piece. No one liked ME.
Dejected, I walked into the living room and out the front door. I was certain I could walk this off, in the light of the day. And I did. Kind of. But I was changed. Had you told me that 2500 people would read my article and then log in or create a Yahoo profile in order to type a comment fuelled by hatred for someone they didn’t know, based on said person’s inclination to use or not use a certain word – I would have told you that you had gone mad. People don’t have that much time on their hands. People would much rather log in to say something nice!
I was wrong.
The experience left me feeling broken. It’s one thing to have any one person turn their back on and reject you – it is another to watch while a virtual sea of humanity spew hatred at you for fun.
I am inspired every day by art. The artistry behind the composition of a city. Curated photographs I see on Instagram. The high-res, perfectly placed images in a magazine. I have eighty open tabs of articles I want to read on my computer. Art and creativity keep my eyes dancing, delighted by what they find at every turn. It makes me want to be alive.
So when I find things I love – I tell the person who crafted them. I send emails, Facebook messages, Twitter replies and Instagram comments every chance I get. I send writers and authors personal thanks for books they have written. (Number of replies: One. The wonderful, gracious Andie Mitchell. Thank you.)
I have long considered language my sharpest tool – the only weapon I choose to use. Commonly-known weapons have clever uses and cruel, alike. Let us not forget: a knife is essential when peeling an apple.
I’m asking all of you – reading this piece – to add more kindness to the world. Tell someone you love something they made. Something they did. Something they wore. Tell someone something seemingly small…and watch it make them big.