Years and years ago, when I was living in hell and a good day was when I was speared by the pitchfork seven times instead of nine, I went to the café by my work to buy a bagel. The woman set it on the grill and let it toast. Then later, as she reached for it, she dropped it on the floor.

A quick side look (she didn’t notice me right behind her), she picked it up, buttered it.

And I’m watching this, a small voice in my head is screaming, raging¦but it has no volume. I can barely hear it.  The bigger, louder voice was one of resignation and fear.  I didn’t have money. That bagel had to last through breakfast & lunch¦what if I made a scene and she didn’t give me back my money? What if she laughed? What if the other patrons laughed?

Yeah, we’re talking $1.39 but that was all I had and I was hungry. So hungry. So starving. So desperate for food.

In the end, I took the bagel, went to work, and laughed off the incident. œIt fit the ten second rule, I said, macho smile, casual shrug. (Aren’t we so good at this? Laughing off the hurts and wounds, pretending the pitchfork didn’t really run us through, acting like the blood pouring out isn’t ours and even if it is, we don’t care, anyway).

From a safe place in my present, where love surrounds me like air, I sit in a comfortable chair and think about this moment. I’m not that person anymore”I’d never let anyone treat me like that¦more importantly, I’d never allow myself to treat me like that anymore.  But back then¦

Oh, back then¦back then was the names I called myself, the names others called me¦and I agreed with those names, held them close, and acted accordingly¦whoever said, œSticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me, must have been deaf.

But here’s the rub when it comes to names: they only hurt if we believe those terms, if those words are already rattling around our head because we call ourselves those names, already.

I live in a society that trumpets the external life over the internal, but it’s all smoke & mirrors, isn’t it? The voice saying, œPay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

But that’s exactly who we should be paying attention to. That small voice, that internal dialog that follows us wherever we go.

How we define ourselves is everything. It’s the grenade pin we pull and our life either lights up or explodes.

So, the question becomes, what are we going to do? Hold the grenade? Let it detonate in our hands and blow us apart? Or do we hurl it forward, use our internal dialog to turn that wall standing between us and our goal into dust?

I guess it’s for the individual to decide.

As for me, I’ve told myself not to eat the bagel, that it’s better to be hungry with my head up, than to eat on my knees. And I’m okay throwing the grenade¦maybe the shrapnel will ricochet back, maybe I’ll be cut…who cares?

Not me.

I’m going to throw it, and I’ve got the pin in hand¦