Archives for posts with tag: words words words

I measure a hike in miles. I think measuring my progress over time, as a person, may be easier to do in words.

I started this journey, here, in January of 2013, after my emotional wellness crashed hard at the end of 2012 (due to the combination of a traumatic breakup, a fairly (terrible) new relationship I’d gotten tangled up in, and a serious flare up of my PTSD in the aftermath of the infamous Delhi rape in December 2012). While I sought therapy, I also sought a more useful way of communicating and reflecting on my experience, and ended up here. Since that very first blog post, a rather shy introduction, I’ve written 2013 posts, in 7 years, with an average word count of about 700 words.

…I’ve written, right here, 1,317,956 words. Yep. 1.3 million (and a few more) words…

…I haven’t solved anything by doing so. I haven’t “fixed” myself, or the world, or made any noteworthy mark on society, as far as I know. I’m not bitching, I’m just saying – these are the words of one woman. One human being. One perspective. The word count will no doubt continue to grow. I manage about 187,000 words a year. I write nearly every day, even when I don’t write a blog post (I’m not even going to try to quantify all those words). I average 286 posts per year, which, while it doesn’t amount to reliably “every day”, shows some astonishing constancy. Still… I do miss an average of 79 days each year… about 6 and a half days per month, although I doubt there’s that sort of reliable monthly cadence to it. lol. It feels more as if I take a breather, now and then, for a few days, or when I’m out in the trees camping, and then shake that off and get back to it.

…I find myself wondering how many total words I’ve written, and spoken, over the course of a lifetime… a lot of words, no doubt. ๐Ÿ™‚

I sip my coffee and smile. This morning feels good. That’s enough. ๐Ÿ™‚

Even more exciting, and much more worthwhile, than The Bottle Cap Challenge! Yep – and we can’t even opt out, not really. It’s The Communication Challenge – the one where any given pair or group of human beings attempts to communicate ideas, across the vast chasm of differences in perspective, filtered through individual experience and assumption-making, using poorly defined terms. lol Oh my.

…It’s not always easy, is it?

Yesterday, my day was literally filled with variations on the theme of challenging communications. It was an interesting assortment.

…Team communications…

…Individual entirely non-work-related social communications…

…Communications overheard in passing by uninvolved-but-now-interested individuals…

…Communication with people who lack emotional intelligence…

…Communication with people far more emotionally intelligent than I am…

…Communication with people who have a clear – but also hidden – personal agenda at stake…

…Direct communication…

…Misleading communication…

…Necessary and also delicate communication…

…Frank communication that was “long overdue”…

…Heartfelt warm communication…

…Tense, purposeful, communication in which I, myself, had a clear (and also frustrated) agenda…

…Dispassionate routine communication of factual details…

…Passionate communication of concerns…

…Communication advocating a position…

In some cases, some of those were a single conversation, others were common occurrences in several conversations; there are so many opportunities to communicate, in a single day. Some conversations were easy, comfortable, helpful, or merry. Other conversations felt like work – real effort was involved in “getting an idea across” or in truly listening with my whole attention to ideas I felt disinclined towards, to the point of being reluctant to hear the speaker out. It was a very interesting assortment of moments.

I arrived home, tired, at the end of what felt like a long day (because it was), and definitely ready to stop communicating. LOL

…I’m sure I learned something. I know that during my struggle to relax at the end of the day, fighting off a surge in anxiety that was making sleep difficult to come by, I was pretty certain that mastering my greatest communication challenges would have a lot to offer in the way of reduced stress, because damn, I was definitely stressed out. I sip my coffee and think about that.

I think over the communication challenges in which one or more parties to the conversation showed signs of stress, or frustration; how can I do better? Create a less stressful experience? Listen with greater care? Be more patient? Define my terms more clearly? Slow down enough to avoid being provoked? All of these seem like excellent steps. I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I contemplate the very nature of “being provoked” in conversation, and wonder… to what end? I definitely have some room to grow here. You, too, probably. ๐Ÿ™‚ Everyone.

…I promise myself another reread of The Four Agreements. I consider, with some amusement, that none of the books on my reading list are specifically on the topic of effective communication, most especially considering how much of it I need to do, day-to-day. lol I think about how little real coaching, encouragement, mentoring, or development, we provide each other as human beings… Where did we get this notion that so many things in life will just sort of “happen” over time? It’s rather strange, is it not? 0_o

I tell myself “the weekend is almost here”, then tease myself for the lie; it’s only Wednesday, and frankly, weekends do not have curative powers. We’ve all still got the lives (and baggage) that we do. The way out is through. ๐Ÿ™‚ Another breath. Another exhalation of breath. Another moment. The wheel continues to turn.

I’m not perfect. Still practicing. There is so much to learn – and so much I can do to be more the woman I most want to be. I see daybreak turn the sky from dark – to slightly less dark. I am reminded that seasons do change, and that moments do pass. It’s time to embrace a new one, and begin again. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m sipping coffee and considering how difficult I sometimes find it to communicate. Asked a question, I often launch a dense volley of words in reply, carelessly unleashing metaphor, poetry, and unhelpful allegory. I thoughtlessly drown friends, family, and colleagues, in wasteful verbiage – regularly. Worse, it sometimes gets all tangled up with what I actually meant, and all manner of foolishness, humor, and bullshit, whereupon one or another takes something personally, or becomes frustrated. It would be comedic gold where it not so ceaselessly frustrating (for me, too).

I take a breath. I smile. Pull myself back to this present moment. Make a point to make room for self-awareness, self-reflection, and some kindness; generally, my way of speaking isn’t damaging anyone, and I am able to be considerate, appreciative, and of positive intent. I have, over time, learned to listen – mostly. It’s a practice. It became a bit easier and less frustrating, once I accepted that there wouldn’t be much positive reinforcement; people want to be heard, but they also expect to be, and are not very mindful that they, themselves, interrupt chronically, and “wait to talk” instead of actually listening – but most people don’t see those behaviors in themselves, only in others, and are notoriously disinclined to notice, or appreciate, subtle improvements in how well they are being listened to. (And, strangely, are sometimes very aggravated if they are listened to with such care that they are held to their words in some way…)

…I’m just saying; communicating using language is one of the fanciest things human primates do. We don’t do it very well, generally, and our emotions still arrive to every moment ahead of our ability to reason. We’re not as good with our words as we perceive ourselves to be. We are every bit as shitty at it as we think other people are. lol

I frown, suddenly, noticing an entirely unrelated aggravation; the spellcheck icon appears to be missing from the row of formatting tools in this editor… weird. I sigh and let that go. Hell,there is at least one spelling error or overlooked typo in every post. It’s almost a fucking commitment. I laugh and finish off my coffee. I’m okay with that. This journey is not about perfection. Being able to communicate is notoriously complex; in the grander scheme of things, spelling errors are not that big a deal. Meaning matters so much more.

I think over the words I’ve said and heard in recent days, and wonder if I’ve truly done my best to communicate skillfully, with care, considerate of the feelings of those around me, respectful of factual accuracy, and a willingness to “be real” – to be authentically this person that I am? Could I do better? I think about momentary awkwardness and resentful silences. I think about peculiar micro expressions. I think about being called a bitch, “playfully”. I think about tripping on my words and saying just the wrong thing. I feel the negatives tugging at me, and realize that this could become a spiraling rumination of frustration and insecurity… So, I also think about moments of laughter. Irresistible mirth. Joyful smiles. Appreciative exclamations. Softly spoken loving compliments. Witty retorts. Playful banter. Knowledgeable answers. I take time to consider the words, and the context, because they matter.

…Then I let all that go, because clinging to it isn’t helpful, and becoming mired in my thoughts does not ease my steps down this healing path. They’re just words. Just thoughts. Thoughts about words. Briefly useful, perhaps. Definitely not permanent.

The morning unfolds gently. I am listening to the traffic beyond the window, and planning a trip to the store for some groceries, before an appointment, later. The day has started well, although I slept rather poorly last night. Still… perfect is not a thing with which I need to concern myself, and this, right here, is enough… so… I guess I’ll finish this, and put a period at the end of all these words… and go seeking a beginning, somewhere beyond the words to describe it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.” (Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet)

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!” (a damned lie from childhood; some of that shit stings for a lifetime)

“That’s just semantics.” (A corporate management professional who should know better)

“I didn’t mean it that way!” (Nearly everyone, at some point)

Words and meaning – they do matter, don’t they? It’s how we get our point across (short of frustrated sobbing, or shouting, at which point no one hears the meaning over the volume of emotion).

“Use your words.” (A thing generally said parent to child, and potentially far more useful that a lot of other advice about words one could hear)

The point here is clear; gentle honesty, authentic civility, being “real” without willful offense, being truthful – and also accurate – seem wise and purposeful, constructive, ways to use language, on the “word delivery” side of things. I’m not saying people seem intent on wise use of their words, I’m just calling out the potential. We’re human primates; it is not unusual to see the worst of our nature. (I make this observation on an Easter Sunday, after reading new reports of police shootings in the US, and suicide bombings in Sri Lanka; we’re the scariest and most dangerous of all the primates, no doubt about it. 100% “most likely to destroy their own world.”)

I’m also contemplating the listener’s obligations in the face of some torrent of untruthful or hurtful bullshit, delivered in the form of words (spoken or in print, bullshit is bullshit). Clear, explicit communication is useful stuff; we sometimes allow a personal agenda of some kind (or fearfulness, or baggage) to nudge us away from truth, accuracy, consideration, necessity, kindness, and wisdom. Capable of spewing some heinous vile nonsense, we often also seem rather unprepared to deal with receiving it. What then? What to do when the world piles on, and we suffer the weight and the pain of it, feeling unable to defend ourselves, feeling compelled to try?

I’m not sure I have the best advice on that one; my tendency (and my practice) is to detect drama (or bullshit) and, if possible, walk away from all that. I attempt to avoid having drama-prone, hostile-seeming, or trolling-inclined associates join my social circle in the first place. I attempt to defuse discussions headed toward drama, explicitly, gentle, firmly, and without argument; I’m not interested in loosing the wild dogs of emotion in conversations that are ideally handled less passionately. I’m not interested in being provoked.

The world we live in can be exceedingly provocative, in all the worst ways. I mean, seriously? We’ve built a world in which people feel entitled to make their point by blowing up explosives in crowded places, taking innocent lives by way of gunfire, or using torture. How does any of that not provoke decent people (of all backgrounds and ideologies) into wanting to fight back, to insist on change, to reject the thinking that appears to be at the source of the violence? It’s a strange paradox, though; if we become the fighter, and take to the battlefield, we are immediately at grave risk of becoming that thing we so despise. I don’t have answers this morning… I’m just sipping my coffee, and noticing we have so many better ways to express ourselves, than by way of guns and bombs.

We could each do better. We can all begin again.

I read a post online today that frankly offended me. Did you see it, too? It was so… well, you saw, right? :-\ Lingering outrage is a pretty common reaction. Sharing it. Talking about it. Coming back to it again and again. Writers, advertisers, and media outlets count on it; it drives “engagement” to get people mad or to offend them. Engagement means $$, or so goes the common thinking about such things. It seems to be true.

I didn’t link the post, no. That was deliberate. Why would I need to link it? Are we not offended, equally, by all the same things because all such things are entirely obvious?

LOL You know I’m messing with you there; it’s a ridiculous idea.

My apologies for messing with your head. Here’s a flower. ๐Ÿ™‚

We are each having our own experience, and the fun meme that made you laugh sooo hard that one time? Maybe that was a thing that hurt me to my very core, leaving me shaking and triggered. Isn’t that possible? Isn’t it equally possible to simple reverse the circumstances – you offended, me amused? Sure, it is. That’s the thing about being so individual, and why the idea of “equality” can be so tricky, linguistically. It’s tempting to let the abstract word games obscure our awareness that real people are really affected by… all of it. The words, the choices, the actions, the memes, the assumptions, the reactions, the excuses,ย  – every bit of all of it is part of a very complicated larger whole thing. We are human. We are all quite human. We are each having our own experience. We are unique and individual. We are a lot alike. We are all in this together. We each have to walk our own hard mile.

Are you right about what “is” offensive? Am I? Even if either of us are “right” about something we understand individually to be “offensive”, what is the value of our individual experience relative to the existence of all of the individual experiences of each of the other human beings also having their own experience? Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness… Don’t kill me. Don’t confine me. Don’t coerce or force me. It’s that “pursuit of happiness” that is such a challenge, is it not? Do I get to pursue my happiness in any way that undermines your ability to pursue yours? I would not expect to. Perhaps you think differently? Then what? And what of being “offended”? If I am offended by your words or actions, but those words or actions in no way do me any damage, risk my life, reduce my liberty, or stop me from pursuing my happiness…? What if it is my actual existence that offends you? Do I no longer have the right to be? It doesn’t follow that such would be the case, does it? We know better than that, at least …don’t we?

Here’s the thing about “being offended”; it’s an emotional experience. If I feel “offended”, that’s mine, and it can’t be taken from me any more than my anger or my sorrow can be taken from me (i.e.; only if I allow it); my emotional experience fully and wholly belongs to me. No one gets to tell me how to feel, how I “should”ย feel, or that my feelings are not “okay”. Having and experiencing my emotions is mine. Changing how I feel? Mine, too. People sometimes do or say things that result in my having an emotional reaction to what was said, or done. My emotions are still my own to experience – and mine to manage. It was a long journey getting to that understanding. Understanding that my feelings don’t dictate reality or obligate others to action was farther still to go. Understanding that my feelings are only feelings – sensations, emotions, perceptions – which are also exceedingly easily manipulated, was a bit farther still.

I generally don’t continue relationships with people who regularly do or say things I find “offensive” or specifically hurtful to me. I am learning over time that ending such relationships is important self-care. It’s not for me to choose someone’s values, or dictate what they may find amusing or acceptable; if I am offended by something, that is a reflective of my own values, and for me to resolve. Taking care of myself isn’t on their “to do list”. Simple enough, generally. Having taken this approach, as an individual, though, I find myself occasionally in the awkward situation of interacting with someone I’ve offended (usually with some thoughtless remark), who clearly has the expectation that I will take steps to “fix” the situation beyond a sincere expression of remorse for causing them upset, and making a point to understand their experience in context. I mean… yeah. I wouldn’t cause offense willfully, with the intent of hurting someone. That’s just mean. That’s not who I understand myself to be, at all. I am, however, capable of causing offense just by being the person I am… depending on who you are yourself, offense could occur. I’ll apologize for offending you, I surely will. Next step is for you to walk away, if there is a fundamental mismatch of values that may cause the offense to recur. Take care of you. I’m not likely going to be changing the person I am solely to avoid offending you, under most circumstances

On another hand, though, I do enjoy authentically connecting with other people, and I don’t enjoy hurting them. So, when I learn that something I am likely to do or say, particularly with any regularity, or by any preference or defining characteristic of self, is reliably offensive or hurtful to others, I take a long close look at that, and ask myself if that is who I truly want to be, and does it really reflect my values? Because it matters. Because I do care. Sometimes, I even care enough to change who I am, or how I express myself, in order to be a better human being, just generally. Sometimes, upon reflection, whatever the potential offending moment is doesn’t seem to be a thing I want or need to change, for myself, and I choose instead to stand firm on those values, understanding that my choices reflect my character, my values, and define who I am. I recognize that not everyone is going to find me likable. That’s okay, too.

My swearing, and sarcasm, are good examples to use to illustrate my point.

I swear. I swear rather a lot. I sprinkle my writing and my speech with swearing. Feels naturally expressive, and I use it as a sort of verbal punctuation. There have been times in my life when individuals of varying closeness have expressed a distaste for, or even been offended by, my swearing. I reflected on that long, and often, and chose not to change, other than refining the way I do use such language to be more limited, more specific, and less likely to be a direct attack on another person.

Sarcasm, on the other hand, once flowed from my lips like a singer’s song, and as it turns out, I’m also a bit “tone-deaf” in that form of speech. I can dish it out, but don’t understand it reliably when I hear it, and did not understand when I was much younger how easily people can be hurt by sarcasm, or how easily confused if they don’t recognize it, or at the extreme edges of the verbal form, how little difference there may be between sarcasm and, say, gas lighting or deceitfulness. It has a lot to do with whether or not the listener realizes what they are hearing is sarcasm. Turns out quite a few people, including me, often don’t recognize sarcasm when they hear, or read, it. I reflected a lot on sarcasm, and how I used it, how I received it, how I understood it – and how commonplace it is that someone else doesn’t realize what is being said could be being said sarcastically, resulting in misunderstanding. I chose to change. I rarely use sarcasm, even as humor, at this point in my life. Now and then, and usually without realizing I’ve done so until too late to reconsider, one might still hear sarcasm from me. It’s rare. Very rare. More common is to hear sarcasm in my speech and misunderstand me – because I wasn’t being sarcastic, I was perhaps, just… wrong. Or thinking I was being funny (I’m not that funny, and I have a very weird sense of humor based, primarily, on wordplay, and the layers of meanings of words). These days I try to stay very deliberately away from sarcasm. It’s hard to do well without hurting someone.

When do words matter? When don’t they? Language functions by agreement. Communication is most effective when we understand each other. We build healthy relationships most easily when we don’t use language to hurt each other. Explicit clarification of our position is more readily understood than implicit acceptance of assumptions. These things seem obvious to me. They resonate with me, personally, as fundamentals of speaking, of listening, and of being heard. I found it worth changing, to make use of these principles with greater ease. There are still verbs involved. I’m quite human. I still find it necessary to “check myself” now and then in a moment of frustration, or annoyance. Still, I have a good idea of who I want to face in the mirror each day, and what her values truly are. I make mistakes. I can begin again. I become what I practice. ๐Ÿ™‚