Archives for posts with tag: words words words

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™‚

There are other voices than mine. There are other lived truths than the truth I live myself. There are other perspectives, other viewpoints, other angles from which to consider each very human moment. There are other tales to tell, told by other travelers. Each existing alongside all the others, their existence, itself, does nothing to diminish the truth of the others; these are narratives. Subjective experiences of being human, in all its wonder, glory, pain, and joy. I tell mine here, my way. ๐Ÿ™‚

A friend posted on Facebook recently that she is undertaking her own healing journey, walking that hard mile, processing trauma, seeking healing, and that she had started a blog. She started a group, to post to, understanding that perhaps not everyone wants to share that journey with her. I appreciate the consideration. I respect the journey; I’ve been on my own such journey for a while now. I reflected back on that moment when I decided to start a journey, and a blog, and considered how that “went down”, and the reactions I’d gotten at that time, from friends and loved ones (a fairly discouraging mix of disinterest, distance, and patronizing comments, generally, and a couple folks sincerely interested in being supportive). I asked myself, explicitly, “how do I want to ‘be there’ for my friend, and her experience, right now?”

I provided a reply I hoped would be welcoming and supportive, and accepted the request to join her group. Why would I not? Reluctance to be triggered? I grant you; it’s a risk. (People in my life spend a lot of time opening up to me about trauma, as it is. I’ve survived it so far.) People need to feel heard. They need emotionally secure relationships in which to open up about what hurts them. Me, too. Can I “be there” to support that? Of course I can. It’s on me to set and manage my boundaries, if it gets to be too much, and even that is a way of being there for a friend or loved one, setting that powerful example that it is also okay to set boundaries, and showing what that looks like, in practice. Practice. Yeah – and also, because I, too, am entirely made of human, I need practice, myself. Practice at listening deeply. Practice at maintaining perspective on past trauma. Practice understanding that we each walk our own hard mile. Practice at “being there” for others. Practice, frankly, at being the woman I most want to be – in every interaction, every moment, on every day. Words are just words. It’s the verbs that make changes come to life. It’s what we practice that matters; we become what we practice.

This morning I read the first of her posts (that I’ve read). I savored her voice. The difference in her style of communication. I read from a place of non-judgmental acceptance, and non-attachment. Her tale is not my tale, however similar some details may seem; she is having her own experience. I listen with empathy, consideration, compassion. I listen deeply. I recognize her humanity, her unique experience. I acknowledge the human experience beyond the words. I nod quietly, more than once. “I know you,” I think to myself. Still, I also allow her her moment; we are individuals, with our own experiences, our own pain. We’re in very different places on our individual journeys. That doesn’t matter as much as “being there” – being present, aware, and compassionate – because although we are each having our own experiences, we’re also “all in this together”. I sip my coffee and contemplate the journey stretching ahead of her.

Ask the questions. Do the verbs. Begin again.

I am home for the day, preparing for the long holiday weekend ahead. Having a quiet cup of tea, vaping something pleasant tasting, and watching the vapor curl in wisps as the cloud breaks up as I exhale. “Vaping” is a verb now. I ponder the way language changes with the times. I wonder if things are still “on fleek” and if “fam” is still “lit”. I smile, breathe, relax; this is my time, my moment, and I am content with it just as it is, wedged between the shhh-shhh of commuter traffic at the edge of the driveway, and the chug-chug of the washing machine, down the hall. The noise doesn’t matter, this evening, and it is not disturbing this somehow-still-quiet moment.

I am thinking of “is” and of “isn’t”, and the year just finishing up, as I peer cautiously ahead to the year that is imminent. I am thinking rather carefully of “essence” and “essentials”, and hoping to stay on the path of sufficiency. Right now, at least, it is rather easy not being tempted by excess. I just don’t have the resources for that, and 2019 looks like a year that I will spend rebuilding reserves, planning with care, and being most particular to avoid wastefulness.

I catch my thoughts on a hook as they brush past a word – “essence”. Fancy. What is “essence”, really?

…I love the future. ๐Ÿ˜€

So… yeah… “the intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, especially something abstract, that determines its character”. Essence. Got it. I ponder the word, and the idea of it for some minutes.

What “is” my “essence”? Is that a thing that I am? Have? Is it a state of being? A verb? An experience of self? A defining characteristic identified by others? Do I choose it? Chase it? Live it? Question it?

Is “what is my essence” simply a fancier, wordier, version of the lingering question “who am I”?

How would my “essence” influence my experience of life – or of self?

Are these questions that need asking, and answering, or is this a game?

Just questions tonight, I suspect, as I close in on the New Year. It’s a season of change, and of reflection. It is a season of choices, memories, and moments.

…the new year is a blank page…

I put questions aside, and make time for gratitude. The house is comfortable, tidy, and warm. The bills are paid. I have what I need, generally; I am fortunate. I reflect on good fortune, and the temptation to feel “deserving” or that this life is entirely “earned” on my own effort. Both the notion of being “deserving” and the notion of having gotten here “on my own” are illusions, nothing more, and I turn away from the thinking errors that bring me to those ideas. I’m fortunate. I’ve had a lot of lucky breaks. I’ve had help, encouragement, support – and all of that matters. I would not be “here”, had I been less fortunate, or if I had had to make this journey entirely without friend, or aid, all alone. I’d be somewhere quite different, and, perhaps, however grateful to be in that place, I might also be an entirely different human being, with a different understanding of myself, and different dreams, walking a different path, toward a different future.

That, too, I let go, as the twilight of winter evening slowly fades to the darkness of nightfall. No reason to become attached to notions in the darkness. Grateful and inquisitive – these seem worthy of being some part of my essence. Contentment, too. I smile, and make room to appreciate the journey, and the woman I have become over time.

Tomorrow, I’ll begin again. There is further to go. ๐Ÿ™‚