I’ve always loved words; I’m a writer, how can I not? The dictionary and thesaurus are two of my best buddies, taking up sacred space on my desk.
I get a thrill from massaging what are essentially strings of sound into meaning that connects people; helping to find the common ground between us all.
I select phrases with the precision of a surgeon, and I deconstruct sentences with the same desire and intensity as someone may slowly undress a new lover.
Yet I’ve also struggled with words my entire life. Not finding them as such, but misusing them, misinterpreting them, and quite regularly, hiding behind them.
I know my words have informed, inspired and soothed many, but they’ve also confused and scared others.
I have a vast vocabulary; great for writing, yet ironically, sometimes limited for communication. How there are times when I’ve longed for short bursts of emotion, rather than well-crafted prose.
In many instances, more hasn’t always been better. I’ve often created a letter when only a sentence was required; or, I catch myself editing a personal text message, when I ought to be pressing the send button, sans punctuation. I’ve also written a paragraph when what I’ve really wanted to say is something as simple as: I love you, I miss you, I value you, I’m sad, I’m scared or I’m angry.
Other times I’ve used language when all I truly desired was a touch, an embrace, a kiss, or even just to hold someone’s hand in silence.
I’ve chosen responses such as, I’m ok, I’m good, That doesn’t matter, when I’m not, and it does matter.
I’ve used words to jumble meaning; and I’ve practiced humour or sarcasm to hide the truth.
I’ve corrected freudian slips when they illuminated more than I was willing to see.
It’s been said that our greatest gifts can be both a blessing and a curse. Over the years I’ve learnt to see my challenge with words as just that.
After a wordy’ exchange with a friend the other day, I contemplated this quandary of mine.
How can we make words count? How do we make them a way to relate, not separate; to create, not breakdown?
What is it exactly that enables my words to shine and engage, and to the contrary, what is it that has me using them as a cover to my shadows and a barrier to intimacy?
What is the x factor’ that makes words capture a heart rather than inflict a wound?
Approximately 8% of communication is language; but how well do we know the other 92%?
What do you notice when you stop talking, including ceasing the voices inside your own head? What do you hear in the silence? What do you feel in the quiet?
I’ve discovered that I often need the time away from words to find the right ones again.
I live in the bush so I may take myself on a stroll amongst the tall, majestic trees, listening to the sounds of nature, and as I do so, it’s like my vocabulary shrinks to the bare necessities.
Once a month I try and do a meditation whereby I chant for 20 minutes and then remain in silence for a couple of hours afterwards. It’s extremely powerful and I normally come out of it refreshed, with a deep sense of peace and a reduced need for speaking. Last time I did it, I refused to turn my phone back on all day, as I just didn’t want the white noise to interrupt the stillness of my thoughts and being.
When the words subside, my soul starts speaking to me.
It’s here where I discover that words get in the way when they come from the wrong place; when I’m ungrounded, caught up in my monkey-mind or fearful and flighty. I forgivingly witness how I’ve used words to hide my insecurities, to run from my emotions, and to cover up my pain. To see how they’ve been an armour, a protective wall between me and my vulnerability. Without the words there is space; there is a nakedness that reveals all.
One of the best days I’ve had in recent months was when I spent a morning reading on my balcony with a dear friend. Both engrossed in our own books, occasionally we’d poke our heads up for a brief chat, but mostly we sat in the most companionable silence, where what wasn’t being said was more powerful than what could’ve been uttered.
When we eventually got up for lunch, our conversation was effortless, nourishing and joyful. In a grounded space we were able to intuitively chose the right words rather than carelessly spill garbage.
When I write a story or an article I make a disciplined effort to try and connect with that space. I shut everything else out so that the words come from my nakedness and centre, and not my fear or a need to embellish. I know that unless I see the value in my words, no one else will either.
I’ve come to understand that it’s the intention behind my writing or speaking that delivers its truth.
In essence, it’s the time I take between the words that enables me to use my gift as a blessing. If I don’t take that time, my words may hurt; if I do take the time, they can truly heal.