Words carry such power. Such force. So much meaning. Being called “smart” by your college professor does not elicit the same feelings as your mom saying the same. “Be brave” carries a vastly different message when it’s said to a child before open heart surgery than when it’s told to an adult before an interview. The circumstances and people involved in the exchange of words lay down the foundation for their impact.
There’s a ripple effect too…there are casualties involved. There are people that are impacted and hurt even when the words weren’t theirs to say or hear.
Take divorce. My marriage was a failure. Not always. Just at the end when it stopped existing. I remember hearing a girl say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know he was married.” There was a time I heard myself ask, “How long have you been lying?” The real end came when my son heard his dad tell him (on Father’s Day, believe it or not), “Daddy is dead. Goodbye.” So many people forever changed by these exchanges.
Anger, fear, shock and every emotion under the sun can spark a fiery tongue to speak things that can’t be taken back. Words become daggers to a heart as they’re thrown out in a moment lacking self control. More so than this though, our words are intertwined with our thoughts. These things become actions. Irreversible, painful and sometimes, permanent. I wish people wouldn’t say, “I don’t love you” unless they actually don’t and never could or will again. Wives and husbands shouldn’t let “divorce” be a word that exists in their heads, let alone one that comes out of their mouths. Yet here I am in the aftermath of fifteen years ending (eight of which were spent as a wife) able to say with certainty I am divorced, and I no longer love my ex husband. Here I am, monitoring my thoughts but still unable to fully keep out the negativity that creeps in on a daily basis as I try to live again in the wake of loss. I’m more careful with my words but still speak things I don’t mean. What’s done is done, but what has yet to come remains to be seen. I’m working hard to ensure I rule my emotions rather than allow them to rule me so that my words and thoughts come from a fearless and loving place. I want my words to convey the hope and strength I carry.
Words are so powerful. Good. Bad. Amazing. Life changing.
The words we use to speak of ourselves are especially powerful. Whenever I catch myself saying, “I failed.” Or “This is all my fault.” I have to stop and remember, “I tried.” And “There is often more than one person that shoulders the responsibility for the way things play out.”
Some of the most life changing words are the ones that are never spoken. What a wonderful world it would be if people could open their hearts, allow their scars to heal and say the happy things that make life good. I can’t even begin to explain how much I’ve craved to hear from medical professional words that aren’t theirs to speak. “You’re son will live to at least 88.” But then again, sometimes only time, God and hope can speak these truths.
My favorite words come from my son’s tiny toddler lips and remind me to look at the world more simply.
“Mommy, I love your face.”
“I love you so all day.”
“Thank you for my frog. He’s naked.”
“To the hospital? YAY! Let’s go!”
“I like you happy.”
These daily “Charlie-isms” are like seeds being scattered and planted in my heart and mind. They grow grateful and good thoughts that inspire me to be the best version of myself. Blossoming with hope and resiliency.
Words of wisdom and encouragement from my friends and family have helped me keep myself together while my world was turning upside down. Words spoken to God keep me going too. Once, at McDonald’s…. “Lord. This isn’t a homemade smoothie served with zucchini muffins, but thank you for having it available for me and my son during our 6 hour appointment at the hospital.” Another time in the middle of the night, “God, save me. I need back some of the things that I let go of. Guide me to a place where losing so much opens me to gaining even more.”
Some words have the opposite intended effect…”Don’t get your hopes up.” “I can’t.” Well. Too bad. I always have high hopes, but pessimism (or a seemingly logical perspective), only make them soar higher. Yes, you can. Put down the fear; it’s a heavy load to bare.
Words that bring a full bellied I-forgot-for-a-moment-that-I’m-a-single-mommy laugh are among the best my ears hear.
My sister: “I could slap him silly, but he’s so stupid, I’ll have to slap him smart.”
A friend: “You’re like a roach. Those suckers survive. They can’t be stopped.” (So much for being a butterfly…but meh. They’re fragile anyway.)
Then there are the words that make me smile as I cling to the hope that love and happiness win. Every. Single. Time. Despite all of the loss and horror that comes with divorce and illness, there’s also beautiful and amazing healing.
“Your son can fly.”
“You make me happy.”
“You didn’t fail. A man failed you.”
“Sabrina, you’re a bad ass.”
So, what do we say each day to pay it forward? To make others smile so that we can smile too? We have to choose our thoughts and words carefully because they have the power to change the world. But first, they spark a change from within, and that’s kind of the same thing.
Here goes…final words before I go on my way:
I hope everything will be wonderful for you and your family for the rest of your life. I hope that courage overrides fear and a smile replaces a frown. Let your words be honorable, humble and kind. Less judgment and more empathy. I hope you know that sometimes there are no words. Like when you love someone so much, you don’t need words. Or when you’re in so much pain clinging to what matters, silence says more.
Remember that you can’t take back the things you speak or do, and both actions and words start with your thoughts and you. So say something lovely, or stay quiet and just be. Either way, bring goodness into this world. Make someone happy, and you will be happy too.