Saturday, July 26, 2008

Somewhere Between Nowhere and Goodbye


Courtesy of Deviant Art

Somewhere between nowhere and goodbye lie words. Words, and the way we use them in our everyday language and lifetime. In the written word, I have used them professionally to create correspondence, I have used them personally in journals to leave a history of my life and growth, I have used them creatively to write essays, short stories, and poems. Vocally, I have used words with inflections to project different meanings - No, thank you, I don't want that vs. No, thank you, I do not want that! I have used them gently to soothe fears and dry tears, I have used them with authority to command control, I have used them to sway, persuade and influence, I have used them to carry truth, kindness, and compassion, I have used them to elate and to lift spirits, and I have used them to induce laughter. And, unfortunately, I have also used them internally to create feelings of helplessness, fear and powerlessness that only we can accomplish with such success and as we all at times have done. But the one area where I part with words is to use them as a tool to carry cruelty.

If words can destroy and heal, if words carry such energy and power, then why not use them wisely? What if we dispensed with the useless chatter that travels the road to nowhere? What if we got into the habit of thinking before speaking and seeing if whether we are speaking in truth or in falsity, thereby avoiding sticky situations in which we might find ourselves in the future? What if we used words only to raise our spirits and use them to heal and not harm, to praise and not criticize, to calm and not incite? What if? Wouldn't this be a more compassionate and loving world?

When I was young (and immature), I'd use words freely without thinking to prove myself, my worth, my intelligence. I used them to show I had a voice, an opinion, a backbone. Simply, it was all about ego, where my Self felt the need to be right or where I compared myself to others. We all have gone through that stage.

But as one gets older, one begins to see the value and power words carry and thus begins to use them more carefully. This comes by way of maturity and experience where finally the ego is released. We change our selfish I to a more inclusive we and begin to work more with others instead of always serving the Self. And one begins to recognize the lack of importance in the things we once thought so critical and spewed so vehemently about and find, that in fact, most of it was inconsequential.

There is a great deal to be said for the maturity one gains throughout life. My mother comes to mind. When I was a young and still finding my way, my mother would admonish me in gentle ways. She was my first Buddha teacher and only later in life did I realize that. Because she had me late in life, I was blessed with her sageness and maturity. And I grew up in the midst of much storytelling to make a point, of gentle reprimandings, of teachings of kindness and right. And some of the things I learned from listening to her and from witnessing how she conducted herself in life, were that at times refraining from "speaking your mind" would be the better part of discretion and promote a more harmonious environment; that the truth always reveals itself in the end so there is no need for you to be the bearer of such news; that sometimes yielding to another and letting them have the last word did not mean you were weak and submissive, instead it meant you had finally matured and realized that certain discussions or arguments would never lead to a meeting of the minds. Living with my mother was like being home schooled where I was in class all the time learning to navigate the ways of an intricate life.

And so, the way we speak to each other, the things we say, the words we use and, sometimes more importantly, the words we do not use, in the end define us. The image we project is defined, of course, by our conduct, our clothes and our actions. But it is most primarily defined by the language we use. Let the exchange of words be not filled with ill-will, envy or anger, instead let that exchange be productive and transformational for the betterment of ourselves and others. Because somewhere between nowhere and goodbye, lie the power of words.

© 2008 Rebecca Bush

53 comments:

tumblewords said...

Excellent -

JP/deb said...

Excellent thoughts on the power of words ... the way we can impact others or ourselves through the words we use. Peace, JP/deb

paisley said...

i. too can be called guilty, many times as using words as weapons... i am not in that space anymore,, and i am thankful that i have found more productive ways of expounding on my word power....

really nice post...

Robin said...

What if indeed...

CoyoteFe said...

"Somewhere between nowhere and goodbye lie words."

Yes indeed.

We would fill all the chinks and expanses with words, wouldn't we? And, we don't often assign them the magnitude of power we should, even when we know better.

Learning when to speak my mind, and when to shut up, is a rite of passage I have yet to complete. I am forever nattering on (kind of like this).

Excellent use of the title.

Your mother is a blessing.

rebecca said...

tumblewords,

thank you...

rebecca said...

jp/deb,

sometimes we forget the power of words and how they can make all the difference in the way we live our lives, view ourselves, and in our relationship to others...

peace..

rebecca said...

paisley,

thank you.... and words are the weapons of choice for many.... and it is through the passage of time, experience, age, and garnered wisdom that we one day realize the impact they have on ourselves and others...

peace,,,

rebecca said...

robin,

something to think about, huh? i thought so....

rebecca said...

coyotefe,

when to stay quiet and when to speak one's mind... a fork in the road that we come to many times throughout our lives. only through past experiences and, like i had mentioned to paisley, through age and wisdom gathered do we then know how to handle these delicate situations.

thank you for that sweet and thoughtful comment on my mother. she has been gone for more than a decade and being born to her was a blessing indeed. she was such a natural storyteller and so FULL of wisdom that those stories and lessons she inculcated in me early on created that path to which i've walked in life.

peace and light dear friend....

Angela said...

Great post. Wonderful wisdom and insight@

Michelle Johnson said...

This is an excellent post. Our words are very strong indeed and have the power to heal or hurt someone. I've always tried to watch what I say but, ultimately I am guilty of hurting others with my words. If I realize this I try to apologize for my words/ actions right then. Otherwise, I am doomed to carry the guilt with me wherever I go. Nice post. Have a nice night.

Stan Ski said...

The words, thoughts and deeds of others influence, and are reflected in our own.

Tom Volkar / Delightful Work said...

Beautiful post, Rebecca. I'm often struck by how cheap we are when it comes to using words of praise and encouragement. It's almost as though the speaker feels as though there is a lack of uplifting words or a quota that may run dry by lavishing praise on another. I can be too critical and that does not serve anyone well. This is a powerful reminder, thank you.

Spartacus Jones said...

wordswordswordswordswordswords....
swordswordswordswordswordswords...

Be careful how you use them, eh?

I enjoyed this piece very much.

sj

Jonas said...

A very thoughtful post, Rebecca. Thanks.

gautami tripathy said...

Same words mean different to different people at different times. I like this!

what if...

TC said...

If words can destroy and heal, if words carry such energy and power, then why not use them wisely?

This is so sad, but so open and honest as well. Why don't we take more care? And why not say what needs to be said? I can't think of anything worse than having a fight with someone, and then it being too late to fix things because something happens to them. I think it's my worst nightmare. So why wait at all?

rebecca said...

angela,

thank you...

peace,
rebecca

rebecca said...

hi michelle,

i think we've all been there where we have hurt another with our words and, some times, unintentionally. we're all human, not perfect, and it is, i think the way we learn to grow and learn. when we see we have hurt another by our words, the pain is reflected back at us through their eyes and, i hope, for many of us, we take the steps to remedy the action and apologize. who has not been there?

thank you for your comment.

best,
rebecca

rebecca said...

stan,

so very true, whether positive or negative.

rebecca said...

tom,

thank you. and, yes, why not be generous with uplifting and positive words? wouldn't this world be a better place?

rebecca said...

spartacusjones,,,

wordswordswordswords...
goodbadgoodbadgoodbad...
takeyourpickandseewhichworksbest...

thankyouandi'mgladyouenjoyedthispiece... :)

rebecca

rebecca said...

hi jonas,

thank you.

best,
rebecca

rebecca said...

hi guatami,

yes, some words do mean different things to different people at different times...very insightful. thank you for adding to that.

best,
rebecca

rebecca said...

tc,

i believe that when we experience loss, we are reminded of that again and again. and, i've experienced many... so, yes, for me, tomorrow does not wait.

xoxo

Kappa no He said...

I think it is so sweet that your mother was your first Buddha teacher. "Right Speech" is certainly one of the Buddhist precepts. I need to be more careful--my sarcasm can get away with me sometimes.

~terrie

rebecca said...

oh terrie,

i was blessed with such a good set of parents. my mother taught me much on "right speech" and my father taught me on "right thought" - we are what we think. not by words, but by example.

thanks for visiting. i love your blog. will come visit soon again.

best,
rebecca

The Real Mother Hen said...

When I'm angry, I say hurtful words that I don't mean it.
When I'm happy and joyful, I can't find the right words for it.
Sigh.

Tanya Gwen Minnick said...

Amazing post Rebecca* ;)
Words are what make our human experience so unique, so you are right why not think first, speak later...and be careful with our words. I am guilty of calling myself hurtful words that I would never use on another human..I need to start watching my self talk, and talk in general.
The image shocked me a little- good way to grab our attention.
xox
any tissue paper art yet?
:)
t

rebecca said...

mother hen,

oh, i disagree ms. hen... you have a knack for making people smile and laugh, so i think you're doing just fine!

xoxo
rebecca

rebecca said...

Hello Ms. T!

thank you! we are all guilty of being much harder on ourselves more than anyone else could ever be on us. why is that, i wonder? but we just need to acknowledge when we are doing it, and take the steps to revert it. we all deserve to be loved and spoken to right, most especially when it comes from ourselves.

and, no, no tissue paper projects yet! the only tissues i've used these days is when i left my little devil (my littlest cat, the bane of my husband's existence and the little apple of my eye) when i dropped her off at the vet to get her spayed. boo-hoo! :(

xoxo
rebecca

Hilary said...

Beautifully expressed. You certainly have learned to choose your words wisely. It's an art and you're quite the artist.

b said...

Beautifully written. The response was just perfect for the prompt! I guess I have always hated that words cannot be returned or taken back. Once they fall from our lips they will hit the mark we aimed at.

b

rebecca said...

Hi Hilary!

Thank you. The "art" of speaking "right" is an art that I am still on the road to learning. I am far from an artist and I am far from perfect. But, I had a very good mother to teach me the ways and I also have the company of a very wise husband who tends to use his words very discriminately. It certainly helps when the most influential people in your life are "teachers."

xoxo
rebecca

rebecca said...

hi barbara!

thank you. and, yes, once they leave our mouths, they cannot be taken back. i've seen people say things to each other that would curl your hair and I find it so unnecessary and so destructive. how can one build good relationships if one keeps hammering down the building blocks that constitute a harmonious union? well, in situations like this, obviously it goes deeper than words and i feel we cannot judge because no one ever knows what kind of pain lies in the heart of those persons .... so you say a little prayer and wish them well.... that one day they will finally find peace in their lives.

Tanya Gwen Minnick said...

Aw, I hope your littlest cat is home and healthy, and back to being the bane of your husbands existance soon :)
Very true, awareness is half the battle to true lasting change.
xo
T

Cynthia said...

You are such a wise woman, this quality, passed from your Mother
into your heart, this is a very
illuminating and teaching write.
Thank you, Rebecca!

ray said...

Hi ,

I was reading ur blog posts and found some of them to be wow.. u write well.. Why don't you popularize it more.. ur posts on ur blog ‘Just A Thought’ took my particular attention as some of them are interesting topics of mine too;

BTW I help out some ex-IIMA guys who with another batch mate run www.rambhai.com where you can post links to your most loved blog-posts. Rambhai was the chaiwala at IIMA and it is a site where users can themselves share links to blog posts etc and other can find and vote on them. The best make it to the homepage!

This way you can reach out to rambhai readers some of whom could become your ardent fans.. who knows.. :)

Cheers,

robin bird said...

i love how your blog posts and comments meld into a conversation rebecca.
words do carry a great deal of power for good or for evil.. I live in the language of words every day in my work. the selection of words, the nuance of intonation all carry great weight for influence. my words, a client's words, the words we choose together to best understand one another is of the greatest importance. my work is all about wielding influence with words as my only tool. as such i have a deep respect for a collaboration of words, a co-authored story of a person's journey. the past the present and the future. this is a beautiful story of your mother, her influence and the respect she showed for the ultimate power of being your parent. thanks for this thought provoking piece.

Jay said...

“Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.” Plato.

When I was younger, I thought I was wise for my age. Now the older I get, the more I see myself as the fool.

rebecca said...

T -

yes, she is... and the other cats are not happy either! LOL! thank you....

xoxo
R-

rebecca said...

cynthia -

thank you dear heart,

((hugs))
rebecca

rebecca said...

ray,

thank you for your kind comment. and thank you for the invite. i'll check it out.

best,
rebecca

rebecca said...

robin bird,

a "co-authored story of a person's journey." i like that. yes, when you are in the business of writing as a profession and words are the tools of your trade, it is even more important to be more cautious as to how they are being used. writers develop that discipline by virtue of the art itself. it is much harder, however, when speaking casually amongst friends and family on a day to day basis. this is where we have to be at most guard.

thank you so much for that lovely comment robin --

xoxo
rebecca

rebecca said...

jay,

i'm always reminded of plato's saying. with me, when i was younger i thought i knew everything. now the older i get, i realize i know nothing at all.

best,
rebecca

Lanceman said...

Wonderful reminder Rebecca about the importance to the word we do and don't use in our daily interactions.

I agree also that as we get older, and with more experience, we begin to realize the importance of our words and what we say.

chulita4 said...

Thank you for such a powerful, thought provoking post. I have used words to hurt someone so much in the past. That was before I was aware of how really powerful words are and how much damage hurtful words can do. That will be one one regret when I leave this earth.....I would like so much to go back to that time and take every word back and replace them with tender, loving, and understanding words. I am so grateful that I can now think before I say hurtful things. I still may say a hurtful thing now and then, but not to the extent that I did in the past. I will defintely come back to vist your blog more often.
Thank you.

rebecca said...

hi lance,

yes, getting older does have its benefits!

best,
rebecca

rebecca said...

chulita,

thank you. well, we can never undo the past, but we certainly can learn from it. and that is the best we can do for ourselves and others.

best,
rebecca

HollyGL said...

This post rings so very true on so many levels, Rebecca.

Your mom reminds me of my "Grammy" who was often more of a mother to me than my mom. Her age and wisdom made me feel safe. Like everything would always be okay. Man do I miss her.

rebecca said...

hi holly,

my mom had me when she was 42 (i came 15 years later than the rest of my siblings and was a surprise!) so i got the very best of her, most importantly, patience and wisdom. she was a terrific lady with a lot of grace, dignity and strength.

and, grammys are great. i'm know you miss her very much. i never had a grandmother, but had my mother, who was like one.

xoxo
rebecca

Epiphany said...

rebecca,

This is my new site:
http://yourpresencerequested.blogspot.com

aka Holly (...but really Steph)

Are you confused yet? :)