“Be careful of words,
even the miraculous ones.
They can be as good as fingers.
They can be as trusty as the rock
you stick your bottom on.
But they can be both daisies and bruises.
But I try to take care
and be gentle to them.
Words and eggs must be handled with care.
Once broken they are impossible
things to repair”—Ann Sexton, excerpt from Words
I woke up this morning with an extra sense of pure joy and gratitude. “Morning, world, you are gorgeous!” The sun was shining, vast quantities of angel dust were falling on me and I was going to go spread it around a bit. I looked in the mirror, “Morning, beautiful soul, it’s a wonderful day, let’s go share it!” The usual outfit of jeans and T-shirt somehow felt more designer like, hair fell exactly into place—I felt great and skipped through the door with a giggle and a grin with which even the sun struggled to compete.
As I walked down the street my smile and light step invited many a greeting, and I stopped every now and then to have a chat or give someone a hug. A friend of mine approached and I waved. Her opening words were, “You’re looking tired…” and bang went the light, the joy, the wonder. That’s all it took—one word to pull in doubt. One word to displace the delight, moving it off to a place that would require some serious search and recover to regain it. Loosening its grip on the cracks in the dungeon would be quite a feat. Fortunately, I am good at searching and recovering, so this was only a fleeting shadow on an otherwise perfect day. But it was there.
Gmail has a wonderful email option; after hitting the “send” button, you have a number of seconds to “undo” the sending—the number being set by the user. I have set mine to 30 seconds and have on occasion used this when I have hit “send” before properly thinking my words through and realizing an incomplete thought could be misconstrued. The first time I hit “undo” I thought, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could do this with our spoken words? As we watch them leave our lips, we could grab them back—literally snatch them from the air and put them back in our mouths, undoing them.”
My second thought was how long 30 seconds actually is and how much harm could be done or not allowed to be done in 30 seconds. It took a fraction of that to remove, even if only for a few seconds, the joy from my day.
As a poet, I play with words in an attempt to put what’s in my head succinctly—a minimum of words and a lot of understanding. When I am in the slightest doubt about a word, I research all the meanings to ensure that whoever the audience is, they will “get it”—maybe not exactly the way I thought they would, but it will touch them in some way that will make them think—but will not harm. When I get stuck, I take my words for a walk—my walking meditation—and on one of these walks the words came to me, “There isn’t enough time. Make every word count.”
We use words every day so easily without thinking, or even understanding all the meanings of the words and their possible effect on others. We say, “I’m sorry,” or “I hate this,” or “I love this.” Everything is energy and words hold extremely powerful energy, whether spoken or written. All things begin with a thought; the words we speak are the outward manifestation of our mind and heart’s content.
Let us take the word “sorry” as an example. One used when accidentally bumping into someone, or showing sympathy, or as an excuse for being late for an appointment.
1. Feeling or expressing regret or sorrow or a sense of loss over something done or undone
2. Bad; unfortunate
3. Without merit
4. Causing dejection
5. Wretched, poor, useless or pitiful
There is nothing positive in this word; it holds absolutely no light to either the speaker or the hearer, yet is used many times a day, spreading its dark energy around.
Because I often walk around with my head full of phrases, thoughts and words, trying to compose them into something that makes a modicum of sense, I’m inclined to bump into people or things simply because I had no idea they were there. Does this make me a sorry person—am I feeling a sense of loss over something done or undone; am I bad or unfortunate or without merit; wretched, poor, useless or pitiful? Have I caused any dejection at all? Or have I simply been completely unaware of my surroundings? I am usually the one that receives the bigger surprise and my first response is a “tch-tch” at my mind, an instant smile, and I lightly touch the shoulder of the lucky person blessed by bumping into me. When more is required I will say, “Excuse me” or, when bigger words fail me, “Oops!” works wonders.
A tour guide told me one day she was always saying “sorry” to her passengers on behalf of her company: the bus didn’t show up, the bus has broken down, they’ve missed their connection. “I don’t know what else to say.”
I can tell you exactly what not to say—“sorry.” By saying “sorry” the situation moves from a deviation in plans into a disaster-in-waiting. It can easily be turned into a “fun time” by taking a different approach: “Right folks, we are an adventure tour company, and our next adventure has just arrived; this is what has happened, this is what it means and this is what we are doing to fix it.”
“I hate peanut butter.” Oh yeah? Do you dislike peanut butter enough to go out and smash every jar on every shelf in the world? Do you disapprove of it enough to start an action closing down all peanut butter manufacturers and ploughing up all peanut farms? Do you feel enough “extreme aversion for or extreme hostility towards” peanut butter to drive you to act against it, to eradicate it from the face of the earth?
Often in response to my question, “How are you doing?” I am told “I am sick; I am sad; I am catching a cold; I feel fat; I think I am going to have a problem at work; I am tired, depressed…” all manner of negative things. We are drawing the word energy through our mouths straight into our minds to engulf our very be-ing—and not only drawing it into ourselves, we are spreading it to the listener and to the world as a whole. And, yes, even though I have learned how to prevent others’ energy from harming me, for an instant it touches me too and a small shadow crosses my day.
Although I rarely watch television, I decided to spend some time listening to the words people use on the media—in advertising, interviews, shows and the news. What I heard, and my reaction to it, made me realize why the screen in my place remains blank.
“It’s not time to panic yet.” Is there ever a time to panic? What effect does panicking have on action except to ensure whatever we do is illogical and reactionary. All panic does is create chaos in the grey matter and thinking moves into the twilight zone.
“This is the best catheter.” I need a catheter? Why would I need a catheter? Oh, urinary tract infection—do I have a urinary tract infection? I was feeling fine until now.
“Which colour best suits your lifestyle?” “Do you suffer from a sleep disorder?” I am sick … I hate … I love … I panic … I have an eating disorder … I am bipolar … do you have halitosis?”
Everything has energy—everything. Anyone who has studied or has a hobbyist’s interest in science will know that when energy disappears in one form, an equal amount appears in another form. Energy is neither created nor destroyed, it only changes form. We create the energy that touches people’s lives, including our own, through our thoughts and words.
Of course there are days I’m not having an especially over-the-top great day, but if someone asks if I’m OK I do not say “no”—I always respond with either “yes,” or “I’m fine.” And that is what my mind hears and it moves into “being OK” mode. How am I doing? Always good or great, because that is my intent and my mind needs to know that in order to compose the world as I want it to be.
I will not watch anything that contains violence; I will not listen to or allow hate speech anywhere near my vicinity; I will not visit websites that contain any form of peace disruption. And every single time someone says the word “sorry” to me, I immediately stop them and tell them why.
The words we speak, write and hear have the power to create or destroy, harm or heal, cause great sorrow or fill with joy. Our words can sing or weep, fly or fall, dance or drag. We need to be like Gmail—before we send, think; then either hit “send” or “undo.”
We need to walk gently and speak lightly—the world is listening.