I’m sitting down to write a few more words today, because words still matter. It may seem like they don’t. Like you can say whatever you want today, not choosing your words very carefully… and then, tomorrow, you can say you didn’t mean what you said… or maybe you can just brush it off and say, ‘words don’t matter… they’re just words.’
Well, I disagree.
You see, I’m rather introverted. Words are pretty much all I have. In professional settings, I can get my words all organized and present them well – with no problem. But in social settings, I’m so gauche. If I speak at all, it’s ridiculously awkward. I don’t know exactly when to speak. I respond too quickly to things. I can’t quite figure out the proper cadence of the conversation to know when it’s my turn. And then the extroverts always know it’s their turn, so they jump ahead of me. I can’t determine if I was interrupting them or the other way around. But, when I write down the words, I can examine them and make sure they’re exactly what I want to say. And, when someone reads them – if they do – well, the words are how I wanted them. Maybe the person still doesn’t interpret them the way I meant them. And maybe that’s just because I need to use better words. See: they matter.
(Brevity is also a culprit… I actually hate myself sometimes when I quickly text or chat or Slack something to someone and I didn’t really think it through. Thank goodness Slack has that edit function!)
Maybe my words can sometimes make people uncomfortable. Maybe they reveal too much about what I’m feeling or thinking. Like this blog, for example. I’ve tried to be open and honest here. And if it stirs something in the reader, I think that matters. But I don’t really want to make people feel uncomfortable. I want them to know the things that I could never say in person. I need to choose the right words. The right words make all the difference.
Someone recently suggested that I read Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. I can’t believe I hadn’t read this book before! It’s really got some important life lessons in it. I’ll probably write about those later – when I’ve finished the book. But in this post, I just wanted to talk about words.
That book made me think about this topic, because Morrie uses the word pep, and Mitch laughs about it. Morrie says something like, ‘what – people don’t say pep anymore?’ It’s sort of an old-fashioned word. My Aunt Eleanore used to use that word, explaining how she didn’t have as much pep in her 90+ years. Another word I thought of is gamine. Since I got my hair cut recently, my husband and I were talking about how our friend Cade once told me I look like a gamine with my hair short. Another old word. We both looked puzzled. What the heck is a gamine? (I’ll let you look it up.) But now, I’m sort of embracing it. I love these old words that are so apt! I need to start collecting them in an old tattered box in my brain, so I can whip them out and stun my nieces and nephew when they come to visit 🙂
When I was in high school, I was just as awkward as ever. I did not necessarily consider myself a good student. I guess I had good grades, but I just didn’t see myself that way. I did what I was supposed to do. That’s all. But my English teacher in 9th grade surprised me by nominating me for the Honor Society. She also recommended me for AP English later on. I felt so out of place in both cases, but maybe I just didn’t realize where I was in the grand scheme of things.
Anyway, what I loved about that teacher is that she had us pick out five words a week that we didn’t know and make flash cards with their definitions on them. Each week, she’d sit with us one at a time and run through the cards. By the end of the semester you’d have quite a collection. I still think of those cards whenever one of those words pops up in my life. I immediately recall why I know the definition. What strikes me as funny now, is that I can’t remember that teacher’s last name. But I can remember her first name! And that’s because it was one of my vocabulary words. Her first name was Bonnie. I didn’t actually know that was her first name when I picked out that word (bonnie, which means cute). I think I got it from one of my mother’s Reader’s Digests. Anyway, my teacher laughed when she saw it in my stack of cards. Every time we got to that card each week, it was like an inside joke between us. I hardly ever use that word, but I will always remember it.
I just want to close this out by saying that I understand the importance of actions over words. I do. Actions really matter. I’ve tried to use that axiom to steer my life in better directions. I can definitely do more.
But please don’t discards words. They matter, too. Without words, I could not have written this blog. It’s not a big deal, but I put it out there for whatever it’s worth. Words made that possible.