Well, today’s post is a bit of a cheat, in that these words are someone else’s. My dear friend Polly Bond wrote about Words so powerfully that I am going to copy her words here (with her permission, of course). It was written shortly after the death of a good friend of ours and encapsulates, I think, all the important things about words, their impact, and their irretrievability.
Forgive me- I can’t quite get the formatting to work, so the text is in a blob. Please do read it anyway, bear with it, it’s worth it.
…Words… … mine simply are not good enough, so I’ve stolen some from Rothfuss. Why steal? Because he is a man who knows how to use his words where I do not.
“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” Patrick Rothfuss.
It is not that I am lost for words. It is more that I am drowning in an ocean of synonyms, metaphors, colloquialisms and nonsense. It is not that I cannot find the words, or that I am not capable of eloquently blending pronoun adjective, noun, conjunction, interjection adjective. This is not a statement of modesty. This is not request for praise. This is a simple truth.
My words aren’t good enough…
I have used my words too often and too loosely. My words have flowed callous and quick, sharp and spiteful, thoughtless and thick. Words of mine have caused anguish and great affliction. Curse cutting words openly uttered have ruptured pride, caused pain and persecution. Some words in particular may take a second to ejaculate yet a lifetime may not wipe away the smear. It is these tapering pointed words we are all capable of spitting in upset, anger or even angst that will be the ones to cause the most sorrow. These sharpened daggers of erroneous catastrophe will often not render their subject more scarred than scratched, a surface wound on the intended victim, can be a near mortal blow to the attacker.
Is it easier to forgive than accept forgiveness? For a person like me I think this might be true, which is why ‘a person like me’ with this mouth in this head should know this much better. I’m going to steal words again, this time from a theologian “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and to realise the prisoner was you.” Lewes B. Smedes
A prisoner of words?
As a forgiving person I believe in giving second chances, but seldom do I offer them myself. As a person prone to making mistakes, a chronic sufferer of the human condition I have needed many fresh starts, many helping hands and had lived my life for a time believing I would always have such opportunities. But this is not the case. Imagine for a second this time is the last time, that this task is the last task, that this word is your last, now ask yourself honestly…
…is it right?
Would you be so quick to react if knew this reaction would be your last? Perhaps not. When faced with this question we inherently become the amateur philosophers of our youth, reflect over the noble and concoct a satisfying vague answer to blanket the issue, tucking it in to the dismissive folds of our active minds.
Please, let me set the scene for you;
You are young. Around 25 years of age, the world at your feet and forever at your heels. You are happy enough, in comparison to the confused unstable adolescent you suddenly out grew just a handful of months ago. You are in bar, a dark and familiar place, smoke frames the heated intellectual conversations, the smell of Jagermeister and socialism floating in its tail. It’s not your bar. Not anymore. There was a time, not so long ago, not so long before you exploded into the surety and wisdom that comes with a self professed journey directly to adulthood that this was your bar, your home, your work place your respite. These people are not strangers, they are friends and good friends, close friends loved friends. But you have been away. The person that left and the person that sits in your seat now wear a similar face, dress in a similar fashion and answer to the same name. To the untrained eye the face now sitting in the once familiar seat is identical to the one that left, yet closer inspection reveals slight blemishes and some superficial surface scarring. The seats previous owner had been fearless, frivolous and infamous for being so, and it was these factors that forced the original exodus.
And now you are sitting there.
A culmination of then-and-now, apprehensive, excited, inebriated. Surrounded by the familiar yet strangely out of your comfort zone. When an old friend, one who had the insight to notice the scars before they settled, before you left eve, turns to you. Seeing you for the first time since you parted the friend makes a flippant remark, a cutting remark that you were not prepared for and all of sudden you flush. The remark is made in jest and purely in jest and you reaction erupts spontaneously from your mouth like a salmon bursting upstream from a river of shot glasses and cigarette smoke.
How do you react?
With equal cutting jest, with seriousness, with anger, with love? What if this reaction was to be your last reaction, the next statement your last, does it change it? Please bear in mind in the affliction of your youth in the scenario before you answer, then contemplate the connection to your youth now outside of the hypothetical and explore any differences you find. If you were to retort in a derogatory fashion do you suppose the friend would forgive after your passing? But of course, when we lose someone we truly cared about so many frictions become trivial, we have the blessing of clarity. We can truly see what matters in a friendship, a lover and sibling a spouse we let go of hurt harbored deep and allow love in abundance that we wished we’d bestowed whilst we had the chance. So yes, rest assured, after your passing most will forgive you even if they weren’t ready before.
Let us change the scenario in the slightest degree. Everything up until the point of your choice is the same, the smoke in the bar, the face in the chair, the scene I laid out hasn’t altered, the flippant remark has just been spoken but this time you know you will walk away from the situation physically unscathed, your feelings may be hurt but you will go on to other things, possibly even better things, you are both guaranteed to leave the bar that night, you may be 3 sheets to the wind, you might feel like death in morning but you’ll live. You’re old friend on the other hand, will not. Could you forgive yourself for making the wrong choice?
The point about this scenario which I have played over and over in my mind is that if we are honest with ourselves we find the answers do change, maybe a just slight fraction or maybe a world apart from speaking without thought. But once it is said, what is done cannot be undone, it can be mended in time when the chance arises but this scenarios doesn’t offer that second chance so many of us rely on. By not saying what we truly feel are we being untrue to ourselves.
How often are we truly honest with others and ourselves, is it enough? What is it that can stop us using our words for the positive, how much of what we think and feel will never be spoken due to pride, politeness, fear, circumstance and the million other legitimate excuses we create as barriers?
Words spoken in anger may not have been sincere but they certainly have been spoken. Make no mistakes about this.
It has been over 2 years since I left the bar in Amsterdam making the wrong choice. But that was the friendship that we had, we didn’t need to be sentimental but we certainly didn’t need to be harsh. Worse than this after I made one bad choice I made a second by conveying my hurt as disdain for my friend to another. It has been a year since he passed and now…
…my words are not good enough.
It is not that I am lost for words. It is more that I am more drowning in an ocean of synonyms, metaphors, colloquialisms and nonsense. It is not that I cannot find the words, or that I am not capable of eloquently blending pronoun adjective, noun, conjunction, interjection adjective. This is not a statement of modesty. This is not request for praise. This is a simple truth. The last words we shared we not good enough and there is never a way I can fix that…
… there is no time left for words now.
“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.” John Greenleaf Whittier. If you never listen to another word I say (and I can forgive you that) then let these stick with you.
I have learned two things in this past year, which I try to remain true to, so some day my words will be my allies maybe even my legacy?
1.) The pain and persecution your words can cause can be far greater for you than the person you originally intended them for.
“That’s what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.” Arundhati Roy
They can make you love you a little less, don’t be a prisoner to your words, forgive yourself and the bad things you have said, and TRY, try with all your might never to say them again.
2.) Most importantly it is the words you don’t say that can haunt you the most, words like I’m sorry or I forgive you or I love you. Don’t rest in the knowledge that there will always be another chance. Those you love won’t always be there, and life will prove this to you over and over again. The loss of an absolute legend this Sunday has sadly confirmed this and I want to send an abundance of love and light in these dark times to his family and friends, in dark times it is important to spread light.
When a tragedy strikes its effects are openly devastating and providing support and love to others can be a crutch for your own personal healing too. But don’t wait for fate to knock, I spoke of Griff often with fondness and a smile, but I rarely told him. If you share a story about a friend that’s far away or you’ve not seen for a while that creates a smile or laugh with the friends you’re with then…
Share the smiles with their creator, if something reminds you of someone when you’re on a bus or walking home or going about your everyday business, don’t push the thought to the back of your head and get on with the tasks at hand, your chores will be there tomorrow. Share your love, give your mum or dad or grandparents, siblings or children a hug. Think of something special about your other half and share it with them no matter how much you may feel like strangling them most of the time, because something you said might be making them feel the same about you!
You never know a kind word might be just what that person needed to get them through a difficult time, share uplifting words, say something good. If you made it to the end of this jumble of words then please, don’t think for a minute about all the problems you have in life, or all the little niggles that are slowly driving you insane. Take a deep breath, shut down your computer, pick up the phone, go to the living room or the kitchen, walk a 500 miles if you have to (But sing the Proclaimer’s as you do, to keep your spirits up.) just to tell someone somewhere something special while you can.
x x And don’t forget you’re someone special too! x x