“A word is dead
When it is said,
I say it just
Begins to live
by Emily Dickinson
This poem has remained a steady favorite of mine since the moment I read it. I think of it often and especially when I try to talk less and listen more. I used to tell my son when he was a chatty child, “We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we talk.” ( I think this lesson backfired on me now that he is a teenager. The silence, at times, can be deafening.) But even for my own talking, I think about this poem and how important it is to use the right words.
When I discuss this poem with my classes we always end up discussing bullying and how words actually do hurt more than sticks and stones. Bruises can fade, but you can never let go of those vicious words that were said. Those are wounds that never seem to heal well.
I thought of this poem today after a text from my dear friend. The excitement about her evening out away from the kids for a bit is being wrecked by her sudden feelings of insecurity about how she looks in her dress. I can guarantee my friend looks lovely in her dress. I have not seen her but based on historical evidence of every time she has had to dress up to go out she ALWAYS looks great. And trust me, I have seen her at her worst as well i.e. college friends. And thus, I have not seen her at her worst in over twenty years (although there was that one recent night we were celebrating our friend’s birthday…but that’s for a future blog). So I am confident with my assertion that she looks great without even needing to see her dress.
My friend reached out with a group text at the height of her panic. All friends involved talked (texted, actually) her up. We hopefully helped her get her groove back. But I get it. I have been there. Heck, I may go there myself tomorrow. Who knows? But what I do know is that her insecurities come from the negative words she heard about her body while growing up, and still now, from her mother. These wounds I can assume her mother did not mean to cause. In a strange way, as a mom myself now, I get it. You just want the best for your children. And in her mother’s mind, being skinny is being the best. I’m not saying it is right. I’m just saying I get it.
So this brings me back to the poem above and how words take a shape of their own once they are uttered. My friend has shaped these words into feeling insecure while she has nothing to feel insecure about (except for that mentioned one night for that future blog). I get that too because my mother has said some fucked up shit to me growing up and still does as well. And even though I am a grown ass woman it still can get to me. But this grown ass woman also knows the truth is that those words are not about me. They are not my problems. They are the projection of the sender's own insecurities. And from them, I can learn to use my words more carefully so I do not harm.
A quote our other dear friend shared during our texting from her mother sums up these odd relationships, “My daughters doing great…she’s always been a little heavy, but she’s great….”
Oh, words, how they make us laugh and cry and feel really crappy. But there are some great ones too. And sometimes it is up to us to seek them.
I sent my friends the Phenomenal Woman poem I reviewed the other day. You can reread it here as well: http://www.msread.net/blogging-reviews/its-your-phenomenal-practice.
You will see why it is just as hard working a poem as is today’s chosen poem.
So read this perfect poem, typed above, again from that rebellious recluse Emily Dickinson about “A word.” She is definitely someone on day 7 of our POETRY party who will not be getting thrown out for saying the wrong thing.