In my 30 years of life, I’ve recently learned a hard lesson. It’s one that I’m grateful for, but nonetheless, it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn to date. My mother recently told me to write about these things, but sometimes I find myself staring at the blinking pulse of the typing cursor on my laptop for long periods of time before closing it.
Some things are too hard to write about. So I’ll write about words.
As a writer, it’s quite a challenge to wrap your mind around the concept that words can mean nothing– they can have little heft in the grand scheme of life. Trying to quantify your life with words, what other people say versus what their actions are is an exercise in futility. There’s, of course, the age old adage that words mean nothing unless they’re followed up with actions, and I find that to be entirely true. The last few years of my young life have forced me to explore the concept (and now knowledge) that there are individuals for which words are fundamentally just that: they’re words, and not much else. For someone who has a mild obsession with words, and the nuanced way in which we might use them, this is especially dangerous. Someone can be saying all the right things, but their treatment of you can speak the volumes that you chose not to hear.
There can be a fundamental unhealthiness in holding on to words. For someone who occasionally spends her days running entirely on coffee and high levels of anxiety this can be especially tricky. If you’re anything at all like me, dear readers, words can serve as a the mind’s equivalent to a stress ball. Turning them over and over in your head, worrying all the edges away, using them as a source of reassurance despite reality indicating something entirely different. Depending on who they’re from and how they’re delivered, you can let the words scar you immeasurably or be the reason you sleep soundly at night. I’ve all too often found myself trying to rationalize a person’s behavior based on the words they give me. One of my favorite young poets, Sarah Kay definitively says that “it is hard to build a body out of words.” Anyone who has ever tried to bridge the gap of understanding between two people can easily relate to this. I’ve experienced both distance and silence from some of the people that I’ve wanted to feel close to, but trying to build a relationship or understand someone just from their words alone can lead to unending disappointment.
The safe thing about writing is that you can turn those things around for yourself. You can take control and tell the stories that you want. You can create any kind of reality you want to; it’s there, because it exists on paper. You give them a life of their own by writing them down and they can be a direct way of controlling your life’s narrative. I find a great comfort in that. Despite how other people might use them, I chose to fully own my own experiences through my words as well as my actions. The good and the bad. Maybe one day I’ll share more of the difficult things on here. As author Anne Lamott so wisely said:
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”