The Power of Words

Words.

Words are powerful.

Words are uncountable.  According to Oxford Dictionaries, it’s impossible to truly count how many words comprise the English language.

These uncountable words hold the power to control, command, influence, enlighten, and destroy.  In prose, words can tell stories, transfixing the reader into another place and time, into someone else’s mind, into someone else’s world.  Words can show us the meaning of life and love, filling our souls with droves of emotions.  Words can show us the meaning of hurt, filling our beings with sadness and anger.  Words can be so strong that they alter our being, molding and shaping and changing us in ways that were unimaginable.

This holds true for words communicated between two people, except real life words hold the most power, because unlike words read in a book or a poem, words between people are purposely meant for the other.  Words that are directed towards a specific person are no longer in the safe world of fiction;  these words are real, born out of the relationship you hold together.  Because of this, we must be careful with words, because once they pass the lips and become audible to the intended audience, there is no taking them back.

I was going through some papers a few days ago and came across this:

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It’s the ticket stub from ZooLights.  T and I had gone there just days before the miscarriage. It’s one of my favorite holiday events, and since he had never gone, I was extra excited to attend that year.  My happiness was subdued, however.  I noticed he was staring more at the children running around than enjoying the scenery.  I felt myself become defensive, scared that he was too overcome with fear and anger about my pregnancy to enjoy himself. I thought he saw the kids as a reminder of his impending doom.

As we made our way back to the entrance of the zoo, we stopped for a minute to look at one of the displays.  He said something, and I can’t remember what his exact words were.  But I remember my response:

“Who knows, maybe this time next year there won’t be a baby.  We won’t be together and I’ll be blogging about you behind your back.”

I also can’t remember his response.  I think he might have laughed and said something snarky.

I think about those words, born out of my own fear and trepidation at the journey ahead.  Those words were spoken out of a need to protect myself, and were intended to push him further away.   If only I had understood when I spoke those words that no matter how much I tried to keep my heart safe, that he already had it in his hands, and I just needed to let go and trust in him and in myself.

Words used carelessly, as if they did not matter in any serious way, often allowed otherwise well-guarded truths to seep through.
― Douglas Adams

Instead, I used words to distance myself, as I had done many times before.  The words I spoke that night are not the only ones I wish I could take back.  I told my best friend the night my cat was sick that I didn’t want to be with T anymore.  I told T the day before I had my miscarriage that I wish I would just have a miscarriage to make all the stress go away.   It breaks my heart that I said those horrible things out loud, and they came to pass.

It’s been three months since the words that I unleashed upon the universe came true.  I lost the baby, and I lost T.  Sometimes I wonder if the universe saw that my negativity and decided that it would make my words come true and teach me a lesson.  Perhaps the universe wanted to make me reap what I was sowing.  Rationally, I understand that this is not reality.  As an atheist, I understand there is no higher power directing my actions or causing things to happen to me.  Things just happen.  That’s the reality of life.  I did everything I could to be a healthy expectant mother, but I was at the mercy of biology and nature.  There was nothing I could have done to change the outcome of my pregnancy.

Words.  Words can be poison and they can be medicine.  They can break a heart or heal a heart.  Words allow us to verbally communicate with each other in a way that no other species on earth can.  Yet, we humans are often to careless with what we say to each other.  We don’t think before we speak.  We don’t truly understand the strength our verbal discourse can hold over ourselves and others.

 “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” — Rudyard Kipling

I saw T last weekend for the first time about two months.  We got together to talk, to finally say all the things that had been brewing during our time apart.  When he walked into the tea shop, my heart skipped a beat.  He was as handsome as ever.  We hugged and kissed, and I breathed in his familiar scent.  He was wearing the shirt I gave him for Christmas, which was a beautiful gesture on his part.  He handed me a paper bag and said he got me a gift.  I was excited and opened it, only to find a janky broken Sex and the City collectors edition magic 8 ball.  I can’t remember the reason why he owned that.  I think it was something about it being worth money someday, despite the fact it didn’t work.  This was something I had teased him about just a few months prior.  When I pulled it out of the bag,  I laughed; partially because it was funny, and partially to cover my disappointment that it wasn’t a real gift.  Nevertheless, it was a good icebreaker.

We ordered our tea and began catching up.  There was an easiness and a nervousness in me.  He seemed different.  I realized later that he didn’t laugh that night.  Not the laugh I remember, anyway.  The infectious one that makes his face become more alive, the laugh where his eyes light up and their corners crinkle just enough to show his joy but not give away his age.

There was a heaviness instead.  A maturity that only comes with surviving a battle of a certain magnitude.  He talked about everything he is doing and all the things he has planned.  As the words tumbled out of his mouth, I felt happy that he was taking care of himself, but soon I realized that he really is moving on without me.  He is living life, enjoying himself, and healing what has been broken.  And when he is ready to date again, it won’t be with me.

At one point, we stopped talking and just smiled at each other.  It was a comforting smile, but a difficult silence.  I had so much I wanted to say.  So many words on my tongue, enough to fill an ocean and perhaps spill over into another.  Words that were pouring out of my heart and filling me up, so many words that spread down through my legs and jutted against my toes, words that bubbled up to the crown of my head the through the strands of my hair.  But my lips remained pressed together in silence, as all I knew I could do was smile.  Words, at that point, were useless.

He reached out and touched my arm.  I scooched in and he kissed me, and I wondered how something could feel so natural and foreign at the same time.  Natural because we had kissed a hundred times before, ever since he lit the upside-down firework and he picked me up and kissed me in the parking lot after the 4th of July.

Foreign because we are no longer those two people who embraced in perhaps one of the best stories of my life.   Because now we are two people who then went through one of the worst stories of my life, and the innocence we had that night was buried under the rubble of stress and emotion and words that we can never take back.

Instead of allowing the words that were brimming at the surface of my being to begin seeping out of my pores and past my lips, I said something meager and weak like, “I’ll always want the chance of a first date with you again.”  I knew that were was no place at that table, no room in that teahouse, for anything else.

The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” –Ludwig Wittenstein

He nodded and said okay.

After tea, he took me to dinner, and then dropped me off at my car.  We kissed goodbye, and he thanked me for coming out.  I said, “Talk to you soon.  Or sometime.  Or whenever.”

As I was getting out of his car, he said, “Don’t forget your bag.”

“Nope, I’m leaving that with you.  The next time you give me a bag, it will have a real gift in it,” I quipped.  I shut the door and got in my car.  I began driving before the tears could come, before I had too much time to become sad before I got home.

Because I knew that there wouldn’t be a bag with a real gift in it.  I knew that we wouldn’t talk soon.

Those are the kinds of things you say when you are parting with someone you care about, and don’t know what else to say.  You want to have that hope that there will be another cup of tea, another upside-down firework, or another first date.  But you know, deep down, that it’s over and you have to start driving away and leave it all behind you.

So that’s what I did.

My evening with T did two things for me.  We were able to tell each other that there was no more anger or resentment, no animosity or hard feelings.  We had gotten past those feelings, and now only had warm affection and respect for each other.  We gave apologies and explanations, and said all that needed to be said. Everything that needed to be said, was said.  There are no words left.

Where do the words go
when we have said them?
― Margaret Atwood

The other thing it did for me was show me that I need to move on.  I need to stop living in the past, because just like my words during pregnancy didn’t spark vengence from the universe, I know that no matter how much regret or hoping or wishing that I do, nothing will bring them back, either.  Nothing I say will fix this broken relationship.  Words may have the authority to start and end wars; they may have the power to cause hurt or create joy; words may have the strength to alter the course of your life.  But words cannot change the past, and words cannot create love where there is none.

Words are a pretext. It is the inner bond that draws one person to another, not words.”  –Rumi

It’s difficult to let go of life’s “what ifs.”  But I have to.  I really can’t live as this century’s Miss Havisham.  I have to find new words to say.  I have to find a new song to sing.  As I do so, I will remain aware of the energies that I am putting out into the universe.  Not because I think there is a vengeful and petty deity waiting to use my words against me.  No, it is because I don’t want to have more regrets, especially regrets over things I have said.  I want to be mindful of the words I give to those around me.  I want to harness the power of my words to create happiness instead of pain, to move me forward instead of remaining stagnant.  My words are my future, and only I can decide what to do with them.

Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.”― John Greenleaf Whittier

Ask yourself, “How will I use the power of my words to better my life?” It may be the most important question you ever let leave your lips.

Until next time ~ B