Once again, it’s been a while. The world is happening and it’s all the awful things they swore to us as children would never, ever, not in a million years happen (again/ more than already). I won’t list them. There are too many and it hurts. Things I’m trying to remember:
- I don’t need to take on every fight at full power, because a) I simply am not super human and don’t have enough power to do so, b) I am not the only one fighting any one fight, and thus do not need to do so, and c) I am no good to anyone if I burn myself out. I can concentrate my efforts on a few things, and offer my voice or my hands when and where I can to other people concentrating their efforts on other things. There are so many things that absolutely need immediate attention, and luckily, there are so many of us willing to put in the work that everything can get that attention.
- The world will not stop if I need to surface for air. This is as much a boon as a burden. Everything that needs attention will not stop to let me breathe, but since it won’t stop whether I breathe or not, I might as well take it where I can. I can even offer it to others. Like making a taco run for everyone on a busy day. I’ll go gather the happy and cute things, the things that make us snuffly and heartbroken for being so wonderful, and I’ll bring them back to share. That’s okay. It’s okay to appreciate things even while you’re angry and hurting. Especially when you’re angry and hurting. It’s a luxury to step back, it’s a luxury to try, but it’s necessary.
- (Because lists just feel better in threes.) I can’t let fear and heartache become so common place that it becomes my new normal, that I grow comfortable again in that place and become complacent, apathetic. As much for my mental health as for how absolutely wrong it is and wretchedly useless you become when you stop being able to tell that awful things are not okay to leave alone. It’s too close to my most horrible fear of not being able to notice when the terrible ideas are terrible, of becoming a danger to myself and others. If I stop feeling, if I stop caring, if I start just accepting it all as “just the way things are”, then I become complicit in our collective demise. I become a perpetrator in the violence against people whose lives are literally at risk right now. It’s bad enough to think my mind could fall apart like that, but that much worse to think my heart could, too.
- Be vocal.
The last one is most important to me, I think.
I was stalling in the shower the other day trying to put off going to work (like somehow work wasn’t going to expect me to come in at the appointed hour all the same) amusing myself by finding as many different ways to say things as possible and picking apart how the images changed depending on the words I choose. It’s such a simple change, but there are studies done and terms to remember and it’s ultimately, like, half the art of communication at the very least. It suddenly (conveniently) struck me as strange. Of course I had to play with it. (I know none of those terms, by the way.)
Like describing how someone reacted in a moment, “He was super chill, and even seemed to think the whole thing was funny,” vs saying, “Though he remained composed, I had the distinct impression he found the whole affair amusing.”
It’s kind of like the toe-mate-o/ toe-maaah-to thing in my mind; call it a vegetable or a fruit, the thing is still delicious. I know what I’m saying, and you get the basic shape of what I’m trying to describe, but it’s how the details flesh out in your mind from how I say it that tickles me and frustrates me.
It’s hard to ever be sure you’re communicating as clearly as you want to be. I don’t know where you come from that makes what each word contributes to the scene you build in your head almost in the instant the words reach you. Guessing is what’s fun, but getting it wrong– that’s why getting it wrong, I think, feels so much bigger a deal than just, “oh, maybe there was a tiny disconnect. maybe let’s try again,” the way you do when you know the phone isn’t working right. It’s like you suddenly realize the misstep isn’t only a word lost, but a connection not quite where you thought it was.
Communication is hard.
None of this is new. I’m used to the importance of connotation, because of how my family operates. All so incredibly smart that sometimes it doesn’t occur to us we’ve misunderstood, or worse that we shared at all in the responsibility of the misunderstanding. Half the time an argument is punctuated with protests against semantics, like we don’t all easily, fluently maneuver in tanks made of words, trained at the dinner table alongside our manners and our general paranoia called caution. Word tank ballet.
I didn’t know that being so keenly aware of each word and finding the most thorough way, often the most roundabout way incidentally, of saying anything at all was a strange way to speak for so long. I didn’t even know I was doing it until someone asked me why I did and impatiently explained to me what it was specifically, taking apart my words and what he was understanding in them, that was so weird. I take great joy in the ability to be straight forward now. Like a toy I’ve never gotten tired of. And maybe I’m too blunt now, but in my defense, I never learned how one is “supposed to” operate this toy properly, and it’s more fun this way.
I think my favorite thing about getting re-excited about playing with words like this is the– well, the word play itself, but also re-having the epiphany of exactly how useful this is as a skill. Being able to see it and hear it when someone is trying to bullshit you. Being able to point it out and seeing the light flicker in someone’s eyes when they blink them open, sometimes for the first time, and start wondering about everything they thought a bullshitter was saying this whole time. It’s sometimes– frequently, I guess– not fun to be the person for whom the light just went on. And they shut their eyes really quickly against the feeling that they’ve somehow been had or made a terrible choice. It’s not as much fun to watch someone see and choose fear over knowledge, over comprehension. It’s not as much fun when they get mad at you, because you’re the one who asked them to open their eyes just a little, and so you’re held responsible for their discomfort.
It is what it is. I love the words no less. I love you all no less.
This post is a mess. Word adventures, go!