Monday, January 28, 2013

Words...

Payson StoneThere are words that are filled with character and history and make you want to say them just to feel them rolling off your tongue. These words are my favorites and my childhood was filled with them. Mostly from books, some just from browsing through the dictionary (yes, I know that's a book, but not one that people typically read.)

Ichor, sepulchral, petrichor, menagerie, illume... these words are filled with beauty.They feel so much more enriching than bloody liquid, tomb-like, earth-smelling, zoo, and lighten. Think about that for a moment.

These are the words I used to get queer looks for using when I was a kid. I once heard an "aunt" say that I used words too old for my age. I knew better than to argue, but in my head I thought, "If I know the meaning of the words and I use them properly, how can they be too old for me?" And so, I encouraged my children to use whatever words they felt like using. And taught them words that were "too old for them".

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There are other words, though, that cause sorrow and second-guessing. One of those words is "but". With those three letters a person hears that something about themselves isn't good enough. "Your grades are good but you can do better." In that situation a child learns that, even though they studied hard and gave up time with friends and favorite pastimes, it still wasn't enough. The effort should have been more. "That's beautiful but it's not my color," tells someone that the hours they put into making something, be it knitting or woodworking or welding, mean very little simply because you don't like the color. That can create such feelings in someone that they'd not want to keep going with something they enjoy because it didn't meet your standards.

I'm glad to see you but...
I'm happy for you but...
It's nice that you have hobbies but...
I'm glad you got a job but...
How wonderful that you're engaged but...
She's a beautiful child but...
He's got good manners but...

One that I have said: I love you but you piss me off. How heartless is that? I know what they read into those words. I love you, but not enough to allow you any mistakes. I love you, but it's not strong enough to forgive you for your inexperience in this world. I love you, but you aren't good enough for me to love you more. How do I know that's what they heard? Because, when it was said to me, that's what I heard. As a child those words slashed at me and caused me to wonder if I'd ever be good enough. As an adult they did the same thing.

A simple change in the word order would turn that word into something much more redeeming. "You make me angry but I love you." That change says that, even though you're mad, the love is still there and is the more important part. "It's not my color but it's beautiful," tells the person that you think their skill in making something is wonderful. The grades? Well, some things will hurt no matter how you word them.

There are people who talk about "constructive criticism" and how they are just "helping" someone strive for improvement. I can understand that. But when that is all they hear, they forget about how amazing they really are. Children don't need you to tell them that their grades aren't good enough when they've been trying hard, they need you to be happy for what they put their hearts into. Your parents don't need to hear that you wished that they'd done something different, they already second-guessed every decision they made for you. Instead they need to know that you appreciated what they were able to give you.

And, perhaps most importantly, YOU don't need to hear that your efforts aren't enough. Don't be pulled down into darkness by anyone's words. Especially your own. You are an amazing person. You will make mistakes. You will cause pain to someone's heart. You will fall flat on your face. But, You are a wonderful being, filled with Light and with Love and with Beauty. Tell yourself that. Now. Say it out loud. "I am going to make mistakes, but I am a wonderful being, filled with Light and with Love and with Beauty."*

Because, when we raise ourselves up to the level we are born to be, when we are reminded that we are wonderful, it's easier to shine brightly enough for the rest of the world.

Namaste.

Edit, 5:45pm: A very wise friend suggested that I do not affirm that I will make mistakes, instead keeping in mind that each moment I am perfect. Each moment I am doing my best, even i it turns out to be a mistake, it is still a moment of perfection. So, the affirmation should be, ”I am perfect in each moment and I am a wonderful being, filled with Light and with Love and with Beauty.”

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