The Weight of Words.
“The things you say and do not mean
Follow you close behind…”
~ Ben Harper
A few weeks ago, I received the following text message:
“Will you ever talk to me again? Ever…”
It was from a number that is not programmed in my phone… but one I thought I recognized. Now, I know I should’ve let it go at that, and if I had any feelings left towards this person, I would not have responded. But… it’s been effing two years since she’s freakin’ contacted me, and I gotta be honest… this kitty was curious.
Finally, I asked who it was. That one response was all it took. After that… the following:
“It’s —-. From —-.”
[She attempts to call me. I don't pick up.]
“Please just talk to me”
“I think about you everyday.”
“I hate that you hate me.”
“How are you?”
Without time for a single second response from me. And, yes, in that order. Seriously guys. It was followed by…
“I’m not trying to hurt you or be vindictive, I miss you, legit. You don’t have to respond, it’s fine. Just know that I think about you, I care about you and I respect you.”
No fucking joke, peeps. After all that, I did say something like “hey that’s nice but our chapter is closed.” Which, apparently, invited barrage of “you’re amazing/I miss you/are you in a relationship/you deserve the best/can I come down and see you?”
I don’t for a single second actually believe much of all of this. I don’t believe she meant one word. Instead I’d put money, a lot of money, on:
- Large quantities of alcohol.
- She’s going through a break-up and also through her phone book.
She’s drunk, lonely, and sad – the first thing happened too regularly when we were dating, and the last two she was never good at dealing with.
Now, here’s the thing. I bring all this up not to reminisce or discuss this particular ex. It’s not stewing up some long-buried emotions for me. But it does bother me – at a deeper level. A level where this ex is just an example of a larger, significant problem.
Words have weight, kids. Words actually mean something.
Ok, ok. I know I just posted on the importance of actions. I am the first to tell you words are cheap. But, you know what? They shouldn’t be. Words are not, actually, inexpensive – it’s just the way we use them that negates their value.
It’s this ex who says “I’m not trying to hurt you, but I still think about you every day” simply because she feels like shit right now. It’s the dude who tries to cover up his doubts and keep his partner from crying with “you’re amazing”. It’s the girlfriend who, the day before she breaks up with someone via e-mail, sends one with the subject line “I love you.”
And, to be frankity frank, it’s even the goddamn 23-year-olds I know who oh-em-gee-I-love-you vomit all over facebook, when they’ve only been dating three months.
And it’s not ok.
It’s not ok to use words to make yourself feel better, or get what you want, or cover something up, or play pretend. It’s not ok to use words with strength and meaning you cahlearly don’t understand. Nor care to.
I believe words like “care for”, “miss”, and “love” are all very, very serious words – yet, somehow, someway, they are also words we no longer take very seriously.
And, yeah, ok sure – I can see how this argument may appear to be born of cynicism and being jaded by relationships and human behavior – experienced first-hand and through the tears of others. I’ve been told things that were unwarranted, unmeant, unfelt. I’ve watched those things said, equally without real meaning, to others. And, yeah, as a result I’m cynical and jaded and overthink pretty much every-damn-thing.
I am also kinda terrified of those serious words – both being said to me, and saying them to someone else. I am kinda terrified of their weight.
But being jaded doesn’t mean irrational, thinking things through isn’t a waste of time. I won’t be told my fear is completely unwarranted. Honestly, I wish we were all a bit more afraid of the weight of serious words. Of what they mean to other people, of their literal and emotional translation once they leave your mouth. How much harm they can do, the potential they have for hurt.
However. That is not to say they cannot also cause great joy. But it is that joy, and that potential for hurt when that joy is discovered to be unfounded, that should matter to us, more than it does when we don’t fear or even pause to consider their power. When we choose to instead believe they can be used without caution, without contemplation, without concern.
Yes, I still believe actions speak louder, that talk can be acquired at bargain-basement prices… but perhaps it’s only because we’ve forgotten the weight of our words.