Sometimes I get so sick of words. I write. Words are my medium. I should not grow weary of that which I use to express myself. I wonder if potters get sick of clay, if painters abhor the canvas, if trail designers ever want to rip up all the topo maps, or if masons want to throw bricks. All I know is that I sometimes feel like I am drowning in words and I just want to swim to shore.
Words are everywhere. Text messages arrive with a simple wish for a happy new year, or directions to a house for a hot meal with friends. On line dating sites use words separated into categories to describe political views, spiritual tendencies, and passions for outdoor activities. A private email expresses what cannot be contained in a check box. When we meet new people, we gather words to learn about past experiences, future hopes, and to talk about our own. We use words to express what we know, to ask about that which we do not. Words connect us with other human beings. They are wonderfully and uniquely human. I should be grateful for them.
Yet words fall short. They are not adequate to describe the beauty and taste of fresh snow on a dogwood bush. They cannot describe the love I feel when I sit across the table from my daughter, or the laugh I get from my son’s awareness that a lot of butter makes everything better. They disappear when the wind is howling and the sleet is blowing sideways. I cannot use them to explain friendships that have endured over 35 years, the reality of love and death, or how pain and joy can exist as cozy bedfellows in my heart. They don’t replace the feeling of a strong hand in mine, or the envelopment of a hug.
“Is it true, is it kind, and is it necessary?” My New Year’s resolution for 2012 is to be more mindful of this: in my conversations, in my writing, and even in my internal dialogues. I find the first one pretty easy. I’m a lousy liar. Being kind is treating others the way you want to be treated. After 50 years of having the Golden Rule drummed into me, it is not hard to keep this in mind. I’m struggling with the third. So often what I have to say doesn’t really seem all that important. Swirling words get in the way when I look into someone’s eyes. They have no place before the vista of a Montana river valley. A simple touch can express so much more.
Words fail me. They are the sole realm of humans. They connect us, and cause great pain and rifts of separation. Words are not the only tool we have to express emotions and empathy. They fall short in matching the language of the heart. In 2012, I think I need to use less of them.