The Power of Words
If you don’t have something nice to say, should you not say anything at all? The answer might not be as simple as we think.
Today I drove, with my teenage daughter, to see my mother and 12-year-old nephew. The sky was bright blue, and sun was blasting perfect light on everything. I suddenly began to feel a sense of peace come over me as my thoughts began shifting. My feelings were evolving into something new. I was not hearing that nasty voice berating me about being in my late 50’s, which said every decision I had made thus far sucked. Going on about how I was a coward and that somehow, I was behind in life and just not getting it. Instead… I was picturing myself holding on to one rope but ready to let go and reach for the next. I had a sense that I could finally let go. I could get to the next phase in my life and even with a little confidence. The feeling of trust snuck in there as well. And that does not come easily for me. If it comes at all. I never was one to trust much in the universe. Truly not one to trust in myself. But thinking about my life at this completely unknown threshold began molding into another story that had possibilities.
Lately I had been feeling broken. Herniated discs in my back and sciatica pain came as stark messengers to scream “Make A Change!” Get out of this physically demanding job that has no mental stimulation. I’m always the one asking or pondering what I should be doing to ‘assist.’ How deeply tired I am of being an assistant. Of just generally being a cheerleader for everyone around me. I want autonomy. I want to let go. I want to be my own boss. Feel good in my own skin. And driving to see family in that abundant sun, I felt a sense of possibility. Do not sign a contract for next year, I thought. Find something new. Risk! And it is going to be okay. You are going to be okay! I was even thinking that I was good enough. That I was a good parent. I was a decent enough soul and deserved good things. So, I took this spirit of strength in mind, along with my broken body, and went to spend time with my family.
Then. Enter my rowdy pre-teen nephew. Ironically, his inquisition happened as we all sat in a Friendly’s restaurant –…” Why do you look decrepit?” he asked. Well, I thought I had developed enough of a tough skin working with kids that I would laugh and move on. Apparently, not tough enough. He went on — “You look old.” And for a tasty twist — “You look just like Nana” (my 85-year-old mother). “Why are you haggard?” and “That shirt makes you look fat.” It was that one word that haunted me for the day though -DECREPIT. The new thread of confidence I had sewn together earlier was unraveling. Decrepit. Like a stuck record that word went over and over and over in my mind.
Decrepit: worn out or ruined because of age or neglect. “centuries-old buildings, now decrepit and black with soot”
My body had been feeling like a centuries old building. And I had been feeling worn out and ruined. Not so much because of age (denial?), but I would certainly agree because of neglect. Having spent a lifetime putting others first tends to lead to that. Oh, I was feeling like I wanted to shake my snarky little nephew. However, I now feel like I want to thank him. A twisted gratitude. But honestly, I have not been taking care of myself. The inside is showing on the outside. Not only did my back injury try to wake me up, but so did my hyper blonde nephew. Truth hurts. I feel decrepit. I have been approaching the status of broken-down building. Unoccupied. Abandoned. I have certainly not embraced my age. I punish myself for it. I get caught up in self-pity and want to hide. I get fantasies of how I could gracefully go to pasture; you know. Just like a skinny work horse. Fall into the grass and roll around in gratitude. Eat the sunshine. Toss my mane with just a bit of sass and feel out the field. Knowing there is no rush for anything. No responsibility other than living. I am so very tired.
That stupid word decrepit though…also got me fantasizing in the other direction. I pictured myself joining a gym, getting incredibly buff, changing my hairstyle, sloshing on the moisturizer, and doing a boot camp of self-care. Then walking up to the little snot nephew I love so much and saying ‘I disagree… I am far from decrepit’
Couldn’t I just find a mate who also wants to soak in the light of living and run away with him? Yes, I am tired. I am also lonely. Does loneliness lead to a decrepit image? I care so much, really. I still want life in every glorious color it offers. I admit I have felt a bit dead inside. But I swear there is a spark. It is very dim right now. But I am not one to give up. I genuinely want to feel fully alive again. I want to shine. I know I am not at this point. The opposite. I am fading. Or worse, I am just seeming to fall apart. Decrepit. Decrepit. Decrepit.
No! I can’t just quickly wilt like cheap grocery store flowers! I will crawl back up for air. I will begin again. I will shine if it is the last thing I do (I am really worried it might be!)
I watched a show today that started up the rattling. Something is being worked out. It usually takes very loud messages to get through to me. Anyway, this show was about comedian George Carlin. It followed his life process and subsequent transformation. First, the conservative image complete with suit and tie. Safe routines. Safe choices. Then, a part of him began to realize this was NOT who he really was. I was riveted watching his process from the safety of that steady paycheck and being what society at that time wanted him to be and then transforming, or more like uncovering who he really was. The unraveling. He started speaking up. Saying things that were risky. He drank a bottle of courage and nothing was ever the same for him!
Inside of me lives a kid who always wanted to say or write or do more than was ever allowed on the outside. So, I was feeling excited watching him go from stifled to all out shining. It was an exploratory process of course but he did not stay quiet anymore. He ditched the tie, grew his hair, and said more shit. Lots more. That freak flag was flying. Yes! And I had to pause the television to write down a little ditty he sang during one particular interview.
“O beautiful for smoggy skies, insecticided grain,
for strip mined mountains majesty, above the asphalt plain,
America America, man sheds his waste on thee,
and hides the pines with billboard signs from sea to oily sea..”
Part of my strange breaking apart is due to the helplessness I feel about what is happening in the world. In our country. I read the news and afterwards feel the smoke of depression creep into my heart. There is so much heartbreak. There is so much to feel angry about. Well, Carlin’s ditty may sound cynical, but it made me laugh. I need and want to laugh. Even at the most absurd, most painful parts of life.
Ah George, it was so good to see that quirky grin on the screen today. I know you would find a way to laugh at aging, decrepit faces, and general falling apart. I understand that humanity is messy. I know he did his fair share of cocaine and spent a lot of time alone. I do not put people on pedestals anymore. I want to hear and see humanity in all its realness. I want to go ahead and fall the hell apart and see what happens next. I am just so afraid. It is like the assistant, cheerleader, “suit and tie” part of me is a second skin. Shedding makes me think I might just vanish. Poof. Never existed. I want to embrace WHAT IS. Truly. But without it taking me away to the decrepit house to decay.
If I did embrace a fall, would I get back up stronger? What would my freak flag look like if I chose to fly it? Hand me that bottle of courage!