Thursday, 5 May 2011

Having words

She hated it when they shouted at each other. Cruel sharp words, arrows dripping in saliva and bile. How could they even look at each other the next day. How could either of them accept the other's 'I didn't mean it'.

In her head she joined in the screaming, silently begging them 'Don't say it. Please don't say it. You can't say something like that and not mean it' Once those words were out, they were out - there in the air between them. No matter how hard they'd tried to pretend it didn't matter, it did. She couldn't see how they could act as though things hadn't been said.

She'd dreaded the times at school when the teacher walked around the class as they wrote. Automatically her arm would go up around her work, shielding it from the teacher's eyes. Pencil in one hand, eraser in the other, she'd write and rub out, again and again. The paper turned thin and grey, but she didn't want anyone to read it until she was sure of every word.

At work she agonised in meetings. Confident of her point, but never quite sure when to make it, she dreaded the moment when they'd all turn to look; a raised eyebrow, a barely concealed smirk; her confidence sent plummeting. She lingered over e-mails, knowing how they could be misinterpreted, how jovial could be read as flippant, succinct as terse. On the way home in the car, she'd replay the day's conversations in her head; the things she could have phrased differently, the times she should have kept mum.

At home in the evenings, in front of the laptop, she tapped the keys, watching the thin black lines appear on the screen. Just lines and shapes, meaning so little, revealing too much, concealing more. Type and delete, type and delete. Again and again.

She hit the 'publish' button, sensed the black lines peeling away from her, lifting up from the screen and flying away. She didn't know where they'd land, if they'd be greeted with a friendly welcome or a forbidding stare. Once they were out, they were out. She couldn't pretend they hadn't been said.

20 comments:

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Sharon:
Of course, the danger of publishing - anything! And nowhere is it more difficult to detect a nuance, a meaning or a reaction than in the blogosphere.

Pat said...

The best one can do is check and double check. Only once in six years was I misunderstood. I was mortified and upset but another blogger rose to my defence and explained, much better than I could have done, that no harm was meant.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I can see how childhood experiences could make a person extremely sensitive to words and meanings. I didn't have that kind of experience, but I recognize the anxiety about communicating in the workplace. (There are two or three memos I wish I'd never sent...but I'm retired now so that's all behind me.)

Robbie Grey said...

Very nice. I'm a big believer in what's been said cannot be unsaid, as it were.

light208 said...

It is so hard when so much of what we say and do is not judged by us, but by others. Sometimes I think all we can do is judge others with the compassion we would like to receive. While many things cannot be called back we run the risk of complete paralysis through fear if we don't do/say something. A though provoking post.

The Girl Three Doors Down said...

I feel the very same as this at times. It can become such a vicious habit to get trapped in, thinking and rethinking what was said and not said. I do feel like I'm more at peace with my communication recently, which is relaxing.

Anyways, great post. Thanks for the good read.

http://thegirlthreedoorsdown.blogspot.com/

Happy Frog and I said...

I related to so much in this post including how you feel in meetings.

Bobby Stevenson said...

Very true Sharon, I think I've learned late in life that I have more power than I believed with the written word and more power than I knew with the spoken. It would take me a lifetime to clean up the mess I made with the spoken word. Thanks for the thoughts. x

Starlight said...

Often is much easier to express yourself with writing because you can change words before you push "send" or "publish" button. You can't do this when you speak with someone and often people don't understand what you wanted to say. And you can't change what you have said.

caterpillar said...

Those things you mentioned there about the girl covering her work if she found her teacher behind her, or got worked up in the meetings...it could have been a description of how I am sometimes. Loved this post.

otherworldlyone said...

This is gorgeous...and familiar.

Bravo.

libby said...

Hi...new reader here...'holds hand up tentatively'...
I think many people are in the 'typing/editing/finally posting is so much easier than real life in meetings or conversations' club. We all have things we wish we hadn't said, meetings that we silently sat through with gritted teeth....finding blogging gave us all a voice .. and every voice is precious.

Stocker said...

Amazing as always, an inspiration to the rest of us and our careless use of words.

Nicole said...

Very good. I do this after every single social interaction. I analyze every word and berate myself for all the things I should or shouldn't have said.

Madame DeFarge said...

Never send the first humpty email. Send the second humpty one instead. But seriously, I'm too good at sending something in haste and repenting in leisure. I'd love that say that I use words carelessly, but unfortunately, I use them too well and know when they're meant to hurt. I'm worse at the ones to say that I'm sorry.

Shopgirl said...

Dancing between a seesaw of the said and unsaid, a writer finds both a gift and a curse. You however, make it almost look easy.

Bth said...

I just love this. The honesty, and the fact we can all relate to these feelings. (Or at least I can!?) You just write with such fluidity, I can hardly believe you hesitate before hitting 'publish'...

Rossland said...

I love read your pieces.
The words you find on you, to said your feeling, arrive to me as a gentle kind of woman's thinking. A woman writer I love to read.

Olga said...

I speak spontaneously when I see something beautiful or awesome...I can't contain myself. Even if I come across as awkward, I do it. Before, I used to try to keep it inside, but now I figure I'll just let it go.

5inabus said...

very nicely put. I felt like it was my own voice in my head, in fact, so easy was it for me to identify with both the child, and the adult. Thanks