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Word choices matter.
Whoever wrote the childhood lyric, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” lied. A gigantic-sized hurtful lie.
When I was a child, words were spoken in person, face-to-face, shouted from another room, out a window, in a letter, or on a phone. A landline phone hooked to the kitchen wall, or sitting on a table, cable to the wall. The receiver was attached to the base with a curly cord.
And yes, they could be hurtful, but said within the walls of a home. Well, I am certain it happened in stores and restaurants. The playground at school. But not in the classroom, or in the halls.
As I recall. Except for two teachers, one from second grade, the other seventh grade. They could make the strong boys cry. I stayed small and sank in my chair.
Now words are hurtled through text messages, mobile phone to mobile phone, in Zoom meetings, on the newsfeeds of people’s social media accounts, in private/direct messages through social media. In emails, worse in group emails. Even worse, ranting a message in the body of a group message when it has nothing to do with the original email and is now shared with all.
I get it, we get it. The wonders of technology have made it easy to react quickly, and the ability to hide behind the screen. Rather than taking our time to let an emotion go through a 90-second pass and taking a long slow breath, we scream our message with fingers typing furiously. Or rolling down the car’s window to shout at a stranger who did not take their foot off the brake as the light was turning green.
I feel the biggest heartache is a text, email, or social media message to one person, a loved one, is the most devastating. The recipient has no idea what this person is going through physically, mentally, emotionally at the moment they hit send. We have no clue about the environment they are in.
And the sender is equally clueless as to the recipient’s current state. Why do we seem to lash out more to those we care about? It feels safer? I do not know.
I wrote this poem during a difficult time. The circumstances do not matter to the masses—enough of us have been the sender, and receiver.
How do we help each other heal?
Grief wears like a shroud
She wraps you tightly in cloth
Your heart bleeds red seas.
She starts in fragments
Leashing in others to join
A dance of the dead.
Anger, grief, grow roots.
Roots tangle, strangle
Hearts break, no one listens
The cries, pleas fall unheard.
Months pass, years pass
Armored shields rise to cover oneself
Hiding from the pain.
Summer heat fades to fall
Fall coolness leads to winter’s death
Spring bursts in blossoms.
Still, grief rules the air
Voices unspoken afraid of
The sting of regret.