My mom used to say that. My child-educator hippy dippy mom. Whenever my brother and I started to beat at each other, or get so furious that throwing things seemed like the best option — that’s what we’d hear. “Use your words.” She was teaching us that finding words to express what’s going on inside could work magic. It could melt anger. It could create understanding where there had been only intolerance. And for me, as someone who’s battled anorexia and substance abuse, digging deep and using words to express long buried memories and emotions made (and makes) the difference between life and death. Quite literally.
Words are also my primary way to create connection with other people. Whether in conversation or on the page, finding common ground through honest, considered words is my “go-to” when it comes to intimacy.
And then words failed me.
I thought the ugliness and xenophobia of Donald Trump’s words would make him unelectable.
I thought the powerful words raised in protest would create understanding.
I though Hillary Clinton’s, Michelle Obama and Elizabeth Warren’s cutting, emotional and humane words would be convincing.
But they weren’t.
People were swayed by things I still can’t quite comprehend. Fake News. Fake facts. Excuses. Words used in the service of cruelty and lies.
It’s genuinely frightening if words have been your salvation. They are not allowed to fail. They are what I hold on to, they are what I use to make sense out of the chaos of living and dying and everything inbetween.
At times in the last three weeks I’ve wanted to just crawl into my cave and shut down. And my cave is awesome. It’s like my own hipster Xanadu, stocked full of nitro cold brew, lentil chips and equipped with free wireless wifi. It comes with a cosy bed, a big tv and a cat who is mostly not a dick. It is very, very tempting.
But the very thing that failed me, now keeps me going. The words of smart, caring people. Beautiful words. Healing words. Energizing words. Word of unity and purpose.
I know I keep saying that, you guys. Sorry. In my defense, if you read a blog about widgets, you’d probably get bored of reading “widgets matter” (They do but that’s another story.)
Cookies matter. This is also true.
But words. Back to words. They encourage me to rise above fear and join what Van Jones calls the LOVE ARMY.
I am a walking love bomb in the wake of this election because of all these good words. I look everyone in the eye. I ask them how they are. And I actually wait for the answer most of the time. I try to be helpful and considerate. I try to appreciate what others do for me. I almost said “thank you for your service” today to the bathroom attendant. I probably should have even though I felt a little crazy. Why? Because the smallest kindness has a ripple effect that we need in the world right now.
That’s my short term plan. Make love, not war. The long term plan, I think we’re all still working on. But I’m not backing down. I won’t let fascism sneak past me while I try to pretend it’s not happening. I’m not going to let my kids think that bigotry, greed and pettiness are a path to any kind of satisfying life.
Words matter. Did I mention that?
I’m going to share some of these awesome words here. If you want to share some, leave them in the comments and I’ll post them as soon as I can.
BLOGS & VIDEOS
“The Throwback Special”
“Dark Money” (if you want to understand how the far right sausage is made, oy)