Words are everywhere. We use them for everything. Authors are lauded for their ability to manipulate them and people seek therapy when they aren’t able to find the right ones… Dave Barry (YAY for Haverford alumni), a favorite columnist of mine, wrote a piece once when his son was about to take the SATs. I actually have tried desperately to find the full article but I believe it was written in the pre-internet days and is therefore part of some back-country Google resource site that I just can’t find at the moment. Therefore, you will just have to trust me (if you can find it, please send it to me because, more than just for the sake of providing proof, I have been wanting to read it again. Regardless, it’s way too good for me to have just made it up).
He talks about the SAT-prep shower curtain he and his wife purchased so that their son would be able to study for his pending standardized test in the shower. The curtain featured “SAT level” words with their basic definitions. He thought it was a serviceable, if not slightly passionless, resource for his son. He went on to explain that he believes a word is so much more than its basic definition. To fully grasp the depth of a word, you must recognize the experience of it. I don’t remember the exact examples but the gist was something like:
a social gathering of invited guests, typically involving eating, drinking, and entertainment.
But, when it comes to the word “party,” this is such a bland, two-dimensional description for a fun and involved concept. Where is the element of slight social anxiety mixed with excitement? What about the required social nicety of a booze contribution and the obligation to fully circulate before landing on a group to ride out the rest of the event with? Not to mention the potential for some of the most fun you have had in a while… And the warm feelings you harbor after the event because of the connections you made. The summation of his argument was that there is so much more to a word than the basic definition. A word is also defined by how it makes you feel.
So Why are We Here?
Well, the word “divorce” has always been more of a pure definition than a word with feeling to me. It’s been abstract, a concept and action that other people experience, not something I would ever have to go through. I never imagined I would be in this position because it was my eternal intention to keep the promise I made. I was in love and when I said forever, I meant it.
the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court or other competent body.
Ok, fair… Standard, plain, definition. But I can’t help but wonder where the devastation and helplessness reside within this interpretation? Or the rage and sense of absolute betrayal? Where is the wasted repository of feelings and hopes? The almost impossible task of forgetting so many things about the person you had pledged your life to? Not to mention the confusing as hell paperwork process? All of those elements are missing from this cut-and-dried definition. I’d love something so clean and easy as the pure and unsullied interpretation… But life is messy and that’s what has an effect on these words.
I served “Said Person” with the divorce papers on Thursday. He knew they were coming, this wasn’t a surprise. However, though we have talked, this was the first time I had seen him in about a month and a half… The longest time we had been apart since I studied abroad in my junior year of college. Writing here has been largely cathartic and has allowed me to sort my feelings into rational piles of suck. It hasn’t gotten rid of the problem, but it has made it easier to manage this monstrous emotional problem in smaller increments. As such, when I saw “Said Person” I was finally able to say some of the things I had not been able to previously through text. I could rationally say the things I have said here, and in person to friends when venting. Mostly, I pointed out that it was apparent that he had given up on us way before I accidentally discovered his betrayal.
When he went to argue with my statement, I said, I believe rightly, that someone who is emotionally invested in a relationship is not open to infidelity. You don’t just fall into that deep of a lie… You make active choices. Relationships are about the good and bad… And if he could not handle the bad, then it wasn’t a real relationship. “For better or for worse” is supposed to be legit as all hell. So, I hope he finds someone he means it with. Someone who, to him, is worth the effort. Despite the hurt, I understand that relationships end. But for a while, I foolishly thought that his insistence on the importance of marriage vows, the rings on our fingers, and the amount of time we had been together, were all good indicators that we were going to make it. Apparently not. It really is true, nothing in life is guaranteed.
Regardless of everything, I have always believed in the power and beauty of words. I don’t believe in saying things I don’t mean and I always seek the exact right word to use when it comes to a certain description or situation. I am not infallible, but I actively try to not have regrets when it comes to the comments I have made to, or regarding, other people. When Harry Met Sally was always one of the movies I shared with “Said Person” because we identified so much with the characters. One of the things I, personally, loved the most is when Sally says you can’t take back something you have said because: “It’s already out there.” You have to “let it lie” and move on, according to her, or you can address it, according to him. Neither of these options allows you to let it internally fester until you are just inherently holding a grudge, yet that’s what I have found that the majority of people do. So why say something that will cause someone else strife? Words really do have so much more meaning than their dictionary definition. I would advise that you use them for good, not evil. Words are a necessity and they have a dignity to them, you should not disgrace or abuse them.
Words that I will now give weight to:
and Obelisk (because it’s an awesome word, not because it aids in my personal improvement… not EVERYTHING is about me)
What words inspire and comfort you?
*I should note, I am introducing my mom to the movie Mean Girls as I write this. This movie is one in a long line of media examples that prove the importance of words. This is, and will continue to be, one of the best movies ever made. It’s still relevant after 13 years. Amazing.
Thankfully, she loved it. Otherwise, I would maybe need to find a few choice words for HER!
Photo: E. Campbell (2017)
Bookstore, Camden Town, London