January 9, 2013

Words, Useful and Useless

Childhood Depression, by Richard Wilkinson (via)

I’ve been working my way back around to blogging every day.  I know I’m about ready when everything I come across sparks an idea for a blog post.

But then, yesterday, a relative committed suicide.  I won’t go into specifics or mention his name, but know that he was a beautiful young man.  By beautiful, I mean he might have been a male model.  Tall, with an athlete’s build.  Large soulful blue eyes and a sensitive mouth.  He was outgoing and gregarious and charming.  And he had a darling little boy.  I did not know him well, and I have never met his son.

But I’ve been thinking about words ~ what they mean, what they do, in a case like this.

My first reaction is that words do not cover a situation like this.  They do not encompass the set of feelings that comes up.  And I didn’t know him that well.  Imagine what it is like for those near and dear to him.

But, really, words are never enough.  They never encompass the full breadth and depth of experience, do they?  Especially in times of crisis, but also in ho-hum everyday existence.  Can you use words to describe what it’s like to wake up late from a dream that left you uneasy? You can’t quite remember it, but you know that it was deeply important.  Can you describe that feeling you have moving into a new place, how that place is not locked in your mind, but then after years that a feeling solidifies about the place, but it’s not the same as when you first walked into it?

But words are all we have.  That and violence, whether it’s turned outward or turned inward.  Maybe words are the lifeline that sometimes keeps us from turning to those other evil twins.  It’s how we get what’s inside us to come out.  To speak our truth.  And if we don’t, it festers and turns into a ticking time bomb.

But I’m also thinking about truths versus family loyalty.  Should I even mention the suicide?  By not mentioning it, I’m being loyal to family, but also in a weird way, it’s as if this young man never existed.  If you don’t witness out loud, that person’s life is back there in the silence.  The only way, now, he can live on is in the hearts and words of the people who knew him. 

I’m working my way toward writing a memoir, and so this is very much on my mind.  If it’s going to at all approach “the truth” or my personal truth, I have to be honest, but then I’ll be telling family secrets.

But my strong feeling is to talk about everything, to get it out in the open. Use discretion, of course, but also do what you have to. Secrets have the most power when they are held.  They can destroy you.  When you keep your family’s secrets, the toll is taken not on the family but on you.  And that’s something I think this young man would have known very well.

PS Someone just made an excellent point!  Words aren't the only thing we have.  We have Art, expression in all its forms.  Music, painting and drawing, dancing, embroidery, cooking.  Great point.

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