A Word Exercise


Haven’t been here for a while, for very good reasons. But, it is time to pick up my life and go on. I came to a very real realization yesterday. There are some words I never use, never write, or even say aloud. Being a writer, that isn’t a good practice. Words are simply inanimate tools meant to further and clarify genuine communication. To limit, even to a small degree, the use of certain words, only limits my communication.

Thus, I have presented myself with a challenge. Starting today, I intend to begin to explore those words that I have avoided, steered clear of, and refused to use. There are many and varied reasons for that avoidance, the main one being fear.

There are certain words that are simply inappropriate, one doesn’t use them in polite conversation. That isn’t what I’m talking about here. However, I have watched and heard people bend themselves in all sorts of contortions to apply the same rule to inoffensive language. Take the word cancer, for instance. I know of several individuals who refuse to say the word out loud. Somehow, refusing to say the word is some sort of magical power that will keep its reality, or entrance into ones existence, at bay. And amazingly enough, more than one of those individuals was going through chemotherapy even while refusing to speak the word. That makes for very difficult communication.

Over the past month, I have been through a life-altering experience. Losing a parent, or parent figure, is always a benchmark experience. Grief is a distinct and individual process. We each do it in our own fashion, yet there are points of similarity that the process entails. Denial, blame, regret, anger, and re-entrance to life are a few of those steps in the process. But, we all handle them in our own peculiar individual manner.

Having been a teacher, one who actually taught others about the grief process on different occasions, I thought I might be a bit ahead of the game. Not so. Some of that awareness came through in the words that were used, while others were avoided.

I am a writer, therefore an observer, and although I have been grieving, that deeply ingrained part of my personality was not suspended during, or due, to the processing of the experience. I have managed to write in my journal throughout this entire past month. Every day, as is my habit. Some of the pages are half blank because I was overcome and couldn’t continue. And yet, I did, getting up the next morning and starting yet another new page.

I made sure that I left those blank spaces unmarked and void. They are an open reminder of where I have been and what I have been about. A few, only a very few, of those blank spaces were created because I was avoiding the use of certain words. I am aware of that as well, and it is the reason for this new self-challenge I have given to me.  

I have long known that fear is simply not a good enough reason to stop self from moving forward. I am now entering a new phase of my life. It brings with it a brand new awareness, both of loss and of gifts to be explored. I don’t feel I can adequately reconnect with this new life unless I face off with the words I have feared in the old one. So the blank spaces are actually a list of words for me to write and speak of finally.

The blank spaces are also a gift. One I have given to myself. An opportunity in which to grow and evolve. Each word contains many things: other words associated with it, feeling states and perhaps their origins, thought process, and information about how I came to be the me that I am. And of course, hope. The hope that by confronting these particular words, I can eventually grow beyond my own fear, allowing myself to more freely move through the days ahead, with clarity and a new focus. Which in turn, will only enhance whatever more I choose to say or write.

The words I choose may not make sense to the causal observer, that’s okay because they are for me to explore and own. But, I am not putting them in my journal writing. This is a separate exercise and deserves its own unique place among all the others. I am however, mailing them off to a very good friend, whom I hope will read them and come back at me with her own words. One needs to share these things or risk the possibility that they might once again fall back into the silence that has refused them expression.

I actually started this new project yesterday afternoon, and continued on with it this morning, after writing in my journal. And by the way, there are no blank spaces in today’s journal entry. I can only hope that continues. It’s a word exercise, one I am in need of at the moment.

And must remember to remind myself that feelings are not facts. They are neither good, nor bad, and should not be used as a means of judging anyone or anything. They are simply a barometer, meant to express what the current weather conditions might entail. It’s time for me to look at the whole weather report, not just the parts I like or wish to be real and true. Wish me luck, I have a feeling that it might be needed.

Are there words that you avoid, won’t speak, and even move away from when others speak them? Do you know why those words contain such deep and abiding power? You might want to start by looking them up in the Dictionary.


About 1sojournal

Loves words and language. Dances on paper to her own inner music. Loves to share and keeps several blogs to facilitate that. They can be found here: https://1sojournal.wordpress.com/ http://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/ http://claudetteellinger.wordpress.com/
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6 Responses to A Word Exercise

  1. diddums says:

    I’m reading a book on procrastination just now; it talks about mental blocks and fears. It sounds as though it goes hand-in-glove with what you are talking about here. If we are too hurt or threatened by something, we try to avoid it — I hadn’t thought of simple words being in that category, but of course they are. They stand for a whole world of meaning.


  2. 1sojournal says:

    Exactly. The first word I worked on was “retardation.” It’s been a bugaboo since childhood and the possibility of such a condition after the car accident and surgery. Looked up the word and found that it means something being held back, often by outside forces. Whew! Lightbulbs going off all over the place. How’s this for a sentence, or two using the word?

    I am not retarded, only fear the possibility because of long ago experience. Which ultimately means that my fear has encouraged the retardation of my own growth process toward understanding.

    Thanks Diddums. I apologize for the lack of emails, I will eventually get there, but its been an incredible time and experience.



  3. diddums says:

    I’ve got similar bugaboos of my own! I think what scares me the most is the lack of control I have over certain words and phrases — they might mean something different to someone else, and if they don’t check with me about it, they might just walk away with the wrong idea.

    Don’t worry about me — take your time! I liked what you said about the huge sink hole where a person used to be in your life… it brings home the loss, change and insecurity that you must be feeling.


    • 1sojournal says:

      But what if that wrong idea is the right one for that person? We can only write the words as we know and understand them. What happens after that is always in someone else’s hands, or mind. And that we can’t control, and shouldn’t even try.

      If they do come and ask, I tell them what I meant, but always ask what they took away from that and why. I’ve had some very interesting discussions stem from that, heated and otherwise,lol. And even had my mind and thoughts changed in the process.

      And thank you for understanding,



      • diddums says:

        You’re right that everybody’s different, and maybe the colour ‘red’ looks one way to A and another way to B. Or when I look at a picture, I see a pleasing medley of colours, light and shade, but another person might see a confusing, over-coloured mess.

        “But what if that wrong idea is the right one for that person?”

        In what way? (Scratching head. 🙂 ) I generally think if I was trying to express myself, and someone misunderstood my stance or the validity of what I was saying, I would have expressed myself badly — except in the situation where maybe that person had a limited understanding of whatever I was talking about. But I’ve come to feel that either I’ll change my mind, or they will, and an on-the-spot discussion won’t always do it. I’ve never been good at arguing my case, even when it turns out I was right! (And I’m frequently wrong).

        But perhaps nobody feels they are good at arguing (or debating), as people are generally keen to ‘win’, and so are unlikely to back down. I’ve noticed some folk change their mind quietly, though. 😉


  4. 1sojournal says:

    Sorry to make you scratch your head. Everyone sees what they need or want to see through the filter of their own experience. So, I might say that such and such is a really big issue, and someone else might say,”what the hell’s the big deal about?” I can’t know what that person’s filter is, anymore than he knows mine.

    People take away whatever they need or want, or don’t take anything at all. That’s entirely up to them. I’m a writer and all I can do is to be as clear as possible and adhere to my own personal truths. What happens after the words are put out there, is anyone’s guess and actually constitutes a new experience altogether for both myself and my reader.

    And if I worried about how it will be received I’d never write at all.I would very effectively be silencing myself. I started writing to break my silence, and that still remains a cornerstone for me.

    Hope that helps the itch,lol,



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