I had for the first time in a very long time a lazy afternoon. I’m a fidget-er, one who cannot sit still. Like some who talk incessantly with the need to fill the air with words, I am one that needs to fill every moment with activity…and often in total silence. On my lazy afternoon (which was actually forced on me by a medication induced upset stomach), I watched a movie, Words and Pictures, with Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen. The movie wasn’t a box office success, and after watching I read some on-line reviews which weren’t stellar, but I loved it. Yes it was cliché, but aren’t all romantic comedies clichéd? Aside from the two very appealing leads, it was the subject matter that grabbed me. A battle between two teachers, the Honors English and the Honors Art teachers about what is worth more, words? Or is it pictures? As an artist/writer I have strong opinions on both sides. If I were asked to make a list of my favorite things, art and words would be part of the list, they would actually be at the top of the list. I know such lists would often cause people to choose something more tangible, and although art can be something we hold and touch, it can also be something quite transitory. Art is all around us, and while exquisitely captured on canvas, or on film through movies and photography, I need only look out my window to see art that I will never be skilled enough to reproduce. Words? Yes they can be written down and leather-bound, or recorded as I do in this moment, but think of the fleeting words you hang onto in your life. The first “I love you.” The first word spoken by your child. The last conversation with a loved one. I loved this movie because it opened an internal dialog in my own mind. To choose between two things I love so much would be difficult. I’m sure at some point we have all thought about those who have either been born with, or lost one of their senses. We might wonder if we had to choose which it would be. To never see again? To never look into the eyes of someone you love? To lose your hearing? To loose the sound of laughter, the rustling of the leaves, or a cry for help? For me the ability to express myself in words is like breathing. By the same token the ability to produce art allows my soul to breathe. This movie inspired two things in me. I opened up a new canvas two days ago and have yet to put a stroke on it. Now I feel like painting. I was inspired by the work in the movie to want to produce something. And here I sit at the keyboard the words bursting out of me as the credits rolled. I don’t care about whether someone thought the plot was silly, or the actors had no chemistry, I would watch it over and over if it made me feel what I feel right now. So, I choose not to choose. I do however wish to ask what everyone else thinks. Words? Pictures? Where do you stand? The decision is yours.
Nothing funny about my words tonight. They are inspired by my own life, and something that has been in the news and on my mind. There has been a story in the news lately about a young girl who killed herself. She was being bullied at school, reached a breaking point, and threw herself off a platform at an abandoned cement plant. I am the mother of two, I cannot imagine the anguish and pain of that girl’s family, but what haunts me more is the desperation that would drive a child to do what she did. I cannot stop thinking about her. The anonymity of the computer has allowed people to distance themselves. It is easy to write something awful when you don’t have to look the person in the face. It saddens me to the core to think about that little girl, she was only twelve. I wish it were just a matter of closing Facebook accounts, or shutting down emails, but it isn’t. It is amazing to me how thoughtless people can be with what they say, or how they say it. Insults cloaked in “jokes”, as if somehow calling words funny lessens the pain. It doesn’t. Saying something spoken doesn’t mean anything, you are wrong, it does to the person hearing it. I have had words spoken to me, or about me, that are well in the past, but live in my heart and mind as if it were today. It isn’t about holding on to the past, it is that the words hurt enough to brand themselves into my heart. I was bullied, I know that girl, I could have been her, any of us could be her, any of our children could be her. I have heard words spoken that cause me pain as they are inflicted on someone I care about. I feel powerless in their presence, there is no weapon in hand for me to knock away, I can only stand and listen as the air around me is poisoned. Don’t speak, stop and think. Parents need to choose their words carefully, think about what you say to your children, because they are yours does not give you license to inflict pain. You are the foundation of your child’s self-esteem. Even as we age we look to our parents to approve, to respect, to love us. Physical wounds may heal, but scars of the heart are permanent. I don’t believe that we can ever harden our hearts enough to make them invincible, or that we can ever grow old enough to not want to be loved, or cared about. Words are an easy weapon. Be watchful in anger, or in frustration. Choose your words wisely, when there are spoken words, an apology cannot erase them, and written words once read speak as well. Remember that what you say could very well be the last thing you say to someone. Living with words that were used to hurt another can scar your own heart as well.
For tonight there are words. Hateful, nasty, awful words, branded into the heart. I love words, but not those I have written here. Once again I turn to the words of another.
The Unspoken word never does harm.