Friday, August 2, 2013

Words, Words, Words

"You're good with words." I get that a lot. But the truth of the matter is that words are not my friends. In fact, we struggle against each other every day since I make my living as a writer at my day job. When I am trying to assemble text for something about which I have no real passion, I sometimes wonder what it might have been like if I had decided to pursue a career as a social worker, or a carrot farmer. Anything, anything but as a writer.

The mood usually passes, and I invariably finish the assignment without missing a deadline. But there are days when I want to shut off my computer and just walk away after tossing a match backwards through the door on my way out.

I have stood before countless brides and grooms and repeated words for them that moved them to tears. And I have stood beside too many caskets, and beside too many gravesites, and hoped that the words I have prepared will bring some measure of comfort to the shattered relatives and grieving friends who have gathered.

However, words really are my enemies when I need to them line up strong and perfect to help me rescue the broken heart of a friend -- somebody I truly know and who trusts me to help -- who calls me with hard news. A medical test has delivered a death sentence, a child has died, a beloved spouse has had a stroke and will not recover. These personally monumental events are just small clouds in the infinite storm of human existence, but they completely take over the soul when they arrive in one's personal sky. I know that, and what I want to do is comfort, console, lift a burden, provide some relief. And because I am emotionally invested, I fear I will fail.

But what I do is roll around wrestling with words. Words that don't truly convey how precious life is, how fleeting, and how capricious. That can't express what loving somebody feels like when after 50 years the beloved is suddenly so completely gone from sight -- yet the birds still sing, and the paper lands in the driveway.

So I turn on the computer, and I utter my own mantra. "Please, God, just help me say it. Just one more time. And this time it's really important."

And I hope it's God that answers, because words usually find their way to my fingers, and onto the computer. And eventually they become a part of a memorial service, or a prayer vigil. And often I am reading what I have written hoping that words and I have both done our work well.

I'm not good with words. But they haven't beaten me. Not yet.

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