Thursday, June 20, 2013

Words and Boundaries

Things we already know sometimes when realized in a moment of clarity can be so shocking. You may know many things, but  you may not realize them all.

Words once spoken cannot be taken back. You can try and wish them undone, but still your mouth cannot take them back in in nor can they be unheard from your ears. Some words are much better left unsaid and only felt. Other times, words are the only thing lacking and with them everything is complete.

After Wajih left, whenever we spoke to him on the phone I had Ali say " I love you, I miss you!" and being my little perfect parrot he would repeat those words methodically, not really grasping the meaning. A few days later, we attended a family BBQ where Ali got to spend time with his cousins. The kids were in the pool to cool off on an insanely hot day and  per usual, the Dads were in charge to supervise them. Upon seeing everyone with their Daddies, I saw the wheels turn in Ali's adorable 2 year old brain as he turned to me with that look of sadness and concern in his eyes asking "Where's MY Baba? Ammi, where's Ali's Baba?" Ugh. broke my heart. 'Baba is coming back soon baby.' And inshallah he is. (He will be with us for 4th of July weekend and we are beyond excited!) Up until that moment Ali hadn't actually voiced how he missed his father, how he sensed the lack of his presence. Of course it was obvious to me as I  could see the change in his behavior. He knew something was missing from his life, but being a toddler who is still learning his way around words and how to express his emotions he never actually talked about how the lack of his father made him feel. In that moment, I felt his emotions. It was how in his limited toddler capacity, my child was expressing what it is to miss someone you love.

I'm trying hard to teach him how to use words to voice his feelings because it's important to learn how to cope with life experiences the right way. Many people never talk about how they feel because it makes them uncomfortable to break that barrier. It's the mentality of
'if I don't talk about it, it won't be real'. I see many people struggling with their life situations using this method, because while it may help you get by it won't help you get beyond. There's a difference in getting by and getting beyond. Once you do talk about it you are forced to cope with that reality, to accept it and move on. Without ever expression of feelings, you still cope but not always the best way possible, such as with tantrums or displacing the feelings into frustration/anger/depression. I'm still working as best I can to show my young child that its okay to be sad or to miss someone but it's not okay to display that feeling with rage or outside the boundaries of social etiquette.

On a different note, words were recently spoken, ones I wish weren't said. Because now I cannot be unknown to them anymore. I had thought it true all along in my head; but words, they turned that thought to reality. Before they were spoken there was a boundary that now penetrated, changed many things. Overall, it actually changed nothing because the words reflected events occurred in the past, and that past cannot be undone. So these words do nothing but create discomfort now. I'm realizing more with age that while expression is important, not necessarily every emotion or every thought we have need be expressed. If the lack of words is creating misunderstanding then of course they are crucial to bring clarity. Or in Ali's case, if used as a means to express feelings that will be solidified if spoken, then I agree they are necessary. Words spoken or written carry very real power. I am learning the importance of how to handle that power so it is used to strengthen, not weaken.

For someone like me, the hardest is to know when not to use them. It's pretty much a fact that I over speak/write,  and I often worry if this extra chatter leads others to not take me seriously. I wonder if the over speak causes some important words to be left unheard. I'm trying to scale back, it isn't easy for a Chatty Cathy like me. But I do realize we need to know when to allow gestures and actions to display what need not be spoken. Mastering that skill is one I may take my entire life doing. Mostly, I hope to be wise enough to teach Ali this important lesson. Use your words, use them tactfully. many times, the right words can make a world of difference. But many other times, its what you do not say that means everything.

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