Most of us use them every day,
although sometimes in the wrong way.
They can break hearts
or mend them.
They can change lives,
or ruin them.
They can be invisible,
or seen anywhere.
They can tear us down,
or lift us up.
They can hurt us,
or they can heal us.
They can take us on adventures,
or bring us back to reality.
They can confuse us,
or help us understand.
They mean nothing to anyone,
but everything to us.
What are they?
Words. They’re interesting things. If you didn’t know it already, now that you have the answer, you can see how everything above applies.
They mean nothing to anyone, but everything to us.
Water is my zone. It’s not my element, it’s not part of my astral sign, but it’s my place of comfort. It helps me think and sort through thoughts and ideas, and on occasion, it gets me clean. While in my zone, I realized something: words are powerful. You didn’t need me to tell you that, and when I thought it, I didn’t think it was news. What really had me thinking is how a word(s) can mean something to one person, and nothing to another. Sometimes it matters who is saying those words. Or does that person matter at all?
Do words themselves hold power? The word hate and the word love can mean everything or nothing to us. It really depends how we feel at the moment they’re said, and who might be saying them. If somebody you don’t care about, or perhaps don’t even like, says I love you, what do those words mean to you? Probably nothing. On the other hand, if somebody you’ve been dating for a while says it, and they’re the type of person that makes you feel like butterflies are shooting cannonballs across your stomach while tap dancing to Living the Vida Loca, it’s a pretty powerful thing. It’s not that the words mean anything different in theory, but they mean something different because of how we perceive them. We don’t care that the first person loves us, but those words were powerful to them. That’s why they said it. But we wanted the second person to love us, and it meant the world to both of us. Can the same thing be applied to books? Art? Everything? Someone might hate your book and that doesn’t bother you, but someone else can hate it and it tears you up inside. It’s the power we give.
Words are in the ears(?) of the beholder. They mean to us what we let them, or in some cases, want them to. That’s a strange thought. We all know what it means to hate something, yet we can throw the word around a hundred times in a day, hear it from a hundred people, and it only matters a part of the time. Those times are because they’re important to us. Because in those moments, we gave those words power. But based on that, do we have the ability to steal the power back? Do we have the power to choose not to have them affect us? I’m not so sure.
Words are not spoken and then dropped. They don’t just go out never to come back. They’re always picked up along the way and often travel further than we think. As a writer, I give power to words…to stories and characters and people, but whether or not a reader feels that power is out of my hands. It’s entirely dependent on them. Not necessary by choice, but through experience and life and additionally, the power they give my words. Enjoying stories is a two-way street. It requires two people to give a part of themselves to create something…beautiful. But no two people create the same thing. An author that writes a book that millions fall in love with has created something separately beautiful with each of them.
Words, books, art, memories…they all have power because we want them to. We give it to them, both when we create them, and when we receive them. It’s why one story can change somebody’s life, but leave another’s untouched. It’s why a book can take us on an insane adventure full of emotions, and years later take us on a completely different journey. The story didn’t change. The words are the same. The only thing that’s evolved is us. Our minds, our souls, and perhaps most importantly, our perceptions.
So what is this ramble all about? Why did we go from the power of words, to talking about books and art and perceptions? Because it’s important for you to know–and if you already knew but need a reminder–to remember, that you control what you put out into the world, and you control how you receive what comes back.
Look at it this way. The things that happened in high school are long gone. Things that were THE THINGS. The things to end all things. The most mortifying moments of our lives, or the most glorifying, could pale in the face of our current selves. Faced with the same experiences now, a lot of us would probably just shrug them off. So are today’s problems, hardships, and embarrassments, important tomorrow? How about five years from now? When we look back on our lives, having lived sixty, seventy, maybe ninety years from now, what’s going to be important to us? We can’t predict those things, but we can imagine. I know we’re all good at that. It’s how we make problems bigger than they are. It’s how we get more excited anticipating something than we do about actually doing it. It’s how we occasionally remember things better than they were. Imagination is hardwired into our personal universes, so humor me a moment.
If somebody’s words hurt you today, is what they said going to be important in thirty years? Maybe it wasn’t words, but actions. In three decades from now, what do you think you’ll remember about your life as it is right now? If you’re open to it, try it, and if you’ve truly committed to that idea, I think what you’re thinking about right now are thoughts, moments, and experiences you should spend time with. Think about them, enjoy them while they’re happening, and let them make you smile. It doesn’t mean the little things that hurt will stop hurting, but maybe they’ll hurt less, or for a shorter period of time.
Give them power.
It’s not always in our control. Or is it? In this single, short life we all get, we have to choose what we spend time with, and who. We have to choose what we dwell on, and what we brush aside. We have to choose what we hold on to and what we’re willing to give up. Words are fickle, lovely, beautiful, and terrifying things. So are memories. So is life. We have to choose what and who we give our power to, because there is a catch: we only have so much power at any given time. Nothing is limitless. Power is a type of currency in our happiness. So if we all only have so much power to give, we have to be selective on what we spend it on.
Which leaves us with a question. When it comes to words, people, memories, life, or time, are you giving power to the right ones?