I love words. They have the power to harm or to heal, to empower or to reduce, to inspire or to deflate.
I try to write a journal most days and I do that in the mornings, before the day’s tasks and “must dos” get in the way. It’s a stream of consciousness thing – quite often it can be the events of the previous day – or thoughts I’ve had whilst out walking Charlie (my dog) in the fields. This morning I exchanged casual comments with a couple of people whilst walking along the pavement. The first was a chatty, friendly ‘your dog is just gorgeous’ comment, guaranteed to make me smile and feel great! The second was with a neighbour. It was just comparing the weather of today, beautiful, sunny but cold, with yesterday’s freezing, windy rain and yet, a chance comment of my neighbour’s, saying he was far too sensible to get caught in yesterday’s weather (unlike me)had me chuntering away to myself as Charlie and I continued our walk. Somehow I had felt that comment as a reflection on my intelligence and I thought of all the clever responses I could have made which would have left him suitably chastened (or not!) when I suddenly pulled myself up short.
Why was I feeling so defensive? What was I doing, allowing a probably innocent if perhaps thoughtless comment churn up my stomach and bring me down when I should be enjoying the beauty of the day around me? It was quite an effort to move my thoughts away from the negative reaction I was experiencing and direct them into appreciative appraisal of the sun and shadows on the fields, the beauty of the remaining leaves gently fluttering down to earth, the easy elegance of Charlie running across the fields. But once I had focussed my attention on positive things that were happening right now, I felt so much better and my thoughts then turned to a sudden inspiration for another book idea.
When I got home I started thinking about how quickly I had allowed myself to be brought down and that it took a focussed determined effort to pick myself back up again and turn my thoughts to positive things, and I realised how much we are affected by seemingly random or thoughtless comments. As a teacher, it is something I’m always aware of when chatting to students. As a student, I know how vulnerable and defensive I feel when trying something outside my comfort zone, and in that frame of mind how easily one can go from being excited to being depressed and feeling worthless and useless.
It also made me reflect on how easily close relationships can change from happy and open to defensive, usually by a simple misunderstanding and how it is so true that to ensure good communication we need to seek first to understand, and then to be understood. So, for today at least, I am going to try to listen first of all, then think before I speak…..