When Words Get In The Way...

Those of you who are regular readers here may have noticed that I am seldom at a loss for words. In print, I am and always have been exceedingly verbose. In college, I found myself shrinking margins ever-so-slightly and resorting to 11.5 point fonts to bring my essays in under the page limit. Recently, I received a lovely compliment for my ability to think of just the right word to capture what I wish to express. Although I think it's far from the truth, it was still nice to hear.

In my relationships, however, I find that I often take on the role of listener. I am the person that you turn to when you need a shoulder to cry on, or a sounding board for your grievances. I am also a bottomless source of (often unsolicited) sage advice. At least I'm aware of it. Among strangers I am painfully shy, with my latent social anxieties bubbling up in force. Only in my very closest friendships do I find myself comfortable speaking openly about what is on my mind. Even so, I opted to start this blog to express myself in the medium in which I am most articulate.

Sometimes, however, there are no words. Today was a day for bad news. Lisa called me at work this morning, to tell me that she had lost her job. She had just started with the organization a few months ago, after they lured her from her existing job with promises of increased pay and more fulfilling challenges. Now she finds herself unemployed in one of the toughest job markets in decades. I have faith that she will land quickly on her feet -- she is, after all, one of the best networkers I know, and she is astoundingly well-connected within her field for someone of our age -- but there are few feelings worse than being fired. I would know.

Another friend of mine had dropped off the radar a bit; it had been a while since I had heard from him. When I spotted him yesterday on Google Chat, he informed me that his father had passed away suddenly. As it turns out, I also know a little bit about losing a loved one without the chance to say goodbye. It is, I think, the worst feeling that exists.

In both cases, I found myself at a loss for words. That is one of the problems with modern society -- in spite of the technological advances that keep us in constant communication with one another, that same technology makes it more difficult to express genuine sentiment. How do you convey your understanding and sympathy to a friend, over the phone, while your coworkers can overhear your every word? How do you express the profundity of loss in the jargon of internet chat? I once received a text message reading, "OMG, Im so sorry 4 ur loss." I think, in such cases, it is best to at least type out every word. Still, without a look of understanding, or a hug, such words seem to ring hollow.

Sometimes, the most compassionate thing you can do is realize the need for silence.
Sometimes all you can do is be there, or maybe even offer a bit of escapism. For one night, some popsicles and trashy reality television can take your mind off your mortgage, and all the well-meaning bystanders who have made you talk about your problems all day long. A link to a funny website can be a better salve than a litany of platitudes about loss, even if they are coming from a place of empathy. When it feels like your world has been turned upside down, it can be a relief to find a moment or two of normalcy. Sometimes, there are just no words. There don't have to be.

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