I have a lovely old friend named Thomas Wade. Tom’s not really old but we do go back a long way and to this day I count him as one of the finest songwriters I have ever known. On one of his earlier albums he composed a song called “It Goes Without Saying” which resonated deeply with me back then. And still does today.
So many words are left unsaid. We are all cowards on some level. Afraid to get hurt, to be vulnerable, to put something out there that just might not get returned. We guard our words like precious jewels and often guard our feelings with even more vigilance. I find this somewhat amusing, given that we also live in a social media frenzy where friends toss out “love yous” (or “love ya”) with abandon. And yet when it comes to the sharing of very real (and possibly fragile) feelings, emotions and thoughts, we ration our verbal honesty like water in the Sahara.
I grew up in a household of champion ration-ers. I knew my parents loved me but they never, ever said it. I mean like ever. Sometimes I got a birthday card signed “Best wishes on your special day, Mommy and Daddy.” At first I thought this was normal. It wasn’t until my own son was born that I realized it wasn’t. It may have been a “different era” thing or a “northern European thing” (God bless those emotive Italians!) but for me it was actually a hurtful, sad thing. I am a word girl and I wanted those words.
Shortly before my father died I called them both out. “Why can’t you say ‘I love you’ to me?” I begged. “Why can’t you sign cards and sign off on phone calls and emails with those three beautiful words?”
Their answer was somewhere along the lines of “Oh Vickie, stop being so silly, of course we love you, you know we love you, you’re being ridiculous blah blah.” Well maybe, although my mother did tell me once she loved me but didn’t like me very much (a story for another blog). Still, I can go Pit-bull when required and I was relentless. I started blurting “I love yous” will nilly – in conversations, on cards, in emails and certainly every time I took my leave. I knew my opportunities at least with my father were numbered and I didn’t want to miss out. Mostly they just laughed in that “there goes our crazy daughter again” way.
After my dad died I kept at it with my mother. It was hard because the one person from whom she really wanted to hear those words was no longer around to say them. I know it frustrated her to no end when I stood in her doorway refusing to leave until she granted my wish. Like I said … Pit-bull.
And then it was Christmas. My mother lived in a beautiful assisted-living facility complete with its own gift shop. And it was an awesome gift shop! From clothing to jewellery to knickknacks to gourmet foods she always found us interesting presents. That Christmas it was glass cubes set on a batteried base. Each cube contained an etching and when you flicked the switch the entire thing lit up. My sister got a rose. My niece got a ballerina. My brother-in-law got Mickey Mouse. And I? Well … I, the crazy, relentless, irritating, Pit-bull daughter got … I Love You. Lit up in all its beauty for all the world to see. Pretty much the best gift ever.
So back to Toms’ song. It goes without saying … till it’s gone. I might gently suggest that you do not allow that to happen. I’m not sure that anyone has ever landed on their deathbed thinking “Damn, I’m glad I didn’t give in! Yeah, way to go ME, not sharing my feelings with actual words!”
Nope. I’d wager it’s quite the opposite.
Vulnerability is hard. Armour is easy. Truth is hard. Lying is easy (withholding truth is even easier). Words are hard. Silence is easy.
Go ahead. Say the words. Don’t worry if they don’t come back. Say them anyway. Say them if you mean them. Put them out there and let the universe take care of the rest.
Remember what those fabulous Bee Gee boys said –
It’s only words
And words are all I have
To take your heart away.