Words used to be my meat, my bread and butter. As a pastor I provided the words that helped guide folks to and fro through the world. I tried to help folks move toward some healing, goodness, hope, joy, justice, each week something else. I preached and sang and prayed every week, leading my community in worship. Towards the end of two years it seemed that the words were drying up. I couldn't get enough poetry, silence, music, other people's words to fill my well. Then again, each week those words came spilling forth from somewhere and out they went, into the world. It was a mysterious grace, this filling up and spilling out.
As a chaplain, words were less necessary. Mostly listening was what was needed. There was a moment, at the beginning of each encounter, where words were crucial. Some words helped begin a connection, others cut off connection. For more than two years I practiced at this, never getting anything remotely like a routine down. There was no script or key. Each connection was different. The only similarity was that as soon as the door was open, my job was to be still, to listen, hold hands, be there. Words were important, but presence was critical.
Now as a mommy to two baby girls and a wife, words are my all-day marathon, my joy, my trial, my caution, my surprise, my longing, my everything again. I don't really read (unless you count blogs, and I do). There is very little poetry around me these days. Words come from the mouth of my two year old. They spill out unexpectedly from her and I wonder where she heard them (like last week when she took a bite of her fresh-from-the-oven cookie and said, "delicious!"). I LOVE getting unsolicited thank you's and pleases. It literally fills me up. Sometimes my big girl seems so grown up when I hear these words come rolling out. And then, there are the not so good things to hear. Lately, sometimes Cordelia says, "Stop it, Oliver!" to our dog or "That's enough, Clara." I know just where she got those phrases. I catch myself saying to her, "That's not a nice way to talk to Oliver/Clara/Whomever". But then, of course, it takes me about two more heartbeats to notice that I, myself, have said those very words to her and that is where she learned them. Deep breath. There is nothing like a mirror to help me see what I look like.
As the words begin to really come now, mostly I am excited. So excited to hear what she really thinks about things. SO EXCITED to be able to ask and receive answers to open-ended questions. Cordelia has had a twinkle in her eye since day one so I just know there is so much hilarity about to come into our lives.
As for the nourishment of words, well, I could use some. I have chosen, over these months, to read a few facebook posts and a blog or two whenever I get the chance. The rest of the little time I have to myself, I use to knit or take a shower or call a friend or you know, sleep. But I miss words. I miss the way they used to soothe and inspire me, the way I had a hunger for words. If I ever go back to active ministry of any kind, I will need words again. And I am actually starting to think that, as my children grow, I'm going to need words in much the same way in order to be a good mother. Mothering seems almost like a deep mixing of the skills I've used so far in my life. The giving of words for healing, inspiring, starting again. The quieting of words, opening a space for listening. The collecting of words for the tending of my own soul. All these are needed, maybe not immediately, but soon.
P.S. I am LOVING this 5 for 5 thing. Thanks, Momalom. Thanks for words and connection, for breathing new words into my life and new life into my words. Write on!