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Words

I’ve always been a good student. So last night I had to stay up until I finished my homework; I had to finish reading The Book Thief for book club today. I can see why it’s a best seller. It is beautifully written. It’s one of those books that makes me marvel at the power of words–spoken and unspoken.

In the book, Liesel has a love/hate relationship with words. Words were one of Hitler’s most powerful weapons, and she lost many people whom she loved because of them. But words also comforted her, connected her to other people, and ultimately told her story.

I rely a great deal on words in every aspect of my life–except tennis. But even there, you have to at least call out the score. Without words, I wouldn’t be able to sing Karaoke. I guess you can just make a bunch of nonsensical sounds, but that wouldn’t be as fun. The words don’t have to make sense–and I am often surprised to find out what the lyrics are at times–but you have to sing something.

I’m not really artistic. I can’t express myself through drawing or sculpting or dancing like my other family members. But I can write. And I like public speaking. So without words, I wouldn’t have a job. And I wouldn’t be able to blog.

When I write a blog post, I try to keep it as short as possible, so I have to leave a lot of words out. I am always relieved–and surprised–that people understand exactly what I was trying to say in the spaces between the sentences.

Sometimes I have an idea for a post but I’m not quite sure what I want to say. So I just write, because I know the idea is in there somewhere. I usually come up with something I didn’t expect to find. An ending that I hadn’t conceived of at the beginning. Artists often say they don’t create something from nothing; they’re just expressing an idea that’s already there. Sometimes that’s what blogging is like, too.

I spend most of my time listening to and choosing words carefully.  People think the hardest part of therapy is hearing people’s problems, but it’s not.  The hardest part is understanding what clients are trying to tell you and conveying that message back to them.  Again, the idea is in there somewhere, but they don’t quite know how to get it out.  In fact, therapists often say that the nonverbal communication is more important than the words themselves.

I guess that’s why what is left unspoken is meaningful, too. There were many times that Liesel wanted to say things but couldn’t bring herself to do it. I love you. I’m sorry. Don’t go. Sometimes we choose not to say hateful things. Sometimes we punish people with silence.

That’s the paradoxical thing about words. You need them, but you also need the space between them. And good writers like Markus Zusak know how to find the balance between the two.

I was trying to write a message about reading my blog in this doodle, but it ended up looking like someone typing on a computer. But that works, too.

About Christy Barongan

I didn't know it at the time, but I wanted to be a psychologist so that I could figure out how to be normal. I think many people come to counseling for the same reason. What I've come to learn is that feeling good about myself is not about trying to be normal. It's about trying to be me. But it's a constant struggle for me, just like it is for everyone else. So I thought I would approach this task with openness and honesty and use myself as an example for how to practice self-acceptance.

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