Haunted by the Ghosts of Words

“Speech Delay”

The words we don’t say
Haunt the words we do say
With their ghosts.

The words we don’t say, can’t say,
Mouths poised to speak
Form only silent screams.


It appears this has become one of those blogs in which my poetry may now make an occasional appearance. But I’m not sorry.

On the subject of feeling sorry, I would be hard pressed to come up with a list of my regrets. But what I could scrounge up would likely have a common theme: NOT doing something. My choice to stay when I should go or to remain silent when the words boil just beneath the surface (or worse, to say something that is an anemic version of what I really mean)…these are the regrets that haunt me.

Throughout my adulthood, I have struggled with the size of my emotions. They’re big. They’re untamed. The problem is that I like being able to rein myself in, to feel a sense of control, to maintain composure. I’ve taken pride in my ability to have a calm, rational conversation about the most heart-wrenching subjects, even when they’re closely linked to my concepts of self-worth and identity. The higher the stakes, the harder I would work to keep my cool because I feared that my emotions would eclipse my message. Last year, when My Ex and I had one of our many post-mortem talks, I was bemused to learn that the very thing I’d been so proud of had worked against me in a way. He told me that because I always seemed to have a subdued emotional response to his infidelity, he didn’t recognize that it was impacting me as much as it did.

His assertion was absurd — I mean, I still had my words. I had told him how I felt. But to the emotionally and verbally unintelligent (read: My Ex), words are best paired with an impassioned shouting match, perhaps some wailing and gnashing of teeth, a shove or punch for good measure. Without those components to my communication, my message hadn’t been received.

While I certainly won’t be adding physical violence to my repertoire of communication skills, I do think there’s some merit in considering how my approach to difficult conversations could send the wrong message. Staid and composed may work well in an office setting or a business letter, but in order to convey the depth of my emotions, I think words and passion must come together. Voices might be raised. Tears might be shed. The words may come out wrong. But at least they’ll be said. And I’d rather know that I said what I meant, what I felt, rather than live with the ghosts of the words I didn’t say.

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