Words are so powerful and paradoxically completely worthless. We give all of the power to the words but fail to see if we give them power, we can take them away. In truth, almost every word we share with ourselves and each other is a lie. I’d like to play a game, shall we?
About 2 years ago, I climbed a mountain for the first time. There are two important facts you should know: I am terrified, and I mean out of my mind terrified, of heights. I was also wearing heeled boots. I was not expecting to climb a mountain. My boyfriend at the time and his friends decided to climb a mountain, and I tagged along. In my boots with the heels, not fur. I was out of my mind terrified. Visions of sprained/broken ankles danced through my head. I could feel my lungs tightening as a panic attack started creeping on me – both because I was short of breath (I’m a heavy smoker) and because I was going up high (I have literally had a panic attack going up a slip and slide at a carnival. Ask me about the time I climbed the Brigantine Lighthouse!) I focused on my feet with Tetris-like precision. Every rock formation and my foot were precious combinations I was not going to screw up. When I got to the top of the mountain, the scene was breathtaking. The sky was a combination of pink, and blue, and orange. I’ve never seen or felt anything like it. I had never hiked before, either. My enjoyment was only marred by my fear of going back down the mountain and breaking my ankle. I forced myself to sit on the rocks and quietly take in the scene. My purpose in climbing the mountain, if I’m honest, was trying to impress my boyfriend. I remember him looking back at me as we climbed, and saying, “She can do it, she’s a fucking bad ass.” I remember the smile on his face and for the first time in a long time, a rush of feeling like someone believed in me. I think his words had helped me climb higher than my fear. Looking back now, I climbed higher than my fear.
Sounds great, right? I write well, I think.
Let’s try this:
I climbed a mountain in heeled boots. I thought I was going to break my ankle, and I could not believe how stupid and irresponsible I was. The entire time I climbed, all I could see was 2 dudes carrying me down a mountain with a broken ankle. Visions of all the other times I’ve sprained my ankle by the sheer act of walking were flashing through my head. Strangely, all I could see was Samuel L. Jackson as Mr. Glass with my face on his body. My boyfriend was being a dickhead that day. He had been giving me attitude all day, and even after we climbed, he bought all of his friends a banana but me. I don’t know why that bothered me, its’ a 33 cent banana, but it really kind of hurt me. He had told me before I met his friends not to “be weird” so that told me to just “be quiet”. He finally acknowledged that a) I existed and b) I was climbing not too shabbily for a woman wearing heeled boots. When I got up to the top of the mountain, my brain went silent because it was so beautiful. I was still scared to climb down especially because I knew the sun was setting, and darkness with heeled boots felt more like suicide in fancy footwear. As I went down the mountain, I felt confused. I couldn’t understand why my boyfriend was the way he was, why I put up with how he was, and so on. Fortunately, I was so terrified of breaking my ankles, I forced myself to focus on my footing, and in doing that, I experienced quiet mind for the first time.
I am equally an idiot and a jackass who climbed a mountain in heeled boots. Looking back, it was one of the craziest and coolest things I ever did. It started a love for hiking that I never had, and it was too beautiful to describe.
We put so much weight into the noise of words and emotion, but the reality & truth is this:
All of these stories are lies of omission because I cannot give you the full story. My memories and words are being placed to align (intentionally or unintentionally) with the emotion. This is how we all communicate. None of my words adequately convey how beautiful it was up there. None of my words even adequately convey how I felt. If I close my eyes, I can see it and feel it as clearly as if I was there.
If we live purely in the realm of our thoughts and words, we omit reality. I don’t think anything can be more harmful than missing our reality. It does not mean coming up with better words to describe a situation. It means being fully present to experience it. Your focus (awareness/consciousness) dictates your reality. When we experience the world, we do not need words for it. Anything that is put into words is inherently a lie of omission.
Try this for yourself. If you think back on something you did that was hard/challenging/sucked, depending on how you speak to yourself or others about it, will determine your emotions on it. From paragraph to paragraph, the same experience changes with the emotion we express. If you focus on any positive in a memory, the memory will have a pleasant association, just like a word. Look at how different my ex-boyfriend and I seem? Yet both are equally true, only what I shared and how I shared it changed.
Definitions, connotations, and context will always change depending on who is hearing it. Context and connotation mean something different to every person, regardless of what Websters tells us. People who are “literally dying” are a great example. We don’t even use words according to their definitions anymore.
My favorite definition of a metaphor is “a beautiful lie” (hmm…feels like I used that somewhere) Literally every word you use is a metaphor for your existence. You are using metaphors with every syllable. The key to being happiness is not to confuse metaphors with the point.
In either way, a metaphor and words are grammatical and literary devices. We confuse our reality with grammatical and literary devices, making ourselves hapless victims of an unseen author instead of being our own authors.
Actions and experience are all we have in this life. By choosing our words and memories, we can turn any experience into a lesson or an opportunity for growth. By seeing how powerless words and memories are, we can see nothing in this life is actually bad. That is an illusion of our thoughts.
It doesn’t matter how I describe it because climbing a mountain in heels made me see I can climb mountains on my couch with a laptop. I can climb anything anywhere, but in the future, I will be more mindful of my footwear. I hope this game shows you a deeper understanding of the game of life and the games we play with ourselves. Don’t confuse reality with metaphors, and just climb.