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May I Have a Word?

by Patty Stephens

I’ve been thinking about how we express our lives with language. Especially how we speak about love, birth and death.

The advantage of having a very large family of 11 siblings, 20 grandkids, 30 great-grandkids, 3 great-great-grandkids, one great-great-great-great on the way (whew!) is that the arena for experiencing the full spectrum of experience and feelings  is huge.  Never ending,  time consuming, delicious and exhausting. The language therein is vast, lyrical, explosive.

Imagine all the feelings around any life event within that group poured into one stew. Each individual tasked with describing the taste and writing the recipe after the stew is made. My guess is that about half would simply say it was good, there were some vegetables and spices  Can you imagine the description if folks dug deeper into their language possibilities? 

Why do I always dissolve into cooking metaphor?

It must be  because cooking includes the wide spectrum of earth to seed to fruit to fire to mouth to compost. For instance if I was describing the food at my sister’s wake, I would tell you it was blessed by the hands of the younger members of our family.  The ones who knew their Auntie’s couldn’t do the cooking or everything would be too salty from their tears.  The food was filled with kindness to soothe our grief and continue her memory.The younger family needed to fill the void that they were feeling. They needed to use their hands.

When we talk about love, about birth, about death, each person’s experience is vastly different and yet like the stew, it is a one pot meal. We will talk about it. All of us. We will talk about that one pot meal.

What I have experienced generally in the way we language our feelings, the way in which we try to connect, is somewhat stilted.  Not always.
I am one of those people who was given permission and encouraged to express my feelings. I credit my mother for that.  It has left me at times feeling ostracized from the crowd. You know when you are the soccer mom (yes I was) and you’re whistling loudly and screaming from the sidelines I LOVE YOU MY SON while the other parents are screaming KICK THE DAMN BALL.  They would look at me like I had six heads.  I would go to the sidelines and do Tai Chi to gain composure so I could serve those orange slices with a smile on my face at the end of the game.  

The words we use to describe our feelings are generally learned from the way we were raised in our respective cultures. We shape them as we grow or we continue to use the same phrases to express our big beautiful experience. An examination of the words we use to make connection and express our sentiments can result in a more open ended conversation that invites ALL THE FEELINGS.

I am not talking solely about words. I am speaking to an exploration of language that comes from the real heart of very important life passages. Love, birth, death.

I invite you to join me on the sidelines at the soccer field, while we watch the game and develop new language.  I LOVE YOU ALL!

© 2022 Patty Stephens

This Sunday, March 13, Patty and Drew will be switching their roles on the platform.  Patty will be speaking and Drew will be singing.  We can’t wait to see you at 10:00 am, at Maple Street Dance Space.  Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead one hour for Daylight Saving’s Time.

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