l*ve, h@pe and other four letter words

I swear like a sailor.

Despite my mother’s attempts to instill in me a fabulous vocabulary with which to express myself in times of strife, I have been known to curse like a truck-driver who’s stuck in traffic with an empty tank of gas.

It feels good! It’s verbal release! And in those moments when I struggle to be brave enough to articulate how I really feel, swearing does the job. I’m pretty good at censoring myself, I do work with kids all day, so I’ve gotten pretty good at leaving out the ugliness. I do not insert bleeps, I just find more appropriate words to express myself. But there’s just something about the throwing down a curse that provides emphasis like no other word; it’s an exclamation point!

The first time I ever got caught swearing I was 8 years old. I had good reason, I was being dragged by the rope-tow up a mountain. One ski was left ten feet behind me, the other was twisting my leg into some inhumane position. I’d taken my mittens off at the bottom as I was sweating from being nervous; I now had the beginnings of rope burn on my palms and still had half the hill left to be dragged up.

I didn’t say it loudly. Just above my breath. But WOW. It felt good. It felt daring. It also was louder than I thought because my mother, who was standing in front of me, heard it pop out. She whipped around and grabbed me by my rope-burned hand, pulled me off of the rope tow and proceeded to lecture me about my language right there on the bunny hill. Embarrassing yes, but enough to scare the swears right out of me, no.

So when a dear friend sent an update a while back about the status of her husband’s cancer, I responded to her email with the classic F-bomb. That was just how I felt. I didn’t really give it much thought.

It didn’t do anything, my swear-word. It didn’t help. No relief; not for me, not for my friend, not for her amazing husband. It just sat there like an undetonated grenade.

My friend gracefully responded that they had surely uttered their fair-share of F-bombs but, given their circumstances, had decided that there were much better four-letter words for them to focus on.

I don’t recall much of what my mom said on the bunny hill that day, just that as she turned to ski away, she looked me dead in the eye and proclaimed, “So Negative!” and left me sitting there, unable to move, in the snow.

So while saying certain words does give release, relief, or even invoke a response, it doesn’t change anything. Negativity doesn’t provide a solution. As Martin Luther King, Jr. so beautifully said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

The light I intended to shine that day for my friend was lost in dark words. What I meant to say was, “I love you. I wish I had something magical to help you through this challenge. I am in awe of you and your strength, your optimism, your ability to still be there for others when you are going through so much.” I meant to say, “Thank you. Thank you for reminding me about what is important.”

So today, I’m moving forward with the intention to choose my four-letter words with more wisdom. Today, to my friends, I say LOVE, HOPE, PRAY, WISH, SING, KISS, REST and STAR-WARS (okay, it’s hyphenated, so what!?).

Words have power.

Choose wisely.


14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. carla ten eyck
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 17:46:08

    shoot! That’s 5 letters. How does one even comment on this post! I love it… DANG.


  2. kate
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 19:05:27

    awesome susannah, from a fellow sailor (i learned it from Shellie)…
    i love you


  3. Krista
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 20:21:01

    What a great reminder! Negativity really doesn’t do anything but bring other people in to our negative emotions. It really never helps anything for longer than that second you let it blurt out. I think it’s cool that your friend responded to you like that – it says a lot about her & a lot about your friendship.


  4. Sarah
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 20:38:33

    Well, have to admit when I read our dear friend’s status, my response was pretty similar. Then, just pure anger. Yeah, yeah, I know, bad things happen to good people, but seriously…. Today I have had an overwhelming sense of sadness missing all of you. Wishing we could go back to those CW days/nights with so much laughter and happiness. Thank you for your blog, I truly enjoy them! Missing you….


    • mcglam
      Jan 17, 2012 @ 20:12:38

      Girl, I miss you like crazy. I really wish we lived closer so we could just get together spontaneously for dinner! Know that I’m thinking of you, too! xoxo


  5. mj monaghan
    Jan 17, 2012 @ 12:06:15

    Love this post. Great choice of your new four letter words. And so much more “positive.” Your mom would be proud!


  6. Sara
    Jan 18, 2012 @ 09:30:54

    Thanks for this Susannah. I read it the other night and enjoyed (and cried a little for our friends). Then today I have a good friend who has a partner also struggling with cancer who just got really shitty news. I didn’t know what to say–as my first instinct was f**k. So I forwarded her your blog and told her if I had the talent this is what I would say to you. Thank you for giving me the words I needed. xoxo


  7. Eileen Broderick
    Feb 01, 2012 @ 23:13:16

    Wow. Amazing. I am the Queen of negative utterances. And loud “this sucks” sighs. I love this perspective and your dear friends sound like they’ve got the right idea, for sure. I should print this post out and read it often–it just really lifted my spirits. Put a figurative skip in my step. Thank you!


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