What should I have said, for example, to the bottom-dweller who recently belittled my existence?

I spend so much of my day focused on words: email, ordering books, reading, even blogging. And I am usually very aware of what I am feeling and why, usually able to articulate it to those closest to me. But lately I have felt that I am completely at a loss, especially in one situation in particular. The things that have been said to me, well, as Kathleen Kelly said, “My mind goes blank. Then… then I spend all night tossing and turning trying to figure out what I should have said.”

I recently rewatched You’ve Got Mail with commentary, and some of it was familiar, but some wasn’t. So I’m thinking I slept through part of the commentary when I watched it before. Anyway, obviously I had noticed that Kathleen finds her voice, especially in the cafe scene with Joe, but in some of the things they pointed out, I saw how that was more of a theme in the movie than I had realized. How the story is also about one woman learning to speak for herself and to decide what she wants. I’ve been thinking about that, because sometimes (as in the above situation), I let Mike speak for me. And I think there are times for that. But I wonder if I shouldn’t also be learning to speak for myself, even when it’s hard.

In regards to the above situation, thinking about speaking for myself seems really overwhelming. Sometimes I know what I want to say, but I never seem to know what I should say or when I should say it. This isn’t, after all, a bottom-dweller, but someone whose opinion matters to me, even if it shouldn’t matter quite as much as it does. There’s a temptation to go for the jugular, but there’s also a temptation to suck things up and be a people-pleaser. I, who always know what I want to say, can’t find the words to strike the balance between honesty and compassion.

I’ve been praying this poem a lot lately, so I’ll close with it:

I, who live by words, am wordless when
I try my words in prayer. All language turns
To silence. Prayer will take my words and then
Reveal their emptiness. The stilled voice learns
To hold its peace, to listen with the heart
To silence that is joy, is adoration.
The self is shattered, all words torn apart
In this strange patterned time of contemplation
That, in time, breaks time, breaks words, breaks me,
And then, in silence, leaves me healed and mended.
I leave, returned to language, for I see
Through words, even when all words are ended.
I, who live by words, am wordless when
I turn me to the Word to pray. Amen. -Madeleine L’Engle (who else?)

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