I have lived on words for as long as I have known what they were and what they had to offer. At different times, I have stuffed them in like a college kid gorges on free food, savored them like a foodie enjoys a fine meal, and subsisted on them when nothing else in life seemed to offer much with flavor, texture, or truth.
With this as my past, my story, it is taking me months to come to grips with the fact that words no longer satisfy.
It’s not that I don’t find treasures in words anymore, that there aren’t passages in books that I know would change my life, if I could only mentally mince on them long enough; that there aren’t blog posts and articles that remind me how I’m not alone; that there aren’t words I say to friends that are meaningful and precious. It’s beyond that, deeper maybe; it’s the fact that even the words I love are adding to the noise.
I feel bombarded. Everywhere I look, listen, smell, taste, touch, there are words. Even inside my own head, words flash through my consciousness faster than I can process them. I feel like I’m standing in Times Square or Picadilly Circus, with lights flashing and words racing by on several marquis.
And I am part of the bombardment. I speak, I write, I struggle toward putting the inarticulate howls that make me human into language, and so make them both real and intelligible. And I don’t feel like I need to stop, though I have a deep hesitation about sharing my words until I know they are adding value, not just noise.
It’s like food, I think. It’s so easy to eat too much, to consume more than I need simply because it’s there, and it tastes good, and it might even be healthy. And yet, even when I realize I’ve eaten too much, the answer isn’t to stop eating entirely. Instead, the way through is to choose, to always, always choose, and to never consume without actually wanting to do so.
This is a season. A season of listening selectively, of learning to find silence and stillness within, rather than without. It’s a season of open-handedness, of asking which words are important enough to share and, more narrowly, which ones are mine to share. And it’s a season of deepening skills and awareness that don’t depend on words, or acting and seeing and portraying and relating in ways that are less instinctive for me.