One Word

I read an interesting concept today, that your life purpose can be summed up in one word.   It is a different word for each individual and no one can tell you your word, you must discover it for yourself, but that one word defines your calling, defines what your purpose in life is.  And it is a simple thing, the lesson you are meant to learn in this life.  And to find your word, all you need to do is look at your failures.  What you are weak at is the thing you are here to achieve in this life, your purpose.

This concept is so beautiful in its simplicity, so basic in its premise that my gut told me it was true.   And how provocative is this concept, to delve into one’s failures to uncover one’s word.  We search and search for the meaning of life, chasing our passions, reaching to grab the brass ring, certain there is one great thing we are destined to do.   But what is great?   Great for you may not be so great for me because our words are different.  And that word for each of us has been there all the time, at each stumble and fall.   It took little effort for me to figure out my word.   My earliest failure at the age of five ignited a pattern that has plagued me all my life.  My word is speak.

There was no such thing as preschool in the late 1950’s; instead our parents registered us early for kindergarten.   Age requirements were loose back then, as long as you turned five years old before the end of the school year, you were in.   As a March birthday, I entered kindergarten the September of my fourth year.  I was smart though.   I mastered my numbers, could add and subtract, nailed the alphabet and began to read.  I did so well that near the end of the year, at the tender age of five, I found myself transferred to a first grade class for reading.  Kindergarten was colorful crayons and glue, comfy mats on the floor for napping, a playhouse with toys and tiny chairs pulled up to tiny tables that felt like home.  First grade was an overcrowded room with metal desks bolted to the floor in rigid rows, dusty green chalkboards, and not a toy in sight.  That first class a teacher I had never seen before called my name.   I stood up.   Then she told me to read, to read out loud in front of this packed room of children I didn’t know, bigger kids kicking their desks, sniggering behind their fists, sticking out their tongues.  I stood.  I picked up the primer.  I was hooked on phonics, I knew these words.  I opened my mouth to speak.   My mouth opened but it was full of cotton.  My tongue was dry and glued to the roof of my mouth.  Nothing came out.  The teacher’s voice rose unkindly.   My chin quivered.  My eyes watered.  I couldn’t breathe.  I couldn’t speak.

A lifetime of not speaking followed.   Mom used to prod me “the squeaky wheel gets the oil” and in the next breath “children should be seen and not heard.”   “Don’t speak unless spoken to.”   When visiting another family’s home we were told we could accept food or drink if it was offered to us but under no circumstances were we to ask for anything.   Like my father I became stoic.  It was applauded.   Adults complimented me on my good behavior.  At all the critical points of my life, speech escaped me until after the event when I would silently rant to myself about all the things I should have said.  I was good at coming up with snappy things to say but it was always after the fact.  I suffered in silence through a difficult marriage and divorce.  My emotions never had a chance to come out.  I was viewed as the quiet one.  People described me as reserved.

About a year ago I attended a one day workshop on integrative breath, a form of meditation.  Twenty of us sat on the floor in a circle, going through the exercises, talking about the power of this process.  In the afternoon we had the obligatory “go around the room” whereby each person had a turn to be the center of attention while the others spoke one or two words sharing their impression of that person.  When it was my turn on the hot seat, the usual words were used:   quiet, reserved, kind, nurturing, searching, capable, and strong.  And then one small bright young woman looked at me.   And with a sly smile she said “hidden fire”.  I heard the woman next to me suck in her breath in surprise. And I knew why.  The shock of those words was like a glass of cold water thrown in my face.   Those words threw me off balance.   I was a book she had picked up and instead of reading the back cover, she went right to the core to get the gist of my story.   Hidden fire.  At the end of the workshop this tiny woman sought me out, gave me a hug and told me “let that fire blaze!” 

I never saw her again, can’t remember her name and hadn’t even thought about her until today but that doesn’t matter.  Whatever her word is, I’m sure she mastered it.   For me, in the space of that one day workshop and from across the room, she saw the heart of me more clearly than anyone ever had before.  She saw the embers smoldering.   She poked them with a stick and blew on them to make them flare.   She encouraged me to keep the fire going.    Rest assured I’ll remember her from now on.   Every time I speak.

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Comment by Cindy

    Posted on October 19, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    It made me cry and it also made me remember you are an Aries, sign of fire.

  2. Comment by Cindy

    Posted on October 19, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    It made me cry and it also made me remember you are an Aries, sign of fire.

  3. Comment by Cristina

    Posted on March 10, 2011 at 11:18 am

    A beautiful story, like you, there are many of us out there needing to speak. Thank you for the encouragement to do so.

  4. Comment by Cristina

    Posted on March 10, 2011 at 11:18 am

    A beautiful story, like you, there are many of us out there needing to speak. Thank you for the encouragement to do so.

  5. Comment by owner

    Posted on March 13, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    thanks for your kind words Cristina. I am so happy to know you.

  6. Comment by owner

    Posted on March 13, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    thanks for your kind words Cristina. I am so happy to know you.

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