Outdoor Advent Day 12

A thicket of trees in an autumnal wood, the trunks part gilded by the late morning light. There are still some green leaves left and together with the shape of the trunks it looks like a fairy glade. The sky above is brilliant blue.

Once you said a thing, it could never be taken back and would be taken up and repeated and altered and told again, no matter how misshapen and out of true. Better to say nothing.

page 39, Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield

This picture captures some of the feyness of the woods tin that particular spot. If one of the fair folk had appeared and asked me my name I would not have been surprised. I hope I’d also have remembered both my manners and my common sense and replied ‘you can call me Ainsel’ and been very precise in anything else I said to them. Words, after all, all have more power than we often give them credit for.

I do my best to speak out when I see that my voice is needed. I never want to be one of the people who allow injustice and discrimination to occur simply because they remain silent in the face of such actions. However I do also watch what I say very carefully because I know what pain can be caused by speaking without thought, or speaking with deliberate intent to wound.

There have been many times, especially over the last ten months with everyone’s tempers frayed to breaking, when I have found bitter, harsh, unpleasant words fighting to escape my mouth in fraught conversation or to spill from my fingers into the reply box in response to someone who has trodden on my last nerve. I have, thankfully, managed to restrain the worst excesses of such impulses because my compassion has caught me each time and prevented me from causing harm. I cannot say that I have not lost my temper, nor can I claim that I have not caused any upset at all. I doubt anyone could. I can’t even promise never to get it wrong in the future because life is just not like that. I can have all the good intentions in the world but that doesn’t mean anything if I am overwhelmed and let my guard slip.

All I can do is keep trying to remember that I will not have cause to wish something unsaid if I do not say it in the first place and that there is nothing that needs saying that cannot wait to be said once I am calm, rather than in the heat of the moment. Taking time and thinking twice is sometimes the best thing any of us can do. There is a magic in measured silence followed by careful speech that we’d all do well to conjure more often.


4 thoughts on “Outdoor Advent Day 12

  1. I think there’s always a judgement to be made about when to speak out and when to remain silent. And it’s probably inevitable that sometimes we’ll get it wrong. I think I’m finding that at times having to apologise for saying something a bit wrong is better than not saying anything at all and letting the other person believe that I’m acquiescing in what they’ve said. I suppose that’s the difference between something online where it’s possible to take a deep breath, walk away and come back to put one’s point in a reasoned fashion, and in an actual spoken conversation.

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    1. This is very true. For me the issue is when my emotions are overwhelming my ability to focus on the argument and I’m in danger of ad hominem attacks. I deal with the in person stuff by, if I’m able, saying something like “I need to take a break from this conversation so I’m going to walk away now. However I’d like to come to back to it once I’ve calmed down because I’ve not said everything I want to say.” That way it’s clear that the conversation isn’t over. Also, if the other person won’t accept that and demands to continue the argument, it tells me I needn’t worry about their feelings as they’re not bothered about mine and thus they’re not the sort of person I want to keep spending time with.

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      1. I think in that situation then walking away and returning at a later point is by far the best course of action. I was thinking of situations where there are a number of people (say a work conversation) and I feel the need to call someone out on what they’ve said.

        Liked by 1 person

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