Words Matter

Our words cast spells.

They change the world, because they change us.

If you doubt me, then you probably don’t believe in prayer. Many people don’t. In fact, a child of the 60s who was raised by atheists, I didn’t either until I realized that “prayer” is just another term for “words matter.”

Whether it is a mantra, a prayer, an affirmation, a dark-of-night wish uttered with a full heart, or just the words “I love you” spoken again and again to your beloved people—the utterance of words is powerful. Either aloud or in the silence of your mind.

Throughout history priests, imams, and rabbis have urged their followers to “pray together” to right a wrong or heal a hurt. Foolishness? I don’t think so. Maybe it didn’t work the way they expected it to—via the intercession of a supreme omnipotent being. But those hopeful, fervent prayers equate to energy, belief, and thought. Our thoughts and beliefs create our actions—we cannot think and believe “hate” and act from a place of love. We cannot think and believe “I’m worthless” and act from a place of optimism and confidence. We cannot think and believe “I’m a victim” and behave any differently than as a victim.

Chanting, meditating, journeying, manifesting, affirming, singing (I swear gospel singers can change the world), even drumming, whatever you do or whatever you call it, it is (in the terminology of the Western/Judeo-Christian paradigm, forgive me) a kind of prayer.

Fear is an inverted prayer. Fear consumes our minds. Our bodies even. It takes root. Without meaning to, we perseverate on all the thoughts and beliefs darkly birthed by fear. They become unintentional prayers to manifest the worst that can happen.

Do we want that? No! Of course not. So how do we feel fear and also act to defeat it?

Well it sure is hard and I’m no expert. I’m not going to glibly state that “all you have to do is…” and then lay some platitudes on you. But understanding how it works has helped me a lot. Internalizing that knowing has helped my body react to its own fear by overlaying images of light beings flooded with love on top of fear’s dark thunderheads. It actually works for me, I’m happy to say. Well, most of the time. A pandemic and an authoritarian commander-in- chief would challenge Buddha himself. (Okay, maybe not, but all us regular folks for sure.)

What made me want to write this blog is thinking about the 2020 election. As I write this, Biden/Harris have won the majority of electoral votes. Depending on when you read this, who knows what you will know about the outcome of it all. Still, I am optimistic for the future and flooded with relief. Oh, and ready to keep on working.

If there is one thing the Trump presidency has taught us it is that words matter. They have power to destroy and incite. They also have the ability to heal and soothe, but we’ve seen precious little of that for the last four years.

I’ve noticed people casually lying lately. Blatant, but casual, while I sit and listen and know the truth. I imagine it has become normalized for so many who realize lying of all kinds can be used to one’s advantage, as evidenced by the man in the White House.

The president’s lies and his vile, hate-steeped language have both altered reality. His platform is so prominent, and his voice so amplified by his power, it didn’t take long at all for him to get inside our heads. Think of all the actions that have resulted from his words.

The activism and resistance of millions of progressive citizens. People never before activated in this way—well they are now. A reaction in opposition to the ugliness because we all believe we can create change. We say it, believe it, act accordingly.

And on the other side—the open hostility, violence, and rage of haters and bigots. I’m not naïve enough to think Trump created those people. They were there all along. But his words empowered them. Big time.

Trump and his enablers have cast a spell on this nation. I do not know exactly how we will reverse it, but I know we can.

Love is, ultimately, the most powerful force in the universe. I try every day to let my thoughts and words be those of hope, action, tolerance, justice, optimism, courage, and love. Sometimes I get scared and then it’s hard.

A battle for the soul of our country requires that we cast our spells with every word and thought.

Speak up when we witness cruelty, injustice, or bigotry. Speak silent prayers inside our own hearts about what we intend for ourselves, our loved ones, our neighbors, and all humanity. Don’t shortchange all of humanity. I mean, words matter.

Let’s use that power for good.

The Voice Inside My Head

I got an email from myself yesterday. It was written from my iPhone in the middle of the night when apparently I woke up with an idea I did not want to forget. Here’s what I wrote (typos corrected): “Inner knowing. Big decisions. Hearing the voice. And trusting it. When you go too long ignoring it, when you finally hear it, maybe it’s off balance.”

I think if I’d woken up fully, then and there, I might have been able to channel what the heck it was I wanted to get across. But I’m going to tackle this one anyway, two days later and in the early morning light, surrounded by unpacked boxes.

My inner-knowing radar may need calibration. I am having a hard time trusting myself these days. Why? Because a year and a half ago, in the middle of my seemingly normal life, I salted my own fields, retreated, repatriated elsewhere, retreated again, and am still picking up the pieces of my heart, mind, life….

At first, my choices—all the dramatic and insistent maneuvers of the last year and a half—were made with the certain knowledge that I was doing the right thing. That feeling faded to the point that now, no matter which direction I take, it seems fraught with confusion and doubt.

In an effort to protect the innocent, I will skip over a lot of the gory details. I will focus, instead, on something that, both literally and metaphorically, defines much of my life over the last year.


Some history. As a younger woman, living in Charlottesville, VA, I moved a lot. I could handle it. I had enough stuff to fit into an efficiency apartment, small cottage or two pick-up trucks (usually one, making two trips). Each new place was a new nest I’d feather, efficiently and cozily, knowing I could unfeather it quickly if the need arose.

Then I divested, moved back to New York to attend grad school. I lived in a room at the top of a friend’s brownstone. Monastic and luxurious at the same time. I knew what I was doing.

When I got married, suddenly the moveable feast that was my life became something more settled. With that came security, steadiness and 25 years in one house. A lovely house more than 100 years old, filled with the joyful objects of family: framed photos, a favorite omelet pan, walls of books, a collection of tablecloths and napkins. That kind of thing.  Nothing about the choice to buy a home 40 minutes from work, at the crest of a housing boom, in a rural town (I’m a city girl remember) seemed uncertain. It was right and I knew it. My life was right and I knew it.

Fast forward. When did all that certainty turn into such a pretense of certainty? But the thing about pretense is that the pretender does not know she’s pretending…. I became my role. I was the method actor of all time. Talk to my friends. They were convinced by my performance. (Well, most of them. Okay, well maybe not, but lots of people were.)

Sometimes the universe (or my inner voice) tries so hard to get my attention and I just power through life, ignoring the signs. So one day I found myself moving out of the house of 25 years. Moving out of the marriage. Moving. Like the Tin Man, once my rusty joints were oiled, I careened wildly, leaving quite a wake.

After my daughter was firmly ensconced back at college, I looked around the home I’d made so lovingly for so long, and was ready (wasn’t I?) to leave it. I started to pack. Box after box. When I left, my estranged husband was to move back in and take possession. Did I let the grief of it all penetrate my plan-addled mind? Did I allow for one minute my inner knowing to communicate with my inner idiot long enough to wake me up so that I could, at the very least, process what was happening?

I packed. I loaded. I moved far far away for my sabbatical year. (Yes, it seemed a good idea to take a break from my job of 25 years at the same time I left my marriage of 26 years. Not to mention my home. Where was my inner knowing? I just don’t know.)

Well, things did not work out. I did not make it a year. By Christmas I was packing again. (There is a lot of story I’m leaving out here; can you tell?) But the point is, I had been so sure. The trauma of changing gears so soon again after the first move was great. Many insistent dreams were showing their true colors as fantasy, idealism, delusion. But, with every box I packed on Christmas Eve, my inner voice was clear.

Or was it?

At this point, the sight of a box taped shut with my handwriting on it— “Kitchen/serving platters,” “framed photos,” “books,” “sweaters and lampshade”—creates a visceral reaction in me. Sorrow, panic, comfort, doubt, curiosity and a glimmer of hope all swirl around and make me nauseated.

Now, I’m moving again. Unpacking. Again. I have made a decision based on the advice given to me by my heart, my head, my hopes and what remains, essentially, an optimistic outlook. But I cry a lot. I don’t trust myself any more.

After so many years of dishonoring the inner voice, I decided to do whatever the inner voice said, without question. Neither approach worked that well. Is there more than one inner voice? Is one my friend and one a saboteur? How to tell them apart?

All that being said, I know that I have a deep well of wisdom within me. We all do. I am the only potential saboteur here. I am the only one who can block the voice from reaching me.

A friend of mine recently said, “You may not trust yourself, but I trust you. I trust that whatever you do it is for your highest good.” I needed to hear that.

This year, my highest good has been served, apparently, by uprooting myself, repeatedly. By humbling myself as I learned at last how insecure I really am; how much my pretense of certainty was a tool of survival but not a path for growth. Okay, inner knowing– I’m ready to listen.