And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself
I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgment not be too heavy upon us.
From Ash Wednesday, by T. S. Eliot
Words often get in my head and clamor around until I write them away. Maybe that is why I always loved that bit of Ash Wednesday. These matters that with myself / I too much discuss / Too much explain… It is familiar. Words have a way of doing that…of getting under my skin. Words have meaning and power. Words hold sway over us. That is why it is so hard for me to give them up…any of them—words I mean. I like having all of the words at my disposal, because words all have different connotations, different baggage that they bring with them. Words have history and they carry that history with them. Words said in anger, in love, or in doubt retain that shadow when uttered again.
For Lent, I will give up some of my words. Not all of them, mind you…I am a writer, after all. But I will give up the more irreverent words* that seem to pepper my conversations (especially my conversations with computers and office equipment that is not cooperating). I plan to give up the curses that seem to form on my lips before I am even aware that I have formed the intent to utter them. Oh, yes, though the speech itself may be coarse, it drips from my lips like honey.
You see, while my parents have pristine speech, my DNA harkens back to a people for whom curses were an art form. And, truth be told, I find it rather comforting to be resurrecting verbal filth once feasibly uttered by my ancestors.
Curse words can provide a certain visceral relief in times of stress. (Trust me; it is immensely satisfying to find precisely the right curse for a given occasion.) Profanity can also act as a verbal intensifier and sometimes, just sometimes, curses can be a thing of beauty; the right words (however coarse) in the right language can be almost poetic.
So, yes, in giving up my ability to communicate and articulate freely, I chose to give up something quite dear to me for Lent. For me, it is much more of a sacrifice than giving up meat, or sweets, or social media. So, scoff if you like; but, if you do, be aware that you might well get an earful…just not in English.
*To clarify, because I am not a saint and I would rather not set myself up for utter failure, I will allow myself a few colorful utterances with the caveat that they must be uttered in a foreign tongue.