Friday, 26 February 2021

Words Words Words

"A word is dead, When it it said, Some say.
I say, It just Begins to live That day. "  Emily Dickinson

So many words, for good or for ill, and I am losing the power to speak them simply because the opportunities to do so are fewer and fewer. Talking to myself is just not the same. Although I have had some excellent conversations with myself, they usually finish quite soon, mainly because I tend to agree with what I am saying. As I always win every argument with myself there’s no point in it. I am also rather tired of the old ladies’ croaky voice I sport when I haven’t spoken for a few days and the endless clearing it takes before I am satisfied with what comes out of my mouth.

The other day I went to the front gate to drag the bins back in after collection just as the postman drove up. He stopped, stuck his head out of the van and asked: “Are you Mrs. W?” “Yes,” I said and took the mail he was offering me. That, dear readers, was the sum total of my speech that day.

Zoom meetings are such clumsy tools; you may say 'better than nothing' and I would agree, but how tiresome all the same. In small groups, say four or so, you are all waiting for the previous speaker to finish. Unless someone says your name, calls you up, as it were, after this pause you all speak at once, and nobody hears what anyone is saying. One to one is possible if both of you are polite and neither of you hogs the conversation. It’s difficult to interrupt the flow politely when facing a screen. 

Large meetings I find to be a nightmare. I was invited to join a group of fifty or so. The German Embassy had scheduled a virtual meeting with the subject of :”Brexit - now what?” for us Krauts resident in the UK. The speakers were ambassadorial experts on law, taxes, customs and excise, travel within the European Union and related matters, all of importance. All revised since Brexit. The experts were all men. By golly, don’t male experts talk. We could write in questions we had but were otherwise muted. And because the experts talked (and talked) our questions remained largely unanswered. I have a problem with long-windedness. I almost invariably switch off mentally. Being muted you can’t ask for the speaker to get to the point. I still don’t know if Aunt Betty can send me a jar of homemade jam without filling in reams of customs forms. And, of course, it would have been utterly impolite to ‘leave’ the meeting. Whereas, in real life, I can always find an excuse why I simply have to rush off, being properly, regretfully apologetic, of course.

For many years I have kept a diary, using 1000s and 1000s of words, maybe even millions. Because I am getting old I think of death and all the stuff I am leaving behind, unless I clear most of it away. Posterity is not going to want to preserve years of my pathetic scribblings; my children certainly won’t. At random, I picked exercise books of 81/83. Dear Readers, without hesitation, I can tell you, that if I met the past me I would not like her. It seems that I spent many bottles of ink and untold school exercise books to tell myself that my life was a disaster, that I really must do something about it, that nobody understood me or my sufferings. I was unkind to myself and everybody else, although there were few mentions of others, me being to a very large extent concerned only with spineless, whingeing me. Perhaps those particular months in 81/83 were particularly difficult, I no longer recall. What I will do, though, is read on, year after year. Surely not all the time before my new life with Beloved was miserable? He certainly wouldn’t have wanted to throw in his lot with a perpetual moaner? 

If I come across anything worth repeating, I might repeat it here.

“Be careful of the words you say, 

Keep them short and sweet.

You never know, from day to day,

Which ones you’ll have to eat.”





  1. Well you have certainly made me want to avoid Zoom--in any form. Didn't think about being locked in and not getting the floor when wishing to speak. I understand creaky old lady voice--I own one. If it weren't for a few phone calls a day, my only conversation would be with Minnie and Callie and they are just listeners and sometimes fake that:)

  2. I have only attended (is that the right word) two zoom meetings. I really, really didn't enjoy them and you are right about their difficulties.
    I kept diaries for a while when I was much younger. They were definitely woe is me/whinge fests. I stopped. Oddly enough published diaries are one of my favourite reading materials. I am in awe that those people at least can (mostly) step away from the me me me refrain.

  3. At a certain age,words whether uttered by you or by someone else might weaken you , leave you drained of energy. Sometimes specific words to this or the whole conversation.
    There are people that I prefer them to email me rather than phone me or talk to me in person.

  4. I laughed at your first paragraph. Here is a challenge. Play the devil's advocate with yourself. Tell yourself that your thinking is wrong and there must be a better view of things.

  5. I detest, and that is not too strong a word, Zoom meetings. I participate only in the ones I absolutely cannot avoid. As for diaries, I have never kept one. I know that Miriam did for years before I met her, but I doubt whether she even knows where they are now. I suspect that much of what we might have written would not even be interesting to us, let alone to others, so it's probably better on balance not to do it at all. Vaccinations are rolling out quickly or not so quickly depending on where you live, and perhaps that will signal the end to isolation.

  6. Words are best few and spiced well. Experts talk way too much, as do many of us. Of course these days you are not the only one living under a virtual vow of silence. Thanks for letting us hear your voice here. Better days are coming

  7. I wrote a long response which refused to publish. Gist: I find Zoom unnatural but as a person living alone, better than nothing. I don't leave my small groups before we're done, but I will leave those giant presentations if the speakers are taking too much of my remaining lifespan and not being informative. Usually it's men. Up to now I've never had to walk out on a woman presenter. Yet.

  8. I had seen that Emily Dickinson poem before, and really like how concise ED could be with words. I kept a diary for a decade and every once in awhile pick up one of the volumes at random and what life was like for me back then. I can't bear to throw them away; many of the people I wrote about then are long gone. I have Zoom yoga classes, but I'm just using the instructor to show me what I should be doing. She's the only one who talks until the class is over.

  9. I have never been one to shut up. The last zoom I attended was great and I enjoyed it but it
    was only half a dozen people:)

  10. Speech is a gift I've lost from time to time for one reason or another, so I know of what you speak. You have to crank it up like an old car and creak and croak through lots of shuddering false starts before the ol' voice runs smoothly again, and as for stringing a lucid sentence together, well ... eventually the brain and the cords cooperate with one another, but oh, the indignity before that day comes! At least we can write down what we intend, which it sounds like you've employed to great effect over the years.

    By chance, I was reading some draft letters yesterday I'd written in the mid-90s that I'd forgotten about and then found going through an old hatbox. I also met up with someone I really have no time for now and interesting questions arise over the value to posterity of anyone keeping their accumulating written Words in exercise books and hatboxes, and not tossing it all in embarrassment or ruthlessness. So many characters through history we know only through the letters and diaries biographers sift through later - imagine trying to construct some interesting tidbits about some worthwhile present-day character when they only leave behind work-related emails and ungrammatical texts to family members! I pity the biographers of the future. It's when those Diaries of Nobodies will come to their rescue!

  11. I don't know how I missed this post when you first published it. I go for several weeks at a time without talking to anyone except the dog and Alexa, the robotic voice on Kindle. The dog is either jealous or annoyed by me asking Alexa questions. LOL

  12. I would have no problem leaving a Zoom meeting. I can always come up with an excuse if someone asks later. I do hate that way of communicating. All our meetings are that way now, and you are correct in that I never say anything, because everyone else wants to chime in!

  13. I have yet to participate in a Zoom meeting, and I don't expect to. It seems dehumanizing, like so many other demands that are being made of us these days. If I were completely cut off from other humans, I might feel differently about it -- but then again, I probably wouldn't.

    A friend used to say, "If you're poor, you don't need to worry about stock market plunges," and I suspect a corollary might be, "If you're leading an 18th century life, you don't need to worry about demands to participate in the latest tech innovation." I know. I'm weird. But given the nature of my old-fashioned work, I'm outside everyday, and I converse with other workers on the dock every day. I go out into nature with friends on a regular basis, and the occasional restaurant meal is another chance for conversation. Taking reasonable precautions is one thing. Allowing unreasoning fear to pervade our lives is another. I've often thought of this poem by Rumi in the past months:

    Your way begins
    on the other side
    become the sky
    take an axe to the prison wall
    walk out like someone
    suddenly born into color
    do it now

    1. It struck me this afternoon that the conversations I have with readers on my blog seem to be more satisfying to me than zoom meetings are to my friends. With blogs, there's time to consider a response, other readers can join in if they choose, and quite often something will trigger a new path for everyone to enjoy reading about. In short: zoom seems linear and time limited, while blogs are the opposite -- whatever that would be.

  14. Friko, I have to admit that Zoom meetings (even with a small group) don't seem to be that much fun... except to see the faces of those I haven't seen at all this year. I prefer to Skype on a one to one level. It's more personal.
    And I too like that poem by Emily Dickinson... although my 2 favorites are "Hope is a thing with Feathers" and "I'm nobody! Who are you?"

  15. I've never kept a journal though I attempted it once or twice but always fell off after a few days. but then I started a blog 12 years ago and started my 13th year last month. early in the stay at home business last year my yoga teacher tried a ZOOM class but it didn't catch on so we did without for a couple of months and then we all decided that we would take the chance since the class was held in an indoor/outdoor building (the gym at an elementary school) with the three sides rolled up and the big fan and we could all easily be 10' apart. so far so good. and now I've had both jabs so even better. and like Shoreacres says above, reasonable precautions vs unreasonable fear. hope you get the vaccine soon.

  16. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, friend Friko ! Some are quite similar and familiar to me, while others not so much. No matter though :) Sending love. Knuddel, knuddel :) cat.

  17. I should have been a etymologist. I am wasted in Medicine.

  18. I know what you mean about Zoom meetings. My theatre board meetings are completely grim on zoom. We're also doing weekly zoom meetings with Rick's brothers (and occasionally his mom) about his mom's care and situation and trying to get her well enough to get her out of this awful nursing home -- but where to, in the time of Covid? She wants to go home (understandable, but not an option) and all the brothers live far from her and each other. Zoom isn't the best way to connect but it is better than copy all emails, read and responded to at different times. UGH!

    On Saturday, given that we are four days from our "freedom day" after the second vaccine, we went to our baby grand's birthday gig. It was family from both sides, and we stayed masked and a little distant but the thing that got to me was I had forgotten how to make small talk with people I don't really know very well. I was trying to remember my journalism training -- ask open ended questions and let other people talk! It worked, but I was glad to be out of there.

    I've been mostly the hermit during all this, with only Rick for the most part (and occasional very distanced gatherings with another couple or a driveway conversation with a friend.) I haven't minded much at all. I have rarely been out shopping or in public and mostly that's been OK, although I do miss grocery shopping a bit. And that will change as I approach my freedom day. It's worth it to me. I've always been pretty self-contained and as long as I had someone. It's the not having someone to talk to (even a pet) that I think would be profoundly difficult. I feel that for you.

    About the journals -- let me tell you a story. Last summer or fall, I was going through things in the basement and found a box I don't think I'd opened in the 25 years I lived here. It was my grandmothers journals, starting in the 1940s. They are fascinating. She wasn't a writer -- she didn't have the same angst-filled entries I did in mine during my 30s. But they were fascinating slices of time and into the life and world of this woman who was my family. Most entries were just lists of a sort -- who came to visit, how many quarts of berries were picked or canned during berry harvest, the movie they went to see, the price of the utilities that were due and key world events that she felt should be recorded.

    When I was doing my mom's genealogy, there were precious few documents; just memories from my cousins, news clips, photos. Oddly enough, through my other grandmother's journals, I could find out the weather on the day I was born, that she baby sat for me and my cousins on my other grandfather's funeral, little details.

    The point is, your children may or may not be interested in your journals. But if they have children, at some point, they might be. Before you burn or destroy, ask. (Feel free to rip out offending pages if you must!)I know I would kill to have the journals of my parents or grantparents or beyond. And I would never have thought about that ten or fifteen years ago.

  19. Hi Friko - I refused to do zoom meetings right from the word go ... no children, so really no need. I chucked all my aunt's diaries out - they weren't interesting at all ... and I got bored - so the whole lot went.
    I have family things here - what happens to them, from me without children I'm not sure - I hope there's a historian in the family - who might want to do something with them. The letters I wrote back from South Africa - really haven't changed my style much via my blog.

    I agree with Shoeacres - I feel happy when I'm replying to comments or on occasions have had a happy meeting a few bloggers ...
    Life has become 'strange' in this Covid age.
    I do wonder sometimes whom I told something to someone, and can't remember who - and then give up and stop worrying.

    With thoughts from sunny, but cold Eastbourne! All the best - Hilary

  20. I have to talk all day long, in front of a computer. I actually long for times when I can say nothing at all.

    I don't think I'd want to read my old writings.

  21. We went to dinner with at friends' house on Saturday--our first such outing since last March--and I found myself wondering if I could still do small talk. (I was never very good at it.) But there was so much to catch up on that time flew.

  22. This is really a difficult time especially for a person living alone. I’m not interested in Zoom meeting at all while I treasure video call with my loved ones. I like it when conversation is spontaneous while keeping minimum manners. Once a week attendance in person in English conversation class named Coffee Break, with a mask and necessary precautions, is more than enough for me under the circumstances. The topic covers wide range and the talks are enlivened by assertive 4 members and an English teacher – mundane daily life, current events, politics, and so on. My diary is very short like a memo. Once in a while, I read it to wake up my memory to what happened with the hint of words I wrote down. I cried to weave the words written when my mother’s life was nearing the end.

    Regarding your question in your comment on my latest post, the set of Hina dolls was customarily, but of course with so much love, presented to my daughter on her birth by my father. Young people tend to favor smaller Hina dolls for the sake of the place to display and to store them. I’m happy to display the dolls for my granddaughters, though two of the three can’t see them in person this year.


  23. My husband and I are doing Zoom for adult learning, and I do it for gatherings of my spiritual community. I mostly miss hugs.

  24. Dear Friko,

    We have read your thoughts on Zoom with much interest since a Zoom meeting is where we find ourselves for at least an hour every day. In the main, we use it for teaching sessions with our students who have the aim of studying abroad. After a lifetime in teaching, we appreciate that we can stay in touch with young people in this way. However, the teaching is so much more difficult online. As you say, natural interactions are very complicated to achieve and so the entire session becomes far more tiring than one would otherwise find in a classroom. Still, it allows us to keep on keeping on!

    And, how right you are about choosing words carefully, especially those which one commits to writing. Online words can feel so much more aggressive without the body language that could accompany them otherwise. Smiley faces are just so much better when they are in real life.

  25. Friko, I am looking back on my words in the same way. It is quite surprising to see some of my foolish thinking. But it’s still me, then and now. I’m sorry that you don’t have a friend or 2 to chat away with. Is it possible to mutually find one another: 2 interesting thoughtful people who can share words and visions and gardens? I know if I lived near you I would like to listen....

  26. Friko, I agree with you, I also won't want to return to last life. It was difficult and not always joyful. Of course. I remember pleasant moments, but I would not want to live those years again.
    I think that you do not need to read your diary if it causes you so feeling.

  27. hello friko, my comment lost to the ethos, so this one is abbreviated. I wonder if you may have or find a friend you can chat away with. I'm lucky I have a few friends nearby, who even with masks, we can at least connect. I'm no fan of zoom for reasons you mention, but you are too interesting to keep your discourse to yourself.
    love kj

  28. WORDS! Dontcha love'm???
    Here's summore wurdz I made-up
    that sound like the English
    counterpart, yet spelled odd:
    ♡ ♡


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