*Explicit Language Warning (like, more than my usual “colour”…because I needed to address my inner conflict with my own language use)
If you ever find yourself offended by some of my choice words in this blog, I want you to know I am hyper aware of my word choice (probably more-so now as a teacher and mother) and well…that’s it. Oh and if you are offended, notice that and how it makes you feel. I forgive your rigidity towards semantics and particular arrangements of phonemes. When you start to accept that swears are only sounds, the world can be a much less frightening place for you.
The other day, after picking my son up from school, he was so happy and the sunshine was so warm for a September afternoon, that he declared it was a “good time for an ice cream”. I hesitated at first thinking about food intolerances and what things we needed to do next vs. wanting to do next and decided to fuck the over-thinking and agreed to his compelling proposal. The initial process of anticipation was the usual…picking out mint chocolate chip to relish in he warm after school sun, eating the first 6 spoonfuls followed by mmmmmmm’s and smiles, reluctant-sharing with my ice cream-eating partner…this ritual being performed 100s of times before. But now I know some shit, and so when we arrived home I put it down on the counter…and left it…maybe intentionally?!
Now, old me finding melted ice cream an hour later, would have been terribly mad at just the simple inevitable characteristics of how frozen things melt at room temperature.
Let alone it was my own damn fault, I placed it down, left it and returned to it an hour later. The reaction being visceral and remorseful probably claiming (out loud) this to be complete and utter “Bullshit!” (rather than owning that it was actually “science!”). However, this is all speculation, because I have never in my life left an ice cream unattended so carelessly to melt into itself…until yesterday. But I did and my New-Sarah reaction surprised me. Can I even call it a reaction? It was more like indifference, I was out of fucks here, and so I shrugged, picked up the spoon to see how far gone it was, confirming the ice was gone and now it was just green cream, losing all its seductive power over me. As I battled a mild headache later which I attribute to the intolerances in the frozen treat, I am pleased with myself for subconsciously taking care of my body through avoidance tactics. My point here today is about the use of swearing to quell my frustration. I’ve done this many a time, but the lack of swearing is what stuck with me in this moment. Which lead me to thinking about my conflicted relationship with the act of swearing.
And I’m not talking about the “fuk fuck fuckity fuck” sing-song way that some swearing advocates weave it in and out of their syntax like verbs, nouns and adjectives. If we look at swears as medicine (like this recent study out of the UK) then we would apply the inadequacy of overuse or over-dependence rendering the power (or efficacy, if I continue on the medical thought train) of swearing to be less, or not as effective, because our tolerance builds. From someone who was at 18 OTC pain meds a day in the height of my chronic migraines, believe me, the litany of rebound and side effects is not worth it and totally counterproductive. The objective of swearing: mean it and do it with purpose. Make it fucking count. (I do love when I look back on a paragraph I’ve written and see the metaphor for living a full life shining thru, so toot toot – that was me on my horn).
On our epic journey down the pacific coast this past summer we walked into the sleepy little seaside village of Florence. Looking for a place to chow down for dinner we strolled up to one establishment to check out the menu posted inside the first set of doors. Passing through the breezeway we happened upon this contraption, I have no idea what it was for but it had a huge wooden crank handle on it that most people would have wanted to play with (like the red button we all must touch). My son, following his 6-year-old instincts, grabbed and began to crank, unsuspectingly cranking himself right in the face. He stopped, and by this I mean, stopped moving and breathing…you know like when you stub your pinky toe hard or hammer your thumbnail instead of the nail nail. I could see his jaw clench and I got low and looked him in the eye and saying quietly, “Do you need to swear? Because if you do, then do it, it might help you feel better.” The fog of his rage cleared a bit and with a healthy amount of hesitation he quietly-anger whispered, “ffffffffffuck that hurt.”(barely audible and hardly moving his lips – almost like an enraged ventriloquist.)
He then began to cry, and in child psychology the cry signals a form of defeat or relenting to the frustration, which is actually a good thing. He cried and then we moved on, eating at a different local joint that didn’t have evil face punching widgets. (Fuck that place, right?!) . The work wasn’t over though, the parenting really began on how we needed to open up candid conversation on the topic of swearing and how to use it responsibly. It’s still a work in progress but I do see him taking ownership for his words and navigating his strong feelings and no, he hasn’t abused this new vocabulary (to our knowledge). But instead asks from time to time, if he can use a swear, when something intensely triggers him.
As I navigate my own relationship with swearing, in my blog, in my day-to-day interactions, in my art work even, I begin to loosen the restrictions I once held over myself as acceptable behaviour for said “teacher” or “mother” or “lady”. I am reframing the idea around swearing and returning to my roots, back in the day when I use to listen to Rage (above song dedication) and find solace in the multitude of intense and heavy emotions I often felt. Songs like that one helped me release, and I understand that now as a healthy thing, not shameful or defiant or crass.
So there it is. I swear. I swear to be truthful. I swear to be authentic and accepting. I swear to be kind and honest. I swear to let that shit out, no more holding back stifling the toxic energy because it’s only toxic to me if I keep it in. I swear I am a good person, no matter what I say or do…and I swear you are too.