The Power of Words

Maybe it was the full moon. Or a simple coincidence. On two separate occasions last week, I had two different friends tell me in their own way how much I meant to them. One was via text basically telling me I was a great friend and the other was told to me like this :

“So I told my sister how happy I was that you had come back to work for me, how much I loved having you around. And then my sister asked me if I had told you that.”

And in that way, she told me without having to actually come out and say it directly.

Because it is really not easy to  stop the course of  normal conversation to tell a friend or family member just how special they are to you. It can be very difficult and feel awkward; the thoughts are there but the words themselves get lodged in your throat like when you’re half-way through a peanut butter sandwich on wheat and you realize that someone has already finished off the milk..  Once you get them out, though, you can change someone’s life. I felt great this week knowing that there are people in the world who appreciate me.

Ironically, the day before this happened to me I was sitting on my deck thinking about how proud I was of my 16 year old.  His ability to get through three knee surgeries, keep his grades up and his wits about him, when he walked in from school. In a moment of courage I decided to speak up, pushing aside any insecrurities about sounding foolish and sentimental, and I called him out to the deck.

“What?’ he said, poking his head out the screen door.

“I just wanted to tell you how proud I am of you and what a great kid you are.”

I waited for the eye-roll and the “whatever” that might come to let me know that I was being silly but instead he smiled and said, “Oh, Thanks.”

There are many things I have done very wrong as a parent over the years–I’ve screamed until I peed my pants (literally), I’ve made idle threats, pretended to listen and realized too late that I had missed something of grave importance.  I’ve used foul language and called my kids names and even spit in my son’s face when he was little to teach him not to spit at people( this tactic although deemed by experts as “the worst thing you can do”, actually worked). I have beaten them at games and jumped around in a victory dance, let them watch too much TV, eat too much candy, and get too little sleep. These slights in my parental ability are evident and uneraseable–some are character flaws others are just plain learning as I went along.

But here was something I did right.  And it has dawned on me recently just how simple it all is.  If I tell you you’re great, than most likely you are going to try to be even greater.  Because my friend told me that it pleased her to have me working for her, of course I will try even harder to be a proficient worker.  And my other friend who told me I was great makes me feel like I want to be a true friend to her always.  I don’t want to disappoint these friends.  As I feel my son would not want to disappoint me.  If your kids know you expect excellence from them and that you think they are amazing then guaranteed they will try even harder.

I made a pact with myself when I was diagnosed with my breast cancer, that I would not let an opportunity pass to tell someone how I felt about them.  As I get further away from my treatment I can feel that urgency slipping away, so I have to remind myself just how important this is.  Because we can never assume that anyone knows how we feel until we tell them. Never underestimate the power of words.  Tell your kids and your friends or even the cashier at your favorite Dunkin’ Donuts today how much they mean to you.  Trust me, it will only feel awkward for a second–after that it’s pure enlightenment.

About francesbarrie

Cancer survivor,mom,triathlete,writer,jewelry maker, baker. Staying happy and healthy,living life and enjoying it one moment at a time.
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5 Responses to The Power of Words

  1. Karen says:

    Fran, you are the greatest and I am going to take this advice to heart. Can’t wait for Liam’s reaction “Mom, shut up already”. Thanks for the uplifting reminder of how short life is, whether you are a cancer survivor or not!!

  2. Lesli Turock says:

    How very true. Kudos to you for choking out those sentiments. Funny things those compliments, no one ever seems to mind getting them.

  3. Rachel says:

    So well said. A few years ago, for no particular reason other than that I was getting older and perhaps wiser, I started saying “I love you” to my dearest girlfriends at the end of our conversations. These women have been in my life for decades, and while we don’t frequently see each other due to hundreds of miles between us, we can pick up where we left off immediately once the conversation(s) starts to roll. It’s because of these bonds and these distances that I felt it important to let them know how I felt about them, and they fortunately didn’t hesitate a second in returning their vocalized admiration back to me.
    I’m a true believer in always paying a compliment and connecting with others in an effort to not only humanize a situation but also to make someone else’s day, primarily because it makes mine, too. I’m so glad you’ve chosen to leap over any hurdle in getting out those ever-important words.

  4. Fran,

    I’d like to share a giggle and a thought. The giggle: You wrote “I’ve made idol threats,…” and all I could think was, “That’s fantastic, she’s figured out that American Idol is such an idiotic show that she uses it as punishment. That’s awesome!”

    The thought is that the world would be a much better place if we all learned to say the important things to the important people in our lives. Somehow, I figured out how to listen to myself when talking to my kids. It troubled me that I heard a lot of evidence of anger or frustration, which sounds a lot like yelling, and not enough evidence of love, affection, and admiration. So I started noticing their wonderfulness out loud when I noticed it, or thought it, in my head.

    I hope you’re well, and I hope to meet you sometime….



    PS: We had another delightful ski season with Fawn, Geoff, Jessie, and Mikey.

    • caught me, John! “Idle” threats…so much for my English degree. Hope to see you this year at the PMC. we are going all the way to P+Town this time so maybe we will see you on the party boat.

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