Are the Famous Magic Words Really Just Poisonous Routines?

We say things every single day that are rather predictable. We ask polite questions. We say we are sorry. We even say please and thank you. I’m realizing lately that these things mean absolutely nothing without the associated feelings; and the feelings that are required are insanely hard to feel.

Think about saying you are sorry.  Think about the origins of the phrase in your life. You were little, you probably broke something by mistake, and an older person told you to say you were sorry. So you said it, and magically, the situation was better. You were forgiven because you said that you were sorry.

But what did you mean? What did you feel? You were probably just mimicking the tone of voice of that older person, since you didn’t see what was so wrong with hitting that baseball into the ugly lamp, and you probably did a pretty darn good job. That trick turned out to work for a long time. It still does to the people who want to simply hear you say these words.

I wish that when I was little, someone taught me that words are more than sounds. That saying I’m sorry is not the same as forgiving myself. That saying please is not the same thing as truly respecting the giver. That saying thank you is not the same as feeling gratitude.

I wish that someone had taught me to stop, to check in with my feelings and my body, and see what it was I was feeling before saying these magic words. I wish someone had taught me that living a life is not the same thing as talking about one. I can put a lot of energy on these things now, but it seems like there are many automatic processes that are so deeply ingrained that it is hard to uproot them all as fast as I’d like.And everyone, from the adults to the kids, seem to be following these unspoken rules that words are enough on their own without the associated feelings of vulnerability, pain and forgiveness.

These things only matter when you feel that ache and void that is telling you that you are not fully living. Something inside makes you feel like your own ghost, and you can’t quite put your finger on why that is. This is one place to start. Think about the things you say the most often, and pay attention. Pay attention to what they are supposed to mean, in their greatest sense, and what you are actually feeling.

And do the same to other people. Notice when someone says they are sorry and means nothing. Notice this because it is going to show you that you are not crazy for feeling odd about their apology. Notice that the reason you may have a hard time with truly being compassionate to some people is that you are listening to their words and expecting them to mean something. A lot of times, they do not.

Before you begin analyzing others, you have to begin with yourself. And before you begin to judge how you feel when you say these words, you can think of how you want to feel without those words. Sit down and feel what it is to be sorry, and to forgive yourself. Feel these things without habitual phrases justifying your tendency to flee from them. Then, feel what it is like to say please, to truly ask for something from someone, and respect them in that process. Think of what “I love you” means to you, and the feeling that is associated with it. Feel these things without the words.

Then, let the words come back.

The truth is that people love to avoid feeling vulnerable, feeling pain, and going through the effort it takes to actually forgive themselves. It is much easier to say some magic words and move on to the next thing. But I personally believe that this cultural process of ignoring the deeper reality and sticking to the surface is much like teaching our children that you can climb a picture of a tree, if only you look at it and say “I want to climb you, Mr. Tree.” It will never happen, and that kid shouldn’t grow up thinking that they have climbed a thousand trees just because they have said the magic words and looked at a picture. Climbing the tree takes more strength and intention than looking at a picture of one, and the feeling of accomplishment would actually be there in the real situation.

Phrases that Elicit Nausea: Everything Happens For a Reason

Everything happens for a reason. You’ve heard it before, probably from someone who was doing far better than you at the moment. You listened because you had to. Maybe you even became one of the people who says that whenever something shitty happens. Maybe you dismissed it and feel a secret pang of nausea whenever anyone else says it to you.

I remember the mind-opening feeling of first hearing that phrase, somewhere in the desert near California. It came from the mouth of an old hippie. The “everything” was an oil leak that was  holding up our hippie schoolbus from a sage-gathering mission, and the “reason” was the stunning view of the mountains at sunrise that we wouldn’t have seen if the leak didn’t hold us up.

He meant more than that, but in the moment, that was how my inner equation was putting it. I tried to live by it, I tried to see each problem as “everything” and every subsequent good thing as “a reason.”

Thinking this phrase to myself now just makes me feel like a petty jerk who is looking at the sunny side of life like I used to look at Tofurkey when I was a vegan. Trying to convince myself that this bland and tasteless substance was the real juicy thing. Everything happens for a reason bothers me deeply, mostly because people tend to say it to ward off the feeling of “bad” and welcome in some sick imitation of the feeling of “good.” But it’s not the real thing.

At the same time, I absolutely cannot deny the fact that sometimes, things do seem to happen for a freaking reason. You make a random stop at a gas station on your way to the grocery store when you don’t even need gas, and then you run into some long-lost friend at the store when you finally get there. You break up with your boyfriend and find a lover, only to then learn that they are friends from long ago. You get the feeling that you need to go to a particular coffee shop, and then find that a friend from far away happens to be there that moment. These things happen to everyone. Is there any sense in it?

My theory is that the universe has an amazing sense of humor, and it is not always good. But it is there. The more you pay attention to it and play along, the more the universe seems to show you its crazy self. Perhaps it is shy. Perhaps it has moods. Perhaps there is a moon that governs its universe-sized menstrual cycle. Who knows. The point is, it is doing something.

Everything happens for a reason. However, it’s not always for a good one that makes everyone happy in the end. What is the end, anyway? The results of the actions you take today can take years to lead to “a reason.” The reason may even have nothing to do with you. The carton of milk that you decided to not get might have changed the timing of the next shipment of milk which then may have prevented a truck driver from hitting a dear on the 80, but you’ll never know. No one will. That’s not the point.

The point is perhaps to see the universe like a friend. Sure, it has some bad moods. It also has some strange tendencies and a sense of humor that sometimes borders on psychotic. But it can tell some pretty good jokes, and play its part in creating some rather interesting stories. If you only paid attention to the positive aspects of your friends, you wouldn’t have them for long. You have to listen to their problems, let them vent, sometimes you even need to let them smash things while you wait for them to calm down.

I think the universe is the same way. Let it do it’s thing, and pay attention to all of the aspects. Running away from the “everything” and always searching for the “reason” is only going to make you piss people off when they are having a hard time with things. Let things be hard. Let things be bad. Feelings and circumstances do a much better job of moving on when they can just be as they are without having to conform to some idea of happening for a reason.