Just a Soul Whose Intentions are Good…

It’s funny the things that come to you. You’re washing the dishes and suddenly remember how you once read in The Boxcar Children series that the characters washed their dishes in the stream with sand. You look at a flower you collected on the street once upon a summer and are whisked back to who you were and how you felt then. At any given moment, we have so many memories and pieces of experiences swimming through our minds. It’s no wonder that communication can be tricky. How can we express all of the varied layers of emotions, thoughts and experiences that are coursing through us?

Nina Simone sings, “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good, Oh Lord please don’t let me be misunderstood.” I feel this lady. Although I work in communications, I struggle to say the things I want to say in the moment, face to face. It’s an irony I’m working to reconcile.

Nina sings:

“I wish I knew how

It would feel to be free

I wish I could break

All the chains holding me

I wish I could say

All the things that I’d like to say

Say ’em loud say ’em clear

For the whole round world to hear”

She may be singing about being misunderstood but her words are crystal. Words both set us free and hold us back. They can manipulate, bring tears of joy and lull like a metronome. But finding the right ones in the moment can often be a challenge. One that I think starts not in the mind but deeper down. What holds us back from saying what we want to say in most instances is the boldness to do so. The boldness to let go of the preconceived notions that prevent us from releasing our words and seeing how they land. Having the faith that the receiver will do their best to understand you. Giving them the benefit of the doubt and not assuming that they will react negatively.

We learn as children how to test the waters and blurt out whatever is on our mind. With time, a mesh forms that catches the rudeness, inappropriateness or downright ignorance that can easily spoil our good intentions. Our mental filters are there for a reason, and using words wisely is a responsibility that we should never wish to forgo. But just as this habit is in good reason, it is also limiting. For those of us who tread lightly and don’t always dare to say the things we feel, our filters can double as cages that leave us longing for the comforts of home, when home is easy conversation with a close friend. The unadulterated ability to spill your guts.

For people like us, envy can overcome us when we see people expressing themselves so freely, those who are so wonderfully articulate. It can also attract us. When we meet that person who can fill in the gaps, talk when you don’t know what to say and draw you out of your cozy burrow when you are silent. These are the ones you can relax with and who can convince you that all your problems are solved just by dissolving into their presence. But with time, it can turn. Sometimes you may rely on their clarity a bit too much. Letting them talk while you draw inward. And in moments of tension, this can bring things to a stand still. You feel blocked and see the fallacy in any argument or thought that comes to mind, preventing you from communicating at all.

These are the moments when you have to hold yourself up. Toss aside your tangles and briars and scoop out the truth. And in these moments, you find your strength, although I find it isn’t easy. Getting outside of your mind and plucking up the courage to speak from the heart without reservations keeps us young and makes us wise. And I’m with Nina, nothing makes us more free.

“Cause I love you

Oh baby

I’m just human

Don’t you know I have faults like anyone?”

But the question remains, how do you do this in those tough moments?

First, let’s push aside all of those layers we talked about before. Let the light stream through clear — not opaque— so that the other person may see your every feature. In these moments, the shadows and nuances no longer need to be the top layer obscuring your message, they are already compressed into your core, inherent to you but no longer a burden.

Then, take a breath, make eye contact and let the other person feel that you are tender clay in their hands. Trust that they will hold that weight with care, giving you the security that it’s okay to speak those vulnerable thoughts, the ones that matter. For speaking with your whole self involved makes you more than the words shaped by your tongue or thought up by your mind, it makes you one and tethered to the person across from you. It cracks you open and allows your experiences, thoughts and feelings to come out whole and bright, it gives you the soul that’s always there waiting to be seen.

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