Big Words


“Words: so innocent and powerless…how potent for good and evil they become, in the hands of one who knows how to combine them!”  Hawthorne

According to Jung, certain dreams are considered, “Big Dreams.” These are the dreams we have at night that remain with us long after we wake, sometimes for years. They can be analyzed symbolically and reveal certain important things to us from our unconscious minds. They are much more than a menagerie of sensations and scenes our brain is playing around with. They are significant. You will know a “big dream” when you have one.

With that idea in mind, I’ve started calling certain words in my life “Big Words.” Sometimes they are overheard while I’m on a walk, but usually they are directly spoken to me by a friend, acquaintance, or even a stranger. While writers speak to me constantly through the written word, the “big words” in my life are usually spoken or sometimes written by a person I know in real life. Unlike most daily conversations, these words don’t dissipate with time. Instead they have a way of settling in and taking up residence in my heart’s mind.

I’ve done a small series on here before entitled “Small Comforts,” in the past, and unintentionally, I’m calling this one “Big Words.” I thought that perhaps, even though these words weren’t directed at my readers, because they’ve remained with me for so long, they might become “Big Words” for others as well.

This week’s “Big Words” are just two small words and my most recent addition. I had randomly written a friend asking her advice on managing my home—cleaning and organization. She’s someone that I respect and seems in general to have a good handle on things. Looking back my message to her feels like someone spitting out sentences without taking any breaths, without punctuation. What I hear in what was meant to be a casual, friendly message is a tinge of the desperate: words like  “never enough, I’ve tried but I can’t, overwhelming.”

This lovely woman, in her gracious reply to my frenetic message, did give me some good ideas including hiring a cleaning lady if my finances allowed it! But before any of that advice, she wrote two simple words that became “Big Words” for me the past few weeks.

“Be gentle.”

Not be gentle with yourself. Just “be gentle.” I thought about the tone of my own message: the exasperation, the frustration, the clenching of fists even—that those words, “Be gentle” seemed to release. I exhaled reading them.

When Audrey was a baby and a toddler, I remember specifically teaching her gentleness. When she’d go to touch something excitedly, I would just say, “Gentle…” and instead of grabbing or shaking, she would gently run her hand over the object like she was petting a small animal and repeat in her baby voice, “gentle.”

The first word my friend wrote was just my name with an exclamation point, “Julia! Be gentle.” So maybe next time you’re feeling frenetic you can use this mantra beginning with your own name, this touchstone that unclenches hands and induces a slow exhale.

“Be gentle.”


5 thoughts on “Big Words”

  1. I needed this today. We have just returned home from two weeks vacation with daughter and family. I have frantically been trying to take care of and catch up with the mail, the bills, the extra daily newspapers to read, the laundry we left in the hamper and also brought home with us, unpacking and putting away all that was stuffed into our suitcases. And as if all this is not enough we have been on the go away from the house part of the last three days since arriving home four days ago. I am yelling stop I want to get off this crazy merry go round!

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