When I was 14, I was in love with Heath Pozorski. He was tall, goofy, wore Cool Water cologne and had a bowl cut that rivaled any 90's teen heart-throb.
One day during 5th period lunch we were seated across from eachother at the lunch table. I remember every detail of that moment: flicking errant peas around the table after the trays had been cleared, the rabid butterflies that were multiplying in my stomach, the deep breath I took to conjure my gumption, the words "Will you be my boyfriend?" that dropped in front of me, and the specific way his nose wrinkled as he said "No."
I died a hundred tiny deaths of shame between "No" and the sound of the recess bell.
This was the first time I felt the gravity that is characteristic to "The Things I Said and Can't Take Back."
I was crushed, broken open, and tied into knots of embarrassment.
Until I wasn't anymore.
I went through puberty. Learned to drive. Graduated High School. No fatal scarring, though I wouldn't have believed that at the time. In retrospect I want to give my little self a high-five for her moxie. She meant it and she said it-- even if the repercussions hurt. The Things I Said at the lunch table only served to make me bolder. If I lived through that...
Two decades later, the list of Things I Can't Take Back resembles a tiny library. There are things that we say and things that we do that are irrevocable. This comes with the territory of living. They change things. Break things.
Sometimes open and sometimes apart.
In it's finest form, it's Wisdom form, these moments have taught me to be skillful in my speech. Like everything else, there's a practice for that:
Do they need to hear it?
Do they need to hear it now?
Do they need to hear it from me?
Am I sharing from the truth of my experience?
If all of these questions check out, then I'm cleared to say that really tough thing. It might be embarrassing, vulnerable, gnarly and uncomfortable, and I might not enjoy the result, but I know for certain I'll be able to stand by my words, and respect myself more for saying them.
This is when The Things We Say and Can't Take Back have the power to break things open. Courage, tenderness, and perhaps even a window overlooking a less toxic path ahead. These are the moments I look back and high-five myself for.
And then there are those that I don't.
In it's Neurotic form, the Things I Can't Take Back have taught me to censor, to stay silent.
The shitty job I swallowed for too long, until "I quit!" in a surge of indignation, followed by the cold remorse of no backup up plan. The insults I've spit at those who've loved me as a way of pushing them back. Confessions of cheating that came too late and with half hearted truths attached. Lies I've told that can't be resealed. Admissions of "I don't love you anymore and here are the hurtful reasons why."
It's often when I'm embarrassed to share, not ready to deal with the fallout, or even trust that I can. Remember what happened when Pandora opened the box? Hazzari. Destruction. Irrevocable damage. Just keep the status cool.
Eventually, though, my geyser blows, and the drill is always the same.
Hidden emotions and opinions are bloated, exaggerated, sharp, and when they're released they break things apart. Everything repressed becomes shrapnel.
These are the Things that hurt and haunt. Despite their bases in truth.
I'm having one of those moments now which is why this distinction is fresh on my mind. And not the skillful "broken open" kind.
A day after the fallout, it seems that the Things I Said only cracked the container--words can't go back in their box, afterall--but it could have very well broken it apart. An uncomfortably close reminder to pay attention to my speech. Artfully spoken honesty is an investment that never fails.