I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again and again and again: Words matter.
This was made as clear as a jellyfish the other day when I was listening to a song that Kyle recently downloaded to our shared iPod - and it stung just about as much, BTW.
"What - in the name of all that is holy - are you listening to?" I stammered after hearing the disturbing lyrics to the current Top 10 hit "Pumped Up Kicks" about a young boy who goes berserk and starts gunning down classmates in expensive garb.
"Omigosh, Mom, it's no big deal," came my son's nonchalant response, one that I'm certain I shot at my parents some 30 years ago in defense of songs written by rock bands as AC/DC, Guns N' Roses and Metallica.
Au contraire, mon frere.
Because, despite the toe-tappy-ness of a song, its lyrics are significant. And, if you're not careful, the refrain from some deeply unbalanced tune could be bouncing around your noggin for days. Kind of a big deal.
But it isn't just songs; it's all words - even those we sprinkle (or rat-a-tat-tat off) into personal conversations. What I mean to say is that our words to one another can pack quite a punch - or a hug.
For example, just this week at my day job, I was waxing benevolent, as many who know me will attest is my modus operandi.
Yep - guilty as charged: I'm usually a pretty happy camper. In fact, my stock reply whenever asked how I'm doing is "super fine."
Am I always happy? Am I really super fine? Hmm. My son and husband will tell you, "Aw, heck no!"
Sometimes I'm grumpy; sometimes I'm mopey; sometimes I'm all "poor Patty," and there are even those days when I give Susan Lucci a run for her money as an over-actor - better make that "over-reactor."
But I do try to be chipper and upbeat as a rule. I'm even a morning person - which generally irritates the innards out of my sister, who is pretty much not a morning person.
So, back to my day job dealio. I'm in this meeting, OK, and a coworker of mine makes a remark that can only be described as deeply negative.
My reply? I guess a little too sugary for his taste.
"Well, I think that we each offer different strengths so perhaps there's a way we can all work together in a more positive manner?" I said in a friendly timbre that was obviously falling on tone-deaf ears.
The gentleman in question shot me a look - through an M-16. He followed up his nonverbal nuke with an audio assault.
"Yeah, listen, your whole 'Pollyanna' deal is wearing very thin on me. You need to give it a rest," he snarled, as if to infer he wished it was eternal.
Gulp. His words got me to thinking about my own: Was my optimism offensive? And, just as I pondered the potential poison of my peppy prose, another colleague flagged me down.
"Hey, Patty, I was just talking about you!" said my pal Mary. Uh oh. Now what woe had my words wrought? thought I.
"I used you as an example of how to act in the workplace because you're always so encouraging, and it's just such a breath of fresh air."
"Whew! Thank goodness, because Captain Crankypants over there wants me to get my mean on " I thought, though I merely said, "Thanks so much!"
Reminds me of the cousin of a friend of mine, a Warren native who is another jovial gal whose brain power snagged a career so successful that it has landed her an impressive job overseas. Anyway, she (the cousin) was actually fired from her first job out of college for - are you ready for this? - humming at work.
True story. It happened several years ago at the Honda plant in Marysville. Talk about the old yo-yo heave-ho!
And, as I flipped the radio on yesterday morning just in time to hear the ending of that horrid song, a favorite, uplifting tune ("To Be With You" by Mr. Big) was beginning. That's when it hit me: We can't control the words of others, only how we let them impact us and how we use our own.
To quote Mr. Big: "Build up your confidence so you can be on top for once. Wake up! Who cares about little boys that talk too much?"
Hateful song? Change the station. Nasty comment? Smile broader. Don't let someone else's opinion of you change your own.
As for me, I prefer to catch my flies with honey, thanks.
Happy Sunday, all!
Kimerer is a Tribune Chronicle columnist. Contact her with kind words at firstname.lastname@example.org.