The Power of Words


mama is always right

January 2010 

Words have been paramount in my life, I wanted to share with you this short story I wrote in January of 2010, almost 9 years ago and the core of the message still resonates with me.  I hope you get something that can help you from it. Love, Pili.

I’ve been looking at the ceiling a lot lately. The truth is that words have not danced across my mind’s stage as they used to.  They say you’re only as young as you feel and on my way back home from a fabulous Christmas vacation, I suddenly came down with the chicken pox. It made its masterful appearance on the flight from Houston to Washington, forcing me to unpack at the hospital instead of in Chinatown. I got to the emergency room shaking, with a fever over 104 and little invaders all over my small and very scared body. I didn’t know what was happening inside me – maybe food poisoning, divine punishment, fallout from my massage rituals to watch my figure? Really, only God or the Devil knew what was happening to me. As a good Catholic and niece of priests, I ran a mental list of my actions. Oh God, maybe I did something bad and the people upstairs are sending me a sign? So, then the second doctor and third nurse come in the room and chime in unison: it’s chicken pox. After two hours sitting down and shaking in my frigid room they tell me I’m high risk, explaining that, because of my age, the fever and symptoms, it was a virus worthy of the full workup and isolation from the world, due to the high level of contagiousness. That’s how I started my 2010 in Washington, DC, on a battlefield, with grenades, bullets, machine guns, and canons inside my body for almost 14 days. During those weeks, I had this lingering, agonizing thought that emerged from the deepest folds of my fears and uncertainty. Maybe I’ll wake up one of these days without a headache and see myself a little luckier. Maybe one day I’ll get back to writing? And what if this virus takes over my brain and blocks any creative mental activity? What would I do then? What if I don’t get better, my personal universe lives and has lived in the hundreds of mental links that create assumptions and procreate syllogisms and reach halfway accurate conclusions, the same ones that have granted me a livelihood my entire adult life, letting me bring a bit of light to many people in tumultuous times. What would my life be like if this virus left me brainless and I quit having those moments in which that supreme being of mental and emotional eloquence appears, allowing me to subsist in this world? Preceding this string of thought, my clinical treatment was unique, since the pain was so extreme that the Anglo doctor prescribed codeine every four hours, on top of the other two medications whose side effects were sending me to the moon in a catatonic state all day long.

Aside from the incredible impact that this invasion of aggressive and none-to-sweet (non-thinking) entities were having on my body, these symptoms had me living in a rather strange place the last few days, and not exactly the worlds visited by the Little Prince. This was the first time in my life I had lived in the world of (legal) drugs. But this recurring and quite frankly depressing thought of uncertainty about whether my cognitive activity would be affected by this dreadful journey through the world of peyote, took a radical change when I talked to my mom this morning. Today, I woke up truly exhausted and my superhero cape drooping, on top of the fatigue wrought by the pilgrimage of those horrific foreigners riddling my body that seemingly had no return ticket to their point of origin, and then with the forced quarantine, I woke up like a wet towel on the floor. So, like any self-respecting superhero, I always have an ace up my sleeve even when wearing the “Precious Moments Figurine’s eyes” (if you don’t know these figurines google them and you will get the idea).  and a broken voice: My Momma. When she heard me so defeated just like she had done so many times when I was little, she used the power of her words to give me back my wings. “You should be so proud,” she told me, “you’re a brave girl, so brave, a fighter. You need to realize that you did everything by yourself, being sick, the complications, the hospital, taxis, medications, everything.”

It was as if Queen Elizabeth II had named me “Knight Bachelor” for my service to my own recovery with all its own idiosyncrasies. My soul came back into my body and wing onto my back. It’s not that I was just wasting the blind faith and cheering that my best friend and Superhero Mr. Green had in the Street Fighter Birdie aka me. Just that sometimes warriors get chicken pox and it’s at those times that words are the best medicine. So instead of fighting against the ruffians living on the outskirts, the miscreants are within and weaken us more than anything else.

This entire epic story has a single end, that of talking a little about the power of words. The immense power they have to resonate in our behavior. I have always had a staunch respect for what is said, partly because of my parents and the way they programmed us, the chromosomes of memory of hundreds of moments in which we discuss one word or another and say and keep saying without hesitation – let’s see what the dictionary says – undoubtedly etymology has been a permanent fixture in our family. Since I can remember, there were pow-wows at home to talk about philosophy, history, poetry, astrology, prose, verses, songs. My mom’s intellectual sisters talking to us since we were of an age of reason about Marcus Aurelius, The Golden Key, and all the possible words in Bable (Asturian dialect) that they could program into our brains. The hundreds of afternoons with my sister and brother, Menchu and Ruben, laying down in the living room listening to song after song with complicated lyrics, and we were captivated at our 3, 7, and 11 years of age singing as if we had written the songs ourselves. My dad, with his photographic memory, reciting word-for-word some extract from one of his favorite books that had impacted him his whole life. And finally the most transcendental and transformational words of all…words of love, support, safety, trust, encouragement from my parents, each in their own way.

My mom is a genius in childrearing – never a scream, not even the slightest smack or slap. Her method was reflection and motivation; support and challenge, constant exercises and days of mindfulness to tell us that we could do anything and overcome anything in this world, despite the small slipups, despite sore throats with high fevers, despite our own stubbornness to learning something. With her words, she showed us how to keep going, to be empathetic, reflective, to know that there was something bigger than ourselves, in which we could survive and excel. Words that resonated in our hearts, the constant act of telling us that you can, that you’re smart, you can persevere, you’re a champ, you can do it. She brilliantly told us that we could overcome, and at the end of the day, I’m here for you, always and forever, and I can rescue you if things aren’t going well she continues to tell us at defiant times “You can always come back”. The power of her words meant we could grow knowing that we could conquer the world, and I think that the three of us, in our own way, are still trying to conquer our worlds. I think she also had a great teammate: my dad. He always pushed us to the next step, always looking ahead. His words were transcendental. He told us we had great responsibility in the world, that’s why they gave you that brain, go and if you’re afraid, hold out and suck it up, he’d give us a kick and our official cheerleader (my mom) would look on with a little consternation of his raw methodology.  My dad would always tell us to go further. Tomorrow is today. Tomorrow is the cave of the slothful, movement is shown by walking, tomorrow is an uncertain day. Down the street of “I’m on my way” you get to the “House of Never.” The badge: drink all you can drink, walk all you can walk. You have to have a plan, a project. Set out critical routes. You have to evaluate it all. Immediacy is a failure. If you don’t have a plan, make one. You have to be like the bowman of the sky, who shot arrows at the stars and his arrows went the farthest. Turn obstacles into stairs. You have to be like the laser beam – don’t waste the light. You have to focus all the light on a single point, that’s how the laser works. And of course, his eternal romanticism. And his eloquence in describing his great love for my mom.

And on top of this is my total passion for the study of language and my great love affair with semiotics and semiology, thanks to the great Pispiri, another character that impacted my existence with words and teachings. So we have some pretty obvious background as to the emergence of a great aficionado and collector of sayings. An alchemist who believes in the magic of words, but most of all what can be created when you try to use them at the right time and in the right way, the brilliance of using this artifice created by regular humans to do extraordinary things.

Language guides our thoughts in specific directions and, to a certain extent, helps us create our reality, either empowering or limiting our possibilities. The ability to use language accurately is essential for good communication, especially to incite and support the genius of any man or woman. Next week I will share with you a cheat sheet I have made so that I am reminded not only of the Power of Words but also that The Universe is listening to us.  Awareness on the way we express ourselves is a must when we are working toward manifesting wonderful things for our lives.