“A man’s character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.” (Mark Twain)
There’s nothing that reveals character like the unexpected life. And if we’re judging things by the adjectives I’ve learned to use, I’d say the unexpected life revealed some flaws I hadn’t known were there.
It has always been a joke in my family that I can’t cuss.
It’s not that I haven’t known the proper words to use. My amazing Nana had the MOST colorful way of expressing herself for most of my life. And both of my parents occasionally “slipped” when addressing frustrations (usually in relation to my brothers! haha) and taught them to me unintentionally. It’s mostly that I just was never comfortable using those expressions. And it was so out of character for me to express myself that way, it never worked when I tried. I simply wasn’t good at it.
Early in my first marriage, I cussed at my former husband–to make a point, of course. He stopped as soon as I said the word, and laughed! He shook his head, told me not to do that any more, that it just wasn’t me and it didn’t work for me. He laughed about it the rest of our marriage.
Then 2005 arrived. It was a challenging year. My oldest was in 7th grade and experimenting with a new appearance, growing his hair longer and dressing like a skater–in the style of Elmo, I mean Emo (sorry to all of the Emo people out there!) and acting a little careless to match his hairstyle. At the same time, my last child was born. I experienced some complications and spent a couple of months in and out of the hospital and the year following his birth continuing to heal and recover. On top of that, my baby had health/sensory challenges of his own and cried almost constantly the first two years of his life. And my mom died. (All of the above took place as my oldest attempted to “find” himself at 12 1/2 years old.)
One day, I lost it and cussed at my oldest son. I remember where I was standing when I did it–his bedroom. He stopped as soon as I said the word, and laughed! He shook his head and told me I shouldn’t attempt that any more, that I was terrible at cussing, and has teased me about it ever since.
Enter the unexpected life. Although I was almost perfectly kind and polite to the former husband who became a stranger in one fateful moment March 18, 2009, I remember an occasion in which I used an inappropriate adjective several times when addressing some issues I had with him and what he had done. (In my defense, it was absolutely mild and merciful compared to what I was thinking and feeling at the time!) And then one morning not too long ago, things that had been building inside me for awhile came to a head and I used an inappropriate adjective in speaking to my oldest again. Sadly, no one laughed. Because the word worked.
I felt bad about that all day long. Is that what my unexpected life had come to and created in me–an ability to demonstrate my “poverty of thought?” (That’s how I’d viewed cussing up until that time.) I even called a friend and confessed my language challenge to her. She knew just what to say. She good-naturedly told me not to worry about it; that I had used a word that is a location, so it didn’t count as cussing! THAT sure gave me a good laugh on a day that I needed one.
So although the unexpected life I hope has revealed positive attributes (my ability to endure, forgive, remain honest, work hard, look at the bright side and choose happiness despite it all) it has revealed a character flaw, or two, as well. Darn it.
And oh, well. Because although I’ve already revealed my ignorance about diamonds in previous ring shopping posts, I still say, as did Confucius, “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” Consider me flawed, yet with the potential to dazzle as I overcome my challenges.
I believe there is hope for me and every other diamond-in-the-rough out there yet. It’s called life, and its attendant adversity–guaranteed to refine us and make us what we need to be; to help us be better than we would otherwise have been, as long as we choose to let it.
“Adversity is the diamond dust Heaven polishes its jewels with.” (Thomas Carlyle)
If we just keep going, making the most of our challenges, I guarantee we’ll be dazzling someday.
Thanks to the unexpected life.