Unspoken Words

We hear what is said, but do we listen to what is said?  Are words necessary to listen? When you are listening, are you listening to what is being said or the words that go unspoken?  

Suddenly I understand, on a moonlit night, after a long, emotional, and tiring day, that within me are these unspoken words that I do not know how to express and cannot describe; yet, they have the deepest significance.  I do not need for anyone to listen, because they cannot hear these words.  And, while I may not understand why I feel the way that I do and why I am the way that I am, these unspoken words that exist outside of the realm of language   There are times when I feel like the unspoken words that resonate within me are the aspects of my being that define me so precisely, yet no one has ever heard these words.  What is more, I wonder if how I define myself can be formulated into some structure that is not only precise, but accurate.  Then I think, if these words that define me were ever verbalized, would they establish all that I am and all that I am meant to be? Would these words forever represent only me, nothing more, nothing less? Consequently, my existence would be reduced to words. 

Does a grandmother still speak the unspoken words of love to her grandchildren even though she cannot physically verbalize the words as a result of a paralyzing and debilitating stroke?  Just because she cannot share advice, wisdom, and knowledge with her grandchildren, her words of love are demonstrated through a hand squeeze, or when she closes her eyes when you kiss her cheek, or when you see that tear of joy escape from her loving eyes.  The beautiful eyes that have watched you grow from an infant to the woman you are today.  The words within her soul soar to you through her spirit, and her love, and her legacy.  It is easy to forget her words if you are deafened by her frail condition, the hard work and personal sacrifices that are necessary for her care, and when it comes down to it, the lack of her actual verbalized words.  But, if you listen carefully, the words of her soul are the loudest and most pronounced of them all, as long as you listen and see the unspoken words.

And what of the doctor? The doctor is reminded daily of his obligation to confidentiality.  He has the ability and talent to formulate the words that relate symptoms to illnesses, patients to healing, medicine to diseases, yet so many times, he must repress all of this knowledge for the protection and safety of patients, their families, and even himself.   Amidst the brilliant minds of doctors, how many original, creative, never-before-thought-of thoughts must occur on a daily basis within the minds of doctors that go unspoken due to their vocational responsibilities?  The amount of information that must be withheld, even from their spouses, is probably not imaginable for those of us who do not live the life of a doctor.  Verbalizing thoughts and sharing feelings are therapeutic acts that allow people to cope with challenging situations in life.  

I hold within me, my unspoken words—some to be shared some day, others have their permanent residence within my mind, my heart, my soul.  I have seen the transfer of the inaudible words of love from heart of my grandmother to the depths of my own heart.  Those words signified a piece of her love to reside within me forever.  Then, I imagine, can I be the doctor who has the unspoken words perfectly aligned and categorized within my mind, yet be restricted with the inability to tell a soul of what I know?  Can I express my compassion and understanding through unspoken words? Can I rationalize within my mind that though the words that I may have in my mind cannot be spoken, they exist nonetheless, and that is why I choose to hold back so many words, because the actuality of the art of healing and care for others wins out over unspoken words? Maybe someday those unspoken words of the doctor will be my next set of unspoken words?

Lee Goatley

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About Lee

I am a collegian who is in the process of deciding whether or not to pursue a career in the medical field. Because of the enormity of this pending decision I am going to utilize this blog as a medium for reflection and rationalization. I will combine two of my passions, literature and science into a blog. The content of this blog will be stimulated by medical literature that has been written throughout the ages.
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One Response to Unspoken Words

  1. Maureen Tuthill says:

    Maybe those unspoken words are what truly create healing. The quality of their unspokenness suggests that something ineffable does exist–knowledge, understanding, compassion. I believe that people can feel these things from others even when they are not spoken. We have talked quite a bit about communication, language, and expression in our class, but there is something else that happens between two human beings that can’t exactly be defined. I think it is simply presence that we need–the ability to be there for someone or for someone to be there for us.

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