I have a dear friend who once said to me, "Stacey, you know a lot of words. There is no reason to use them all at the same time." It has become one of my favorite pokes at myself, gentle self-deprecation to let others know that I know that, perhaps, I have used a few too many words. Spoken or written, it doesn't matter. My personal motto continues to be "why use ten words when a hundred will do?"
You see, I am intent on helping everyone around me understand. I start with the short explanation. Stop midstream, paint the picture from a different angle. Then layer that with more commentary, circle back in some circuitous fashion to subtext A, meander along a twisty path to sub-subtext Q, offer up an alternative viewpoint that has since been laughingly disproved by all thinking peoples of the world, interrupt myself with a tangential aside, more to give depth to the explanation than to change the subject, though at this point, it really doesn't matter much, does it?
I used to laugh at my mother - lovingly, of course - when she gave directions: "You know that road we used to take, when we went to the mall?" "Yes." "Ok, go past that, and then go past the next street, the one with the Dairy Queen on the corner, remember, where you used to always get your cone dipped in that chocolate stuff, remember, like that topping we had that would harden as soon as it hit the ice cream? And then - wait - when are you going? At rush hour? Oh no - don't go that way. The traffic is horrible. Here's what you should do..."
She wanted to give me landmarks. She wanted to make sure I didn't get lost. She was trying to be helpful. I just wanted her to tell me when to take a left; apparently, I could only take a left after I'd traveled down memory lane for a mile or two and could label every nook and cranny and crack in the sidewalk along the way.
I will grudgingly admit that my apple hasn't fallen far from her tree. While I used to wail that I wanted to be in a whole new orchard, I'm (mostly) ok laying in the soft grass of those tangled roots. And any other time of the year, I would be content, having fallen there, to rest in the drowsy air amid the lazy drone of bees.
But this is Elul. No rest for the drowsy.
Of course I want to help you to understand. I want to help. I don't want you to get lost, literally or metaphorically. Thing is, there is a silent, invisible ending to the statement "I just want you to understand."
Me. Understand me.
I spend so much effort, use so many words, all in an effort to get you to understand me. I am so intent on making myself understood, I will barely hear you, as I busily plan and perfect my response to whatever it is that I think you are going to say. Listen, listen, listen, I demand. Hear me. Understand me. Do it like me.
I am Oz, the Great and Powerful. My ego - my helpful, eager-to-please, bigger than all outdoors ego - demands its just due. And like Oz, please, pay no attention to that woman behind the curtain.
And in this moment, understanding comes at last. One of the truest things I've ever heard: "It is better to understand than to be understood."
Talk less, listen more, see with my heart. Understanding will come, even to me.