Something Good This Way Comes

by Tom Swift

Expression is one of my current core values.

For reasons I won’t go into now, expression has not always come easily for me.

Also for reasons I won’t go into now, writing about expression is not coming easily for me at present, either. That is why they invented bullet points — to create the illusion of clarity when the matter at hand is a mishmash.

  • I have not always counted writing as expression. But certainly it is a form of expression. And it happens to be my primary one.
  • Expression, as per Merriam-Webster: “an act, process, or instance of representing in a medium (such as words).” That is one definition. Of course, there are others. For example, as we all know, an expression is also the way in which a person might contort his or her face upon, say, receiving some surprising news. For my purposes, I mean to explore expression as a mode by which a person offers a part of himself or herself to the world.
  • Expression is an act of vulnerability. To express is to risk — criticism, rejection, indifference.
  • Because expression is an act of vulnerability it is often the case that people — I know this well from personal experience — often either stay silent altogether or share only safe, agreeable aspects of themselves.
  • To not express is also risky — to keep important matters from the world or people you react to is to potentially bottle up the psyche. It also denies the world the benefit of receiving valuable parts of you.
  • While I aim to celebrate expression here — this post is spurred by the realization that I express myself more freely today than ever and that good things come (usually) when I do — I also must say I cringe at the way in which we are all now, in this age of social media, when Madonna assuredly no longer needs to tell us to “express ourselves,” press agents for our own lives. Here is a photo of my dinner. Can you believe what that cat just did? So just as every thought that passes through our minds is not worth sharing, just as it’s appropriate to share certain thoughts and feelings at certain times or in certain environments but not others, expression is partly about making good decisions. If everything is expressed than expression is no longer expression; it is noise.
  • Maybe — certainly — some posts to this blog are no more useful than what is found in the torrent of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Forgive me. I try!
  • Confidence — or lack-thereof — is intertwined with expression. You have to believe what you want to say is worth saying.
  • It’s a two-way street when it comes to confidence. You have to have it to speak, and you build it hen you speak.
  • The compound interest of daily writing … I am sure the emotional-intellectual-psychological effects are not the same for people with different orientations to the world than my own, but it’s such a boost to the mind and spirit I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do it.
  • Usually when I have nothing useful or inspired to say it’s because I have not been filling myself with with useful or inspiring art or information.
  • Sometimes, when I sit in a room and listen to people talk in nuanced tones, injecting humor or provocative questions, revealing learning and experience and hope and fears, I think to myself: “what a miracle.” What we have evolved to, I mean. That we went from grunts and chest thumps to Aaron Sorkin-authored soliloquies. The wonder isn’t that communication breaks down between people; it’s that it doesn’t breakdown every minute of every day.
  • I believe in the power of expression. You can change yourself by the mode and volume of your words. I don’t just mean over time or on momentous occasions. One short conversation can do it. You feel tight; you stay close to the vest, then the right person at the right time (friend, colleague, stranger) comes along, you open up your heart by opening up your vocal chords — or by taking out a pen or logging into your blog — and, in even just a few words, your whole countenance can change.
  • If we as humans are social creatures than it seems that what we express to each other is so important that it would be impossible to overstate how much.
  • I highly appreciate free expression in others. Vulnerability. Authenticity. Honesty. Boldness. These are some of my favorite things. (Maybe because they are not always easy. Certainly they have not always been easy for me.) I don’t do as well with frivolity. Or frivolousness.
  • I woke up early the morning after the 2016 election. I had not stayed up to see the final results. I simply did not think it possible this country would elect a man who had bragged on tape about regularly grabbing strange women by the genitals. I recall a body-blow sort of feeling while standing in my bathroom for the morning pee. Never again, I thought — this is what came up as I was letting out — never again should we play it safe, saying only palatable things to appeal to all (which is usually an appeal to none). That is what my body registered that day and the memory of that feeling remains strong: expression matters. To remain quiet is akin to a crime. Say it. Say it even if you don’t know what the world will do with it.