Once upon a time, I had a reputation for having a rather loose mouth. I worked in a male-dominated, construction-related field where everyone kind of had a loose mouth. Of course this is no excuse. I was known to throw an F bomb just as fast as the next guy. However, let me clarify that I was never one of those angry people who would curse at someone or make a scene in public. My cursing was usually just to vent some frustration or as a joke to get a laugh.
In 2008, my daughter pointed out that cursing really wasn’t funny (or smart) and she challenged me to stop cursing. She said, “We need to suck the violence out of your vocabulary.” (That’s a great line. Don’t steal it because I am using it in a screenplay one day. More on that later. ) She highlighted one word, since I really didn’t curse with the exception of one word I used to vent frustration. You know the word. It rhymes with ‘duck’ but starts with an anger-releasing Fffffffff and ends with a definitive CK! Just saying it feels so satisfactory, kind of like how Mark Twain’s character Tom Sawyer curses over Aunt Polly’s rules.
So as a New Year’s resolution in January 2009, I challenged myself, under pain of Cameron, to clean up my language. We had what we called a “duck jar.” Starts with D and rhymes with something I can’t say. Every time I slipped and said the ‘duck’ word, a dollar went into the jar. At the end of the year we were going to use the money from my slips to go to dinner, or something. I joked that we would have enough to go on a ‘ducking’ cruise (OK, we live in Florida and have very inexpensive cruises!) To make me honest, I was forced to tell those around me the rules. This included my closest associates at work. Trust me. They enjoyed keeping me honest!
It was extremely difficult at first. I would slip up and notice it (or have it pointed out to me!) immediately. I was super conscious about it. I realized I had to improve my descriptive vocabulary! Cameron was right. Cursing was a lazy man’s lack of vocabulary skills! Soon, I could see the word in my mind and stop myself from saying it. It made me speak slower as I grasped other adjectives…or nouns, as the case may be.
By the end of 2009, my language was cleaned up. However, I still suffer some of the reputation of being able to sling words like the guys on my construction projects. I’m not proud of that. And, people I have known for many years forget that I no longer curse and have not since January 2009. But people I meet now know that I don’t swear. Good thing, too, because I no longer work in construction, where it is “acceptable.”
I have been in the middle of construction jobsite fights where a contractor, red-faced screaming and cursing with spittle flying out of his mouth, harangued me to get at my client. On that jobsite fight occasion, I calmed the situation with jokes (about having CPR certification!). For many of us who curse, we know it’s just a way of venting frustration. However, it is simply not taken that way. In the face of misunderstanding, it’s better not to curse.
In my defense, I never cursed or verbally attacked a person. I am not an aggressive, confrontational person. I think I cursed as a way to get a rise out of people, particularly as a female working in a male dominated and rugged field. Perhaps when I was young, much like teenagers act out, I realized cursing was the one thing that could get a rise out of my mom (since I was pretty much a perfect child. Ask my mom! I swear it’s true!) I was usually joking, but as my daughter Cameron pointed out (So smart! Score Momma!), it was NOT cool.
Cursing gets attention, but not the kind of attention you want. Trust me. Now, when I hear someone curse, I cringe. I agree with my daughter. It IS violent sounding, even if it’s not directed at a person. If you follow Dr. Wayne Dyer, perhaps you will recall his expositions regarding the sinking energy effect of violent, foul language. Something to think about. Very rarely do I let F bombs fly and when I do I’m extremely conscious of it. I’m also aware that something is frustrating me which leads me mindfulness practices. I practice mindfulness and meditation now to improve focus and clarity and I recommend it to everybody.
So I challenge you put that duck jar next your coffee machine, tell everyone what your challenge is, and see how you do. I swear (pun intended), the duck jar works!
By the way, my daughter and I celebrated by going on a cruise in February 2010. The memories of Belize, Roatan and Mexico will forever replace the pain of the duck jar.
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