Have you ever noticed how you can look back over your life and see some people or events as commas, dashes, dot dot dots or semicolons and still others as periods, question marks or exclamation points? When you read, it’s so easy to know which phrase you are perusing because at the end of each phrase you immediately get feedback in the form of comma, dash, dot dot dot, semicolon, period, question mark or exclamation. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we immediately knew which version of punctuation we were dealing with when we interact with people or experience life events? If we could only recognize them for their punctuation, it would be so much easier to have a perfectly balanced reaction to the situation.
I rarely care for grammar (unless my paycheck is banking on it). I know the rules. I just enjoy writing with a bit more grit than rule conformity would permit. Commas separate pieces that fit together, and can’t stand independently. Dashes are a melodramatic symbol indicating a continuation (far less formal that your colon… I don’t really care for colons in my life). Dot dot dots are continuations too, and the tones carry forward almost infinitely. A semicolon is the symbol of a continuation that strings together seamlessly a before thought and an after thought which clearly should be coupled. Periods indicate wholeness. Question marks, however, linger with uncertainty despite its finality. And, exclamation marks infuse energy, commonly joy. See, I know. I just stew in the icky thought of conformity at times.
Retrospection makes people punctuation so easy. It’s feels unfair that sentences can just end and immediately know their value. I’ve got a best friend and godson who are undoubtably exclamation points, a college roommate who was a wry little question mark, a high school boyfriend who was merely a comma… But, all that took years of perspective to know which one they were to me.
And still yet, punctuation can apply to life events too. I once heard the story of a great writer on his deathbed. The night before he passed, he woke and told his wife of this persistent dream of a semicolon glowing in the forefront of his mind’s eye. How lovely. This writer knew in the moments before his death that he was about to string together his before and after seamlessly. What peace it must have brought him to know which punctuation he was dealing with in this moment. Had he the wisdom of his punctuations his whole life, or did he just figure them out towards the end of his life?
I’ve been struggling a lot in the last few weeks with deciding who and what has been a comma, dash, dot dot dot, semicolon, period, question mark or exclamation in my life. At times, I felt so certain that I had an exclamation point, only to be left with a question mark (and a frowny face too). At other times, I was so caught up in myself that I felt certain I had arrived at a period, but it was merely a comma. I know that none of the punctuations are bad, only indications of how things feel and connect. Yet somehow, I still yearn for the wisdom to understand who was which.
So I guess, going forward, I can only hope to become more aware as I interact with people or experience life events… Am I dealing with a comma, dash, dot dot dot, semicolon, period, question mark or exclamation point? Or, perhaps, you could make it simple and tell me. Do you hope to be a comma, dash, dot dot dot, semicolon, period, question mark or exclamation point?