Pardon me for pointing this out, but I can see your parapraxis.
I couldn’t help noticing. Long ago, I taught junior high English, and though I was more creativity nurturer than grammarian, my eyes naturally focus on spelling errors, homophone mistakes, and typos.
But lately, I have started to think of these word errors as accidental treasures, little slips of the keyboard that reveal far more about the writer’s thoughts than the word they may have intended.
A few months ago, I even started saving my favorite OS parapraxes. The first apt word slip I noted was from a writer explaining how her own inner voice is often the most critical one she hears. She speaks about her terrible “self depreciation.”
And I thought, yes, that’s exactly what self deprecation does – it depreciates your soul, makes you feel unwanted, of less value, an ugly, salmon-colored polyester shirt on a bent metal hanger stuffed into a clearance rack.
I copied and pasted the phrase “self depreciation” into a Word file and a little parapraxes collection was born. Here are a few of my favorite pieces.
Many OS writers speak about the uncertainty of finances… except that one gifted writer accidentally calls it the “uncertainly” of finances, which expresses to me exactly how this feels: one day, you blithely toss off a statement like, “I certainly will…” and the next day the earth shakes under your feet and that mean little prefix “un” sneaks in and snatches away your confidence and your “certainly.”
Another writer describes her confusion upon reading terrible news: “The words blurred, incompressible.” And does this word not define incomprehension? The words won’t compress; they swim around like huge, ugly fish, scales flashing, disrupting work and conversations and sleep.
When we’re afraid, the fear even affects our description of breathing. Recounting a long day of wondering whether his magazine job would be cut, one writer says he awaited the news with “baited breath.” And how often has this been your exact experience of anxiety, like your next breath might cause the shoe to drop, the axe to fall, like the very act of inhaling might reel in the catastrophe?
A lovely OS writer chronicles a job that many of us will be facing over the coming years – becoming a parent to our parents. She says – perhaps intentionally – that she has become her mother’s “soul caretaker.”
I thought of this writer’s phrase last month when I visited my own mother, who takes care of my grandmother, age 99. During my last visit, I tried to give mom a break and take over the nighttime dressing routine. My sweet grandmother did everything but slap my hands away. She kept calling for my mother, only she didn’t use her name; she called her “Rachel,” the name of a long-dead friend. But she knew who she wanted – my mother, and my mother only, could help her out of her clothes and into pajamas. Her hands fluttered and shook in terrible panic and anxiety until my mother came into the room and began helping her unbutton her shirt. My mother is my grandmother’s “soul caretaker” indeed.
Many of us on OS chronicle the joys and heartaches of raising children. One of my favorite writers describes having to stand back and watch your children endure hurt, saying, “These are the things in life that plaque the mind.” And as a worried mom, I can tell you that my children’s hurts definitely plaque my mind, squeezing out sense and intelligence and reason. Nothing “plaques” like powerlessness, watching from the pier as your child flounders in the current, knowing you can’t jump in there and save them, you really can’t; they have to learn to swim on their own.
Parapraxes, or Freudian slips: often they reveal depths of anxiety or sadness, but sometimes they reveal a sense of hope. One writer, having struggled through a time of stress, describes falling in love again with her hometown. She says that although shadows linger, she sees “that bright light of hope just peaking out.” Beautiful pictures accompany her essay, and I send a good thought that her hope is not merely peeking, but, as she said, “peaking” – a sun full in the sky, blazing good feelings and warming everything in her world.
And if hope is not peaking in your world, hold on with me to this one last, beautiful slip of the keyboard:
“A journey isn’t complete until you reach your designation.”