5. The Time You Said the Totally Wrong Thing

Your best friend walked down the aisle with a rage-prone, ignorant dippo wearing flip-flops and a Hooters T-shirt...and you said, "Good luck!" Your mom adjusted her cancer wig...and you said, "Think of it like a hat. A hairy hat." Your friend lost her dog, your husband lost his job, your son developed an allergy to wheat, eggs, fruit, milk and chicken...and you said, "It will be all right." All these exchanges have one thing in common: You lay in bed at night afterward, sick with the knowledge that you expressed the last thing on earth that the people who count on you needed to hear. There is no glory in this, but there is valor—and not because you will somehow discover the right words to say later. There are no right words in some situations, and for many of us, moving our mouths into the shape of our thoughts will remain forever impossible. By failing to say the right thing, however, we're forced to rely on other ways of talking: baking the casserole, giving the bath, holding the tissue or picking up the medicine. We are fluent in so many languages, including the one that lets us do the right thing.

Find the author at or @leighnew on Twitter.

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