Con·no·ta·tion: noun:  plural noun: connotations
      an idea or feeling that a word invokes in addition to its literal or primary meaning.
     “the word “discipline” has unhappy connotations of punishment and repression

I learned about meaning and connotation in Mrs. Forlano’s 6th grade class. Connotation is more a force in my reactions and understanding than meaning. Words are more than just ‘words’ to me and I’ve wanted to talk about this for a long time and yesterday’s post give me the perfect excuse.

When we talked yesterday about the word ‘content’ I said it carried a negative meaning for me. Connotation. So much so that I couldn’t state it’s literal meaning. So much so that it has no literal meaning for me – only it’s connotation.

Sharla saw the word and thought not of a literal meaning but defined ‘content’ by what she feels, and mentally sees, when she hears/reads the word. Connotation.

Connotation, or a form of it, applies to names – and this always amuses me. How often have you said to someone “But you don’t look like a Seymour”. Honestly how does a Seymour look? You hear/see the name and an image pops into your mind. If it is a pleasant image then you are amenable to the person carrying the name. If it is an unpleasant image you have a negative reaction. You’ve already made judgements about a person based on their name alone.

I can get freaky weird about names. There are names I simply cannot get out of my mouth I dislike them so much. Like the name “Ronald” – I can not say that name. And Ron doesn’t come all that easily. I have no idea why. I don’t recall having known any Rons growing up but I do know one thing that annoys me about this name – Italians named Ronald – NOT an Italian name by my lights. And yet I know of a lot of Italian Rons. What the heck?

Oh wait – how about ‘Anthony’. In my head I hear that as ‘Ant-a-knee’. Oh yes I do. Sometimes I hear a woman’s high pitched voice shouting ‘Ant-ahh-kneeeeee’. Yup, you want to stretch out that last syllable as long as you can. I also see this same woman hanging out a third floor window while shouting; I see that unfortunate fellow in 8th grade – overweight, greasy hair, terminal acne.  The name Anthony either makes me laugh or cringe.

Grateful, gratitude, thankful, thankfulness – these words have no literal meaning for me – just connotation. I hear/see these words and I grit my teeth and clench my jaw. They mean submission, subjugation. These words mean I am ‘less than’.  I get a picture of being forced to my knees. I bend my knee for no one and nothing. Powerful reaction, yes?

So – words have literal meaning and personal connotation. And it is the personal connotation that makes words the most powerful force in the Universe.

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Compromise and contentment

When I was a world and life weary 55 year old, a friend who had know me since I was an annoying, idealistic, high-minded 23 year old, said “So you finally learned to compromise – just like the rest of us.”  A depressing realization.  Compromising, practical and pragmatic were not traits I had ever aspired to.

I am okay with practical and pragmatic – I don’t have the time or energy for doing things the hard way; no patience for ifs, ands, buts, excuses, or woulda, coulda, shoulda. Suck it up and shut up or do something about it.  Oh wait, you say I am guilty of all of these things? Yes, I’m only human after all. I try to get passed it as quickly as possible and move on to ‘do something about it’.

That is where the dreaded compromise comes in. Doing something about it. The doing is not always easy, or even possible so you have to compromise and be content. I’m not talking about high-flying notions here, I can’t save the world and I wouldn’t even try.

I hate ‘content’ – it carries such a negative meaning for me.  To be content is to be satisfied with less. It’s okay; It’ll do. Maybe. So the cake is a little lopsided it still tastes good. I’ll give you that one but next time? Perhaps a little more effort and a not so lopsided cake?

What about what you really want – in a practical sort of way. I’m not talking about ridiculous airy-fairy (I want to be a singer in a rock ‘n roll band) – I’m talking about doable if you put in the effort as opposed to not a snowball’s chance in hell (I want to be a singer in a rock ‘n roll band).

I’ve learned to compromise, choosing the best of all the practical, possible possibilities but I will not be content with it. Contentment means defeat to me. It means I have stopped trying; stopped dreaming practical dreams. Yes there are practical dreams, the ones that with time and effort are achievable.  Or you can just be content with who you are and what you have. Yes, know your real limitations but don’t give up on your potential; what you can be, what you can have.

“Grace, why do you always want more and better, can’t you be content with what is?” I am asked. And no, I can’t. Not with everything.  I do not want to die content. I want to die still trying to achieve some practical dream. Still plotting and planning and working towards better and more.

To be and do to the very best of your abilities and be good with that – maybe that is a form of contentment – and that kind of contentment I probably could be okay with…but if there is any chance of more and better – then I want it.

I refuse to stop bouncing in my seat. I refuse to stop getting hot under the collar. I refuse to say it’ll do, when I can do better. 

While I am not totally inured to compromise, that is something I want less of.  I refuse to be content. I refuse to stop looking up and onward.  So there…

Addendum number 543 kabillion: What is the difference between satisfied and content? The dictionary says they are synonymous but they aren’t – not to me. But I did find this: “To be content does not necessarily imply “happiness” or “satisfaction” – it means that you are at peace with the circumstances.”  I would add ‘at the moment’. If I think about this long enough I will drive myself crazy.

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Tuesday, 6:15 pm

It was very quiet, just the hum of the air conditioner.  The sun was strong and warm. I looked up from my book to notice the time – 6:15, getting late. I hadn’t fluffed the bed yet and it was getting on time to start dinner.

I looked around the room – two cats sleeping on their cushioned bench under the windows – curled in semi-circles, inches apart, tail to head.  Warm on their blanket, warm in the sun.

I looked across the room and husband in his over-stuffed recliner was oblivious to all, reading.

And all is as it should be – the quiet, the artificial coolness warmed to comfort from the sun; the cats sleeping in truce for the comfort of their sensual little selves. My husband in his place,  and me in mine, the place I have read at my entire life – the kitchen table.

Yes, all was as it should be.

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