in my experience, aren’t covered by single words. I don’t believe in “sadness,” “joy,” or “regret.” Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I’d like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic train-car constructions like, say,
“the happiness that attends disaster.”
Or: “the disappointment of sleeping with one’s fantasy.” I’d like to show how “intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members” connects with “the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age.” I’d like to have a word for
“the sadness inspired by failing restaurants”
as well as for “the excitement of getting a room with a minibar.” I’ve never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I’ve entered my story, I need them more than ever. ”
One of the things I dislike most about myself is that I can’t recite you my favorite poem from memory or break into a grand soliloquy¹ of lines from classical literature; except this one.
I haven’t been able to shake this quote since the day I read it. I’ve quoted it time and time again, I’ve used it as story inspiration (see title of this blog post), I’ve drawn tattoos to embody it.
I remember. It was like watching a girl in a dorky 90’s teen film swoon over her celebrity crush because his angst ridden self-titled album speaks directly to her troubled soul. Except this was a glorious moment in my senior year AP Lit course involving a very married author, Jeffrey Eugenides, and a Bildungsroman novel about gender identity and the american dream. This is my fantasy after all.
I’m sure I could think up a waterfall of reasons this quote stuck with me in the way it has.
I’ve never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I’ve entered my story, I need them more than ever.
I guess as a writer, or someone who calls herself a writer, this is a very familiar sentiment. As a profession, writers are expected to always have the right words for a situation. We’re tasked with putting both everyday actions and beautiful rarities into text. It is one the most beautiful and challenging art forms. While I myself still have a long way to go, this is my way of expressing the deepest parts of myself. Trying to do so any other way is like trying to force myself into boutique sizes or lulu lemon leggings. It just doesn’t fit. However, I often find it is the times I need words most that I just cannot find the right ones. Whether it be numerous attempts to start my first novel, writing that overdue apology letter, or simply a late night term paper…
And I’m not sure I can even get into the whirlwind of my own hybrid feelings that overwhelm me every time I read the different emotions Eugenides describes. My god. I think I’ve felt them all. I feel that Eugenides (or his protagonist, Cal) lives among those of us who feel things so deeply, so acutely, that it seems it impossible to sum up our feelings and experiences with one word as simple as happy. The difference between the joy felt after a night spent discussing the future and the joy that accompanies a fresh box of pencils is so immense. This is the most digestible example I can come up with off-hand…assuming everyone shares the same love of fresh Ticonderogas as I do.
Now I need a word that describes “the unsettling elation brought on by poignant literature.”
Thank you Daily Post By Heart for the motivation.
And if you’re looking for a book, go get Middlesex. Now. Go.
¹Love when I can use that word!