i have never really liked the
language of "feeling words". or maybe i've just never found the right
there are lots to choose from, whole lists of them, a wide ranging vocabulary to describe happy for example, a list of words that fall under the category of angry or excited or sad.
but it's so incomplete, none of them ever quiet exactly it. for example, things that feel like a cocktail of nostalgia and the quiet underside of grief and french press coffee and contentment. what is the word for that feeling?
i wish i had a language that knew what to call them, all the things that happen in life that i get to be here to see and know and experience, bringing with them such tangled but specific feelings. but i don't.
so i call them "those things that are their own feeling, in search of a language to match them." i call them "that feeling, you know the one where. . . ."
"41 feelings for which i do not have the word"
- the hushed feeling of the first snow. like everything stops for that moment. like hearing quiet. the quietest sound i know. the catch of the breath, while watching white come down, cast in relief against a dark sky and the halo of light from the streetlamp.
- walking into your new home for the first time, stepping over the threshold, through the door. something that is both empty and full.
- the feeling that shows up when you do something you didn't think you could do.
- what do you call the waking up from surgery, trying to push through the fog of anesthesia wearing off, pain killers kicking in, and you see their mouths moving but the words they say don't make any sense and it can't possibly be true.
- that feeling, the one that happens right when the tires leave the runway and the plane takes off.
- the feeling wrapped around leaving (for college, dropped off at the dorm. for an adventure. for what comes next. for escape. for work. for another space you will one day call home).
- the feelings found inside of returning.
- what it is like having white twinkle lights curved in arcs across the wall, leaving them on all night, even though it's nowhere close to christmas.
- after the ending, the first time you see someone you love but are no longer with. what do you call that? that hybrid of too many things to feel all at once.
- the sensation of overwhelming sleepiness, almost like euphoria in its lightheadedness, right before falling asleep.
- what ice cream on a hot day feels like.
- going back home, and realizing everything has changed.
- going back home, and realizing nothing has changed, you are still in some ways eight years old, fifteen years old, twenty years old, whatever age it was when you once left.
- the feeling that accompanies a stocked pantry, and a counter spilling over with fresh food, and the wine has just been opened.
- the feeling that takes you over when seeing a person for the first time, that you will later love more than you thought possible.
- when the car breaks down. and then there is bad news from home. and then a lice outbreak at school. and then you learn you are likely losing your job. and then you drop the glass when putting away dishes and the glass splinters everywhere.
- the feeling of flat wide open fields, for as far as you can see. and the feeling when driving up into the mountains. and the feeling when walking, feet impressed into cold sand, along the north carolina ocean, at the end of december.
- when you happen to catch sight of yourself in the mirror and realize "this. this is what i actually look like. how did i not know?"
- when the divorce papers are signed, the judge gives you back your old new name, and you are driving around, alone, for hours, like you could outrun something or find something but you need to just keep driving.
- what do you call the feeling of a hot bath, prayer candles lit, tequila, and amnesty?
- the moment when you wake up in the morning, before anyone else. the quiet. the complete quiet. the dark. and the sound of coffee brewing. and there is nothing there telling you to stop or go or do or don't. and for those seconds, you know who are.
- the feeling when you realize someone is pitying you, and you have to laugh out loud, because for you, you feel like you are the lucky one.
- what do you call the feeling (stunned? disbelief? regret?) when you thought you knew someone, and now, they are not at all that person, and you wonder if maybe you never knew them at all?
- what do you call the ease that comes when the fighting ends and acceptance sets up home inside you?
- the sensation when bare skin takes in the heat of summer after a long, long winter.
- the dread of being afraid for things to happen, that actually already happened, but in the past, the other direction, except your mind doesn't know that, and so it is always part way waiting.
- the feeling when praying, or talking to the void, and sensing that there is nothing there at all, and you are, perhaps, entirely alone.
- the feeling of praying, or talking to the open road or blank canvas sky or the bathtub you have made your bed for the night, and sensing that there is actually something there, listening, hearing you completely.
- the specific acidic panic of misplacing, or something or someone having taken, the thing you need most.
- that moment, when you first hear the news that changes everything.
- what do you call that feeling when you can tell there is something you know, except you don't know what it is you know. not yet. it's there, hovering, right beyond your peripheral vision, and the second you try to see it straight on, it goes away.
- when nothing really happened, but everything has changed.
- the flicker of recognition feeling that happens sometimes, like you know what is going to happen next.
- the feeling that follows working hard, all day, using your body by painting the walls or building something or walking for hours, and you crawl into bed, messy and exhausted and it's a good kind of done.
- the feelings brought on by being at weddings.
- the one where you feel pulled by something. like something was started and now it has its own life force and it will do what it will do, and all you can do is follow it through, see where it leads.
- the feeling that shows up when you finally get the thing you thought you really, really wanted, and it's not at all like what you had imagined it would be.
- the feeling when you get the thing you needed but didn't even know existed so you couldn't have ever asked for it, but there it is, and it came and found you anyways.
- the feeling when sitting outside on the deck and the sky turns green, and the air tastes different, right before it rains.
- the feeling when waking up and you are still here. the feeling when you burn the bridge, and make yourself dinner.
- the feeling when you look down at your hands and see your own mother.