The worst feelings are the times when I can’t find the words to describe how I feel.
There’s a certain vulnerability that comes with it, a desolation that washes over me in sweeping waves, leaving me gasping for air and grappling for words in a world that seems suddenly devoid of the very language I’ve come to depend on. I’m a writer, a lover of words. Words are my tools, my companions, and my solace. But there are times when they abandon me, just when I need them the most.
I remember one such instance vividly. I was 14 years old, sitting on a rock where the water meets the land during a canoe trip at summer camp. The day was draped in a melancholy hue, the type that saturates everything in a heartbreaking aura of blue. Due to weather, we were essentially stranded on an island on Mooselookmeguntic Lake, each of us taking turns gathering wood to maintain a campfire.
There was a chilling breeze, not harsh, but gently caressing me like a lover’s forgotten touch, stirring a multitude of emotions within me. But the words to describe those emotions? They were absent. Lost. Maybe hiding behind the nebulous veil of my own ambiguity.
I sat in there in silence, at the young age of 14, and stared out at the world—a world that was undoubtedly moving but in which I felt frozen and rain-soaked by the weather. I felt an avalanche of emotions rush through me, each more powerful than the last. A sudden surge of sadness followed by an inexplicable joy, an intense longing overlapping with a peculiar contentment.
A wild, turbulent sea of feelings were raging within me, each wave crashing against the shores of my consciousness, demanding to be acknowledged, to be put into words. But the words were not there. The very thing that I used to paint my world, my canvas of expression, had been stripped away from me.
In that pivotal year, I experienced a profound sense of belonging, surrounded by people I thought were my friends. It was as if the universe conspired to align all the fragmented pieces of my identity, stitching them together seamlessly. I didn’t know it at the time, but I would be forever reminded of this trip for the rest of my life, whenever I thought about the early 1990’s.
The worst feelings are the times when I can’t find the words to describe how I feel. It’s like being trapped in a glass box, the world moving around you, but you’re unable to break free, to scream out, to connect. Our own emotions become mute spectators in the theatre of your own psyche, silently screaming out their existence, yet remaining unheard.
I had to discover other means of expression. When words failed me, I turned to introspection, and photography. The comforting mechanical action of my camera, creating exposures with a flash, as if in that singular moment was now an image frozen in time. The smell of the film and the images on paper were tangible reminders of my own life story, weaving tales of my inner chaos, and eventually became my solace.
Yet, there was something so fundamentally isolating about not being able to articulate my feelings. It felt as though I was standing in the middle of a crowd, screaming at the top of my lungs, but no sound came out, and even if by some chance it did, of course, no one would hear me.
There’s a loneliness that creeps in when you can’t share your emotions, when you can’t make the world understand what’s stirring inside you. In a cruel twist of fate, these same people who shared with me those childhood adventures, would eventually abandon me altogether as adults. The memories of what once was, and the dreams of what could have been left behind discarded circus ropes that became the ties that bind.
The worst feelings are indeed the times when I can’t find the words to describe how I feel. But these are also the moments that have taught me the most. They’ve taught me the value of patience, of quiet introspection, of acknowledging the complex mix of emotions that is the human psyche. They’ve taught me that it’s okay not to have words for everything, that sometimes feelings are too profound, too intricate to be confined within the limits of language.
So, here I am, standing at the precipice of my emotions, feeling them, living them, understanding them, even if I can’t put them into words. Because, at the end of the day, I’ve realized that I don’t always need words to feel, to exist, to be.
Yes, the worst feelings are the times when I can’t find the words to describe how I feel, but they’re also the moments that remind me that I am human, complex, full of secrets, and beautifully flawed. And in these silent screams of emotion, I have found a voice that echoes louder than words ever could.
July 23, 2023