Friday, February 6, 2004

Complicated hybrid emotions

I just wrote - and deleted - a long post about witnessing the suffering of someone I know and care about, of reading something she wrote that made me cry. Big wet tears and tight chested sobs. And as much as I want to link to the extraordinary story she tells, I deeply fear exploiting her pain, and write her a quiet email instead.

But I am reminded of my favourite passage from Jeffrey Eugenides' novel Middlesex, and will share that instead:

Emotions, in my experience, aren't covered by single words. I don't believe in "sadness," "joy," or "regret" ... 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. I can't just sit back and watch from a distance anymore.

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