Monday September 21st, 2020 - 8:46pm.
I am thinking about the power of words.
A dear friend recently said to me: “Le dire c’est déjà le faire exister un peu.” Which means, “Saying something out loud already makes it a little bit real.”
It’s the busy rush between 7:40 and 8:20am, getting my son out the door for school on time. My son, like me, isn’t much of a ‘morning person.’ Forty minutes is really enough time for him to have breakfast and get ready, but we usually spend the first 15 minutes - 20 minutes cuddling and dozing while my husband yells in vain, “Breakfast is on the table! You guys! Come on! Breakfast! T - I made you a coffee! Time to move!’” and then the last 20 minutes scrambling.
We are in the scrambling part of the routine when I notice that my son is just sitting on the couch looking a little lost. This is unusual. I sit down beside him. “You ok buddy?”
He’s wearing his best t-shirt, the only one with a little collar and buttons, because he is invited to play after school at Ariane’s, a girl from his first grade class.
“Are you maybe feeling a little nervous about going to Ariane’s?” I ask gently. “Yeah...yeah, I’m nervous,” he says in a small voice.
I feel a little pinch in my heart. I’m actually feeling nervous myself about a work meeting I have that morning.
I say, “You know, buddy, emotions are on a spectrum. They aren’t all so different from each other. Do you know that ‘nervous’ has a cousin? An emotion that lives right next door?”
He looks up at me with wide eyes, “What is it?”
“Excited,” I say. “Sometimes when we feel nervous, if we look closely we see that actually we feel excited. Or some kind of mix of nervous and excited, but not only nervous.”
His face brightens and he says, “Yeah! I’m excited actually!” And just like that, he’s hopping around like usual, running and sliding across the floor to grab his shoes and smiling his gorgeous 7 year old smile: that jumble of adult and baby teeth that melts my heart and reminds me that he’s both big and little.
Having the word ‘excited’ to replace the word ‘nervous’ is such a small shift but it changed everything.
I decided to take my own advice and find the parts of me that were excited and not just nervous for my meeting. I held the word excited in my head and took a look inside and sure enough, though I was nervous, there were feelings of excitement mixed in there, too. We tend to consider feelings as something instinctual but time and again I am amazed by how words influence my emotional state.
I’ve seen lists of words that only exist in certain languages. I find this so intriguing. Does having those words mean that the people who speak those languages have access to feelings or experiences that I don’t ?
One of my favorite words with no English equivalent is the Portuguese word ‘saudade’ which refers to a melancholy nostalgia for something that perhaps hasn’t even happened. Portuguese writer Manuel de Melo defines it as : "a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy."
Or the Russian word, “razbliuto," referring to the feelings you have towards someone you once loved but no longer do.
Or even the Spanish verb "estrenar" which describes wearing something for the very first time.
Polaroid and full text available at: http://polaroid41.com/magic-words/