Building My Vocabulary

I’m nearing the end of my seven-day meditation on my most important desire, and this afternoon I had a lateral inspiration.

Initially, I considered writing about creativity and lack of time (as in ‘my most important desire is to have more time to engage my creative self’) but as I considered my behavior over the last few months it struck me that I’m kind of in the process of building my own personal vocabulary of emotional, spiritual, and psychological states.

Is my most important desire developing a glossary of my internal being? Maybe. Or something very close to that. Not my desire forever perhaps, but there’s evidence that expanding my emotional/psychological/spiritual vocabulary has been my most important desire for the last several months.

There’s a vocabulary-related behavior I’ve engaged in for as long as I’ve been writing, that I never really noticed until last year. I didn’t notice it because it’s so baked into my process, and so interwoven into the process as a whole, that it disappeared in the multitude of behaviors I cluster under the broad umbrella of ‘writing’.

At one point, just after I started researching fairies, I realized I was building a fairy vocabulary list, not too different than the vocabulary lists my 3rd grade teacher prompted me to create when researching a new topic. (Fairy, faery, fay, elf, animist, ontology, spirit, soul, etc.)

One reason I failed to notice this glossary-building exercise is because textbooks in high school and college conveniently came with vocabulary lists, so it was less important I create my own. I’ve also always been an inveterate dictionary user and note-taker, so I barely noticed when I engaged in that sort of behavior outside of school.

When I started my reading on fairies last year, I created a file for words I wanted to ensure I was using correctly, and it occurred to me that this might be something to share with the students. How many of them actively create a list of terms for themselves as they begin a research project?

Since last summer when I started this journey to reduce my work-related unhappiness I’ve been reading widely (and talking to a therapist). Since I’m sheepishly late to self-reflection about my inner emotional state, I’ve had to essentially start a new research project. And in that project I’ve had to define for myself — mindfulness, authenticity, real self, value, virtues, depression, sadness, anger, happiness, joy, peace, tranquility, calm, etc.

I’ve used the term ‘happiness’ a zillion times throughout my life, but only within the last six months have I held it up and analyzed it and tried to figure out what I meant when I used that word in relation to myself. I once thought of happiness as a state of high-emotional arousal (ohmigod I won the lottery! This is what happiness feels like!), but upon reflection that’s not really what I feel when I feel happy. My current definition of happiness is more along the lines of — those moments of respite when known bullshit has been taken care of and I’m blissfully unaware of what sort of bullshit lays around the next corner. In a real, non-trivial way for me, happiness is the state of being momentarily problem-free.

So, maybe my most important desire, right now, is to have the language to articulate my feelings and emotional needs, so I can learn more about them, and ask for help about something specific instead of something vague.


Speaking of time, here’s an exceprt from The People, Yes by Carl Sandburg I’ve posted several times in the past. (Such a painful, heartfelt lament.)

The people so often sleepy, weary, enigmatic,
is a vast huddle with many units saying:
    "I earn my living.
    I make enough to get by
    and it takes all my time.
    If I had more time
    I could do more for myself
    and maybe for others.
    I could read and study
    and talk things over
    and find out about things.
    It takes time.
    I wish I had the time."

(100 Days of Blogging: Post 064 of 100)

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