“Well” said Hugh, “glad to help.” He sounded sincere, but Ed knew he might have missed the sarcastic edge. It wouldn’t have been the first time. Ed was not a nerd*–no, sir—but at this point in his college career, he had to acknowledge that he was—to put it kindly—an outsider. Being at ease around groups of other people—especially lighthearted other people—was not his strong suit.
From page 4 of Joanna Hershon’s “A Dual Inheritance”
I am not always the outsider, though I often find myself outside the action. I am usually quietly taking it all in, assessing the situation before I open my mouth and contribute to the conversation. I am cautious, not wanting to offend anyone or put my foot in my mouth—yet again. I try for subtle nuance in my delivery after I have observed the back and forth ping pong of dialogue. I have found that body language speaks volumes.
So I watch and wait. I try to have patience that there will be an opening in the chatter, that the right words will find their way to my lips.
But I find our language lacking. If only we had as many words for love or snow as some other cultures do. There are so many words that have yet to be created.
I wish someone would make a word for:
…the gratitude you feel when your partner kindly puts aside their own pursuits and helps with your crazy off-the-wall plans.
…the act of walking on eggshells around a teenager so that you don’t tip their mood into an unbearable state of being.
…or how your heart shatters when your child hugs you unexpectedly, so tightly, and then doesn’t let go.
…the relief you feel upon finding the last ingredient needed to complete a recipe tucked, almost forgotten, into a corner of the pantry– minutes after you realize the stores have closed.
…the frustration you have when the buzzing ideas in your head won’t submit to being shepherded onto the blank page in front of you.
…the joy that comes from singing along with a song in the car, unreservedly tapping to the beat on the steering wheel, not caring who sees you.
…the loneliness that blankets you when you realize for the thousandth time that there aren’t parents available to call in a time of crisis.
…the intense, unspoken love you have for the people who aren’t your parents but mentor and guide you through the trying times in your life.
…the war that rages between the desire you have to let it all go and the perfectionist part of you that just won’t quit.
…the magic moment when the image in front of your camera shimmers, then crystallizes into a treasured memory.
…the way holding a friend’s new baby simultaneously brings on tears of joy and tears of sorrow.
…the fervent wish upon waking to be someone else, anyone else; knowing full well that the grass is always greener and that no one’s life is perfect—even if it appears that way on the surface.
…the exhilaration that floods your body when you meet a deadline and send the finished piece on to publication.
…how the world begins to blur and then completely falls away when you immerse yourself in the pages of a good book, finishing it in one sitting or over the course of a day.
…for the container that holds your hopes and dreams within—fragile as an eggshell, strong as silken spider’s web.
Where are these words? Are they floating around waiting to be plucked out of thin air by someone with long- fingered magician hands? I feel them circling like fireflies at dusk, just out of reach. Maybe I need to adopt my can-do, Dr. Seuss* attitude and make them up myself, adding them over time to my own personal lexicon. I think maybe I’ll become a word-hunter. Let me know if I can help you find one.
*He’s credited with inventing the word nerd in 1950 in his book, “If I Ran the Zoo”