I have been on the hunt for a word or phrase for several months now, and I cannot for the life of me think what it is. Honestly, when I think about it, it is so elusive and not even tip of the tongue, I begin to worry that I am in the early stages of dementia.
It usually happens when I am in the car, approaching an intersection. My mind thinks “There it is, there it is…it has to do with:” and then I will think *crayolas* or *arterial streets* or *something that has to do with transitions or similes or metaphors.*
It is horrible. I made the mistake of calling my brother one day and asking him what the word was. “It has to do with spectrums or color….chromatic?” I said. He was flummoxed. “What are you talking about?” I told him again (and even now, I don’t remember the explanation I gave him about context) and then he started making suggestions (and really, the suggestion he should have made was for me to see a doctor!) and I would say “No, that isn’t it!” One word after another and then he tried to Google it. Well, how do you google something when you don’t even know what the search terms are?
Once I called my niece and asked her. She was nice enough about it but I think she thought I had lost my marbles. And maybe I have!
Here are some of the circumstances when the search for the word pops up:
Substitutions of new things for old things
Words that mean more than one thing, but they’re related and there are deeper meanings.
Do you see how ridiculous this is? It’s most usually when I am driving that this happens, which is also the same trigger that used to bring on crying jags after my dad died. Driving along, looking out the window, usually on a route to or from work or somewhere I would go so frequently that it was sort of auto-pilot. My mind would wander to existential things or open up to whatever was floating around. It used to be that grief would swamp me, but now it is this…this…this THING or word or phrase that may not be a word or phrase at all.
I feel so messed up lately by circumstances over which I have very little control but in which I am absolutely compelled and required to be involved. Issues with extended family members, changes happening in their lives, the phone ringing and my entire body tensing up with anxiety over what is going to be the news this time.
By unspoken family law, we are supposed to have bottomless reserves of compassion and empathy for those who are in need. I have always felt that if someone asked for my help, I was supposed to offer it. More and more, I have felt myself shutting down when things have gone wrong for others. I find that I go numb, I feel synapses in my brain shorting out like fuses. The compassion center in my brain just collapses.
To care is to become involved, and becoming involved is exhausting and so I stop myself from engaging in the issue. Which leads to me not engaging with anyone or anything else. My own little family notices: sometimes they ask for something and I stop, close my eyes, and try very hard not to scream inside. Sometimes, I don’t want anyone to touch me, or need me, or talk to me.
Maybe that’s why, in the quiet moments in my car, I come up short for words. I disengage from the world around me and then, in those moments, I see something the draws me out of myself and into the world and it’s like when the astronauts come back from space and have to get used to the pull of the earth on their very bones. They stagger, they feel dazed, they feel alien in their own bodies. The pull of the world I live in is often more than I can handle and to explain it leaves me at a loss for words.