Changes in seasons

In French, you don’t say ‘I miss you’. You say tu me manques, which means ‘you are missing from me’.

There are many words or phrases that are either not directly translatable into the English language, like tu me manques, or just simply untranslatable, like the Japanese word fuubutsushi: things – feelings, scents, images – that evoke memories or anticipation of a particular season, or the Portuguese word saudade: a bitter-sweet melancholic yearning for something beautiful in our lives that is now gone.

I recently listened to a TED talk by John Koenig, who has been writing The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows for the past seven years. His mission is to find holes in the language of emotion and try to fill them, so that we have a way of talking about all of the human conditions that we feel, but may not think to talk about because we don’t have the words to do it.

In his talk, he speaks about the power of words to make you feel less alone. I was looking through his Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows and found his word exulanisis:

n. the tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it—whether through envy or pity or simple foreignness—which allows it to drift away from the rest of your life story, until the memory itself feels out of place, almost mythical, wandering restlessly in the fog, no longer even looking for a place to land.

If we had more words in our language, or used untranslatable words, to describe our experiences, would this help to ease this exulanisis? I’ve never been able to articulate what I feel as the season changes from autumn to winter and takes me back to a time that weighs a heavy sadness in my heart. But now I know it’s simply fuutbutsushi. And maybe people would understand better, and perhaps relate, if I said my grief is saudade in my heart – the pain yet also the pleasure that someone so beautiful once graced my life.

Tu me manques.

Stephanie Lombardi