You should know I cry every time I hear violins.
Like in bluegrass music when it’s that sad and lonely high pitched tone? Something about it just pulls at me. I can feel it in my heart and it hurts. Immediately when I hear that sound a lump forms in my throat and tears spring to my eyes. I wonder why that is? It’s like I’m mourning something I’ve never even known. There is a word for that. I saw it one day on Instagram or something, hiraeth.
When I researched the word online, I found this from Smith College:
The Welsh word hiraeth has no equivalent in English. It often translates as “homesickness,” but the actual concept is far more complex. It incorporates an aspect of impossibility: the pining for a home, a person, a figure, even a national history that may never have actually existed. To feel hiraeth is to experience a deep sense of incompleteness tinged with longing.
I feel like this word describes me. The inner, core of what makes me ‘me’: a deep sense of incompleteness tinged with longing. I often feel like there is something just not right and missing. Some days that longing and loss is so profound, so overwhelming. What am I mourning? What is lost?
I think this…whatever this is…makes me a loner. A wanderer. A searcher. I don’t know that I’ll ever feel like I truly belong in one place or another. There will always be a little fraction of me that just isn’t content, a little homesick. For what, I don’t know the answer to that. I’m not sure I ever will.
I pine for a life I’ve never had, a life that I don’t even know. It’s bizarre to me how much I can FEEL it.
I had coffee with one of my oldesd friend a couple weeks ago. We've known each other since we were 11 years old. We were talking about the current status of our relationships, jobs and families. She paused and looked me right in the eye and said ‘We were going to be great, remember?’
I just stared back at her trying not to cry.
Like I was thinking, yeah- we were. What the hell happened? I remember when we were in middle school- part of the gifted and talented program, creating our own church newsletters and planning out our college years. We were going to be doctors. Or lawyers. Whatever it was, we were going to be amazing at it. Doogie Howser style- we were going to be those doctors and lawyers by age 25 having already traveled the world, got the degrees, got married and had a couple of kids.
Currently, we are both divorced (1 remarried), one with kids, one with none. In dead end jobs and struggling relationships that don’t even begin to resemble the lives we once thought we would have. Our lives aren’t terrible. Just different. Unexpected. Life happened to us in all the ways we didn’t anticipate or even want. In our early 30’s we are already much wiser and aged then we want to be. We’ve experienced more than we really ever wanted to and at the same time, have so much left to explore of this life.
When I think about that, about the person I wanted to be? I get that same feeling I do when I hear violins. That same lump in my throat. Those same hot tears in my eyes. That same ache in my chest. A deep sense or incompleteness tinged with longing.
I don’t know what all of this means. What it means that I as I sit here writing this I’m crying. Tears running down my face. I LOVE my life. I really do. I live in the wonderful city I grew up in, I have great friends and family, an amazing community and a man I love very much. So what if my job isn’t exactly what I wanted? So what if I’m 30 years old and still living in a cheap apartment like I’m 22? So what if I don’t have a plan for the next five years? Does any of that really matter?
When I think back, I’ve always felt this way. Hiraeth.
I remember hot summer nights of my childhood when I’d stare out the window at the neighbor’s tree. It would be night and too hot to sleep and I’d lie in my bed next to that window and watch that tree. It looked like a woman with her head thrown back laughing, her hair bouncing in the wind. I’d watch that tree and the moon and wonder about what it is that was I was sad about. Why how I could be surrounded by my family, safely at home and still feel desperately that something was just missing. Gone.
I watched that tree and that woman laughing until the day I moved out of that house. I wondered why she was laughing and what it was that she knew that I didn’t.
As I’ve got older, I have learned to quiet that longing temporarily, through escape in the form of things both positive and negative. Sometimes I can fuel that longing into something creative or powerful. Sometimes I just lie on the floor of my apartment, ear pressed to rug and listen to the quiet whir of my downstairs neighbor’s dryer and try to clear my head.
When I’m outside the city, in a rural area, that longing is intensified. Something about open fields and never-ending sky makes me feel so overwhelmed by the beauty and history of it all. I become painfully aware of myself. I don’t know how to describe it except to say I feel exposed.
Maybe this entire thing makes me sound like a complete nut job. I don’t believe I’m the only person in the world that feels this way. Maybe I’m the only one saying it.
Every time I hear violins.