Articulate: True Things About Experiences
Often times, when you’re in the middle of some experience or situation, you don’t know how to speak truthfully about what’s going on. You’re just in the middle of the situation, and won’t have any wisdom or insight to the what’s, why’s, and how’s until you come through the other side.
Experiences Are Atmospheres
I think some experiences are like being in a kind of environment or landscape… a space with weather and terrain.
For example, going through the death of a loved one may seem lonely and deep like being on the western cliffs of Ireland early in the morning; thick grey clouds absorbing the sun and the sound, patient, light wind, soft uneven grass, old rocks jutting out here and there, an ancient ocean pounding away hundreds of feet below you… like it always has been, like it always will be.
Or maybe you go through a long period of your marriage falling apart. That might feel like a storm, like a cesspool of deafening wind, sideways rain, pitching and rolling ground… debris flying by as you stand defiant, or maybe curl into a ball and let it go by.
When you’re experiencing these environments you can’t talk much about them, you don’t know where you are on a map, how far to the next place, etc. You don’t know more than you can see, you’re just “in it.”
Being In It vs. Being Outside of It
But some time after you’ve come through the experience, you may be able to get some understanding about it… why you were there, what you should have done, what you did wrong or right. It’s like that whole experience, that whole landscape, was in a big glass jar and you used to be inside it. But you grew out of it, and now you can screw on the lid, and hold it at arms length. Now you’re no longer “in it,” you’re outside of it, walking around it, sizing it up, and understanding where it ends and begins.
It’s not about hiding feelings or running from anything. It’s about being able to articulate true things about where you were. You can take that jar and put it on the shelf next to your other jars and understand more about that experience now that you’re not completely inside the experience.
This “jar” metaphor helps me make sense of the fact that life often won’t let you have any words about what you’re going through until you’ve come out the other side the situation.
And I think having words about what you’ve gone through or learned is actually an important part of moving on. Being able to articulate something true about this experience or that one can be the key to making that experience a foothold for your next move in life. Because saying words about something, calling it out by name, makes it tangible, something to be pushed, pulled, oriented… Something you bump into instead of something you’re inside of.
I’m not talking about naming it and claiming it. I’m talking about being able to say, “shit man, that fight was all about how I wasn’t seeing your pain,” or, “looking back, I was totally spinning my wheels, like a manic idiot trying to get traction… but it was the only thing I could have been doing I think.” It’s about being able to say true things about those situations.
For me, at least, I just know when my understanding is true and when it’s not… It’s some gut feeling, normally accompanied by embarrassment, because it’s normally my fault (whatever “it” is).
Have you ever been struck with the reality of “what was really going on” after you experienced something?
photo credit Joe Dunckley, with words added by yours truly.