On Significance and the Unexpected

Note for readers:
I usually try to write something deliberately relatable and with a positive conclusion. I don’t know if I’ve successfully done either of those here; I don’t know if this is too personal for that. I hope that there’s something you can take away from this regardless. Thank you for reading. It means the world and more.

Yesterday marks eight years since my father died.
I didn’t find out until Christmas Eve, when a cousin called to give the news. At sixteen years old, I lay curled in my bed, buried beneath the weight of the knowledge, absolutely lost as to how I was going to tell my little sister and older brother. Their laughter carried to me from where they were playing video games together in the living room. They had no idea. I wanted so badly to go back in time to when I didn’t know, either.
It should not have been my responsibility to bare his death on my own, and it most definitely shouldn’t have been my job to be the one to tell my siblings. Knowing that doesn’t change the fact that it was left up to me.
I hadn’t seen or spoken to him in years by then. I thought that that would mean his death would be less impactful. I was wrong.
What we tell ourselves often does not reflect what we truly feel. We can repeat words over and over, we can drill them into our own minds until they block out all else, we can shove emotions into the farthest reaches of ourselves and refuse to look their way. Sometimes, though, something happens and every barrier we so carefully constructed, every box we packed, labeled, and shoved into the darkness all come spilling into the light of reality. They shatter into a thousand scattered pieces that we have no choice but to clean up or to continue treading on for years. And even when we think we’ve collected each fragment, we sometimes stumble over a remaining one in the darkness.
The fact that it has taken me eight years to write this might tell you that I’m the kind of person who swept as many pieces as I could out of my immediate surroundings and am still, today, facing the consequences of not properly coping.
The finality of death did not truly hit me until I received that phone call. A thousand questions that I had hidden away from myself resurfaced, and in a frantic, chaotic maelstrom of them, I realized that there was no longer a chance at getting answers. A hundred hopes I didn’t know I carried with me collapsed with the understanding that they would never be realized.
Many questions began with “why?”. Why did I have to be the first in my household to know? Why did it have to happen? Why was he driving that night? Why was this the first news I’d heard of him in years? Why was he the way that he was when I was a child? Why did he do the things he did? Why was I not enough for him? Why wasn’t I enough to convince him to change? Why did he make the choices he made if he loved me? Why? Why? Why? I drowned in the questions, too afraid to voice a single one of them, allowing nobody the opportunity to explain to me that none of it ever had anything to do with me.
I was able to dismiss or answer many of the questions as I got older, but one remains with me to this day. Regardless of the logic behind it, despite what I know on a rational level to be true, I continue to battle with the idea of being enough.
I am not alone in my quest for significance. I’m not the only person in this world who feels like my worth is defined solely by people wanting or needing me. I’m not alone in struggling to redefine this part of me to be healthier and more self-sufficient.
My father battled more demons than I will ever know, and while I can accept and empathize with those battles, I have never come to terms with the knowledge that neither I nor any of my siblings were enough to save him. None of us were enough to change him. And on Christmas Eve at sixteen years old, I finally was forced to face the understanding that I would never, ever know why we weren’t enough. Why I wasn’t enough. It didn’t help that his parents swore to me that he had changed, gotten sober, patched up his life. He patched it up without me. He’d figured out how to do it, which meant that he was capable. So why couldn’t he do it for me? Why was I not enough?
Later would come a fight between two people I love. I couldn’t tell you the words which were exchanged. I don’t know if I knew even then. What mattered most was the yelling, screaming, absolute refusal to stand down. The fight was a petty one which escalated like a wildfire. I threw myself into the flames, desperate to extinguish them in any way I could, including with my own body.
My hands had once been too small to make a difference. My shoulders were too narrow and delicate to pull burdens atop them. My voice was far too quiet. I hoped that older meant more capable, that growing up meant power. I was so certain that this time, I could help. This time I could do more, do something that mattered.
It all ended abruptly and with no resolution. I stood, reeling and desperately confused, as one of them walked away, leaving behind nothing but the echo of his words to me: “Well, you tried. It just wasn’t enough.”
Later still, I found myself in a bedroom, surrounded by four children under the age of ten. Just beyond the door, which adults so often forget hides nearly nothing, came the screaming, the throwing, the holes punched into walls.
I held one child on my lap, my arm wrapped around another, trying in vain to surface from the fog of memory when it had been me who was the six-year-old, my parents the ones outside the room. I had to be strong enough to be available for the four small bodies in my care, each of them begging to know what was going on and if everyone was going to be okay. They didn’t know that I was holding onto them just as fiercely and for the same reasons as they were holding onto me.
I could hardly breathe, let alone be the responsible adult that they needed in that moment.
All of these incidences are difficult to write, but not as much as they once were. My goal isn’t to elicit sympathy or comfort; I’m so, so very far from the only one who has stories such as these, and too many people have experienced vastly worse.
The last few months have seen me struggle in some familiar ways and many unfamiliar ones. I don’t know if it’s the time of year or something else, but my grasp on the present and on contentment has been tenuous at best, nearly nonexistent at worst.
What do you do when being needed is what sustains you and you’ve convinced yourself that nobody does? What is my purpose in this world if not to be what people around me need? And who am I, where do I go, what do I do when that purpose is broken down?
I tend to lock myself into vicious, never-ending cycles. I will be given a reason for why I am not needed as much as I hoped I was, and I will allow that to attack myself worth. I will let it hurt me, because that is easy. It is less easy to fight it and defy its attempts to tear me down.
I will never be enough for everyone. I may not be enough for the people for whom I so desperately want to be. I know it is a fools arrand to seek to make everyone happy. The person for whom I need to be enough and who I should be trying to make happy is myself, but there is no greater sense of satisfaction and peace as when I have helped someone else. It’s easy to let that mean that I can and will only be happy when I am enough for someone.
I simultaneously crave closeness and friendship and avoid it at all costs. I withdraw when I should reach out, I reach out when I know I won’t maintain it, I let phone calls and texts go unanswered, I cling to every meaningful interaction like it is a life raft. I set myself up for failure and then allow that failure to define me. I convince myself that I am meaningless and that nothing would change were I not here, and then I look for reasons why it’s true.
I do it because it is easier to set myself up to be hurt than to be hurt unexpectedly. I do it because, when I get hurt, I can look back and know exactly what I did to cause it. I do it because I am so afraid of not knowing when, where, and how it is going to happen.
I can’t prepare myself for everything. I can’t look in every direction at all times. I’m going to get hurt, and sometimes it is going to be no different than Christmas Eve eight years ago. Sometimes I will not expect it. Sometimes it will come out of nowhere, punch me in the stomach, and leave me careening off a ledge I didn’t even know existed. Nothing is more terrifying to me.
The other day, I received two messages from different people, entirely independent of one another, expressing such kindness, thoughtfulness, and caring for me that it was breathtaking. I felt myself shatter all over again, pieces of me I’d foolishly put together to protect myself coming apart as though my attempts had been meaningless. I felt my tether to the world solidify a little bit. Nowhere in their messages did they express a need for me or a way in which I could help them, and yet they care. They care despite my desperation to remain uncared for. They care for… who knows what reasons. I was, in a way, almost angry with them for still caring. I don’t deserve it; I’ve done so little to deserve it.
I rarely mean anything as much as when I say I don’t know why they do or anyone else does. My sense of self-worth is so warped and twisted that I genuinely cannot fathom the reasons behind why someone could, let alone would. And the trouble with this is that, if I don’t think I am worthy of being valued, I will never truly believe that I am. And if I never believe that I have worth in this world, I will not survive it.
Every part of me ached at the knowledge that, regardless of my avoidance, despite my failings, there were people in the world who cared. I am holding so tightly to that moment of understanding, that ever-so rare moment of clarity, and I am afraid I will lose it. I’m afraid I will let go of it. I have it now, though. I have it, and I am trying not to descend into the cycles which will tear it from me.
I know logically that I’m not alone. It’s been a long time since I allowed myself to believe it on a deeper level. I want to change. I want to get off this roller coaster to which I’ve tied myself. Maybe it’s okay that I don’t do it alone for once. I hope I figure out how.


A Wordy Introduction

Hi, I’m Mia, and I love words. Like, really love words.

People talk about that high from being at concerts or the adrenaline of motorcycle rides, and that is akin to what I feel when I find a beautifully worded sentence. Language is incredible! We make these random sounds in various orders and they mean stuff, and beyond that, that very specific arrangement of sounds can mean something entirely different depending on where you are, what your body language is saying, or how your tone is being projected. Words are fickle, flighty creatures which can make or break just about anything. I love words. You can read a little more aboutme here, where I’ve explained my hopeful intent with these writings.

I can’t quite say where my love for language began. I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing, but my appreciation for words didn’t become quite as voracious as it is now until several years ago.

My best guess is that it’s because I allowed the spaces where I could and should have spoken up fill with silences. I spent many, many years sharing my words with nobody but a hidden journal. Fearful of burdening anyone I cared for more than they already were, it was extraordinarily rare for me to present anything beyond the topmost levelheaded, secure, and content layer of myself to the world around me. I was considered quite put together and easygoing, when inside me was a turmoil of pent up emotion and words I fought to suppress most days of my adolescence and early adulthood.

Now that I am older and, hopefully, a bit wiser, I’ve learned how to channel those emotions into growth, and how and when to share those words. It took practice, pain, and many, many failures, but I have become a person who recognizes how debilitating and damaging the absence of words can be, and who now cherishes and sees beauty and infinite potential in them. I do not consider myself healed, and perhaps I never will. I do, however, recognize how far I have come and am proud of the journey I have chosen to walk. I fail, a lot, and I sometimes get so turned around that I end up walking back the way I’ve come, but every day I strive to find my direction once more.

The Starless Sea is a book by Erin Morgenstern which I do not, despite my love and respect for them, have the words to describe. It is filled with twisting metaphors that are filled with literalisms that are filled with metaphors that are …

You get the point, and probably already feel exhausted. It is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read in my life. The prose is, to me, that feeling of showering and getting underneath freshly cleaned sheets with shaved legs. It’s that rare time when you wake up from a nap and actually feel better. It’s the type of hug a mother gives even when she isn’t your mother, but you know she is someone’s because of the way she hugs you. Okay, maybe I like the book so much because I seem to enjoy metaphors nearly as much as Morgenstern does. It was a book that I felt like I was sinking further and further into with every page, where I felt myself getting so irrecoverably lost within the letters and simultaneously found amongst the words. I cannot sing its praise highly enough, and yet I know it is a rarity to find someone who will find the same adoration for it as I found. That is okay.

My entire purpose for bringing it up is because one of the quotes from it says, “We’re here to wander through other people’s stories, searching for our own.” As you can see, this theme is echoed in the tagline of my blog. I consider myself a wanderer: I struggle with settling in places or with people. I find refreshment and joy in exploration, dipping my toes into these places and those lives, experiencing just enough of a story to see the beauty and complexity of it without getting lost within its depths.

The title of this blog, Hiraeth, is a Welsh word which struggles to find a place within the English language. Roughly translated, it means the yearning and search for a home which does not exist.

I wander through the stories around me, perpetually intrigued by the bits and pieces I witness and collect along the way. Sometimes these stories are bound within ink and paper, and other times they are in the hands I hold, the laughter I share, the words I hear or those which are given to me. They are the stories that swirl around the exhalations of the individuals who pass me by, perhaps not even knowing I exist.

“I think the best stories feel like they’re still going, somewhere, out in story space.”

I am a piece of so many stories, most of which I may never know about. I do not get to decide what role I play in many of the stories in which I have a part, and I do not get to know what imprint I leave behind. The air is filled with the constantly changing and shattering and building of tales being told, and I truly do not have the words to describe the way this affects me.

Part of my enjoyment is born in intrigue, but part is fueled by this idea of “hiraetth”. My story is wide open, and yet it is on a trajectory which I cannot understand beyond knowing each of my choices push it forward. “A boy at the beginning of a story has no way of knowing that the story has begun”, or where it is going. I often feel so vastly different from the people around me on fundamental levels, which does not detract from my love for them and of those disparities. I wander through stories in search of this home, all the while knowing within myself that it almost certainly does not exist. The journey of seeking, of learning, of discovering, and of ending does not diminish the yearning, but it contributes to the joy and peace of searching.

Hiraeth was the first word I discovered which had no good English translation, and it all went downhill from there. I have a wide collection of words of that category or which are uncommon/not well known within English, and I add to them whenever I find a new one that speaks to me. I would love to share some of my favorites if there is an interest from my readers, but for now I will leave you with just one which echoes what, I think, many of us struggle with and which I have made reference to in this post. I’m not even going to write my own definition for it because the one which I found for it is beautiful:

Monachopsis: (n.) the subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place, as maladapted to your surroundings as a seal on a beach – lumbering, clumsy, easily distracted, huddled in the company of other misfits, unable to recognize the ambient roar of your intended habitat, in which you’d be fluidly, brilliantly, effortlessly at home. (English)

Thank you for reading, and I will try to make future posts shorter than this first one.