linguistic hyperbolas

according to the curious hermaphroditic narrator of one of my favorite novels,

Emotions, in my experience, aren’t covered by single words. I don’t believe in “sadness,” “joy,” or “regret.” Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I’d like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic traincar constructions like, say, “the happiness that attends disaster.” Or: “the disappointment of sleeping with one’s fantasy.” I’d like to show how “intimations of mortality brough on by aging family members” connects with “the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age.” I’d like to have a word for “the sadness inspired by failing restaurants” as well as “the excitement of getting a room with a minibar.” I’ve never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I’ve entered my story, I need them more than ever.

~ Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

I haven’t written publicly these past few months because I had no words to describe my (at times harrowing) emotional journey, until I realized that we will never have the right words, in any tongue. they don’t exist. like Calliope above, I’ve been grasping at straws for language to validate my experience, but I keep coming up short. and did I just mix my idioms?

I needed a word for the silent dread as my father endured hours of surgery, and one for the disappointment of dropping an earring in the toilet. words for the disgusting shame that lingers on my fingers after smoking an entire pack of Parliaments, and the instantaneous comfort of smelling my own apartment after a long trip. and one for the intense, foundation-shaking fear as I roll over in bed and truly try to understand, for the first time as a real adult, my own sexuality. and for the nostalgic anticipation of a champagne cork’s POP! (every bottle of bubbly momentarily transports me back to New Year’s Eve, 1992.) and most especially, the imagined surface tension of my skin when I’m physically overwhelmed with creativity, but have no outlet because I’m too stuck– or maybe proud is more accurate– to pick up a pen, or a flute.

our words will always inch ever so closely to the true emotions they represent without ever quite reaching them completely, like mathematical hyperbolas shooting off the page, barely skimming their perfect asymptotes for eternity. but for all its frustrating shortcomings, Language is achingly beautiful and impossible for us to resist. even its failures conjure epic tales, stir our hearts, and overflow library shelves. I have to keep trying, and failing, and trying.

so I write.

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I wish I could write. I’m trying, but the words get tripped up in the language center of my brain and refuse to cooperate, like stubborn snotty children stomping their patent-leather shoes and screaming at the pediatrician.

when I feel lost and broken, sometimes the only thing that keeps me going is my music, a living legend’s raspyhoneyliquid voice pouring over my aching heart like a big sticky suffocating hug. aural unconditional love.

ring the bells that still can ring,
forget your perfect offering.
there is a crack in everything,
that’s how the light gets in.

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nocturne 15, op. 55, no. 1

it’s 10pm and I’m still at work…! the only things saving me are iTunes and this red wine in a paper cup. [don’t judge.]

enjoy one of my favorite nocturnes by one of my favorite composers, ever. I get lost in the soft spaces between his notes, and dance on imaginary stars at 4:30. I miss my piano.

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and on which it is impossible to remain silent.”
~ Victor Hugo

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fiery earth within cool water

Scorpio Horoscope for week of April 14, 2011

In the Philippines, there is a geographic anomaly I want to call your attention to: a volcanic island in a lake that’s on a volcanic island in a lake that’s on an island. Can you picture that? Vulcan Point is an island in Crater Lake, and Crater Lake is on Volcano Island, and Volcano Island is in Lake Taal, and Lake Taal is on the island of Luzon. It’s confusing–just as your currently convoluted state is perplexing, both to you and those around you. You could be aptly described as fiery earth within cool water within fiery earth within cool water within fiery earth. Whether that’ll be a problem, I don’t know yet. Are you OK with containing so much paradox?

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childhood memory

at the peak of the hot summer months in suburban San Diego, as we sweat in our non-air-conditioned houses, all the neighborhood kids would finally reach a breaking point. we turned our rooms upside down to collect every water gun and balloon we could find, filled them up using the old green plastic garden hoses, and readied ourselves for yet another epic Water War, the made-up love child of a waterfight and tag. the rules were as fluid as our ammo, and it was the one game where we all craved a good pummeling.

I still remember the unmistakable aroma of grass and dirt that stained our ratty clothes after inevitable tumbles across the lawn. the high-pitched warnings of “carrr!” for our unsheltered friends in the middle of the street as a driver rounded the corner. the hazy waves of steam evaporating from the blazing pavement that caused mirage-like visions. the terror that rose in my throat as I crept around a bush and came face-to-face with the fastest, lankiest kid on the block, his water balloon held high right before its arced ascent into my back as I ran in vain. in the end we were drenched and exhausted, and wore our skinned knees proudly. we’d high-five and hug and move to the cool sanctuary of someone’s garage to share soda and pickles, with half-moon grins from ear to ear.

Life isn’t one big thing– it’s a series of constant fleeting moments that we tuck away in our memory. years later they randomly rise to the forefront of our minds, surprising us with their bittersweet whispers. at the time, I had no idea how important those absolutely carefree moments with my neighborhood friends would be.

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desk jobs

this is pretty amazing– a Photographic World Tour of Desk Jobs. the differences between them [not to mention the salaries] are stunning. that first photo in India just floors me.

wow… my job environment seems absolutely luxurious compared to some of these. sometimes we forget how the rest of the world works. I feel blessed.


Jasmin, a young American woman, is a production editor for a major college publisher in wacky San Francisco, CA. She handles messy manuscripts, creates schedules, monitors design, juggles freelancers, keeps track of photo/text permissions, reviews page proofs, and acts calm in the face of imminent disaster in order to create beautiful educational material. She is currently putting out several major history-related fires so her editorial team and sales staff won’t have a collective heart attack.

monthly salary: barely covers SF rent (enough to feed a family of 20 almost anywhere else in the world).

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Girl, Interrupted

“Was I ever crazy? Maybe. Or maybe life is… Crazy isn’t being broken or swallowing a dark secret. It’s you or me amplified. If you ever told a lie and enjoyed it. If you ever wished you could be a child forever. They were not perfect, but they were my friends.”

~ Susanna Kaysen

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