Friday, November 7, 2014

Different Names for Different Things

If you know me, you know that I cry a lot. I cry at anything and everything  whether it's blissful crying from feeling a giant dog slobbering on and practically swallowing my hands, or devastated crying from watching that part in Say Anything when Lloyd is hopeless in a phone booth in the rain – I cry. Well, I cried in my New Testament class the other day. I cried while my professor was talking about prayer shawls, but, in a similar but less selfless way (than the Jews who wore them to block out the world and focus on prayer), I hid behind my Macbook Air and cried. It was a silent cry, because I was not looking for the remorse of the recently-engaged-passionately-Pinteresting flower on my left or the this-hymn-is-better-louder Stripling warrior to my right. I cried because I realized that I have been doing something wrong, for a very long time. I have been giving the same names to different things.

In my World Religions class we are learning about Buddhism. The Buddhists say that all suffering comes from desire and craving, and that suffering is inevitable, but it ends as soon as our craving ends. Well, without being conscious of it, I have been craving something for a very long time: names. Now, I'm quite fond of my own name (Elizabeth Caroline Peek, after the benevolent Ms. Bennet herself), and I'm equally fond of the names that get heaped up on me (E, Ellie, Ells, Ells Bells, Smelly, Sister, etc.), but lately I have been unsuccessful at naming things myself. At the risk of sounding too squishy, it must be quickly-noted but noted nonetheless, that I am a deeply feeling person  so there. When I feel a certain way, I feel that way very much and I feel that way for a very long time. So lately I have been feeling a few things, but I have been calling them all two things: "sorry" and "stupid." 

But you know what? There are different names for different things. There is a word for every feeling you are feeling, because the English language will never desert you. Don't be sorry that you're skeptical, because you've "done this before" and it didn't end well last time. You're not stupid for feeling fear or feeling abandoned, because you've felt it before on the bathroom floor with your head in your hands and your matted eyelashes. You don't have to be sorry that you're feeling conflicted or useless, because you know how much is inside of you, and you aren't sure how to show it to someone without them getting frustrated or giving up. You are not stupid when you feel empty, indifferent, doubting, flummoxed, befuddled, unzipped, or out-of-place. Don't apologize when you don't have the words right away  because they will get there, and you are allowed to be glum, wistful, petrified, furious, and hanging-by-a-thread.

Wilhelm Gause, Ball der Stadt Wien (1904)
I’ll try anything once, The Strokes (2006)

So, when I was crying in class the other day, it was a cry reminiscent of the one I do when I see my favorite fireworks in July  the ones that look like a can of golden glitter got tipped over on black table cloth. I was crying because someone gave me a name for what I was feeling that morning, they said "you must have been nervous to tell me that, but I'm so glad you did" and then they said "I get nervous too." Someone told me I was nervous and that they get nervous too, and I cried in my New Testament class, because isn't it nice that our feelings are valid and that those feelings are real and weigh something to everyone? You are not stupid and you do not have to be sorry for feeling. Gautama Buddha said, “you yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” So, give it and then give a proper name to what's happening in you. Just because something's wrong doesn't mean anything's wrong with you.


  1. Thank you, Ellie.
    This is incredible. I started crying when I read the last sentence of this post because it is exactly what I needed to hear. You have helped me so much. All of your words (especially these) have influenced me in ways you cannot imagine.
    Thank you so, so much you beautiful, incredible human.
    You've touched me.

    1. Woah, that means the absolute world to me. You are the reason I write, thank you so much.