"And we swagger because we do not know how to part with our rage, which we cherish and press cutting close, but we learn to swagger — or rather, we’re swaggered, briefly, while the wind blows and things burn and our hands are full — because we know it darkly all the same."
Toska - noun /ˈtō-skə/ - Russian word roughly translated as sadness, melancholia, lugubriousness.
"No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.”
For example, there should be a word, maybe borrowed from German, a language so good at expressing complicated mental states in a single lengthy word with many chewy consonants, for when you miss someone so incredibly, achingly much, when that person pervades every thought, every interaction, every waking moment, but you also loathe them. Because they treated you badly, or because they were too weak to be honest with you. Because you were betrayed. And because you loathe them, you hate yourself for missing that person so intensely. For missing the laughter they inspired; for wishing for the easy intimacy that you built. You hate yourself for knowing that they aren’t worth so much sadness, that such an outlay of mental energy is entirely wasted and useless. But you feel it anyway, and you cry in the shower or into your pillow or anytime something reminds you of that person. Which is all the time. There should definitely be a word for that.
There should also be a word, maybe from the French, who do existentialism so well, for the feeling of disconnection you cultivate when you walk through the streets with your headphones on, sad songs blasting into your ears loudly enough that you can pretend you are alone. You pass by other people almost without seeing them, since you can’t hear them. You walk by shops and offices on the sidewalk, going somewhere or maybe not going anywhere in particular, feeling like the music in your ears is a soundtrack to your sadness. This song makes you think of that person; that song comes close to capturing how lonely you are without them. You isolate yourself physically because you feel so isolated inside; surrounded by people, you are still alone, because you have been abandoned by that one person who made you feel somehow less alone.
English is also missing a word for how it feels when you know that person has moved on so quickly. When you find out you weren’t as important as you thought you were. When you realize that they were acting selfishly instead of caring about you, or when you understand that you didn’t really come into it at all for them, they were just doing what they needed to do. Maybe it should come from Russian, because the Russians know despair. You thought you were finally getting over them. You could almost go an hour, if you were busy with something really important, without thinking about them. Then you see a Facebook post or hear some gossip from mutual friends, and you realize you weren’t over it. Not even close. You realize you were still holding out hope that you would get back together, that there would be some way to repair the damage, to be happy again. When that hope is crushed, the fragile Jenga tower of your life tumbles down. There should be a word for that kind of defeat.
And there should also be a word for when you’re just so tired of being sad, for when you are tired of being lonely but somehow don’t know how to stop. When you’re tired of crying, tired of thinking about that person, tired of missing them. You can’t yet make yourself recognize all the bad things; remembering how you’ve been done wrong doesn’t help. But the hurt over the good things, the things you still miss so much, is a dull twist in your stomach now, instead of a gaping hole in your chest. You don’t know how to turn that off, don’t remember how to be happy. But you sort of remember happiness as it existed before that person, and you want that so desperately. You want to stop this misery that drags at your ankles and eyes and insides. You know it will take time, but sometimes just the fact of being tired of crying makes you cry. Maybe we could co-opt a word from Japanese for that, since melancholy is a specialty of theirs.There should be an English word for all these feelings of grief. And I desperately wish they existed now, just so I could tell you, next time you ask, how I’m doing in only four words, instead of all these.
n. the instinctive trance of a campfire in the dark, spending hours roasting and watching as it settles and sinks into the ground like a heap of shipwrecks whose sailors raise their flickering sails trying to signal that the prevailing winds of your life are about to shift, that the edge of the Earth is real and looming just a few years ahead, and that your marshmallow is on fire.
n. the habit of forgetting how important someone is to you until you see them again in person, making you wish your day would begin with a “previously on” recap of your life’s various plot arcs, and end with “to be continued…” after those will-they-won’t-they cliffhanger episodes that air just before the show goes back into months of repeats.
n. sadness that you’ll never be able to know how history will turn out, that you’ll dutifully pass on the joke of being alive without ever learning the punchline—the name of the beneficiary of all human struggle, the sum of the final payout of every investment ever made in the future—which may not suit your sense of humor anyway and will probably involve how many people it takes to change a lightbulb.
“SADNESS OF THE INTELLECT: Sadness of being misunderstood [sic]; Humor sadness; Sadness of love wit[hou]t release; Sadne[ss of be]ing smart; Sadness of not knowing enough words to [express what you mean]; Sadness of having options; Sadness of wanting sadness; Sadness of confusion; Sadness of domes[tic]ated birds, Sadness of fini[shi]ng a book; Sadness of remembering; Sadness of forgetting; Anxiety sadness…”
Arabic – Both morbid and beautiful at once, this incantatory word means “You bury me,” a declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person because of how difficult it would be to live without them.