Posted by: Kate | October 1, 2008

That Which Shall Not Be Named

I’m not particularly superstitious.

I’ll say it out loud when we’re having a quiet day at work, and I’ll remark on a stretch of good weather.  I wear whatever it is I’m wearing that day when I go to work, even if it’s an important hearing or some such; I don’t have a lucky outfit.  I don’t knock on wood when I wish for something, and I say “Bless you” when someone sneezes because it’s a culturally ingrained habit, not because I actually believe you might have just inhaled an evil spirit.

As a general rule, I don’t believe that my thoughts or meaningless gestures have any impact at all on the actual events out in the world.

That being said, there are some thoughts I refuse to put into words.  Some thoughts that are so horrifying, so hideous, that I cannot bear to speak them aloud.

Words are big, powerful things, for me.  They’re my stock in trade at my job, and, some days, they’re the only thing that prevents me from sliding over to the other side of the patient-therapist relationship.  I work hard to use the words I mean, the first time, instead of being careless with my words and redefining it all later.  I speak much as I write; precision matters, and efficiency, and personality.  My words are me, and for many of you, my words are the most you’ll ever know of me.

So, the words, they matter.

And once in a while, I encounter a thought, a topic, that I cannot put into words.  It is too big and horrible and unbearable.  Words would not suffice to wrap around it all, and I have a vague sense that, if I did put it into words, then that act of articulation would suddenly give rise to the feared event.  Would make it possible.  Would make it real.

It happened earlier tonight.  I came home from work, completely exhausted.  So tired that I was driving with one elbow propped on the windowsill with my fist propping up my head.  The kind of tired where you roll down the windows and play the music loud just to keep yourself centered and a little bit focused.

I couldn’t think why.  It has been a long couple of days, to be sure, with a lot of clients and just a lot of work.  But that happens, and I’ve been careful to get enough sleep, get enough caffeine, keep rolling through the days.  I didn’t understand why I was so exhausted.

After I had dinner and the kids were in bed, I collapsed face-down on the couch and nearly fell asleep right there.  Willem came over for a backrub and a reminder that we’re still on a schedule, so to speak, now that we’ve invited Clomid into our lives, so I rolled over and we chatted for a few minutes.  Just traded thoughts about our days, what we’d done, who we’d talked to, what we’d thought.

And I spoke a sentence, a casual, quick bunch of words.  Only nine words, I think.  They’re not words describing an event that has happened, or even one that is in immediate likelihood of happening.  But as soon as they had escaped my lips, I felt tears come to my eyes and the cloud of exhaustion descended more heavily.  And I realized, that was why.  That’s why I was so completely ennervated.  My brain had been trying to avoid that thought; had been racing and distracting and shutting down in various ways to attempt to avoid that self-same idea that I expressed with such flippancy later in the evening on the couch.

I still cannot wrap my head around it, and I will not put shape to those words, out loud or on screen.  Suffice it to say that I can talk calmly about the very worst moments of my past, and can accept with equanimity certain possibilities for my future, even negative ones (lifelong debt, never conceiving another child, debilitating illness or pain – don’t I sound like a hoot at parties now?).  Bad stuff happens.  I understand that.  I’m OK with that.

But there are some things I am not OK with, and I refuse to articulate them aloud.  It’s not a big protection, or a strong one, and it’s certainly not realistic.

But, sometimes, it’s all I’ve got.



  1. Thinking of you and sending BIG Hug vibes.

  2. Kate, you said it so well. The unbearable usually comes to us at night, just after we’ve closed our eyes. It’s called the hour of the wolf. Looks like you had your wolf hour in your car. I’m glad you got home safely.

  3. I have experience with this too. And I’m sorry it’s happening, Kate.

    I also put a lot of stock in words. I want to learn to slow down a bit and speak like I write.

  4. […] That’s part of an emailed reply to a comment I made on her blog. […]

  5. Wow.

    That’s all.

  6. Do you mean: “Oh, no, McCain and Palin just won the election”?

    Nine words that would make me shrivel in horror 🙂

  7. ((hug))

  8. Sometimes I think the weight of the thoughts and feelings we carry around is more exhausting than the events of our lives. I’m pretty good at pushing bad thoughts away, but there are always those days when nothing can keep them at bay. I hope you have better days soon.

  9. I understand. I avoid, if I don’t talk about it then it isn’t real. But hopefully it helps to (not) write about it.

  10. I’m speechless.

  11. Just know that what you are afraid to say I am not ever afraid to hear.

  12. […] That’s part of an emailed reply to a comment I made on her blog. […]

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