Onism: The Awareness That I’ll Never See it All

Earth_Western_HemisphereMy friend Karen sent a link to me last night that led to a list of 23 emotions that people feel but seldom notice. I found it intriguing because I’d never seen any of the words before. Before my run, I looked at it briefly, and my curiosity got the best of me. I googled one of them, sonder, to see if it was a real word, made-up word or just a word in a foreign language. My search led me to the origin of this material, a webpage called The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.

I scanned the videos on the page and one of the titles grabbed my attention.

Onism: The Awareness of How Little of the World You’ll Experience

I had to get going to avoid the heat, so I made a mental note to come back and watch that video – or a few – when I returned. But that feeling – onism – was stuck in my head. One of the demons I’ve wrestled with in midlife is my fear that the adventure is over. I remember as a teenage country girl NEEDING to go away and live in many different places. There was never a doubt in my mind that I would do it. I knew that was my life. I just had to check the college box so I could be on my way. It was excruciating waiting for my time to come, and the first thing I did after I graduated was pack up my belongings in my Mercury Lynx and drive away. I’m not even sure I looked in the rear view mirror.

A trip to Disneyworld with friends from Pittsburgh the week I moved to Jacksonville.
A trip to Disneyworld with friends from Pittsburgh the week I moved to Jacksonville.

The next 20 or so years I did whatever looked interesting. Moving was no problem. Marrying was no problem. Changing jobs was no problem. Many things were difficult, and I ended up in the wrong place many times, but I took advantage of my ability to move about the planet. I was settled at one point in Knoxville, and I got an opportunity to move to Seattle. One of my girlfriends told me, “You won’t do it.” I asked her why she would say that, and she said I was always talking about all of these places I could go and job opportunities I had, but I never took them. That was NOT who I wanted to be! I knew more than anything that I didn’t want to be the person who stayed in one place. I don’t like to let the grass grow under my feet. I took that opportunity, and I’m glad I did.

My second wedding in Sedona AZ at Oak Creek Canyon

Moving back home has brought up some unexpected feelings for me. I’d often thought maybe I should move home when I got older because of family and connections and familiarity, but I didn’t know if I really wanted to live in Louisiana again. Since I’ve been here, the very real fear of my adventure being over has struck me cold more than a few times. It actually sends me into a bit of a panic. The root of this is the fact that there is some stupid finish line that one day I must cross. I want to argue and see if we can get the legislature to change this and at some point – maybe before my last day – they’ll decide that we can live forever or a cure for death will suddenly be discovered. But, I know realistically that will never happen. It’s my attempt at denying the inevitable. And so I’m faced with what’s between then and now. I want that to be rich – as rich or richer – than what I’ve already experienced, and I’m terrified that it won’t be. I don’t want the best to be behind me.

A Lake Michigan Sunset
A Lake Michigan Sunset

With onism on my mind, I took a new route on my run this morning. I usually turn left on Capitol Heights to run through my neighborhood, but sometimes I go right when I need a change. But, this time, I not only went right but I veered off that route, too, to explore a new area. I found my mind running back to all of the places I’d been in my life and what got me there. I also noodled what things might be important for me to experience before I reach that final finish line. It’s so hard to decide!! The world is so vast, and there is so much to do. Some choices are limited by budget. Some are limited by the amount of risk I’m willing to take. Now, some things are limited by my physical ability. All of these things will only get more limiting as time goes on. I feel such a critical need to make more thoughtful decisions about how I live my life now. The time before me is so precious. The time behind me was precious, too, but I was too young and unaware to realize it. I never realized that with every choice I made, I left a million possibilities behind me. I took so little time to consider my options. Now, I want to be more thoughtful about what path I take.

The image of myself as a fish appeared in my mind. As a fish, I swim through the ocean, eating whatever is before me. I might swim a few miles away, looking for something else to eat, but I am really limited as to where I am in the ocean, and the types of food I must eat. And I am limited, quite frankly, by my focus. I go about my daily life eating, mating, swimming – not even aware of all of the many oceans across the world. Little do I know there are even bigger worlds to see beyond the water. We are so much like fish. We get caught up in our culture and our little map spot, that we really don’t realize how much of the world we will never see. We are focused on eating, mating and the daily grind, and we don’t look up to see all of the other mind-blowing things we are missing. There are many things in this world I don’t care to see. But … oh myyyyyy.. there is so much of it that I do. And I know that I never will. Onism ….. yes, I feel it.

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