Recently, as in the last month or two, I’ve encountered a peculiar feeling after completing a physically strenuous and mentally exhausting task, such as climbing Devils Tower. It’s the feeling of coming down from the experience, and the feeling that the people around me have not even the slightest concept of everything that I just endured. I suppose at the heart of it I seek acknowledgement or recognition from the strangers around me because I survived such a transformative experience. But there is no way they could know what completing this task and coming out of it victorious meant for me.
Before I left on this road trip, I watched the movie Everest about the tragic 1996 disaster. At the end of the movie, I thought about how the survivors felt at the airport. I imagine them surrounded by a mass of strangers who are frantically moving towards their destinations, wrapped up in their personal mental skies and totally oblivious to the inner turbulence and grief of the climbers who not only just stood on the tallest mountain in the world but also just endured one of the worst disasters in its history.
I’ve noticed this feeling elsewhere: my friend described the feeling after barely escaping a thunderstorm on the peak of a fourteener and being greeted by cheery hikers who couldn’t know that he was nearly struck by lightning three hours previous; or after I finished hiking out of the Grand Canyon and stopped by Grand Canyon Village to see a charter bus of 50 tourists taking pictures from the Canyon’s lip only to get back on their bus 10 minutes later.
I believe everyone has experienced this feeling at some point in their lives and it probably wasn’t after completing an outdoor adventure. The circumstances can vary but the heart of it remains the same. It could be after a family member is diagnosed with cancer or after a loved one dies or upon hearing the news of a couple’s divorce. All are instances where this feeling seems salient and visceral.
In the spirit of the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, I’ve invented a word for this feeling: anovipenitus. The prefix “a” means without, “novi” in Latin is knowledge, and “penitus” in Latin is inner.
What feelings do you often encounter that don’t have words to describe them? What words would you create to do them justice?