I write because I have to. When I miss a day of writing, I feel the grumblings deep within, banging and clanking like the bowels of an old ship retracting its anchor. I become unmoored and drift aimlessly with only the barest of conscious awareness of the world around me. The world and I become things without a labels: untamed, untethered, wild, amorphous, uncertain.
Around the time I turned 30, I dated a man who had behaviors that were maddening. I didn’t have the language to describe his behavior at the time. I only knew it didn’t feel good. One of his tendencies was to ask me what I wanted (to do, to have, etc.) only to declare that he had a better idea then proceed without telling me what the better idea was. I like surprises but his blatant disregard and diminishing of the answers he requested of me was maddening. I didn’t have a label for his behavior, just a dark heaviness that grew within, weighing me down.
I had never been a fan of labeling because it tends to restrict a thing. It always felt as though a label removed the possibility of growth or of taking on other characteristics. Words felt like cages that tamed unnecessarily. Even the names I was given at birth felt like a prison sentence that would shaped others’ perceptions of me.
In all fairness, it would be difficult to move through the world of people without some form of identification. “Hey, you with the purple shirt, curly brown hair, and dimples, typing on your computer…!”
And I guess that’s the point I came to about labeling and language in general. Without that structure of a word cage, thoughts and ideas about a thing can feel like a dark storm cloud threatening to envelope, confuse, and strangle any sensibilities. It wasn’t the enemy I originally felt it was.
Without a label for my old boyfriend’s behavior, I felt imprisoned by it. As soon as I could label his behavior ‘passive-aggressive’, I could distance myself from it enough to more clearly see the behavior for what it was and no longer huddle in its shadow.
Language freed me.
That’s why I write.