Toska

This is the first in what will be regular installments of creative works by my patients. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover the well of creativity that lives in people! Enjoy!

When I was fifteen, I remember sitting in my grandparent’s back yard on a normal humid summer evening in Copiague, NY. My Oma came out with a mason jar to catch fireflies in. After catching about ten fireflies I put the lid back on then sat next to her to drink some tea-this was my nightly routine. I remember it being quiet that night with no important conversation going, at least from what I remember. I kept watching the fireflies both in the jar and outside the jar. Then, I heard my Oma speak. She grabbed my hand and said “Toska” in her thick German accent. As it truly caught me off guard, I asked her to repeat it. She said “Toska.” Confused, I asked her to explain. She told me this, “There is no direct translation for that word,” as she placed a hand over her chest. Even more shocking to me at the time she said, “It’s a Russian noun.” I was in shock not knowing she knew Russian. She kept explaining that “Toska is an immense ache for nothing and everything all at once, and at its truest form it is the deepest pain and anguish of one’s soul.” I told her I hoped I would never have to feel that way and she wished the same.

 

Fast forward 13 years and I find myself tired, tired of fighting myself. Tired of feeling the NEED to prove myself to others but knowing all my energy and efforts go unnoticed. I’m tired of coming in last place ALWAYS. I’m tired of trying or really just trying to try and still feeling like I come up short EVERY TIME. I know my brain is in an exhausting place and I know I live there. Yes, I function in daily life. I work, and I take care of what I can. Reaching out isn’t my thing and probably never will be. I will most likely lie about how I’m feeling or how my day is going because it’s truly not worth explaining (or so I think). I hate being someone’s inconvenience, and let’s face it, I am, all the damn time. Working hard to take two steps forward for me has shifted my life enough to feel like I’ve taken ten back. I understand this is a lifelong pain and a war I have with myself every day. I’ve been stabbed in the back by those I needed most. I’ve been lied to by those I love and who I thought loved me. I have felt alone when I couldn’t afford to be. I have trust, neglect, and abandonment wounds that run deep.

 

Now sitting in the living room with my Oma on my twenty-eighth birthday ready to sip my glass of wine, she raises her glass and says “prost” (Cheers). As I go to raise mine to say the same, she follows with “Toska!” I Klink my glass and with a sigh say “Toska.”

 

“No single word in the English language renders all the shades of ‘Toska.’ It is the deepest and most painful 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, and a yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody or something specific, nostalgia, or even lovesickness. At the lowest level it simply grades into “ennui” or “boredom” (Vladimir Nobokov).

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