Emotions, in my experience, aren’t covered by single words. I don’t believe in “sadness, “joy, ” or “regret. ” I’d like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions; lengthy train-car constructions like, say, “the hatred of mirrors that attends puberty” or “the sadness inspired by failing restaurants.”
One of the worst things about the English language is that emotions are simplified into singular entities, ignoring all their nuances. That’s why in order to find my favorite word, we must step outside the bounds of English and into one of my oldest memories.
The summer of my eighth year, I found myself packed into a minivan and shuttled up to Shimla. So against my will, my parents and I drove seven long hours into the heart of Shimla. The first few hours of that car ride were unbearable,combining both my child-sized bladder with my penchant for feeling uncomfortable. Luckily being miserable is exhausting, and my grumpiness gave way to drowsiness. I awoke the next morning in a foreign hotel room. As I got out of bed, the blinds were drawn and my parents were still asleep. I felt as trapped as the proverbial “damsel in distress,” yearning for someone to whisk me away from this vacation in hell.
However, after a while, such a captive maiden soon realizes that her tower- its architecture and height- are only incidental; what keeps her there is a more of a character flaw. Unfortunately, with nothing to provide catharsis, the maiden is resigned to either spend her life sewing or go mad. For me, that flaw was my inability to accept this trip, something I knew could ruin my whole weekend. Deciding to get a better idea of the prison that held me, I drew open the blinds. And oh, what a view it was. I looked down and could see what I thought was all of Shimla; a mountainous expanse, dominated by winding creeks and dotted with lakes. The sight left me breathless, and reminded me of how lucky I was to be on this trip.
Yet when I used to recount this story I never had the word to describe my feeling discovering that view. I just tossed up the word “happy”. That’s why when I stumbled across the German word Zimmermitblickfreuden, it became my favorite word. Literally it means “the happiness of getting a room with a view.” In a case like this, the word “happiness” doesn’t cover it; it doesn’t touch upon the sense of surprise, it doesn’t mention the feeling of gratitude, and it totally ignores the fleeting belief in some sort of divine providence that accompanies this event. Zimmermitblickfreuden is a reminder that we don’t ever have the right words to describe our life, a testament to how much is covered by blanket words like “sad” or “angry.” It’s a reminder that we’ll always have to search for the words to tell our stories, and I’ll always love Zimmermitblickfreuden for that.