I have an ongoing love affair with words. I’m always alert to a new word, a strong word, or a descriptive word. One that stands out, stands up, and catches my attention. Ones that have enticed me before are words like histrionic, peripatetic, balter, and cacophony.
Recently, I was searching for a word to describe the writing life.
For me, to be a writer is more than simply putting words on the page. It is a lifestyle, a way of being in this world. At the core, it is about living life with my senses engaged, fully alert to my world as I go through my day. Consequently, it is also a slower way of being. It is to stop and, not only smell the roses, but also test the prick of the thorn with my finger, observe the fold of the petals, and brush their silkiness against the back of my hand.
Before I embraced the writing life and this slower pace of living, I lived a rushed and ragged life. I lived on fast forward racing to do more, and be more, in as little time as possible. Go. Go. Go. Do. Do. Do. I was short on time. I was short on patience. I was short on peace. I rushed everywhere, and also on the inside. There were times I could feel my heart racing, or was it my soul? I’m not sure, but somewhere in the middle of my chest, I felt this rushing, racing movement.
When I crashed and burned, I knew I needed something else. I reached out to the writing life with a strong hope that it was the lifeline I was looking for.
I already had some expectation of what living the writing life would bring me. I was attracted, like many of us are, to the romantic notion of writing in a café, my fingers tapping away on my keyboard, sipping ‘un café’ with a soar in my heart. What I didn’t expect was how the writing life would permeate my everyday life, changing how I experienced the most modest and regular of tasks.
I became more present to myself and my surroundings. I not only noticed the crack in the sidewalk, I now stopped, looked at it, and traced its fault line with my eyes. Before plunging my hands into the water, I noticed the soapsuds in the sink and listened to their soft sizzle.
To be present to our sense of sight, sound, taste, touch, or smell could be described as a sensual or sensuous state of being. Both words are the adjective form of the plural noun ‘senses’. However, both have come to have closely aligned sexual connotations.
This is not what living a life through an awareness of one’s senses denotes.
In its most innocent form, there certainly are sensuous aspects to feeling the roughness of the bark of freshly cut cedar wood, or of following the grain of the wood with our eyes and having its warm cedar-smell flood our senses. But given the sexual overuse of both words, I looked for another word to depict what it is to live the writing life, a life of being alert to our senses.
I searched and I researched, and I didn’t find one. And so, I made one up.
The closest I could find was the word sensation. Derived from sense, the dictionary describes sensation as ‘a physical feeling or perception resulting from something that happens to or comes into contact with the body’. To live with our senses engaged is to live tingly aware, both physically and perceptively, but also purposefully – deliberately aware of ourselves, our lives and our surroundings – and to connect with it all.
I liked the sound and meaning of sensation, but it didn’t quite do the job either. I decided to marry it with what would have been the correct meaning of the word before it was sexualised, namely, sensual.
I married sensation with sensual to create sensatual – and I like it. A lot!
I often now say that I live a sensatual life, a slower life alert to my senses. I endeavour to feel, to touch, to smell, to see, to hear, and to taste, the extraordinary in the ordinary.
I don’t always get it right. There are times I still rush. I drive too fast, eat too quickly, and go mindlessly about my day. But those times are far fewer than they used to be. I now know how much more rewarding my life is when I live my sensatual writing life.
What would living a writing life look like for you? What word would you use to describe it?
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