Recently I was sitting on a bench in a courtyard outside my dentist’s office while my daughters were getting their teeth cleaned. It was a perfect summer day, crisp and clear with a tangy mixture of slight breezes and sunshine.
I breathed in deeply. I crossed my legs. I looked to my left. I looked to my right. I breathed in again. Then I began to cry.
I could blame it on a lot — Covid, some sad news about a childhood friend, two stories I’m working on that are sensitive and controversial with the writing slow going. Certainly all these contributed to the tears that flowed. However (and maybe this sounds strange) I was relieved. It felt good to be alone and to cry.
There is another layer to this experience that seems definitive to my personality, and it is best described as dor. It is a Romanian word that comes from the Latin word dolus, which means, “to ache.” I learned about dor in the travel issue of Kinfolk magazine. It is “a visceral, bittersweet yearning … [that] is not intended to be gloomy, [but] gives emotional significance to life.” I especially appreciated learning that “dor conveys a loneliness you embrace, rather than overcome.”
Staying positive and thinking happy thoughts can be, quite frankly, exhausting. I also don’t think it’s a genuine way to live. I think when I allow myself to experience dor, it makes me into a more confident, vulnerable, and creative person.
The morning when I dropped my girls off at the dentist, I knew something was off but didn’t fully realize it until I stepped inside the office and saw the yellow tape that X-ed off the chairs so that there was no room for me in this space. It was dangerous for me to stay. I then understand it would be good to step away and find a seat elsewhere.
I kept on my sunglasses so as not to give myself away while I cried, and at one point, a man walked by. He told me that I looked so comfortable and that he was jealous.
I laughed, but I wasn’t comfortable. And that is okay.
This week, write a poem that expresses dor. Try to embrace loneliness (and make the reader embrace it) instead of trying to overcome it.
Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here’s one from Jenna Brack we enjoyed:
We cross a narrow board,
thin as a fillet,
onto a rickety dock. He wants
to catch fish, I want to catch
He casts a net, pulls up a minnow
with gaping gills and wide eyes,
slides it onto a hook. I lament
this practice, using living things
to catch living things
But that’s how
you fish, he says.
He casts his rod, the sun
crosses the narrow bridge
between day and night,
ripple the sky, and I watch
with my mouth gaping
and eyes open, trying to catch
the enormity of life
with one slender hour
We leave, two silhouettes
crossing back to shore.
He has caught
no fish, the sun has evaded
But it was a perfect night
for fishing, he says.
Browse more poetry prompts
I have been a fan of Callie Feyen’s writing for quite some time but I finished this book in almost one sitting. You do not need to be a teacher to have instant admiration for her honesty, vulnerability, and true dedication to her students. She uses her own personal storytelling as the tool to teach one of the greatest stories of our time creating an instant connection to her students as well as to you the reader. If you have ever been in 8th grade, fallen in love, had a best friend, or loved reading, you will love this book. As the mother of an 8th grader, my other genuine hope is that my son will one day have a teacher as gifted as Callie.
– Celena Roldan