on poignancy




I walk 7 blocks to work; a fifteen minute walk normally, twenty minutes if I walk at a slower pace. It’s a beautiful walk, down and back, on 2 of the loveliest streets in town. The past couple of mornings I’ve smoked pot before my walk to work, including this morning, where I walked at the slower pace in a light but steady rain. And these morning high walks, and especially the one I took today, have been evocative, contemplative, and extremely poignant; poignant not as in sad or regretful, but as the state of mixed emotions. It is a delicate and highly personal, tiny place in time.

I pass a dress shop on this walk to work, half a block from my house, where I applied for, but did not get, a job. The blond, young European woman who spoke with me, and with whom I shared my leap-of-faith story, came out on the street a few weeks ago, and asked me how was I doing, was I transitioning well, did I like it here? And now she waves to me every time I walk by—and if I am feeling particularly poignant, vulnerable, open, her hand’s hello comes with a swell of affection, tinged perhaps, with just a hint of sadness or longing, of other hands waving goodbye. There is a white, feather wreath on a garden gate that I pass every day, not a terribly uncommon or unexpected wreath, but a wreath that makes me think of the child’s Christmas story, The Littlest Angel; the story I cannot read aloud because a quick-to-rise shuddering mass will appear in my throat and prevent me from speaking. And when I passed the wreath this morning, it’s evocative purity pulled me into deep thought about love and self and children and life, and all the mixed emotions you could possibly imagine kept tumbling in my little plastic cup of a brain, finally spilling out and forming the question—How on earth did I get here, this unknown street, this unknown town? This question was not regretful or sad, but it was probing, pertinent, curious and emotional. You say, “Why you were high, of course. This is just pot-head, mumble-jumble spinning thru your brain, bringing you to tears!” And while that may in part be true, I have also had these experiences when I was not high, and frankly, it’s one of the reasons I enjoy pot—because I want to get to that place of deep thinking and examination—I want to feel and understand and articulate upon the poignant moments.

There is a paper published in 2008 by the National Institute of Health, entitled, Poignancy: Mixed Emotional Experience in the Face of Meaningful Endings. It is a long piece with chemistry included, but the initial text is interesting and worth reading. In the Abstract it states:

“The experience of mixed emotions increases with age. Socioemotional selectivity theory suggests that mixed emotions are associated with shifting time horizons. Theoretically, perceived constraints on future time increase appreciation for life, which, in turn, elicits positive emotions such as happiness. Yet, the very same temporal constraints heighten awareness that these positive experiences come to an end, thus yielding mixed emotional states……….Findings suggest that poignancy is an emotional experience associated with meaningful endings.”

Much of the paper is focused on the theory above: that mixed emotions (poignancy) are linked to one’s perception/awareness of endings (i.e. mortality, “last times”). While I don’t think I’m pondering my time left here on Earth, I am looking at the end of much of my previous life. But the paper also states that as we age, it is typical to shed the pursuit of the material for that of the meaningful—and meaningful, for me, is the gateway to mixed emotions. But also the gateway to creativity and passion.


photo credit: polyvore





2 thoughts on “on poignancy”

  1. Hi, Pam. This is Susie, Julie’s sister. I came across your writings on her page, and started reading, and really connected. I am impressed with the big changes you’ve made, and love how you so clearly articulate your feelings. You picked a good place. Enjoy. You’re an inspiration.

    • Susie! You are so awesome, thank you. There are lots of challenges in my new life and I welcome every one of them! Please, please keep reading, so glad it all makes sense to someone!


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