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16 June 2011

What I Feel, a short story by Lydia Davis


These days I try to tell myself that what I feel is not very important. I've read this in several books now: that what I feel is important but not the center of everything. Maybe I do believe this, but not enough to act on it. I would like to believe it more deeply.
      What a relief that would be. I wouldn't have to think about what I felt all the time, and try to control it, with all its complications and all its consequences. I wouldn't have to try to feel better all the time. In fact, if I didn't believe what I felt was so important, I probably wouldn't even feel so bad, and it wouldn't be so hard to feel better. I wouldn't have to say, Oh I feel so awful, this is like the end for me here, in this dark living-room late at night, with the dark street outside under the streetlamps, I am so very alone, everyone else in the house asleep, there is no comfort anywhere, just me alone down here, I will never calm myself enough to sleep, never sleep, never be able to go on to the next day, I can't possibly go on, I can't live, even through the next minute.
      If I didn't believe what I felt was the center of everything, then it wouldn't be the center of everything, but just something off to the side, one of many things, and I would be able to see and pay attention to those other things that are equally important, and in this way I would have some relief.
      But it is curious how you can believe an idea is absolutely true and correct and yet not believe it deeply enough to act on it. So I still act as though my feelings were the center of everything, and they still cause me to end up alone by the living-room window late at night. What is different now is that I have this idea: I have the idea that soon I will no longer believe that my feelings are the center of everything. This is a comfort to me, because if you despair of going on, but at the same time tell yourself that what you feel may not be very important, then either you may no longer despair of going on, or you may still despair of going on but not quite believe it anymore.

From Conjunctions:21 Fall 1993

This story is also included in The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis

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