An Ode To Monsieur Jourdain, Or The Past And The Pending

In Moliere’s well-known play The Bourgeois Gentleman, there is one particularly well known line where the eponymous main character, one Monsieur Jourdain, expresses a considerable amount of shock and surprise that he had been speaking prose all his life [1].  There is a certain degree of surprise and shock when someone finds unfamiliar words to describe their familiar conduct, although such a shock is not too uncommon for those who are studying foreign languages and realize the grammatical structure of their own language by virtue of having sought to understand the structure of another language.  At least this is my own experience upon learning Spanish and recognizing just how many verb tenses we actually have in English, rather than simply the past, present, and future that people traditionally know.  There is a great deal of knowledge that we have that is implicit knowledge, in that we do something but do not realize what it is called, or indeed that there are certain names for what we do and say, or for what we are.

As I have commented on previously [2], my shift at work has changed to an earlier one, even if my sleep schedule is lagging a bit behind, and as part of that process I was asked to formally apply for the position that has the duties I have already been doing thanks to the transfer of another coworker of mine by my manager.  In the process of applying formally for the position on our parent company’s webpage, I had to attach my resume and update my education and previous work experience, which took a fair amount of time, and in addition to that I also had to answer the usual EEOC questions about my gender and ethnicity and possible disability and veteran’s status.  I had a shock not unlike that of Monsieur Jourdain in Moliere’s play upon realizing that among the disabilities included was PTSD, and that they wanted to know if I currently or had ever suffered from PTSD.  I’m not sure exactly what memo I had missed at some point in my fairly lengthy work life so far, but it struck me with some force that I had never realized in all of my life that in the eyes of my government I was disabled.  Compelled to answer the question honestly based on the information given as to what qualified as a disability, I wondered within myself whether there would be any sort of follow-up as to the nature of my disability, and my total prior ignorance of my status of disabled in light of contemporary employment law.

It should not be mistakenly assumed by anyone that I was ignorant of my own struggle with PTSD or its own frequent unpleasant effects in my life [3].  No, on the oontrary, my hyperarousal and hypervigilance, my continual struggles with insomnia, my out of control startle reflex, and the havoc all of those have played in my life as long as I can remember is not the sort of matter that I can put out of my mind for very long considering its baleful effects on my life.  Nor was I ignorant of the fact that the effects of PTSD could be disabling and crippling, as much as I might want to be ignorant of it.  No, it is simply that I did not recognize that my lifetime condition itself made someone be considered disabled just the same as would blindness or the loss of a limb or mental handicaps.  Now, perhaps it should have been obvious to me that this was the case, but it was not until I happened to see those four letters in a list of representative disabilities that I realized that I counted in the ranks of the disabled, for whatever credit or blame that meant.

Much to my regret, I cannot consider myself strictly or entirely sane, although I have always sought to point out that I have lived as sanely as possible given the conditions under which I have lived my life, and sought above all to limit the repercussions that come to other people as a result of the struggles of my life.  I wonder, though, if it is entirely sane that I have always held myself to the same standard, or even a higher standard than I have held others with regards to what I should be able to accomplish or endure in life.  I have never thought that my rather extreme timidity or the ridiculous ease at which I am startled and made uncomfortable somehow absolved me of the lifelong quest to seek the intimacy of friends and lovers, however unsuccessful I have been in some aspects of that quest, or of the duty to earn a decent living or to let my light shine despite the fears and terror with which I struggle.  Perhaps it is not sane to be so hard on myself, to live a life so driven and so quietly fierce, and I have always sought to be more gentle with others than with myself, but whether it is sane or not I have chosen to live as dignified a life as possible in the circumstances, even if the cost has been a heavy one.  If it is the worst of both worlds to be so candid about one’s disability and so determined to overcome it, such is the world in which I live, and such is the prose of my life.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

[3] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to An Ode To Monsieur Jourdain, Or The Past And The Pending

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Say Goodbye To Regret | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: White Coat Hypertension | Edge Induced Cohesion

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