When You Get That One Feeling That’s Hard to Describe

As human beings we are separated by much of the rest of creation by one thing. We experience emotions. Human beings are often beset by a nuanced feeling that might never be experienced by the animal kingdom. We are unique. The feeling we get when we experience emotion travels through our bodies, occupies our minds, and washes over our spirits.


The Rio Olympics reminded the world once again of Bossa Nova and a favorite song. The Girl from Ipanema brought Bossa Nova into renown around the world and gave us all a song that defines an emotion that’s hard to describe. You can listen to it here. The Portuguese language has a word for that indescribable emotion: Saudede (It’s pronounced saw-DA-jay).

Wikipedia describes Saudade like this:

Saudade was once described as “the love that remains” after someone is gone. Saudade is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again. It can be described as an emptiness, like someone (e.g., one’s children, parents, sibling, grandparents, friends, pets) or something (e.g., places, things one used to do in childhood, or other activities performed in the past) that should be there in a particular moment is missing, and the individual feels this absence. It brings sad and happy feelings altogether, sadness for missing and happiness for having experienced the feeling.

When you hear The Girl from Ipanema don’t you experience that feeling? If not that song, I bet you experience it when you hear another. Maybe it’s the song the two of you call your song. Perhaps it’s the song that takes you straight back to the stands of your high school football game on a crisp, fall evening. It may be a song that was playing the day you graduated from college. Whatever song it was, it gives you saudade.

 I often experience that feeling when I witness a sunset. It’s a happy sadness. I also get saudade when I think about the shows I appeared in over the years. When I was very young my dad made me Tiny Tim in a production of A Christmas Carol. I was bitten by the acting bug and didn’t stop performing until just a number of years ago. Every show ended with a happy sadness of what we had all achieved both as individuals and together as a company.

These days my saudade seems more focused on the people who are close to me. I reminisce about that day we dropped our daughter off at kindergarten for the first time. My thoughts turn to watching our son squat behind home plate in catcher’s equipment that was too big for his little frame. I think about that first day my wife and I called ourselves “empty nesters.”

God created us to be emotional beings. I say we embrace those emotions and appreciate it when saudade overcomes us. It’s part of being human. Experiencing saudade means that we are fully alive. And music plays a big part of that.

When do you most experience the feeling of saudade?

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One thought on “When You Get That One Feeling That’s Hard to Describe

  1. Very interesting! Thanks for the insights and new word! I guess I’ll go with the most common – when family or guests leave.