It occurred to me that, as English speakers, we really do overuse the phrase ‘I am’. I am hungry.
I am thirsty. I am cold. I am sad. I am British. I am female…
We use it for permanent states, and temporary states, with no second thought at all but if you think about our various European cousins, they’re different.
Ich habe hunger vs. Ich bin walisisch.
J’ai faim vs. Je suis galloise.
Tengo hambre vs. Soy galesa.
They use ‘I am’ for permanent states but ‘I have’ for more temporary states such as being hungry, thirsty, sad, happy…
And that’s right isn’t it? Because to use ‘I am’ with a feeling, an emotion, gives it too much credence, too much weight. It accords it a sense of permanence that it doesn’t really deserve. I am not hungry but I feel a temporary need to eat. I am not sad but may be experiencing a passing moment of sadness – a moment that, if I don’t attach myself too strongly to it, will just fade away with time.
That’s not to belittle feelings. I have (recent) personal experience of their power, both positive and negative. But it seems to me that in an age of so-called mindfulness we might be as mindful of the language we use to describe our feelings as we are of the feelings themselves.