Ciunga, is it even a word?


Sicilian Coastline

I have commented on the fact that I have an Italian heritage many times. Growing up in an environment so culturally diverse, has added a dimension to the way I say, interpret and often write things.  Two different thought patterns exist in my brain. Many times the language of one world helps me understand where I’m at, despite my enmeshment in the other.

I haven’t been too well over this last month.  Nothing drastic and nothing that can’t be addressed but in the process I ended up with a condition called neuralgia. The pain was nasty, relentless, and took away the power to think coherently.  I managed to lose the belief in myself a little, certainly belief in my work more than a little, and despite having people around me I felt incredibly isolated, immersed as I was in my world of pain. Even a few days later, distanced from it, I struggled to let go of those intense feelings.

I do understand people can experience much worse. This post isn’t a comparison. It is more a comment on how alone you can feel, and how those same feelings can keep you in that very place you want to escape. Words fail you and you need the words to make sense of things or recovery is hampered. Fortunately for me, my cousin happened to ring.  Her job involves long hours, and too often, night shifts.  You can imagine how disruptive her sleep pattern would be.  She is always trying to catch up.  This day was particularly bad.  I knew that straight because she said she was ciunga.

Ciunga is a Sicilian word.  It is part of a dialect so far removed from the Italian language; it could belong to a completely different country. It is also a phonetic nightmare, so my spelling may be a little suspect. These days the Powers That Be have decreed a dialect deserves the title of language.  This confuses most people including the Italians. Personally I like the idea as it means I can tell people I can speak three languages instead of two.

Anyway back to ciunga.  Coming off night shift and two days of little or no sleep, and a busy life meant Em was basically ‘stuffed”.  I could use a better descriptor but I like to keep my blog clean. Ciunga means my legs won’t hold me up, I can’t get around, I’m frozen, immobile and everything hurts.  Ciunga means being beyond exhausted; it is complete and utter energy depletion. Once you say the word nothing else need to be said. (Be aware though that Italians do have a flare for the theatrical.)

How ironic that we are constantly bombarded with the necessity to vary our words when Sicilians are living proof the right word can be used over and over without diminishing in power. I needed that word.  I was feeling ciunga but it wasn’t just the neuralgia. My stress levels had brought me to this space where I understood perfectly what my cousin was feeling.

Stress over re-writes, stress over whether I was fooling myself, stress over the numerous kinds of edits that exist, stress over the amount of reading to be done to understand it all, stress over life and the problems it brings, stress over so many things I am sure you can all relate to.

You have to hand to the Italians for knowing how to express themselves so well in one word, or a shrug, or an eyebrow lift.  They can be so beautifully dramatic, and then they get on with it.  They are not ashamed to be that way.  I love it.  It reminded of who and what I am.

I read an article recently (yep, I read all the time hence the stress) that focused on the fact that we think being busy and stressed equates to a badge of honour. It is a supposed sign of character to withstand the stress levels because it shows the world you are working hard. However as the article says, being that busy can lead to cognitive overload.  Tombola (I could have said bingo but it wouldn’t have been the same), we have ciunga.  As much as I love the word I’d rather not be feeling it. Yet busyness seems to be the misguided fashion.   Parents do it by carting their children to a million activities that barely leaves them time to cook dinner and get the kids into bed, not forgetting the affordability. We belong to groups, we go to meetings, we need to fit in the gym, and so it goes on and on.

Writing this I remembered I started this blog because I wanted to connect with people.   So, I have to find a better way to do things so I don’t get ciunga.  I have to ring Em more often and remind her to sleep more and do less.

The Italian language really does express some things well.  Another favourite of mine is ti sento.  On the surface it means I hear you.  But, like ciunga there are hidden depths. It also means, I feel you, I get you, I understand you, I know how you feel, I’ve been there, and that is just a small sample of what it can mean. Em and I, in two different states, connected in just that way.  Too bad it had to be by ciungering but all the same sharing lessens the load. This is why I write – to lighten that load.

How well that happens, is the hard part of all this.  Practice makes perfect?  But, hey, some feedback would make it go so much smoother. Now, just to remind you I am on the journey to authorhood, I have included a reminder of the anthology. Come on, I have to be sensible.


The Narrow Hallway by Barbara Strickland (available at Amazon and Smashwords)


Till next time



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