I read a blog called The Last Word on Nothing. It’s a science blog and the title comes from a quote by Victor Hugo, “Science is the first word on everything and the last word on nothing.”
It’s a good blog, with all kinds of articles on a variety of different things, but a couple days ago they did one on the word “decompensating”
How it’s a wierd word. How it’s easy to decide what compensate means. From the Latin pendre meaning scale or weigh or balance. Meaning a balance between money and hours worked. Between injury and health. It’s the fix.
Decompensating then… to lose the balance?
How it’s what we mean when something that wasn’t working perfectly was still operating in balance. Still working “good enough”. And then it isn’t.
It’s the moment when you’ve compensated for loss by very strenuously ignoring it and suddenly you can’t ignore it anymore. It’s when you’ve compensated for fustration by waiting it out and suddenly it all piles up at once. When you’ve compensated for knowledge with confidence and suddenly you’re asked a question.
And it’s terrifying to think about. In the medical field they use it to mean someone who is falling to pieces. And it’s about right. Who sees more stress to a person’s physical and mental compensations than a medical professional?
But really it means that we spend our lives compensating. We compensate for feeling insecure, for being short, for shyness. And we build a life of little actions that keep us sane and healthy and whole. And at any moment we could decompensate. We could lose the ability to keep ignoring our losses. We could be unable to pretend that we’re brave and bold. And we would fall to pieces. It makes you feel like a house of cards, just a breath away from collapse.
Are we all just compensating? Are we that incomplete?