Enthusiasm

A friend of mine was saying yesterday that he sometimes wished he could be as enthusiastic as me about things. It took me aback, because for the most part I am very nonplussed about life. Part of it is dysphoria, which I personally think is a byproduct of living with nightly nightmares and flashbacks and a touch phobia among other things. But part of it is that I’ve always been a fairly insular person, and so I don’t associated myself with enthusiasm. Or at least – not enthusiasm related to social events!

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But in this instance, the term came up because I was cooing and fawning all over probably the most glorious sunset I’ve seen all year. We were in the car, and I was alternatively gasping and bringing a whole band of sound effects along with me: ‘oooo’, ‘ahhh,’ ‘eeee’. I was pointing and talking about colour gradations and ‘oh god it’s so glorious’ and essentially I turned into a non-crying equivalent of the Double Rainbow guy.

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Nature does this to me. I’m the girl who – when the moon is full – will often sing ‘moooon, moooooon,’ regardless of who else is around, and then stare avidly and adoringly until I have to go do ‘real life things.’ I will stop and watch wild animals on my walk. I’ll go and examine the buds of Nuytsia floribunda (the Australian Christmas Tree, and largest species of mistletoe) just because it makes me feel good to do so.

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So I do have enthusiasm for nature. Actually, I have enthusiasm for a few things; good music, good art, good TV, good food. People? No, not so much. I have lovely friends, but too many damaging experiences with people have taught me a deep, ingrained wariness that always stops my good will from becoming much more than a hesitant love. I am still always surprised when my friends accept this as something valuable because I know in my heart that I have so much more to give, if I could just let myself.

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I’m that person who cries at every song during the Sound of Music simply because I feel intense emotion that isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just so intense that I cry. Every time. Every time even though I’ve seen it a hundred times. Sunsets and sunrises and storms and general ‘nature things’ are the same way. I’m invested. I get enthusiastic.

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I used to be very afraid of some of the things that I did naturally and spontaneously. I was afraid of doing silly dances to celebrate things like ‘Glen has brought chocolate home for me,’ and I was afraid of singing songs that I’d made up about people’s nicknames, I was afraid about crying at things that most people didn’t associate with crying (until I saw Melanie on So You Think You Can Dance, this season, who cries like I do – all the time at random things), I was afraid of being the one to laugh loudest in the cinema (I always am, I once had a friend tell me that I’m the one who breaks the barrier and makes it okay for everyone else to laugh as loud as they want; but secretly I think I’m the one that everyone else thinks ‘honestly, woman, it’s not that funny.’), I was afraid of closing my eyes over that perfect bite of key lime pie or saying ‘this is sex‘ in my driven, happy way when I see a bombastic piece of artwork.

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I still can be afraid of these things, you know. I am afraid to show my happiness and enthusiasm around others. I knew a couple of people who – when I was growing up – took this as their cue to make my life as miserable as possible. And so I learned that happiness and enthusiasm could be tools used to subjugate and subordinate other people. So my enthusiasm became a private reality, something I cherished on my own. No wonder I grew to love being on my own so much. It was the only time I could feel something good in a way that wasn’t always tainted with shame or self-hatred.

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This year I made a decision to be more natural with these things about other people, to be more vulnerable. It was a hard decision. It first started because I was tired of feeling so ashamed at myself for tearing up during the Winnie the Pooh theme song, or during the lyrebird singing during the David Attenborough Life of Birds documentary. I love sharing media with other people, but I hated my emotional reactions to things because they are intense. I am the person who – upon feeling myself starting to cry during an inspirational moment in a musical – will start counting times tables in her head to stop the upswell of intense feeling. Social embarrassment avoided, but it also bleaches my enjoyment out of a movie or TV show.

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So my friend was seeing an enthusiasm that I’ve only really been happy to explore around other people in the past year / year and a half. It’s hard to be that person around other people. It’s hard to be myself. A lot of life has taught me that being yourself is the fastest way to be damaged. And as an adult, I’m learning that being myself now is maybe a faster way to healing, if I approach it carefully.

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I’m a crier at movies and TV shows and songs even when they’re not sad. Especially when they’re not sad. I’m a person who has silly dances (the ‘we’re going out’ dance and the ‘I’m washing my hair’ dance and the ‘we’ve run out of the toothpaste where’s the new tube’ dance) and who sings at the moon and sings songs for her friends and bops her head to bass-lines that no one else can hear. I’m someone who is sensitive and vulnerable and enthralled by plants and animals and rumbling thunder. I’m someone who laughs the loudest in the cinema and can laugh at the same joke, in the 50th viewing of the same show with the same intensity as when I saw it the first time. I may have alexithymia, I may not know what I’m feeling; but I feel things intensely. It’s not just depression and dysphoria all the time, and I am teaching myself to show this reality to other people.

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Which is probably a good thing, because tonight we’re watching Sound of Music with said friend, and I will cry at every single awesome song just like I did the last time I watched it; simply because it makes me feel that good. It will be so much nicer to do that rather than counting times tables to make me seem as emotionally ‘appropriate’ as everyone else watching!

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15 thoughts on “Enthusiasm

  1. This is really interesting! A lot of the time, when I act enthusiastically, I feel like I’m being perceived as a child. My voice gets high, I go crazy with happiness – particularly if it’s over kittens! I love kittens. For me, there’s this perception that adults don’t get overtly happy or excited, that your emotions are meant to be bottled up. I’m not good with handling over people’s emotions, so when I’m around other excited people, I get nervous and stand-offish. So perhaps I can understand why some adults may perceive me as being “kid-like” because of what and how I express my excitement. *shrug*

    I think this is a cool observation. I’ve never thought about it before! Hah. I also think it works in the opposite direction too – where you’re punished for being angry, upset or unhappy. I see this in blogging at times, where sadness is mostly meant to be extremely temporary and where you’re forced into a state of artificial happiness (ah, how I loathe the culture of “faking it til you make it”).

    Also – I laugh the loudest in the theater too! At times I feel so embarrassed. But there have also been times when I was the ONLY person laughing, even in a crowded theater. :3 I don’t have little dances though, aside from the universal, “I have to pee, where is the bathroom!?” dance. πŸ˜›

    Great post!!! πŸ˜€

    • I don’t think it’s such a bad thing to be perceived as having childlike habits, or childlike enthusiasm, vs. say being seen as ‘childish.’ The former tends to imply that one is able to access the deeply positive aspects of childhood without the negatives, the latter implies the negatives without the positives.

      I also think it works in the opposite direction too – where you’re punished for being angry, upset or unhappy.

      Oh yeah, have definitely experienced too. In that sense, I just think you fall a lot harder when someone tries to pull you down from happiness, vs. other more commonly understood ‘unpleasant’ emotions.

      ah, how I loathe the culture of β€œfaking it til you make it”

      Me too. To an extent, I think it can be useful; but not to the extent where it currently runs rampant, causing people to judge others negatively for not faking it enough, or brooding for more than one day. It’s one thing to look for positives when you have the energy to do it, it’s another thing to have others expect you to do something when you *don’t* have the energy to do it. It takes a LOT of energy for some people to ‘fake it til they make it,’ and in those cases, the expenditure is not worth the lack of balance. The energy put in is rarely the energy that comes frmo the endeavour.

  2. hmm… I cry at “inappropriate” things too sometimes. I also have always danced and hopped and skipped around. People used to make fun of me for it but I don’t really hang out with anyone negative like that anymore. I have to admit I don’t do it as much as I used to but I think that is because of my generally more sedentary life now… I jumped in the hallway yesterday to see if I could touch a low part of the roof (I could) but my knee hurt after! πŸ˜›

    • Yes, it is necessary to be careful with that kind of frolicking, I think! I’ve had two knee reconstructions, so things like jumping are pretty much ruled out. I actually think my knee joint could handle it, but my tendons never bounced back properly after the first reconstruction; even after years of physio and diligent exercise, and I just don’t know if they’ll ever get the same level of ‘bounce’ back, for safe jumping.

  3. This is just plain amazing. Like you, I’m alexithymic, but my emotions are still deeply buried and I hardly even notice them. I think it’s because I’m very easily overloaded, not because of any trauma.

    But it’s wonderful to know that things like this can change. Thank you.

    • I think on the alexithymic spectrum, I’m probably at the lower end of severity; though it’s hard to gauge. Though I can emotionally engage with media and artwork and so on, I am completely inhibited from doing the same with personal matters and it’s held back my personal growth as a result, significantly, even with the assistance of therapy. Very frustrating.

      I also don’t really understand what I’m feeling. For example, one day while watching a Disney movie – not during a part others commonly understand as sad – I felt like crying. I decided, instead of inhibiting it, I would just let it happen until it ‘wore off.’ The stupid thing is, it never wore off, and after 40 minutes, I still had no idea what I was feeling. Only that it was disturbing, and strange, and I couldn’t anchor it to anything in particular. I knew the movie was causing it, but I didn’t know why or how.

      So I have the emotional expression; the alexithymia just stops me from knowing what those expressions often are, and why they’re happening. :/ There are exceptions, but the ‘crying during movies’ habit I have is one I’ve never been able to fully suss out.

  4. This is funny – I was saying almost exactly this to Seth today. We were at a wedding, and while other people were wiping away the odd tear, I was really crying my eyes out. At EVERY. LITTLE. THING.

    Ever really listened to the ‘Golden Girls’ theme song? Oh my goodness. I cry and cry. I cried at Disneyland too. Just because it was so Disney. Hah.

    I think about tax more than times tables (have I done it? Are my accounts it order?), but you’re right – it rips you out of the moment. It’s a shame. I like other people who feel as intensely as I do, and wish it were less socially weird to cry when something moves you. Even something odd.

    • Hee, synchronicity!

      Oh goodness, the Golden Girls theme song is intense! Winnie the Pooh gets me very time when it starts of with that slow ‘deep in the 100 acre wood where Christopher Robin plays,’ and most of the Miyazaki films get me in the opening theme.

  5. You and I should hang out someday and be “embarrassing” together. πŸ˜€

    Any tips for learning how to let yourself to cry in front of someone else? I still have problems letting myself cry over intense feeling, even when I’m alone…

    • Any tips for learning how to let yourself to cry in front of someone else?

      It really helped for me to realise I didn’t mind when other people I respected and loved did it. I refer to Melanie from So You Think You Can Dance and she’s a really good example. One of the things I loved about her was the fact that she wore her heart on her sleeve, and cried a lot. She was good-natured about it, admitted it, even engaged in making fun of herself for it, and yet still allowed that level of vulnerability week after week.

      It kind of made me realise that even if I don’t understand why I’m crying, it’s a permissible reaction amongst those who wouldn’t try and hurt me for it. And then I had to define what is ‘hurt’ and what isn’t; good-natured teasing is okay. It’s an unusual behaviour and it may make others feel more comfortable with what’s happening. It’s not something I want to share with everyone. It also made me realise that it was valuable and important, and that I’d only share it on my terms. That helped. It isn’t an ‘all or nothing’ choice. On days when I’m feeling more reclusive I’ll go back to counting times tables in my head and shutting all those responses down. It’s just…now I know that I can also choose to wear my heart on my sleeve if I like too, and this is a trait that can be admired by others who also wish to be more expressive. It threatens some, but the kind of person I want to be is more like a Melanie, than a repressed person.

  6. Greetings from Spain!
    I found your blog while I was “googling” for some image of Deer as a totem…and I was dazzled by your paintings!!
    Now I read this post and feel very sympathetic.I used to judge myself for being so emotional. I’ve never been able to hold my tears when being amongst others …or maybe I never tried hard enough cause deep inside I knew it wouldn’t be healthy.
    I too get high admiring nature’s ways and watching animal’s documentaries…and if I am amongst live animals, I hardly communicate with other humans πŸ˜‰
    Congratulations on your progress..I am happy that you are revealing your child within, it is a great gift for those around you!

  7. Hi – just want to say what an amazing artist you are, your work took my breath away and yes I did have a little cry as I looked through your galleries. Like you I feel everything in intense detail. I always thought that it was wrong to express the raw emotions of what I was feeling because I didn’t always know what it was – I just knew that something deep inside of me made me want to express to the world the intensity of knowing the beauty behind a thing or situation. Just like art – these emotions cannot always be put into something as limiting as human words because I now know and feel that what I sense is something far greater – it is the innocent voice of my Soul – which is so pure, so free, so childlike – that it responds with a childlike vigour at all that enlivens it.

    As a child I was never allowed to express any emotion – be it perceived as good or bad – so I kept it to myself. I always wanted to be an Artist but my parents saw no value in that – so I never went for my dream. The irony of this is as a child I was always portrayed as older than my years. And now as a women in her early forties – I am perceived as someone who is in her mid twenties. I now see this childlike quality that I express to the world as a gift to the world – for without us intense people – life would be so dull. Like both your friends say we are the rule breakers, the trail blazers, the ones who break and give permission for others to step out of the box. Being this way offers others the path and gift of enthusiasm – to see the beauty and joy that can be had in the ‘little’ things in life – the things that surround us everyday that we often do not see, because we are so wrapped up in pleasing others and not being ourselves. These for me, like you are the moon, now I stand in my garden and sing and howl at the full moon. I dance down the supermarket isle if there is a song that moves me. I laugh out loud at the things that tickle me and I giggle and cry with enthusiasm at the splendid beauty of nature that always seems to amaze me – even though I have seen a flowers bud hundreds of times – I am still fascinated that all that power, beauty and growth can be contained in one tiny seed.

    You express from your soul – something very few people know how too do or what to do with it when it arises. You I feel live soul expression daily and translate it into your beautiful artwork and your interaction with the world around you. It took me forty odd years to understand this part of me – and I am still learning.

  8. I like the work of Abraham-Hicks on these sorta topics. Takes out the Western-medicine judgements and parameters and just talks about heart & soul. Makes it easier for me to deal with who and how I am…

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