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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