Thursday, April 14, 2022

The Burden of Exuberance

A friend writes, in response to my recent posting "Early Work: Redux"
Hey! I also have that exuberance in my personality. I get my energy from playing with kids. But the kids who love me as little kids get weirded out by an grandma who just wants to play. Then they sadly avoid me and won’t give me a smile or a hug. The people who are around me the most get really tired of me or begin to really dislike me. Where does this come from I wonder?
The Diagnosis

As I wrote, nearly everyone's depressed (“normality” at this point means merely semi-curdled), and depression isn't a deficiency of joie de vivre, but a deliberate rejection of it. People resist it in their world and in themselves (that's why they're depressed!), so it's only natural that they'd resist it in you, as well!
More on depression here (including further links).
The Prognosis

First and foremost, don't expect damaged people to self-repair to accommodate you. They're not treating you any worse than they treat themselves. They're sour, bored, and irritated. They can't extricate themselves from the mud, so don't expect them to offer you sunbeams. Keep stoking your modest commitment to be who and what you are, just...because (more on that at the very end).

The world is not set up to validate you. We are 6,989,500,000 humans doing nothing but desperately seeking validation 24/7, and 10,000,000 who should know better, and 500,000 who are blithely enjoying their existence without expecting much. If you want to dive into the madness, then validate others. But in any case, step down into the 500,000 by being complete within yourself.

Here's one of the 500,000. Meet Zack. Zack's the guy who noticed the subway bomber and called it in, singlehandedly rescuing New York City yesterday:
I get the feeling Zack's not a billionaire. Yet Zack says "the life is nice" (so what the hell is everybody else's problem??). If you're even partially alive, hearing him pronounce this will send a small jolt of exhilaration through you. That's what exuberance can do. That's what you're here to provide. And note that Zack won't get a parade. He's lucky he got a clip on Twitter. But that's ok! Zack lives a nice life! And it's 100% a product of his framing!

Take Your Victory

To anyone viewing with clear perspective, you're doing it right. Seizing the day and living with joie de vivre. The people you're irritating are doing it all wrong, squandering precious alive time by engineering tedium, boredom and numbness for themselves.

This is not a world where the Mistaken appreciate the Correct, but know that just by being here, steadfastly embracing the world, you are 1. living an incomparably better life, and 2. raising the average, brightening it all just a bit, which has an effect. Every action ripples forever into the future. You are The Ancestor of everything that follows. You and Zack and a few others push the train. Bored numb people just trudge behind it, complaining.

Don't be greedy! It's enough to live well in a mental space that's non-horrible and torture-free! Why would you also expect appreciation and good vibes from people who hate their lives and world? It's unrealistic to expect positive vibes from negative people…and most are negative.

To get an idea of just how negative they are, listen carefully on New Years’ Eve, and try to find someone describing the previous year as anything but completely awful. Me, I've never heard a positive word in 59 years of New Year’s Eves. Every year SUCKED for nearly everyone, as they luxuriated in delicious free oxygen and life-giving sunlight here on the only colorful, comfortable speck of life in an infinite cold and deadly void (now further upgraded - as if antibiotics weren’t enough! - with magic glass rectangles containing the totality of human knowledge, entertainment, and communications in our pocket).

That's how bad it is out there, and how bad it is in their heads. Don't expect much from them! You've won! Enjoy your victory!

Expunge Your Neediness

All that said, there's one thing to work on. Meditate or do Tai Chi or yoga or just lots of exercise to expunge any pushy neediness. If your exuberance is stress-based, you're like a stiff wind containing sand grains. That would explain why people feel sandblasted by your presence.
This is the meditation practice I do (ignore the rest of the web site). It's the simplest, most stripped down, non-dogmatic practice I've ever found.
I've always recognized an anxiety at my core driving me to try too hard (plus residual pain from how things have gone). It's one reason I keep returning to spiritual practice. I need to periodically unclench that core and sweep the pain. I worry that my intensity might otherwise propel anxiety and pain outward. I’m not here to make things worse for people!

Everyone's situation is different. Different sand quantities borne by their wind; different degrees of fretful clench. But, spoiler alert, if you relax all the way (I've been meditating for 50 years, and I was a prodigy at it as a child), it still won't fix the problem you describe. You’ll find that it’s no more welcome to blind people with clear bright light than to blast them with sand. Again: the problem's on their end, not your's. They're not here to appreciate you or even fully see you. They're here to seek appreciation while staring in the mirror. Which is fine! To each their own!

But meditation, etc., isn’t wasted. It's helpful in all sorts of ways. For one thing, it increases equanimity, which is the antidote to your predicament. Be aware, however, that the clarity and bliss of meditation can further stoke your exuberance and joie de vivre. But, at this point (as they emerge even more peevish from their COVID ordeal) you know what? Screw 'em!

People don't collapse into glum dullness if they have the least appetite for life and gusto. Grown-ups reach that point by actively repelling gusto (kids - at least most of them - haven't learned that trick yet). If you represent life and gusto, how could you not be rejected by people who define themselves by this very rejection?


Exuberant people are nice people. Earnest people. They don't like to manipulate. And charisma - persuading people to like you - feels manipulative.

I realized, after a few years of very bizarre social reactions, that, in my eagerness to swear off manipulation, I'd completely dropped my charisma. "Naturalness" seemed like a more appropriate approach than crafty enchantment. I'm not a con man; not a schemer; not a "player", you know?

Don't do this! The world runs on charisma! People need it! Without it, you're making them uncomfortable; creating stressful ripples in the world. You owe it to them to force yourself to make them like you - to sell yourself, baby! - even though you'd prefer a more organic appoach. So turn the faculty back on...a little. A minor correction!

I figured this out when I found myself at an airport counter needing to do some fast talking and create rapport with a stranger who had the power to either help me or absolutely ruin my week. My charisma powered itself on, all by itself, and I suddenly remembered how good at it I actually am.

I have an aversion to using this faculty, so it turns on only rarely, in critical moments. But I hadn't left the other person any the worse. I hadn't "taken advantage". She was glad to have met me! I seemed to have given her a lift - not something easily achieved with raw exuberance!

Charisma makes your intensity feel personal; tuned specifically for them. It seems, from their perspective, less like a random spray. Charisma is a precise nozzle for a gushing flow of exuberance. Use your nozzle!

Artsy Talk

Here's choreographer Martha Graham's advice to younger choreographer Agnes De Mille. They're discussing art and creativity, but those things are closely related to the topic at hand. Creativity flows out of exuberance!
The greatest thing she ever said to me was in 1943 after the opening of Oklahoma!, when I suddenly had unexpected, flamboyant success for a work I thought was only fairly good, after years of neglect for work I thought was fine. I was bewildered and worried that my entire scale of values was untrustworthy. I talked to Martha. I remember the conversation well. It was in a Schrafft’s restaurant over a soda. I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be.

Martha said to me, very quietly: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. As for you, Agnes, you have so far used about one-third of your talent.”

“But,” I said, “when I see my work I take for granted what other people value in it. I see only its ineptitude, inorganic flaws, and crudities. I am not pleased or satisfied.”

“No artist is pleased.”

“But then there is no satisfaction?”

“No satisfaction whatever at any time,” she cried out passionately. “There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

Related Postings:
Filtering the Zombie Army
Taking Notes

Note to newcomers: Strewn above you'll find many links to previous Slog postings. Each explains, in greater depth, a concept or idea I didn't have space to fully flesh out here. I don't want to write 150 page treatises reexplaining everything every time!

Are those links a lot to read? You bet! It was also a lot to write! But I try to offer a breadcrumb trail in case you want to follow up on ideas, especially the more counterintuitive ones.

It's up to you, of course, whether to launch into a clicking frenzy. I don't expect everyone to be super-into every posting. If you suspect I'm full of crap on something, but want to give me a! If something whets your appetite, and you'd like to hear! If something has the ring of truth but you don't quite grok! But if a posting strikes you as eye-rolling yadda yadda, I highly recommend Spelling Bee for a more pleasant time waster!

I honestly believe the insights are insightful and the conclusions solid, so it's worth taking time to follow the breadcrumb trail. That's why I took the (immense) trouble to build it for you! But I certainly won't be insulted if you disagree!

However, I want you to understand that I'm not linking pro forma - i.e. because my teacher in Blogging 101 said to sprinkle them liberally. I add them thoughtfully, in places where I recognize that I haven't fully explained or supported my point. 

The beauty of the web is the ability to create deeper structures and map it all magically together. So, unlike reading a book, relief is only a click away. And unlike writing a book, I have limitless ability to digress, parenthesize, and recount stories pertaining to a given point, all without interrupting the flow.

It's a deep rabbit hole, I know. But I tried my very best to make it worth your attention. Happy diving!

No comments:

Blog Archive