Sunday, November 16, 2008

There is something seriously wrong with me...

I have some kind of extra sentimental gene or something.

Which, in some ways, is completely antithetical to how I behave on a daily basis. I am not a gushy, excitable, over-the-top emotional kind of person. I sometimes see people - women especially - who seem to wear their emotions on their sleeves and they seem pretty emotionally healthy to me. At the very least, they're being emotionally genuine.

I'm too reserved to behave the same way. I just don't know when was the last time I displayed exuberance over anything. Is there something wrong with that? Shouldn't we all feel amazing and astonished and excited beyond belief at least every once in a while? The question is: Is "even" the best way to live your life?

Before this gets too maudlin, my life is filled with people I love, including an amazing husband and children I adore. And we don't live a life of austerity and glass-half-empty attitudes. It's just that I always feel a little 'controlled' about the people and events around me.

I have a Roz Chast cartoon in our refrigerator that mostly sums up my world view: "Rational Exuberance." It's hilarious. The people depicted are excited about mostly mundane things because that's about all the excitement they'll allow themselves. Feels very true to me.

So here I am, living my rationally exuberant, semi-guarded and safe existence, watching my reactions and appearance and speech. Remaining steady, reliable, dependable. Except for this: along comes the animated Christmas show, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" on television. (Yes, I know its early for Christmas specials to be scheduled on TV by almost anyone's standards, except mine. Christmas is too wonderful a feeling to be relegated to three weeks a year as far as I'm concerned.)

And what happens? I watch what had to be the final 8 minutes of the show and tear up when the Grinch "stood puzzling and puzzling" about the meaning of Christmas. Then - forget it - when the dawn breaks, the Whos down in Whoville gather and start singing the Christmas song, I'm over. I'm a wreck. Is this normal?

I'm teary. I am overcome with the feeling that humanity isn't doomed. Enormously grateful for people like Ted Giesel and Chuck Jones who created this television classic and shared their own exuberance for this message with the rest of us. Thankful for the notion that even the most unlovable among us have some good inside.


tummyake27 said...

I used to get excited about things as a child but now...nothing. Sometimes I feel like a robot. And I don't know if my lack of enthusiasm is due to maturity or cynicism.But I've never felt that there was something seriously wrong with that. I think it has a lot to do with your personality, your experiences, and your reactions to different situations in your life. Those things coupled together create the unique person that is you and if that is how your personality is then that's how your personality is. If you don't like your personality- change it. pretend to be excited or something. If you fake it long enough you might start to believe that that is really the person you have become.

renee said...

Hello tummyake27 and thank you for your comment.

I think the only thing that saves me from being far too controlled and sinking into a feeling of "why don't I show / have any feelings?" are the surprising moments like the Grinch reaction I wrote about in the post.

I agree that we're a unqiue mix of our experiences, our DNA, our reactions...and I don't necessarily have a problem with my more or less "rationally exuberant" approach to life. It's just that I wonder where it comes from - deep down - and I agree that it stems from experiences and those reactions to them as you indicated in your note.

But something you wrote at the end of your post reminded me of a conversation we used to have with our kids at the dinner table when they were in elementary school. We would ask our typical "How was school today" and receive a typical "okay..." Then we'd say something like, "What happened in school today?" and again, the predictable, "Not much...nothing."

One night, after hearing that one too many times I said, "Then make something up! Tell us something that didn't happen in school today!" And believe it or not, we heard some pretty creative, pretty amusing, prety funny stories from our 3rd and 4th grade boys.