Tuesday, July 31, 2007

More Past Revisited -- INTENSITY

So, I wrote about my writing crate.

I also dug out all of my songs last weekend.

I used to write a lot of songs; I'd say at least 25 a year if not more. My earliest extant songs are from about 1981, but decent songs only started showing up about four to five years later. College was the peak of my writing, and I wrote a few as late as my days in Japan. I don't think I have written a song of note (ba-dum-bum) in ten years.

Sunday I had a chance to play through them when both children were outside with the neighbors. (Otherwise any attempt to play guitar is sidetracked by wannabe students of guitar.) I had two thoughts. First, some of my songs are actually quite good! Secondly, they express an intensity that unnerved me.

When I started reading Kurcinka's book Raising Your Spirited Child it really surprised me to be remembering how intense I "used to be". Let me exegete that sentence a bit. First of all, I had to return the book to the library when I was only half way through, so I haven't finished it. Next, I was surprised to be remembering, because who "forgets" that they are intense? Me, apparently. Also, I realize that it really isn't accurate to say that I used to be intense. I still am very intense, but for the most part, I am more at peace and therefore my intensity flows in different channels than it used to.

Partly, though, I think I've sublimated much of my intensity. That's all well and good, to a point. If sublimating is to channel a power into a more socially acceptable mode, that's one thing. But if it means rejecting a facet of one's own person, that I think is not so good.

So it was strange to be singing these intense songs I wrote in my late teens or early 20s. I sang first and foremost about my relationship with God. My seeking after God was palpable. I couldn't help but think that while seeking after God is always good, much of what I yearned for painfully in my songs was, in fact, the Eucharist and the fullness of the Catholic Faith. Love.

Many of my songs were also about some shade of loneliness and my difficulty in talking to others, opening my mouth and sharing my heart. While I feel much of that has faded since meeting and marrying my husband (who swept me off my feet by ***talking*** to me!), in some ways I have to admit that the deepest part of my heart still struggles with speaking with open-heart, intense honesty. But it isn't so much that I have deep longings to sit down and tell someone about. Or that I feel alone in the world like I once did. One of the most painful struggles I feel is to be able to be in a room with women acquaintances and to be freely friendly and cordial without feeling awkward. It is funny how we grow and grow, and yet we stay the same.

I want, I need to spend some time coming to grips with what my intensity means right now in my life. The deacon at my pre-Catholic Fellowship used to say to me "don't be so intense". And in various ways, people communicate that to me still from time to time. And I sure don't like it. The last time it happened to me, on a list I belong to, it felt like a stinging slap in the face. I need to be intense. Researching fertility issues, for example -- I needed to be very intense. I think perhaps people are trying to protect me from myself, but it's like a fire that needs to completely consume its fuel.

I think part of my struggle is that intensity is a bit of a solitary thing. And I've felt like I "leave" people when I am in that mode. So, to be nice and good I need to stay with them and tone it down. But that just leaves me with frustration. Especially when intensity is to be a factor in a relationship: how do I handle that intensity without propelling myself away from the very person I'm trying to be close to? Many people get very freaked out by intensity and sort of run and hide. It can feel like rejection.

See, it's all very complicated, and I don't have it all worked out yet.

Is there anyone else out there who's really intense and has some insight?


Willa said...

I am intense and I usually do my best to keep it under wraps. I think now that I'm in my 40's I've started looking for ways to allow myself to be myself .... obviously I don't want to lose people (which is what I fear, either that or making some kind of fool of myself). But then, on the other hand, I don't want to have to keep that barrier up for the rest of my life either. If I do that I might never have the fiery realness and honesty that the saints have.

It sounds to me like you've come up with the realization that you need to work through the intensity, so I think that's an insight right there.

Marie said...


Maybe this goes a ways to explain why I feel such a kindred spirit with you by reading your blogs!

It brought to mind something else I've struggled with, which is really the flip side of worrying about feeling rejected, and that is being judgmental towards people who are not intense. That, I think, is the main thing I've gotten better at in recent years.

Willa said...

Yeah, I guess it takes all types, as they say : ).

I've always felt that intense people are a minority. Minorities are always tempted to feel proud and a bit judgmental.... perhaps because they also feel a bit isolated and defensive. I used to have to confess judgmentalism ALL the time, and even now I have to keep a vigil to make sure it doesn't regain a foothold.

I've discussed this with my kids, but wouldn't have thought of it in this context if you hadn't said that. Maybe it's not true for you, but I thought I'd mention it just in case!

Anyway, yours is one of my favorite blogs too.

Anonymous said...

I'm intense, too. And it used to put people off and it DID feel like rejection. So, I sort of withdrew.

Now I sort of keep my intensity in my own mind - think deep thoughts and write alot. I can still be pretty intense sometimes in conversations if I don't monitor myself. I try to keep my blog very light-hearted or it could become way too deep and, well, probably strange! lol!

I think I've been able to find a sort of balance where I can be intense in my prayers and thoughts and with a few people who are as intense as I am, while keeping things sort of light and on the surface everywhere else. I'm still able to be authentic - I pick the "time and place" to be intense. =) Hope that makes some kind of wierd sense!

Marie said...

I go for the strange...

I guess I probably keep things relatively light most of the time through life, but I do find the serious, ponderous side of me springing forth even when I question it sometimes. Like when I talk with my son. Sometimes I don't know that he needs me to be so serious, but I just figure it is natural to me, and I haven't yet really figured out how to be authentic without it. At least on those certain occasions. And there are other occasions where it is like the white elephant dancing on my lap (??). I want to be friendly, I want to be relational, but more than aught else, I want to be a real friend. So in my attempts not to be "the heavy", I become "the clunky". But I'm doing better. In my early 20s I couldn't get past sobbing when I wanted to be "the real friend".

I know those who are true friends, and those I can trust, will see through my clunkiness and be patient with me.

Because they probably do the same things :)