Category Archives: intensity

Mind Hack Monday – She Shells

No matter how introverted I say I am I still need to connect with people. But that connection hasn’t always been easy for me to make. And, recently, I have been wondering why it is so hard.

Not that I don’t have friends. I have actually been blessed with many wonderful close friends. They are truly amazing, so I guess I must be doing something right. But, well, I just moved to a new city and now I am faced with the prospect of having to build a social life from scratch.

Moving can be exciting. You get a fresh start, on everything, even who you are, or, at least, how you present yourself to others. This time, I told myself, I am going to be more outgoing. I’ll try to talk to people I wouldn’t normally talk to. I’ll have more confidence, be less guarded, and be a better listener.  You know, “be myself” but better. 😛

Contemplating my struggle with friendships and relationships makes me think of my daughter, whose friendship mojo is strong. In the six weeks since we have moved here she has made several really good friends, had 3 sleepovers, and almost daily invitations for playdates/hang outs. Her social calender is so full it needs 13 months.

Not that I want that. I couldn’t handle that. But I would like to make at least a few meaningful connections. And it would be nice if it didn’t seem so hard.

I recognize that a big part of my problem is my impatience. I haven’t yet figured out how to enjoy the slow and somewhat obscure process of vetting, I mean, making friends.  In the past I relied on intuitive (snap) judgements regarding compatibility. But, the new me, in my new city of Brotherly Love, is trying out new things and new people. I am meditating on remaining open, and curious. And that helps, a little bit. But sometimes it doesn’t.

Of course, sometimes I have to think “Maybe it is just me.” Maybe everyone else I know easily makes full and satisfying friendships. Maybe they often get that experience of being “known” and accepted. Maybe once an outsider, always an outsider. (and maybe feeling negative about the process isn’t really helping:P)

I don’t know. I really don’t. All I can do is just keep showing up and putting myself out there. Or maybe I should give up looking for a specific outcome but somehow not give up on the process. But, I should probably not crawl back into my shell. Unless maybe it is my shell that somehow, paradoxically draws other interesting shell dwellers to it.


Once More Out of the Cave

Back in the early 90s I went to see a staging of the Broadway version of the Who’s Tommy—a soundtrack for my childhood—and the lyrics seemed radically revised. Freedom didn’t just taste of reality, it tasted of “normality.” Tommy, the deaf dumb and blind kid, tells Sally “The point is not for you to be more like me. The point is . . . I’m finally more like you.”


I think I was about 24 at the time, and Pete Townshend would have been in his mid to late 40s when he revised the old lyrics for a new show. I thought then, “Wow, that must be what it is to get old. To make this music relevant for him now, it has to be a story about conforming rather than about liberation.”

(Or maybe about it was drugs. The plot never made much sense.)

(ps you really have to watch that. It will probably explain a lot about your parents.)

May God grant that I age as well as Pete Townshend, obviously, who probably still has more stamina than me. And who knows what he did to make a show that would sell on Broadway.

I haven’t swung quite so far as Tommy did, but lately when I hear new music on the radio, I try to compare my response to it now to how I might have responded to it then. Just as when I hear a song from the 80s, sometimes I think, “Wow, that song sounds so different to me now.”

It’s fitting that I heard of Mumford and Sons from my high school nephew. I love the song “The Cave”: I can imagine myself as a young woman listening while trying to make a decision about leaving college as a sophomore (I did go back), or taking a leave of absence from grad school (ditto), or leaving a job search behind and committing to freelancing full-time (it stuck).

I listen to this song and I see a young woman in a tiny apartment on the phone, trying to convince a well-meaning friend or family member that despite the risks, everything will be OK. I see a desk covered in dorky affirmations—”You will. . . because you can!”—and a brutal 24-hours-solid of crying after a particularly epic failure.

My life lacks that level of drama now, but the song still speaks to me as I think it would have then. Crawling out of the cave of high school, of sadness, and now out of those early high-contact years of parenting: it’s all another chance to rise up and walk out into the light. I love that this song threads those moments together and connects me to that restless, excited, fearless energy of the young me.

I also love cute boys with English accents and long hair. Some things never change.

Do listen now to what you did then? Does it sound the same?

Where Has the Passion Gone, Ctd.

Thanks to everyone for chiming in on the passion questions: so many good thoughts! Feel free to add more!

Kato said something that I have wondered about but not wanted to believe:

Just like there is less drama in our lives at 40, maybe the same is true of passion? In other words, it’s not that we don’t encounter drama or not that we don’t have passion, but it’s more that those blood boiling moments aren’t as consuming as they once were. Maybe it’s a positive? We just THINK we should feel passionate when wisdom and age and perspective is the real achievement?

There’s a clear logic to that. And I’m not disagreeing, I’m just wondering, if that’s true then why doesn’t it feel like a positive?

Where does the restlessness come from, and what satisfies it, even in the short term?

It’s like I have that old familiar itch, but trying to scratch in the same way doesn’t quite work anymore. But I’m still itchy.

Where Has the Passion Gone?

Dear Tabby,

You helped inspire this post. And no, it is not about sex or even romance, though you obviously could inspire either of those things. (rawr)

It’s about those passions that keep you going through the day: the thing that keeps you happily up at night, the thing you don’t have to put on your to-do list because you won’t forget it, the thing that makes you ignore the passage of time.

I have had very few men in my life (and I’m not just saying that in case my mom is reading). I have had a lot of passions.

Music was my passion for a long time. I was a music major for a while in college, and I practiced up to eight hours a day between singing and piano. Then writing took over and music faded. I had always written, but I dove into fiction with, well, a passion, at least for another few years.

But I had also discovered philosophy, especially philosophies of language and culture. Suddenly my world was crackling with significance, and it seemed as if my infinite appetite for systems and theories—just say it, my intense nerdiness—might have a home.

And on and on it goes. Academia, vegetarianism, babies, homemaking, yoga, cooking, homeschooling, community organizing: I jumped into all of these things with an intensity that is, to people who don’t do intensity, a little hard to understand. And it is even harder to understand when that intensity just stops.

It used to bother me when it stopped, because it stops pretty cold sometimes. It’s like you said, Tabby:

When friendships faded or changed, I felt like I had failed somehow.

All that time and energy put into a relationship, a career, a hobby, a “calling,” and then it ends—what a waste. Or at least, that is what I thought for a long time. But now I see that just like friendships, some passions aren’t meant to last, but they are wonderful while they are there.

And also just like friendships, you have to nurture them in the midst of all the crap that interferes. Otherwise you find—as I have in the last few years—that the few passions you have left are looking rather lifeless, and for some the fire has just plain gone out.

So now, friends, I’m a little stuck. I’m a person who’s always been driven by intensity, but I’ve got nowhere to put it. Maybe I’m like a midlife cougar, hoping to find an all-consuming romance when I ought to be grateful I have someone to go to Home Depot with of a weekend.


But I’m not ready to give up yet. I have high hopes that, once I let go of those old interests that aren’t doing it for me, something new and shiny is going to catch my eye. It might be the start of a beautiful relationship, or it might just be a torrid and short-lived affair, but I think passion—probably a lot of passions—is still out there for me.

Are you doing anything to keep your passions alive? Or are you, like me, a little at sea without an intense love to throw yourself into?

[By the way, if you are an intense person or are a person perplexed by living with an intense person, check out Lisa Rivero’s blog Everyday Intensity]