Welcome to Day 26 of my blog series based on Judith Hansen-Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.”
I will try to keep these posts to about 500 words.
Here is the quote:
August 29 — Excitement is the surface of fear. Notice today what excites you. Then look deeper and see what it is about that exciting thing that stimulates fear in you. Notice how your excitement is tied to your fear.
We used to have a principal at my kids’ elementary school who would regularly use the word “energize” -d, -s, -ing, to describe her various reactions to my open and fervent interest in my son’s welfare; or when I was PTA president, in the entire student body’s welfare. That was her passive-aggressive way of challenging you into an argument or stand-off. She was terrifically inept. The current, new principal seems at times equally uneasy around parents who happen to give a damn.
I’m not digressing, trust me.
So what would go on in me, emotionally at these exchanges, is excitement. I was not “energized”; I was excited. To me, “excitement” is a good thing, it shows enthusiasm and high energy; but I also use the word (although more sparingly) to describe an elevated energy level in a way that isn’t necessarily a good thing. I’m not quite sure I get what Lasater’s going after by connecting it all with fear though.
My mother would get terrifically excited, almost manic, about a movie, play, song, a visit, or a situation she cared deeply about. Her mood was usually positive and it included lots of clapping, multi-bangle jingling, scarf wafting, hooting, Andy Warhol-inspired-prescription-sunglasses tossing, and thigh banging. If a musical experience were being … experienced, then there was also equally impassioned but angered, “HHHHHUSH! QUIETTTTTT WILL YOU?! THIS IS JUST BRILLIANT!”-ing, head bobbing, “yessss!”-ing, and generally awkward body control to suppress in me (at least) any sort of feral instinct to get her to calm down. She reminded me of a Gilda Radner character or more appropriately Kristen Wiig’s hung-up stage actress:
My father would lose his shit when he’d get excited. You don’t want to be anywhere near the man during a televised sports event. Gasps alert dogs blocks away, or he yells in a way which any unknowing or rational person would think means “Heart attack! I’m dying!” If his reaction were relative to good news, he’d laugh like a despotic hyena and bang his fist into any of the following (combined or solitary): table, chair, knee, ottoman, arm rest, desk, butcher block, steering wheel, phone book, wall, dashboard, hull, rudder arm, or countertop. If it weren’t good news, he’d impersonate Pete Townshend (without actually knowing who Pete Townshend was):
That of course would WAKE ME UP! and then excite me.
I was never really able to bring them, my parents, back to earth.
Often a witness to these emotional explosions, I would do my best to decipher the mood and … Smile? Laugh? Squeal? Hide?
So I think about my personal moments of excitement, including the negative ones, and I can say for the negative ones it’s certainly fear-based, that my world is about to turn upside down. But if I think about the positive moments, I suppose it’s fear-based too, eventually. Say, when a family member is in town and is going to stay with us… I am thrilled to see them, but then I get nervous about the linens, and accommodations and whether we will all get along OK and the rest.
I think, judging from the parents I had, my “excitement” is different from most. I don’t think it’s really the surface of fear; it’s more like the surface of insanity. Snort.
I love that Kristen Wiig character, and I love that you had her as a mother. The SNL characters in my family were far less…exciting.
she’s fun as a character; not always so fun as an actual parent. that’s the thing: everyone thought my *Mom* was this amazing, kooky, free, spirited woman. and she was. so that means: just don’t expect a sandwich (for you) out of her…
So my go to emotion in all things is fear first. I can identify and move past it pretty quickly nowadays but it’s a deeply ingrained habit to be fearful, vigilant and on guard. Elevated cortisol levels have been the norm not the exception.
What I have excavated in layers recently is that I often mistake my feelings of excitement for fear.
Or more aptly I am fearful of being excited. Because when I was excited about something growing up, when I was happy about something, qeither one of my parents might become threatened by my happiness if they were not the cause of it. Or threatened that my excitement about something that interested me might lead me to not pay attention to them.
So they each found away to dimish my excitement. Squash that joy . So now when I feel excitement and possibility I fear pushback. Of course it never comes from them anymore. But I am performing their role in absentia and dampening my own excitement before they do.
Strategies for self protection run amok. Doh!