One of the things I’m paying attention to in my quest for a more joyful life, is the role excitement plays. I need things to be excited about. I need to imagine things I’m going to be doing that it’s worth working towards – mixes of challenge and opportunity work well for me. I went back to playing the viola because I was excited about a possibility, and that in turn has opened up more possibilities for me.
I have a need for novelty, and I get bored easily. This was a problem in my first marriage, and something that brought me a lot of criticism. Why couldn’t I be happy with what I had? Why was I always chasing new experiences? Why couldn’t I be happy with what I’d done already and just settle down? For a long time I felt a lot of shame around that, not helped by a sense that there was perhaps something un-spiritual about these feelings.
I’ve let go of the shame on this one. I crave new experiences, and I am hungry for ideas. I get depressed when my brain doesn’t have enough to chew on. I can’t write if I don’t have a rich supply of ideas coming in. I want to encounter the world as fully as I can, to see and know, to bodily experience and be affected by lots of different things. If I don’t have that, or the prospect of it, I don’t feel excited. If I’m not excited at least some of the time, I am far more likely to slide into depression. It takes more to get me out of bed in the morning than the prospect of the same, predictable grind. I feel dull in face of dullness, and that really doesn’t work for me.
I find I rather like experiencing myself as an exciting person. That depends to a fair degree on how other people react to me and to what I’m doing. It cheers me greatly when other people find me interesting and want to engage with whatever I’m doing. I like me better when I’m the sort of person who is out there making things happen, having adventures and creating things. I’ve discovered a lot in the last six months or so about the contexts in which I like being myself, and it’s something I’m choosing to invest in. It’s increasingly obvious that when I’m enthused enough to put things out there I am most likely to be engaging and interesting for other people.
Apathy sucks the joy out of a person and makes it harder to act. Caring and investing are vital underpinnings for being able to feel excited. Some capacity for hope is also important. Sharing enthusiasm with other people is really powerful, I find. I’m more likely to be excited about what I’m doing if someone else is excited about it too. I’m deeply affected by other people’s enthusiasm and I find that good to be around.
I know there can be issues around the idea that enthusiasm isn’t cool. We’re supposed to be calm and dispassionate and being a proper grownup seems to mean being joyless and unresponsive, especially in face of anything that hasn’t cost a lot of money. I’m a long way past caring whether anyone thinks I’m childish, or silly because a life without much enthusiasm is hard to bear. I’m happy to be a bit ridiculous, and I’m not prepared to be ashamed of this part of me.