A Quick Note on Being “Intense”


Hannelore Knuts by Juergen Teller, i-D 1999

Written a few weeks ago in Chicago.

“I cannot stand small talk, because I feel like there’s an elephant standing in the room shitting all over everything and nobody is saying anything. I’m just dying to say, ‘Hey, do you ever feel like jumping off a bridge?’ or ‘Do you feel an emptiness inside your chest at night that is going to swallow you?’ But you can’t say that at a cocktail party.” —Paul Gilmartin, The Mental Illness Happy Hour

Mornings when I don’t instantly have something to write about make me queasy and lead to a full-blown character assassination in my head. You are the worst, downright worthless—a complete and utter waste of life who will never succeed, and so on. In the words of past, irritating suitors, it’s “intense,” a word that people love to wield when they can’t handle any semblance of honesty or emotion.

This morning, while falling down that same rabbit hole, my chest tightening more and more as minutes passed without an inspiring idea, I stumbled upon this quote and felt a little lighter. There’s something to be said for having your own anxieties mirrored back to you—a worthwhile “cold comfort” if there ever was one.

It’s why I love reading Ask Polly, and surrounding myself with people unafraid to decorate the world with all that they’re feeling (or failing to). I try to live in a perpetual state of Thank god I’m not fucking alone because the alternative—while perhaps neater on the surface—is too difficult to bear.

If I can’t unleash all of the things to all of my people, they’ll simply stack up inside me—a rotting layer cake to vomit up some night later when I have a bit too much to drink. And when those around me can’t do the same, I feel as if I’m living in one of those hamster balls—sealed off from any kind of real connection.

That’s not to say that letting my feelings bubble over, and often onto the page, doesn’t also give me anxiety—I’ve often dreamt of being one of those repressed and tidy women, all her feelings color-coded and hidden away in her bowels where they’re hardest to reach. I frequently convince myself that it would be easier, albeit a ruse.

But the truth is so much more rewarding, as is digging myself out of the shame-hole that’s been calcifying since birth (a trap that I’ve learned is universal). I’ve chosen intense and introspective over the lie that would be placid and always at peace, because the world has enough of that crap already.

Categories: Reflection.

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