Nervous Energy: The Case for Peace

I’ve been all over the place lately. I’ve been almost frantic.

I went shopping a total of three times to purchase gifts for charitable organizations. I spent three hours last night frenetically picking up, putting away, and throwing away things from all over the house in preparation for the housecleaners today. Earlier this week, I baked three batches of popovers in one day trying to get the darned things to puff. I’ve been cooking full dinners with multiple side dishes. I’ve gone back to compulsively checking Facebook, e-mail, and blog stats (luckily I don’t have a smart phone or I’m sure I’d ignore my children even more than I already do). I’ve stopped journaling.

I have the feeling I’m trying to avoid something. I don’t know what it is, but I’m fairly certain I know how to get to it, if I choose to.

I need to sit still.

For a while, this frenzied activity leaves me feeling cleansed, like the feeling after a powerful thunderstorm. But it doesn’t last long, and I’m quickly thinking of other things to occupy my time and my mind.

I think about Tucker’s suggestion to postpone responsibility in favor of having fun. I still feel squirmy when I contemplate actually doing that, but I think that I could find some real value in the spirit of that suggestion, particularly if I translate it into, “postpone action in favor of stillness,” or even, “postpone activity in favor of awareness of beauty.” It removes the confusion and moral judgement I have around “fun.”

Now that I think about it, this really comes down to another issue of masculine energy of action and intellect vs feminine energy of reflection and emotion and connection.

Not that I’m avoiding all emotion and connection in the course of my frenetic activity. I mean, I’m carefully choosing and purchasing items for individuals in need, thinking about their situation and feeling empathy for them. But when I went to drop off the gifts at my friend’s house today, she and her husband made some comments about my generosity, and it really put into contrast how I actually felt while purchasing and wrapping the gifts. I didn’t really feel generous. I felt driven. I felt nervous. I was using this gift-giving to meet my own emotional needs in the moment.

Same with the popovers. My kids loved them regardless of how they turned out, and I was doing a very feminine, maternal thing by nurturing my family with food made by my own hands. But that wasn’t the reason I was cooking them, and it wasn’t what was motivating me at the time. I was motivated at the time by something of an obsession to get them to turn out the way the picture on the recipe website looked. All other considerations were secondary to my quest for the perfect popover.

I don’t think it’s necessary to stop making popovers or giving to charitable organizations. I think that, for me, I just need also to be aware of my purpose in doing so and reflect on the emotions behind these actions. I am generous, and I am nurturing, and I am maternal. I want to really feel these things and to be aware of them rather than letting them be subsumed by the more masculine focus on action.

While this isn’t directly focusing on fun, I think it’s necessary in order for me to experience fun. Or any not-strictly-intellectual sensation.

So, this is something to know about myself: I’m more comfortable in my mind than in my heart, and I will default to action and figuring things out intellectually in order to stay within my comfort zone.

I think about Maggie’s post about her ride home with the bar owner in Kigali. I really, really want this kind of connection. I know I don’t need to travel to Africa and drink Ugandan gin to connect with another person. But I do need to be still in my mind long enough to reflect and trust and feel. I need curiosity in addition to reasoning, logic, planning, and a large vocabulary. I need—not just want—to notice and internalize the beauty around me.

That, I think, will lead me to fun. And perhaps something bigger along the way.

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