On the Public Response to Exuberant Behavior in New England: Week 45 Review

From Tucker at forgeover.com:

Stoke is an abundant force. It’s like love in that you can always make more. Endless supply meets infinite demand. This is a sustainable ideology.

via Shine Bright!.

This is a concept I buy. Get excited about something—genuinely excited—and that excitement rubs off on other people, they become more excited, and then you become more excited because they’re more excited. The “stoke” grows and grows as it’s shared with others. This is a big reason why my resolution for June is to “Share Happiness” by expressing my happiness more.

Even thought I buy into the concept, there are two main problems I have with this idea.

1) Whether it’s a learned behavior or just part of my personality, I don’t really get very excited about things. I’m pretty sure that getting excited about something just invites it not to happen, or invites it to happen, but invites all of the possible negatives that might accompany that outcome to actually happen. When I was expecting my first child, I remember telling my dad that in some ways it just felt like I’d always been pregnant, that everything in my life was leading up to this course of events. He said he was pretty sure I wouldn’t be so blase about it when the baby was actually born.

I didn’t really think of my reaction as blase, but I can catch his meaning: I wasn’t exuberant. I was feeling amazement for this miracle happening inside me, but I wasn’t expressing it. Frankly, I don’t really even know how to express exuberance and I mostly lack the confidence to try. Which leads me to the second problem I have with the “stoke” feedback loop:

2) When I try to express exuberance, people think I’m nuts. My kids are the canaries in the coal mine for “Mommy’s acting like not-Mommy.” When I try to act excited about something, they look at me sideways and back slowly away.

Other people have similar reactions when I become excited about something. The only thing I can figure is that, in order to express exuberance, I need to be really excited about something. By that time, perhaps my excitement is so great that it’s expressed with the fire of zeal shining through my eyes, and perhaps that resembles, just a little, something unnatural and not altogether sane (which leads people (not just my kids) to back away slowly from the crazy lady talking about her blender). I think of when I told people we were going to drive cross-country as a family with our cats. I would feel very excited about the trip (which went swimmingly, by the way), but the response I’d get would be, “Man, I wouldn’t want to do that,” and “Are you sure it wouldn’t work to fly?” I felt discouraged from feeling exuberant about the trip because my exuberance was met with such skepticism.

Here in Massachusetts, people seem to respond even more cautiously to my enthusiasm than they did in Utah. It’s possible that Utahans are more emotive than Massachusites and the flame of my excitement isn’t so shocking in Zion as it is in the Bay State.

A New England example:

I walked into a wine/beer/liquor store the other day (Friday). The guy across the way greeted me by saying, “So, would you like to try some wines?”

I quickly gleaned that there was some kind of wine-tasting going on (I’ve since learned that practically every wine/beer/liquor store has tastings of some kind on Friday afternoons, and sometimes on Wednesdays and Thursdays, too). My husband was waiting in the car with the kids because I was just going to run in for a bottle of wine, but I figured I had time to try one wine.

As I was sipping my wine, I smiled, reflecting on how long it had been since something similar had happened to me. I tried to explain this to the gentleman pouring the wine.

“We just got here from Utah two days ago. We only lived there three years, but it was long enough that I find it surprising when I walk into a store and someone offers me a glass of wine,” I said.

In a monotone and with no hint of a smile on his face, the gentleman replied, “Well, we’re very friendly here.”

I’m thinking that perhaps planning to smile and hug more might be ill-timed in relation to our relocation to New England.

This is even aside from the fact that I’ve got no one to smile at or hug, really, just yet, and that I don’t generally feel much like smiling or hugging. I’m feeling homesick for Utah and for the things that I know. I’m feeling cramped in our hotel room and discouraged that there aren’t more rentals out there for us.

Tucker asks in his post, “Let us know why you’re glowing, shining, going supernova.”

I feel happy sharing in Tucker and Victoria’s excitement that they’re just over three months away from their circumnavigation. But for myself, I’m having trouble seeing the shiny things in life right now. And even when I do try to see them, I’m afraid to take notice of them for fear they’ll disappear. It’s not a great place to be in, and I hope I can bring myself to celebrate even the tiniest things pretty soon.

Or perhaps this is just my time to mourn the loss of my home and friends and places I love. Maybe I just need to give myself some time before I push the smiles and hugs.

In the meantime, I can feel grateful for this, at least:

Sunset at Uhlman's Ice Cream, Westborough, Massachusetts.

5 Replies to “On the Public Response to Exuberant Behavior in New England: Week 45 Review”

  1. Oh I have so many things to say about this. I’m going to have to think about the New England thing some more before I comment, but I did grow up in Winchester (30 min N of Boston) and I feel like my theory of abundant stoke would hold true there too.

    What I want to share right now though is something my dad always reminds me of when I tell him “I’m trying not to get my hopes up about…” He says that whether or not he gets his hopes up, he will still be exactly the same amount of disappointed as if he had allowed himself the pre-event joy of anticipation. The only difference is that if he does allow himself to get excited about it before hand, at least he has that joy if the thing falls flat.

    My dad and I come from two different places (I think his advice is better for you than for me). I tend to need to remind myself not to build things up too much before they happen because I have a tremendously colorful and optimistic imagination. Such an imagination will, if left unchecked, sometimes create unrealistic expectations. That’s just me though. For you, I would suggest paragraph 2 🙂


  2. I never found the general population to be overly emotive. I had to search my Mass touchy feely kula.

    I also find your liquor store experience amusing since I found their not selling alcohol on Sundays in Mass to be really uptight (thank goodness the bordering states had open liquor stores immediately across the state line)


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