I’ve been looking closely at myself in the past few months – remembering the passion and intensity that kept me dreaming in my early 20s. I’m an intense person, I’m told I care too much about too many unimportant questions – and since I really can’t imagine what might be unimportant about those tiny questions, I guess my naysayers are right.
But in the past few years I’ve kept most of my thoughts to myself. I’ve found easy and unchallenging things to say to avoid extra conflict, and now I’m noticing my internal thoughts have softened as well. But it’s not actually a healthy change. Instead of pouring out of me and into my whole way of life, the intensity I love is cluttering up my internal life – restless and constricted it hovers under the unchallenging thoughts and darkens.
I don’t want to be smooth and socially acceptable though – not really. I want to be who I am. So, in this year of укро́мный I’m stretching deep into the earth and finding Dostoyevsky’s words there: “you won’t get anywhere through intellect.”
Setting intellect aside is never easy – but reclaiming my intensity is a kind of death – an opportunity to wander deep into “chambers that are filled with the mood of someone creating.” (Rilke) In those chambers, I can meet myself again and do what I’ve always loved to do – clean house.
I have a recurring dream in which I wander through a many-storied house in the middle of a dark wood. I know as I wander that the house is my own mind, and I’m always surprised to meet the ghosts of long ago there. Every time I dream of my mind-house, the middle rooms are moderately well cared for, but the basement is dark and disturbing. The attic and upper bedrooms are webby and haunted, but their ghosts are more and more gentle, with Christ rocking in a chair beside the altar to keep the dead in line.
My mind-house is one of my favorite dreams. I like checking in on myself that way. I love the way I’ve decorated the upper rooms, but it’s certainly time to deep clean. I have a list of clutter to purge in the real world – a long, slow process: laziness, self-indulgence, consumerism, feminism, and self-focused permissiveness, and of course, the desire for approval.
Social media tends to make that last bit of trash stick around. I’ve purged social media, but haven’t scrubbed it’s residue in my life. “One would like to be loved, recognized for what one is, and by everyone” writes my beloved Camus. “But that is an adolescent desire. Sooner or later one must get old, agree to be judged or sentenced, and to receive gifts of love as unmerited.”
It’s a process. I’m getting old and embracing judgement. As I do so, I’m reacquainting myself with the too-intense, passionate creative I used to me and introducing her to the woodland матушка I’m becoming.
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“Sooner or later one must get old, agree to be judged or sentenced, and to receive gifts of love as unmerited.”
So, I will just be over here silently weeping.