No More Apologies
(well, maybe just the one)
By Judith Cullen
I get excited about things. This is a known fact to my good friends and relations. When I am excited about something, it gets 150% of my available enthusiasm. I am almost always excited about something: a story idea, a design project, something new I just learned. While this seeming fanaticism can be hard to take at times, its reverse is wholly unpleasant to be around.
Those who know me well understand that this is not ego-based; this is my creative energy at its highest rev. I function at my best in this state. They know that I go a little bonkers when questioned regarding something that I am jazzed about. I am not so lacking in self-awareness to fail to notice that some folks have strategies to deal with me when I “go off.”
One is to redirect, ask questions, “This is interesting, can we talk about it again when we have more time? I need to go pick up Jason in 10 minutes.” Another is to make me aware that I have “gone off” and am rattling on, not allowing them to let them get a word in edgewise. This is usually done kindly. There are a few people who know, and seem to have accepted that I am almost incapable of answering an open question simply. I hope this is because they accept me as I am and enjoy my flights of exhilaration. If they don’t, they are sympathetic enough to my terminal enthusiasm to not let me know it. I am grateful for the compassion that all these approaches reflect.
There have been others over the years that have not understood this impetuous energy and have wrongly interpreted it as an expression of “it is all about me.” These people don’t understand me and have no interest in doing so. If they did, they would engage me honestly and openly about how my flights make them feel. They would work to inform my ardency so as not to cramp their needs. When they choose not to, when they choose to condemn, they reflect their own ego needs: it’s not enough about them.
I cannot stop seeing the possibilities. When an idea sparks me, my brain seizes the opportunity and magnifies it. It rifles through a hardwired internal brainstorming that sees where something could emerge if it succeeds. I’ve tried over the years to learn to acknowledge that “big view” and force myself to see the smaller, manageable steps of achievement that will move closer to it. Sometimes it happens for me mid-process. Sometimes I discover that I have unconsciously been making incremental progress, and I really am nearer to my vision.
This would all be great if I just learned not to beat myself up about it. I batter myself about not making progress as fast as I initially thought I should, back when the idea first exploded. I hammer myself about the joyful ideas that never made it past the fervor. This all needs to change.
Brainstorming is a natural creative process, one that I didn’t understand decades ago when some optimistic person put me in charge of moderating a brainstorming group. Back then I wanted to examine and evaluate every idea as it came up, discarding things as we went. I hadn’t yet learned that some ideas, worthy ideas, will collapse under their own weight. Other ideas are good ideas, but the time is not right for them. Being able to naturally brainstorm is not a liability, as long as you understand these things. It is another exercise in both thinking big, and learning to let go.
So I am not going to apologize for the flights that fizzled, and I am no longer going to feel guilty about them. I probably remember these moments more than anyone else does. I am also going to no longer apologize for being enthusiastic. There are a lot worse things I could be. I get excited.
I will reserve one apology. I will apologize for going on about things. I will try to remember to breathe, to ask questions and to listen. I will school myself to control the urge to go careening from one connected thought to the other, with my mouth rattling along behind. It’s rude, though I don’t mean to be rude. I get excited. I’ll probably continue to feel a little guilty, if I feel after a lunch or a coffee appointment that I have “done it again.” I am sorry when I so forget myself, that I forget you too.
The quote at the top of this post was said to a respected friend today, and it was a moment of revelation. I would never give up the inherent creativity that I was gifted with, or the energy that comes with that. I do not regret seeing long views and big pictures and letting them excite me, even if they are unattainable or many steps removed from where I am.
I get excited. It’s not a bad thing. Like any force it needs to be controlled, not quashed.
Coming in November! More adventures from Eire that span past and present - connecting the mythology of an ancient heritage with the here and now.