After last week’s too-much-ness, let’s talk about intensity.
Recently, each time my family or friends ask “How’s it going?”, I’ve been replying:
“Yeah, good, doing loads of great stuff, lots going on … but you know, it’s been a bit intense this week.”
Or “yesterday” or “this month” or “in the last five minutes”.
I was saying it enough for me to recognise it was becoming the common way I describe what’s happening.
I was also saying it as if all the things in my life were happening to me, andthey were intense. It was as if I was a passive absorber of activities, emotions, influences, projects – and every single one of them was intense. As if I was standing there, on the shoreline, letting the storm waves smash over me and shouting “This is intense!”.
I was saying it enough for me to stop and think:
“Is it me?”
And yes, I realised that it is. It is not that my life is intense. It is that I am.
For some friends (and even strangers) this will come as no revelation. But it’s a revelation to me. And what’s more revelatory is this: it’s not a bad thing.
of extreme force, degree or strength; having or showing strong feelings or opinions
We use the word ‘intense’ as a pejorative adjective, but it’s not: there is no positive or negative quality to ‘intense’.
So why does it feel like it’s negative?
We are, perhaps, too conditioned and encouraged to seek the calm, the smooth, the content, the easy. We are looking for ‘medium’, always. We are like Goldilocks, trying to find that ‘just right’ chair, porridge or bed which will fit us exactly without our having to do anything to change it.
If porridge is cold, you wang it in the microwave and heat it up. If it’s hot, you blow on it. If a bed’s too small, you curl up. And there’s no such thing as a bed that’s too big – there’s only not enough pillows. When something is not ‘just right’, you change it, or you change.
You have to work out, in any given situation, whether you will change it or you will change. But to expect something to arrive in your life and it be just right, with no work? With no change? Bollocks.
The consistent pursuit of medium, of the smooth road, of the easy route, will eat you away. It is a lie. And, I think, it’s what makes us flavour ‘intense’ with a negative tang.
So here it is: I am intense. I am not medium. I am not easy. I am not smooth, calm, content-ifying. I am of extreme force, degree or strength. I have and show strong feeling and opinions.
That doesn’t mean I’m a dick about it. I am not the person who says “Well, yeah, that’s just how I am / say it how I see it / other people just have to deal with it.” I try not to be a dick.
Being intense isn’t about being angry, rude or excitable all the time. It’s about feeling the feels and owning the emotions and engaging in the thoughts, whatever direction they go.
It’s about experiencing life as if, each time, each situation, each thing, was written in capital letters.
Not happy. HAPPY. Not sad. SAD. Not calm, but CALM. Not satisfied, but SATISFIED.
Not life, but LIFE. Glorious LIFE!
It’s about leaning into the experience, really feeling that too-small chair or the too-hot porridge or too-difficult reading or too-ecstatic sex or the too-deep love or the too-complex life. That is being INTENSE.
And yes, it is scary. It is exhausting. It is vulnerable. It is all of the things you have been taught to avoid.
I am practising accepting that – the flipside of intensity and those experiences. I’m a bit scared of being scared, of being exhausted, of being vulnerable, and that’s why, when asked, I was acting as if life was happening to me. I acted as if I wasn’t an agent of my own destiny, because that would mean having to admit I was making myself scared, making myself vulnerable. It would be admitting to being both the perpetrator and the victim.
I recognise now, I’m neither. I’m simply … me.
The path I have chosen is an intense one. I have chosen an intense life. And none of it is about it happening to me, and those events or activities being ‘intense’; it’s about my choice in how I engage with those activities.
With this in mind, it’s unsuprising one of my 2018 phrases is “100%”.
Folks, I am fucking IN. Are you?
Once upon a time, there was a woman called Gingerlocks. She sneaks into the three bears’ house while they’re out. She already has a record, so breaking and entering isn’t going to spook her. She grimaces her way through the cold porridge, scalds her mouth on the hot stuff, enjoys the ‘just right’ one. She starfishes in the big bed, goes foetal in the smallest, and rests in the ‘just right’ one. She squeezes into the small chair, dangles her feet on the big one, and motherfucking chills in the ‘just right’ one. And on and on she goes, all round the house, experiencing everything. EVERYTHING.
Then she leaves, knowing she has done it right – knowing she has LIVED.