Emotional intensity is a great topic that has been well-covered on Christine’s blog this month, so today my aim is give you an observer’s view. I have many intensities, but emotional is not one of them. This is not to say that I’m a non-emotional person; I spend a great deal of time with my family, and in my work, empathically listening to experiences, problems, and emotions, and I enjoy this immensely. I experience my emotions as much of the world does: feeling the natural ups and downs of life, keeping a pretty even keel. I share this attribute with one of our daughters, E, who certainly has her own share of intensities, but emotional is lower down on the list.
Dave, A, and H, on the other hand, all have a robust emotional intensity. Emotions run to the heights and the depths, and every feeling seems as though this is the only feeling they will ever experience. I liken them to wonderful leafy trees, putting their beautiful colors on display for all to see. Fall finds them showing a gorgeous gold and red, before dropping their leaves in dramatic fashion and giving up for the winter. January casts their bare branches in a stark silhouette while the snow gathers around them. Early spring finds them producing adorable little green shoots, before their huge leaves burst out for the summer. With late August comes a cooling shade as the lazy days of summer pass while their leaves rustle above. And then the cycle starts anew – although not necessarily in the same order.
I think of myself and E more as evergreen trees: staying green year-round, growing and changing a little every year, not requiring much water, and needing the occasional pruning. We might drop some brown needles every now and then, but in general, we always look about the same.
She and I are evergreens surrounded by deciduous trees, and I have found that at least in our family, a forest thrives on both. Life for me would be decidedly boring and dull without the change of the seasons. The leafy trees provide a rainbow of colors and life renewed; the evergreens remain green when everything else has gone into hiding. On any given day in our house, A may come up to me, arms flapping and jumping up and down (MOM!MOM!MOM!!!), over-the-moon ecstatic about the new Lego plane he built. H has a smile that will, literally, light up a room like a disco ball when she’s exuberant, and then the whole house will feel as though it’s sinking into the ground when she’s not. E is gripping her hands excitedly about a new discovery (enter the other intensities), while Dave is enthusiastically mixing a new song he wrote while cooking dinner. I frankly wouldn’t be surprised some days if Willy Wonka walked in our front door.
I’m not sure, though, what we would do if we were all emotionally intense. Especially with homeschooling, I imagine our house would be full to the brim with leaves of every color, bursting out of the windows and doors, while more leaves were continually being made. It’s not a pretty picture. Luckily, Dave is much better at managing his emotional intensity than the kids, and I think this just comes with age. Learning that not everything merits the full-on leafy color display is the “art” of being a tree, so to speak, that we all learn with time.
I love being one of the evergreens, and I relish being surrounded by all shapes and sizes of deciduous trees. Dave and our kids have allowed me to peek into their world, and I am a better person for it. They have shown me boundless joy, heart-breaking sadness, and unconditional love. Without them, I might only have ever seen the color green.
Kathy Mayer posts regularly with her husband, Dave, on Chasing Hollyfeld.