Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Exuberants Anonymous

Ever since I finished Kay Redmond Jamison’s new book, Exuberance: The Passion for Life, I have been googling around in the expectation that at any minute affinity groups will spring up on the net. Can’t you just imagine the array?

XA: Exuberants Anonymous, in which participants learn to accept that we are exuberant personalities, that we aren’t always as organized as others might wish, and that we have a tendency to bounce in other people’s parts of the Forest. We might go through the exercise of visiting people on whom we have bounced and asking their forgiveness.

X-Anon, for people who love (most of the time) exuberants, but would like to teach them some basic manners without crushing their spirits or would like to figure out how to get a little help loading the dishwasher, preferably the same way every day.

X-a-Teen, for early-identified exuberants, to address the special needs of teenagers who are more teenager than most, perhaps preventing those early painful losses of friendship that can recur through life.

ACX: Adult Children of Exuberants, who can get together to vent about how distressing that Mom is still irrepressible, that Dad won’t stay home, and that when either of them comes to visit, locking the study door for a couple of hours a day is the only option that really works.

I don’t mean it to sound silly, least of all because I do greatly appreciate the work accomplished by various twelve-step groups. But it is kinda silly from a few points of view.

First, exuberance is a character trait as well as a set of behaviors. It is largely innate, although some thoughtful exuberants think there is an element of nurture as well. Although we may be clumsy and unwittingly intrude on others parts of the Forest, our character is not an illness like alcoholism or a pathological behavior. The negative effects of abuse of alcohol or many different drugs are well recognized and dwarf the impacts of the most outrageously bad over-exuberant behavior.

Second…anonymous? Yeah, right.

Third, there are many, many affinity groups on the net for us exuberants. We can read about gardening and about the slow food movement. We can get directions on how to reupholster a chair…then proceed to do it over the next fourteen hours. Those of us who are isolated geographically can find the most cosmopolitan and interesting friends, while luxuriating in the beauty of the Vermont countryside.

Finally, and most important, while we may need to learn to be more polite or more organized or even how to stand up for ourselves—we don’t need comfort for being made as we are. We are what we are…and it is glorious. I certainly don’t think I have been deprived of the melancholy end of the mood spectrum, leaving me with plenty of common experience with other humans. Occasionally, I have wished that life were more….even. Still, resilience of mood has carried me out of many a low period and eased many a touchy social situation. I, for one, would not want to be any different.

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