My enthusiastic nature has caused me problems. Students often called me the TV Romper Room ‘Miss Nancy,’ because they didn’t like the way I expressed energy and drive. Family members order me to ‘relax’ because they tell me I’m high strung. Enthusiasm and being high strung are not the same.
My father had a similar enthusiastic nature to mine. He was high energy and responded quickly, often without reflection, like me. He also suffered heartbreaking isolation because he felt so much passion, which led him to drink. My father chose death when I was a teenager. Nearly fifty years have passed since he committed suicide from alcoholism. I grieve for him, but I couldn’t have saved him. Humans live with tragic sorrow and suffering in various ways, depending upon our natures. People can turn inward or outward. My lifelong search for what is the deepest essential that defines us as human beings is why I’m discussing enthusiasm and passion.
I have experienced shame for ‘coming on strong,’ and I have felt embarrassed because I got so enthusiastic. Fellow enthusiasts like me have probably been judged because our nature is out, at the edge. Enthusiasm cannot hide in shadow.
The dictionary defines enthusiasm as a noun of God inspired strong vigor, energy, and fire spirit. Passion is also a noun, ‘strong and barely controllable emotion. Definitions of enthusiasm and passion overlap, but are not synonymous. For example, angry passion causes danger, but it’s not the only passionate emotion we experience. There are many compelling, passionate emotions. Enthusiasm and passion both operate on life’s edges, risking power and strength. History calls Jesus’ crucifixion a ‘passion.’ We don’t have records describing Jesus’ nature as enthusiastic.
When something feels right to me, my fervent response expands and I call it enthusiasm. When I was a little girl, I’d cry when I made up songs. Music felt so true that tears rolled down my face. Telling me to ‘calm down’ is still like asking lightning to strike somewhere else. Is that passion or enthusiasm?
Carrying family tragedy like suicide can go on for generations, as in my family. Enthusiasm or passion may have played a role in fatal behavior. The only way I know to break such a sad cycle is to accept my nature, and not feel shame. I can also accept the past, without trying to keep secrets. No more apologizing.