“You're not the same as you were before," he said. You were much more... muchier... you've lost your muchness.” – Lewis Caroll, Alice in Wonderland
Sometimes things in life are just a little… excessive. Like, for instance, sticky buns. Horrible name aside, these delicacies have a lot going on. From the rich, yeasted dough to the caramelized pecan topping, you don’t pretend a sticky bun isn’t a ball full of sugary glory. There’s joy in the muchness of a sticky bun.
I am a lot. You might say I’m “muchy” – I feel things very intensely. Coupled with a lifelong commitment to honesty, my intenseness often extends outward, enveloping those who are close to me. I can imagine this might be overwhelming, particularly in a world in which we are told that we need to be small, quiet, and demure. I get very sad, very anxious, and very, very angry. These are emotions I hate, and that I’ve spent a long time trying to let myself feel. It’s only recently that I’ve come to understand that my muchness also includes the depth of the feelings I enjoy – when I am inspired, I can write thousands of words per hour. When I love someone, I love with every fibre of my being – so much that it aches. When I am happy, my laugh is infectious.
I spent a while trying to shrink myself; partially in a self-protective way, I pretended, for some time, that I wasn’t a lot. More than physically, I shrunk emotionally. I fell into the smallness of numbness – refusing to feel the feels that overwhelmed me and made me aware of the depth of the ache. Part of this endeavor of shrinking was tied to the depth of my sensitivity to others’ muchness, too. I easily absorb others’ emotions – I am hyperaware of the weight of others’ feelings. Whether or not it was conscious, my shrinking was a retreat from this sensitivity.
The problem with denying my muchness was that it burst out in fits and starts – it was caramel, simmering silently until, in a moment of inattention, it bubbles over into a sticky mess. Like that sticky mess, it took a while to clean up.
I sometimes struggle to talk about my endeavours to get closer to and accept being a lot. It’s hard to frame shrinking endeavours without being accused of seeing my own eating disorder (and, by corollary, others’) as some kind of choice. Is it a choice, though, to retreat from intensity? Is it conscious? I would argue, here and elsewhere, that it was intertwined with societal discourses about being a woman – being small, being quiet, expressing only the good feels and only in certain settings – but this doesn’t mean it was a choice. This also doesn’t mean that I do or ever did buy into the validity of these discourses. Being aware is not being immune. Leaning into the sway is not accepting it as valid. Protective mechanisms do not need to be volitional to be socially rooted.
Getting back to the metaphor at hand, it took me a very long time to let myself rise. I still hear and feel the call to stay low, hard as a rock and protected from the onslaught of emotions – yours and mine. Is not listening a choice, or is it, too, circumstantial? I hope the nuance comes through… it is neither. It (acceptance, recovery, or what have you) is a complex interweaving of thoughts and emotions; of lives and relations and contexts. Sometimes it is sweet. It’s always muchy.
Pecan Sticky Buns on Eater.com