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Passions (and the avoidance of)

This is going to be another of those disjointed, self-revelatory, “pondering the meaning of life” things I’m compelled to post once in a while. If you don’t like those, don’t click on the “more” link. I’ll be back with something more “lite” soon enough.

The reason I asked about passions the other day was that I find myself without any.

I’d had a conversation the day before with someone who loves musical theater. I also loved (or used to love) musicals. But not like she did.

From a young age she flung herself into them, singing and dancing and eventually ending up with the opportunity to choose between a pair of high-status scholarships, one in a complex intellectual field, the other in voice.

At the age where she was a passionate superachiever, I was a shy, fearful underachiever. Though mad for modern dance, I merely played at it when nobody but my other dance-mad friend could see. Though dazzled by the wonders of musicals, I merely watched.

Well, not everybody’s a superachiever and not everybody’s going to plunge into everything.

You might say I did the best I could with what I had. I took the shy rebel’s course and opted for art and writing and for a lifetime pursuit of being skeptical of authority. But even those things I didn’t pursue with passion.


I learned at a young age to associate passion with hearbreak, anger (either feeling it myself or being its target), and failure. Life was a constant drama — and not in a good way.

Once I reached the point of taking charge of my own life, the only thing I was truly passionate about was being left alone — both in the freedomista political sense and the sense of not wanting to be dragged into crisis, intrigue, violent rages, psychodramas, addictions, physical assaults, emotional rivalries, dramatic brooding, passive-aggressive game-playing or any of the other inventive ways we humans come up with to make life interestingly miserable.


Looking back, I don’t know how I landed in adulthood as a reasonably sane, well-adjusted person. But my passionate quest to avoid passion certainly had something to do with that.


Partly this is just me being an introvert. With an introvert’s brain, I can sit alone in an armchair in an empty room and be so totally engaged I don’t need anything else to keep me going. What looks boring from the outside can, at times, be so stimulating that I have to do something to numb myself and slow my brain down.

The last thing I need now is to get passionate about anyone or anything. How freaking exhausting!


Some of your answers to my passion question were wonderful. But I most identified with Karen’s thoughtful observation about how nice it can be not to feel passionate.

And as she says, part of that does come with age. (And, I would add, with wisdom.) In a way, being passionate implies being incomplete, while lacking passion says, “Life is good. I’m content.”

Having a nice little life (which I do) may not inspire great art or poetry. But then, great artists and poets have a habit of dying young and dramatically after living fast and wretchedly. Life is good. I’m content.


Yet … There’s something missing. Something I want. Something I can’t quite define.

Well, that’s being human, isn’t it? We long for things beyond our grasp. The grass is always greener and all that.


Photographers often describe seeing their lives in a series of frames, each place, each event, each person a collection of discrete, well-composed images. I’ve even heard them describe catastrophes that way. The bus that’s about to hit them head on is, in their minds, a series of click-click-clicks. The earthquake that knocks them to their knees amid a hail of shattered glass and broken masonry is click-click-click, a chain of blurred images.

Being a writer, I automatically place everything into a narrative. Life happens as a story I relate to myself (and of course sometimes relate to others).

Brains. They’re funny things.

All this is perfectly normal, but it’s also a way of distancing oneself from the actual experience. When you’re “composing the shot” or finding the right words to open the “story,” you’re not fully living the experience. (Which, in the case of that onrushing bus, may be a good thing. But just sayin’.)


I long to immerse myself fully in … something wonderful.

I fear to immerse myself because full immersion is … drowning.

Yet here I am on the short end of life (a place I never thought I’d be). And I want full immersion. In something beautiful, something powerful, something grand.


  1. Bear
    Bear May 1, 2014 12:09 pm

    Passion has never been my forte, but for too long it was my… lukewarm desire. Between introversion to the point of agoraphobia and testing as borderline autistic on those oh-so-scientific Internet surveys, I just don’t seem to feel the same things other people experience, nor as strongly.

    I thought I’d settle for basic competence in the things that do interest me, and hope that would help me fit into the usual “passion” mold, but more often… not being good looking nor possessed of a charismatic personality, I don’t inspire other people to follow my lead either. I’d produce something, then see someone walk off with it proclaiming, “Hey y’all! Look what I did.”

    Or I’d produce something so out of sync with what normal people want that they only appeal to a tiny class of people as crazy as myself.

    I’d say that there are maybe two things that I wish I could still be passionate about, but I’ll be 53 years old in less than a week; that on top of the looks and charisma issues makes the one laughable as a possibility. The other — freedom — seems so unlikely that almost all I can work up there is frustration-based anger; not the kind of passion I want.

    Just not giving a sh!t gets easier everyday, and seems to accomplish as much as my attempts at passion.

  2. Graystone
    Graystone May 1, 2014 12:14 pm

    At age 73, like it or not, it’s the end times for me. My mind is still good (I think) but most of the passion for life is gone, and I find that the older I get, the more irrelevant I become to the scheme of things. I’ve had more than my share of, “Been there, done that”, but still like to believe there’s more good and exciting stuff down the road. Probably not, but it keeps me going – most days, anyway.

  3. Joel
    Joel May 1, 2014 2:01 pm

    Meh. Passion is overrated. All that blood to mop up. 🙂

    Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever been where you’re talking about going, nor ever felt the lack. But some of the ‘passionate’ people I’ve met really seem from a distance to just be spinning really fast, without ever apparently accomplishing all that much.

  4. Pat
    Pat May 1, 2014 2:10 pm

    When life doesn’t meet our expectations, passion can disintegrate fast.

    I look at my granddaughter, now 4, and see her already evaluating her options ― how she should act or react with this or that person, who she can challenge, what she is allowed to do; and watch the frustration and disappointment when she expects a different response to the simplest things. Her singing in the house because she’s happy is not appreciated by an adult on the phone nearby. Right now it makes her angry to be denied her “passion”; in a few more years she will have accepted non-passion as a given – or become rebellious and too emotional to find and direct her passion into constructive channels. I become sad as I see her learning to conform and become disappointed in those she loves. Adults don’t know it all, but try telling them that!

    I don’t agree that “full immersion is … drowning” (unless you immerse yourself in water). A few people know what they feel passion for, most of us don’t ― we have to choose. And choosing is a conscious thing, in a sense the antithesis to passion. By the time we discover/develop a passion (if at all), most of us are too embedded in conformity and trying to make a living, or we’ve become disillusioned by life itself. We’ve chosen the practicality of living over the spontaneity of passion. At least I did.

    But passion is the road to freedom. And I think this was where Rand and Branden were wrong: in their own passion, they made no allowance for it in others.

  5. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty May 1, 2014 2:43 pm

    Interesting topic. I don’t see my “passion” as overwhelming or all consuming – though passions most certainly can be either or both, of course. It’s like defining most anything… much room for variation. 🙂

    For me, the passion for self ownership and freedom in every respect is the spice that makes each day a challenge and usually a joy. I don’t let the small stuff get me down… and at my age, most everything in daily life is the small stuff.

    The killer is stress. Don’t stress about it.

    > Stress: The result of fighting off the urge to choke somebody who really
    > needs it.

    Indeed… and it’s good I’m such a calm, well disciplined person so I’m
    not terribly inclined to stress…

    It’s also good that I’m short, old and have weak arms… sigh

  6. Thomas Knapp
    Thomas Knapp May 1, 2014 4:26 pm

    Different strokes for different folks.

    The authoritahs on the subject try to classify people into different personality types — I remember one of the old systems was labile, stabile, choleric and one that I can’t remember — but I don’t think it has to be that difficult and complicated.

    Some people thrive on drama and/or passion. Some people, it drives right up the damn wall. And both those responses are OKAY! And you GET to change your mind! So go for it!

  7. LarryA
    LarryA May 1, 2014 4:27 pm

    All this is perfectly normal, but it’s also a way of distancing oneself from the actual experience. When you’re “composing the shot” or finding the right words to open the “story,” you’re not fully living the experience.

    Sometimes. My wife is a reporter, degree in photojournalism, lots of awards, it’s most of her working life. Where we go she takes pictures. Which is great, because for her it’s part of the experience.
    I had a camera for several years, but put it away. I found I’d get home, look at the pictures I took, and try to remember what it was like when I was there. Now I spend the time really observing what’s happening. The memories are there when I call them up.

    “How to do passion.” I’ll have to think on that.

  8. Karen
    Karen May 1, 2014 5:21 pm

    Do I get female curmudgeon status if I admit that my first thought was “But there’s nothing beautiful, powerful or grand out there anymore” ? Then I got up to let the dogs out and was looking at the mountain range to our east as the evening sun is hitting it, and darned if it isn’t beautiful and powerful and grand. Then I got thinking about a song video someone posted back at Easter on a forum I go to and it was so beautiful, powerful and grand that it had me in tears and I replayed it 4 times. And I guess I could keep dredging up sights, sounds and experiences now that I think of it.

    Maybe what’s beautiful, powerful and grand can only be fleeting. Maybe we’d lose the appreciation if we were totally immersed. I used to do stained glass and my business partner and I got to do some wonderful and amazing pieces and I loved being immersed in that. But then it became a job. And perhaps that’s what happens to a lot of our passions, they become common place to us and lose their allure. Your painting and jewelry are beautiful. Your writing is powerful. Your dog rescue is grand and then some.

    Being a low ambition type of gal, I only have 2 things on my bucket list. Both are things that I think would be beautiful, powerful and grand, maybe even be life altering like looking into the face of God, but they’d both be short lived, and ongoing immersion would make them mundane, maybe even downright unpleasant. And I couldn’t honestly tell you if I’ll ever put forth any effort to actually do them or if I’ll just be content to marvel in wonder about how totally awesome they would be.

  9. A.G.
    A.G. May 1, 2014 7:28 pm

    Seperated geographically from my immediate family for a week, it always becomes readily apparent on these trips that they and God are all that I desire immersion and oneness with. Even us introverts are created to connect with others at deeper levels. I’m not sure other interests, pastimes or professions could “do it” for me.

  10. A.G.
    A.G. May 1, 2014 7:35 pm

    I should add that I was very content being single. 99.9% of the time anyways. Everything above that baseline of personal contentment has been gravy.

  11. Terry
    Terry May 1, 2014 7:43 pm

    Being another writer, to me ‘feeling passion’ is when I’m ‘in the zone’ as athletes put it, when the ideas and the words flow (almost) effortlessly, when I know exactly why I’m writing and I’m sure my audience will get the message with little or no distortion.

    I have yet to connect passion with a long term goal and strategy – don’t know if that’s a personal characteristic or I just missed it, not too awful worried about it.

    If it comes to a shootin’ war, I’m sure I’ll get pretty damned passionate pretty quick.

  12. Ellendra
    Ellendra May 1, 2014 8:18 pm

    I sometimes wonder if passion feels on the inside the same way it looks on the outside? Maybe it’s that stress you feel when something isn’t right, and so you keep redoing it until it is. Maybe it’s the way that certain subject distracts you from the things you’re supposed to be doing. Maybe it’s the way some things niggle at the back of your mind, until you realize you can’t face yourself until you deal with it. Maybe it’s the satisfaction you feel over some little thing that you did yourself, BECAUSE you did it yourself.

    This blog entry reminded me of someone who took a big risk, and the actions she took looked to me like a result of her own personal passion:

  13. naturegirl
    naturegirl May 1, 2014 11:26 pm

    It takes a certain amount of time and thought to be an introvert. We may be born that way, but understanding and acceptance of it comes along as we grow up. If one has lived a rather lengthly life that way then of course switching around how things are done will seem strange. In short, if one has spent all that time trying to calm things down and stay content then going the opposite way is like starting all over again to rebuild a personality.

    And I’ve discovered it seems there are a million definitions of passion, just as there are for what freedom means.

    Maybe you should be reframing those questions/thoughts in a different way, Claire. Instead of the “what (specifically)” maybe it should be the “what would you allow to change, or agree to do differently -(leading up to a specific what answer)”. I find the older I get the more assured I am about having no regrets about anything I have done in my lifetime. BUT. I always question if I have done enough, or done all the things I’d like to do that maybe got shoved down the list. “Is there something I missed?” “Something I should really consider doing that may not be my usual way?” It’s not an actual bucketlist, it’s more of a “Don’t miss anything” train.

    Distancing oneself from the actual experiences is also one of the coping mechanisms that super sensitive people do to protect themselves. People who have been hurt deeply, or had a major shock during their childhood. We’re “safe” if we can keep our emotions/reactions/whatever out of experiences. We observe in whatever way we’re familiar with without actually being connected to it/involved. To go all in, and go for the entire experience, means we have to be brave enough to accept whatever thoughts and emotions come along with it. All the drama -or- all the smiles and warm fuzzies, which ever way it plays out.

    Been there, done all of that….and been accused of having no soul or no emotions “like everyone else does”….ok with me, I don’t want to be “like everyone else” anyway. LOL.

  14. RickB
    RickB May 2, 2014 2:39 am

    I never gave much thought to the idea of great passion, so I may be completely off the mark here.
    But it seems to me that those who exhibit great passions are those addicted to “the new.” For me, the excitment I relate to passion comes in the little, new, things–a nicely crafted computer algorithm, a thriving tomato plant in my garden, a new way of seeing things.
    Most people understand (have a personality that allows?) that most of life is the daily slog–nice, but not exciting or new. We enjoy the day-to-day surprises (like Karen’s view) but aren’t addicted.
    The addicts live fast and, when they think there’s nothing new in store, die young.
    As for the rest of us–when we come to believe that our future will be nothing but an endless, boring repeat of yesterday–we die old.

  15. Teresa Sue
    Teresa Sue May 2, 2014 6:19 am

    “It’s also good that I’m short, old and have weak arms… sigh”

    ML that made me belly laugh and that is a good way to start a morning. Thank you.

    As for all the other comments, all of them touched me. Each one had something that I could identify with and understand.

    Naturegirl, what you stated in your comment gave me one of those aha! moments……

  16. Stryder
    Stryder May 2, 2014 6:35 am

    Several years ago Ronald and I went to Louisiana to a grand reopening. It was out of our area but we were asked to appear because the other guy couldn’t do it (health reasons), the store had burned down and they had rebuilt so they were pulling out all the stops, they had us, of course, and they had the first employee there, games , giveaways and other fun things, the store had been there for over twenty years before it burned. We were having fun, playing and taking pictures when in came this one kid, he looked at Ronald for a bit, then came over and started jabbering away about how much he liked McDonalds and how neat it was to meet Ronald, we got it a lot really but this kid just shone, his face was so animated, his eyes so full of joy and his mouth, well, it just wouldn’t stop! It wasn’t that busy so as I was looking around I spotted this kids Mother, she was easy to spot, she was standing there, watching…and her tears were rolling down her face. I walked over to see what was the matter, and when I asked she told me.”He’s talking.” I must have looked a bit confused because then she told me, “He’s Autistic and he doesn’t talk, he just doesn’t talk.” Talk all you want about evil McDonalds and their practises, I don’t care. Talk all you want about how clowns creep you out (if they do), I don’t care. The years I worked with Ronald I saw so many instances when children lit up just because we walked in the doors, but that one sticks out in my memory for the joy we gave that boys Mother.

  17. Matt, another
    Matt, another May 2, 2014 8:41 am

    I have passions, although I do not see myself as passionate. I don’t normally feel a need to share those passions with others or get terribly worked up about them. I prefer my passions drama free. It helps that I have never flet a need to have to be right about things. I am comfortable knowing I am right or have done the right things, but don’t have to keep telling people Im right and youre wrong. Then, I don’t do causes, or groups, proselytize or try to convert people to my way of thinking. I am quietly passionate, probably because I am on almost off the scale of introvertedness. My passions have led to dissapointment, but that is a normal part of life, I learned to deal with it and move along.

  18. Scott
    Scott May 2, 2014 10:09 am

    I never thought of myself as particularly passionate, but one thing I’ve found about passing the half-century mark is that life really is more wonderful-or at least to me. Even something as ordinary as my 15 dollar phone-take it back to 1974 and it would far exceed what any science fiction author would have predicted. Or that weird but colorful bug crawling up a tree in the backyard. Views from space. Space X and their Dragon capsule-private, manned space craft! Wonderful people turn up everywhere. The trucker that delivers stuff at work. The woman who runs the stall at the nearby flea market. The clerk at the gas station.
    Maybe a weird mental image-like all the people who work for the IRS looking like Vogons (or Hollywoodish Nazi SS officers)..I like building things that someone else gets a laugh out of. Things that light up. Or do something weird. Or things that perform a useful function but look weird. The list goes on. I am very likely way too easily amused, but then, I always have something to do.

  19. ENthePeasant
    ENthePeasant May 2, 2014 11:54 am

    My passions tend to be all consuming… for as long as they last. Wine making and food are the only ones I still have, but that’s just because my health and energy levels aren’t great enough to support too many passions. It makes others laugh, but my ability to become a little kid at a moments notice serves me well… which is odd because I’m always hearing about how cynical I am at the same time. Must be very difficult to be around me. For all the bad and the really bad, it never got me like it does to some and that’s all because of the ability to throw myself into the fray.

  20. naturegirl
    naturegirl May 2, 2014 1:56 pm

    Thank you, Teresa Sue 🙂 I hesitated putting that up because it sounded like so much guessing and assuming. Not to mention more insightful (personally) then I like to get “in public.” Now I’m glad I did.

    There are a bunch of us out here that are harder on ourselves than any other person could ever be. We make our lives more difficult, especially when we start comparing ourselves to others. We may accept, or say we accept, ourselves and still turn around and compare anyway. Ironically, the times in my life that I have really gotten into all kinds of serious trouble have always been the times I have tried to do “whatever they think I should” or “be like they are.” Backfired every time. Maybe my biggest passion has been to sit down and figure out what my life should be by my standards, and why – and how, and then do the work to be sure it happens “my way” (as much of it that I can control, at least.)

  21. FishOrMan
    FishOrMan May 2, 2014 8:11 pm

    I got this noisy dishwasher, which was fine until I took out the kitchen wall. Now I have a passion for replacing it soon so I can hear the footsteps of my 5 and 3 year old sneak-attacking me. This includes purchasing it through your Amazon link. When that’s done the wife wants a stove, (my passion won’t be so high on that one). And after that there will be more. Although ammo is reoccurring passion 😉

  22. Claire
    Claire May 3, 2014 10:18 am

    FishOrMan — I saw that nice, big dishwasher order this morning! Thank you. Last month was pretty feeble on Amazon (and to my chagrin Amazon hasn’t yet credited me for the single really huge item ordered during the month), so starting May out with a dishwasher order makes me feel pretty passionate, too. Hope it works very well for you.

  23. Claire
    Claire May 3, 2014 10:22 am

    naturegirl — I want to thank you, too. There have, as usual, been some great, thoughtful (and, to me, rather consoling) comments. But I saw how you were reaching out of yourself with that first one of yours and I’m glad you did.

    And yeah … dittos on trying to be like anybody else, even if the somebody in question is admirable.

    I grew up hearing, “Why can’t you be more like your sister???” And I swear I could write a book about all the many ways in which that doesn’t work (and doesn’t work to the point of havoc).

  24. FishOrMan
    FishOrMan May 3, 2014 11:27 am

    You are very welcome. And if we can afford that dishwasher, (yes it is still amazing for me to realize that), its about time I get some of those great books you’ve written. Got a recommended location for those that gives the author the biggest cut?

    Love you Claire. Glad your morning started good, especially after all that rain that came in last night, (I live in the Skagit Valley). Chickens had a field day catching worms this morning.

  25. Claire
    Claire May 3, 2014 4:40 pm

    FishOrMan — I’ll be crossing fingers that Amazon properly credits me when the order ships. That’s a very nice dishwasher.

    Thanks for the love — but I’ll tell you, you can have this rain! Skagit Valley is beautiful and so’s the area where I live. But it sure does require an unholy amount of WET STUFF to keep them looking so good!

  26. Claire
    Claire May 3, 2014 4:42 pm

    And as far as my books go … Amazon is as good a place as any, thank you. I might make a little more on books bought direct from Paladin Press because the retail price is higher. But when you buy on Amazon I get a royalty for the book and an Amazon commission, so it all works out.

  27. Kent McManigal
    Kent McManigal May 3, 2014 8:21 pm

    Scott Adams has a theory that passion comes from being great at something, not the other way around. Maybe that’s why I have always lacked passion. A disturbing thought, but one that makes a certain amount of sense.

  28. naturegirl
    naturegirl May 4, 2014 3:31 am

    Thank you, Claire, I really do appreciate that 🙂

    Yeah, I would hate having to grow up hearing that too. I don’t blame you. Being little and growing up with no understanding from the family is a helpless, isolating feeling. Usually it’s adulthood, getting out on our own, before we realize just how much damage was done by childhood family issues. The first test of survival capabilities is making it thru those first 16-18 years. The second test of survival skills is undoing all the problems from it. LOL

  29. Aleuicius
    Aleuicius May 4, 2014 4:40 pm

    Passion is great – as long as you don’t get all worked up over it.

    Simply because it isn’t an obvious “one-trick pony” sort, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Light focused to a single point burns, but spread out, it lights your way.

    Perhaps it is that your passions span multiple points and suffer a lack of individual drama because of it. I have little passion in the “normal” sense, but I have a wide variety of interests that touch in nearly all aspects – except entertainment (though “entertaining HAS been applied often).
    I lament a lack of focus sometimes, but realize the passion(s) are still there.

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