Much Too Much
I’ve been medicated. I’ve been measured. I’ve tried to set limits in every area of my life, telling myself, “don’t be too this, don’t be too that,” and I have failed repeatedly. I always felt the need to make sure that everything was in balance, not realising the pleasure there could be in tipping.
I had always been told that I was too much — too much energy, too much emotion, too much movement. I learned to stifle myself because I wanted my teachers and the other kids to stop hassling me, telling me to adjust, telling me to stop being so very much “me.”
I wanted to be invited to birthday parties again because there was a time when the kids stopped inviting me. The problem was that I always wanted to do something else. I would think of an adventure or a game we could play that would be more fun than whatever it was we were meant to be doing. Parents didn’t like me because I wandered away from their houses and it was extra work to keep track of me. It was because tea parties were the thing, and I hated that. My brothers and I caught bugs. We dug pits in the forest, filled them with water, and sat in them. I didn’t know how to be around other little girls, but I hated being an outcast even more.
When I got another chance, a coveted invitation to a classmate’s pool party, I gave myself a panic attack trying to remember how to behave around others so that I wouldn’t be too much. I rehearsed the things I would try to do as though I were memorizing lines from a script and gave myself stage fright. I couldn’t even go because of how sick I made myself. I laid in bed in my swimsuit all day because I refused to take it off.
As I got older, I went through cycles of being too little and being much too much. Being too little meant fluoxetine and therapy and sitting in my dark bedroom watching VHS tapes I rented from the library. It meant, literally, I was too little because I couldn’t eat without feeling sick. Much too much was more fun.
When I was much too much, I kissed men who wounded me because I wanted them to. I could be out of control. The energy I exuded was exciting and desirable. I relished in the way they looked at me confused. I basked in their misunderstanding.
In the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, I got so close to the paintings I could put my face against them. I didn’t though because I had been told that everything beautiful was untouchable. In every room, there was a performance happening. I sat on the floor and watched two people wearing white bodysuits that connected at the arms dance in slow, fluid motions. It made me want to pray. I swallowed a small paper square, and it turned my tongue into red rope licorice. I fell in love with everyone and everything around me. The one I loved the most, I loved because he was frightened of me. Through fear, I wielded a strange sort of power.
Now I’m much too much in less damaging ways. I create. I paint big and messy. I paint with my whole body. I stain my clothes with oil, get light-headed from the turpentine, and fall in love with myself. I wipe sweat from my face and drag charcoal across my cheeks. I forget to look in the mirror before I leave the house and get strange looks in the grocery store. I bask in their misunderstanding.
Claudia is an artist and writer from New York. She attended the City University of New York at Hunter College. She now lives in London, England with her husband and their two dogs.