Fire in the belly

Miss W was talking to a university friend and about the Catalan independence vote, and they said “I love your passion.” Miss W is indeed very passionate, and many people have told me that before, but this conversation got me thinking about why some people express their passion and others keep it locked away. I am very rarely on the fence about a subject, object or a person. I generally intensely love something or feel disdain towards it. I am almost guaranteed to have a strong opinion on almost everything I know about, and I will generally voice that opinion; from a young age I was brought up by Mama W to speak up, and voice what I thought or felt, and I have definitely done that thus far.

I once met someone who we shall refer to by the name of “Wet Cloth.” This unfortunate young man was the complete antithesis of Miss W, and when questioned (in the rather probing manner that Miss W is guilty of adopting sometimes) about his likes and dislikes he would shrug, make an unidentifiable noise and say he didn’t know. He would always trail behind his friend and on the rare occasions he spoke his voice was a monotone thread and his face remained locked in a neutral expression (I know, I know, Miss W is a harsh judge.) Maybe he was painfully shy or had some other issue, but I always interpreted this tepid attitude as one thing; a chronic lack of passion. Whenever I came across poor Wet Cloth, I would deliberately try to bring up controversial topics, or prod him to get some kind of reaction out of him, but I hardly ever did. I sometimes would comment to our mutual friend that I just couldn’t understand why Wet Cloth didn’t seem have any opinions or reactions to anything. His lack of passion made me want to shake him, and shout “COME ON! FEEL! YOU MUST BE FEELING SOMETHING?”

But maybe Wet Cloth didn’t feel as deeply as I do, or at least if he did he don’t want to show it. I feel very deeply; I oscillate between feeling extreme happiness and elation, to being in the depths of despair or completely blinded by angry rage. This depth of feeling has at many points in my life caused me problems. I once was so angry I swung my school bag round and round at my classmates in front of my teacher, and stormed off in a fit of rage. I forget why now, as this was circa 1993, but I vividly remember the anger seeping into every crevice of my body, like an insidious poison, and being so absorbed by it I couldn’t control my actions.

On the other hand, there are other times when it is good to feel emotions deeply and passionately. For example, when I walk past a homeless person, or when I see someone that is a victim of injustice, there is something inside that stirs me to action. One particular moment when Miss W’s belly was fired up was in Peru a few years ago. The best and cheapest way to get around South America is to travel by overnight coach. These buses are called “bus cama” (bed bus)  and there are different degrees of seat inclination. Miss W paid extra to have a fully reclinable 180° seat, she was even shown pictures of the specified seat.

When Miss W got on the bus and checked, the seat barely went back to 90°. The girl who had sold me the seat came on to the bus to check if everyone was happy, and Miss W said, “actually, you sold me a different seat, I want the extra money back.” Bus girl said she couldn’t do that because then she wouldn’t get her commission for selling the seat. Well, Miss W saw red! Bus girl held a wad of cash in her hand, and Miss W snatched it off her and started counting out the difference she had paid. Bus girl was stunned. When several other backpackers saw what was going on, they also piped up that they wanted their money back, so Miss W started handing out everyone’s extra cash. That was a bad day for bus girl’s commission.

Passion is that voice that tells you to move, to act, to speak up and most of all, to live. At the moment I am reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic:Creative Living Beyond Fear. The book is about how to live creatively, but there was a sentence that struck me as being applicable to passion. She talked about “living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than fear.” I think this is the same magic je ne sais quoi which passion is also made up of. It is the small fiery particle which ignites something within you that pushes you to live in a deeper way.

When I’m in the UK I always get comments like, “oh, you’re so passionate, it must be your fiery Spanish side” (actually, I’m half-Catalan, but yeah, whatever.) Although certain countries might have more of a cultural tendency to easily express the passion within them, I don’t think it’s exclusive to being Spanish. There is passion within all of us, we just need to tap into it. I often find that British people have been trained to reign their feelings in, to measure their words and actions, and only occasionally does that spark appear (usually down the pub after a few pints!) Sometimes I think the world would be a happier place if we all let ourselves go a bit and lived according to our passions instead of trying to hold them all in.

 Passion doesn't have mean turning into Antonio Banderas and dancing flamenco with Penelope Cruz by the way. 
Passion doesn’t have mean turning into Antonio Banderas and dancing flamenco with Penelope Cruz.

Passion is about finding what makes you feel alive, what gets you talking, moving, thinking; whatever activates your soul. Like another friend of Miss W’s said recently, “you make me want to live life further towards the edge… instead of going to bed at 11pm I might go at 11:30.” It’s all about letting the fire in our bellies burn a little stronger.


4 thoughts on “Fire in the belly

  1. I love this post and I remember the story about the bed bus – it makes me wonder if bus girl changed her ways after that encounter!

    You remind me of Anne of Green Gables – she was often in the ”depths of despair’ because she felt so deeply and passionately.

    I think passion is a universal feeling but one that is ruled by so many things. I’ve known people like Wet Cloth – they seem like empty sacks. I don’t think they would know what passion was if it walked up and smacked them in the face, or what to do with it. It seems like they are socialized to not feel anything strongly, not taught what that emotion is, and don’t see it as desirable.

    Without highs and lows though, how can you enjoy life? I’d rather ride the rollercoaster than plod along like Eeyore.


    1. Miss W is an ardent fan of Anne of Green Gables and her depth of feeling, so I am glad I remind you of her! Absolutely, the lows only make the highs so much better.


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