The Suchness of my Muchness

Third place in 2018 non-fiction category of the WWA Jade Ring writing contest and published in Creative Wisconsin Anthology: 2018 Jade Ring Winners

What do the Mad Hatter, Buddhism and Shakespeare have to do with my most recent worries about why I am the way I am? That was only reinforced when reading my horoscope from Shepherd Express, an alternative and entertainment newspaper I pick up at the grocery store.

I don’t put much stock in astrology and read it for what it is, a thought of the day and sometimes a good laugh. Pisces that I am, I was informed that in the next nine months, I’ll encounter brave souls who will be able to handle my muchness. The column included a poem:

I have a deep fear of being too much. That one day
I will find my someone, and they will realize that I am
a hurricane. That they will step back and be intimidated
by my muchness……..
― Michelle K., Rumbles From My Head, Jul 10 2013

Intrigued, I googled and found Michelle K.’s poem has revived an old word that has a fascinating history. The dictionary definition says muchness is a state of being great in quantity, extent, or degree. Shakespeare who coined such words as ‘silliness’, ‘tardiness’ and many others is thought to have invented the form. But those wanting to give him all the credit need to get real; the actual word ‘muchness’ was first used in the 1400’s, predating Shakespeare by more than a century.

Then, the Shakespearian sounding phrase ‘much of a muchness’ appeared considerably later, 1728, in the play The Provok’d Husband, a collaboration of John VanBrugh and Colley Cibber . Lewis Carroll picked up on that when, in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), the Mad Hatter worried that Alice was losing her muchness, that she’d been   “much muchier” in the past.

In a casual lunch conversation, I mentioned the horoscope message involving muchness and this led to a comment about “suchness” as it relates to Buddhism. Back to google, of course. Tathata, which means suchness is a word used primarily in Mahayana Buddhism to mean reality, or the way things really are.

The Buddhist emphasis, of course is on reality right now. It’s always changing, but at this moment, the suchness of this moment, is just the way it is. The thinking mind has to stop and listen. Then you will be relating to the suchness of the moment.  Deep!

I’ve decided everyone has muchness. Some have more and some have less. We’ve all known people who are a bit much. Think Joan Rivers. Think Zsa Zsa Gabor. Think that high maintenance friend or relative whose oddness never surprises us.

Yes, I have muchness. Being an oldest child, I was used to being in charge and having to get the job done. At work I’d been told more than once that I was intimidating. At book club, I’d been told I have a strong personality.  An ex-husband once told me to stop lecturing him like a school teacher. But I can also think of times when I didn’t have much muchness. That three years when I was navigating a divorce, retirement and a major move all at the same time, my muchness was at low ebb.

Now that time has passed and I’m settled in, my muchness is just fine. Retirement has brought calmness and peace. While I certainly don’t think too much of myself, I have come to appreciate some of my muchness. I’m probably still a little over-organized and not shy about my opinions. That’s just how I am.

Then there’s the muchness of others. After all, everyone has some. No doubt, sometimes the mucniness of others can be a bother; but then, maybe I bother them too. So it was the final sentence of the horoscope that made me feel hopeful:

“I suspect the odds will be higher than usual that you’ll encounter brave souls who’ll be able to handle your muchness……I suggest you welcome them as they are with all their muchness.”  Touché!

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