Vulnerability Unearths Strength

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With a birthday that’s so close behind New Year’s, it’s hard for me to find a reflection point. I’ve already made a list of what I want for this year. I’ve already reflected on the past year. So, I searched for ways to celebrate your birthday on the worldwide web. That’s where all the answers are, right?

My search came up with all of the typical reactions to getting older. I care less about what people think. I sever or speak up in relationships that aren’t helpful. I am less attached to consumerism and “rules”. All of this stuff is true, but I don’t really want to focus on that. I wanted something more positive to focus on. I came up with this blog:

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A friend of mine recently pronounced on an online dating site that she was grateful for her sobriety and wanted someone that would celebrate that. After all, sobriety is hard work and a sign that a person would go to any lengths to make sure they are the best person they can be. That’s a positive, right? Pretty immediately she freaked out that she put that up there and took it down. But in the few minutes it was up, a guy – interested because of that confidence in herself – contacted her, and they have started dating. She doesn’t even remember what it said because she took it down so fast.

Ironically, in our culture, recovery from addiction is a stigma. Most of us have very little control over the hand we are dealt in life. Genetics define who is susceptible to addiction, our skin color, our  mental health, and our looks. People are constantly judged by all of these – as if they had any control over any of it. Many other issues are a result of our upbringing, where we grew up and the life lessons that fell in our path. Our path is not in our control, but our reaction to it is. But we are often judged by the obstacles that were put in our way – addictions, mental illness, poverty, attachment disorders – and not the way we have overcome it.

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I know this seems to have nothing to do with the gratitude blog that I read, but I am most grateful for my quality of being intolerant of emotional pain. Sure, it led me directly into numbing through early addiction, but it also led me out. When something is painful for me, I don’t tolerate it very long. And, luckily for me, I live in a world with plenty of resources.

Even in my twenties when I realized drinking was an issue for me, I picked up the phone and asked for help. This “shortcoming” of mine of being intolerable of emotional pain has helped me avoid lots of danger and to become a stronger person with resilience in the face of adversity. The simple act of asking for help has opened me up to communities of people who are strong and brave and vulnerable. I have no idea what my life would be like if I would have chosen numbness over connection with others, but I really don’t want to find out.

One of the best compliments I ever received was from a country friend of mine when I moved home. This big, tough redneck guy told me, “When the going gets tough, and everything goes to hell in a hand basket in this country, I want you on my team. You are a survivor.” I can’t be grateful for that capacity without being grateful for the hardships and tendencies that unearthed the need. As always in God’s world, it is vulnerability that ultimately strengthens us.

Cultivating Change

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I heard a activist being interviewed on some newscast the other day. He was convinced that in order to make people change their behavior you had to shame them about what they were doing. Nobody else seemed to notice the fallacy, but it struck me strongly that shame was the wrong emotion to be cultivating. Guilt could be a productive emotion to encourage. Compassion for others might be worth seeking. But shame? Of all the emotions that encourage change, shame is the least effective.

Shame is a debilitating emotion. When I am in a place of shame, I feel like I enter a type of tunnel. I go back to being a small child. Paralysis, remorse and fear engulf me. And when fear engulfs me, I’m more likely to react angrily and defensively than compassionately. If you want me to change the way I do something, you have to get me into a place of feeling safe. And I suspect that shame is not so different in other people either. Brene’ Brown has made a career of studying it and putting data to the effects of shame on people. It is not a motivating emotion.

 

I’ve been doing a 30-day yoga challenge with Yoga with Adrienne since New Year’s. This morning’s practice urged me to soften. The practice put me in some fairly uncomfortable positions, but gently allowed me to soften into the shape. If I don’t fight the ache…. if I don’t struggle against the tightness in my body…. if I soften into the pose, my body accepts it. With acceptance amid the softening, I can change.

Our culture seems to believe that pushing and screaming will create change. Kids are beat and shamed by their parents. Teachers hurl insults to shame kids into submission. Bosses scream and rant in attempt to scare workers into performing. What we’ve created is a culture that is angry and scared with limited skills in connecting with other people. Conflict is “handled” by screaming insults at others and then further shaming them when they don’t hear it gracefully. The result is a society that is riddled with addictions of all kinds, a government that is self-imploding and a media landscape that is not appropriate for children.

New behaviors for people are like seedlings. And, if we are all honest with ourselves, change is very, very hard. When a seed is planted that I need to change, I have to create an atmosphere where I can feel safe in changing. I also have to feel confident that I can. If I’m in the midst of shame storm, I don’t think I’m capable of anything. Change is uncomfortable, and I always fail a few times if not a hundred. With each attempt, I need to feel supported and hold myself accountable to keep trying. I can’t water a seedling with a firehose.

 

Sundays in Sawyer: Dancing With Darkness

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The house across the street when I left this morning.

It was dark when I left out this morning at 8 AM. Christmas lights sparkled red and green against the soft luminescent snow. The Winter Solstice is this week – Thursday to be exact. I love Solstice celebrations. When I think of the significance of lightness and darkness in our lives, it makes sense to me that the days with the most light and the days with the most darkness should be marked in some way. And what would Christmas lights be without the long interplay of darkness in December?

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I’ve always loved the dark. I love seeing the stars at night, and I love the long nights of winter. They are times of rest and reflection. I don’t sleep as well in the summer with the long days of sunshine. While I feel more energetic during the summer, I don’t think it is good for us to be revved up all the time. There is a reason for the season, and I believe the reason is rest and rejuvenation – of our bodies, our souls and our lives. Our ancestors felt these seasons were so important, they were the biggest celebrations of the year.

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Part of my plan for getting through the winter this year is to be open to doing something different. I signed up for an 8-class yoga pass at my old yoga studio where I completed my teacher training. And, I decided that I would start doing my Sunday blogging at Infusco Coffee in Sawyer since it is on the way to the Sunday yoga class.  When I visited their website last night, I read about their mission. This is much more than a coffee shop. They sell “relationship coffee.” It makes the coffee taste much better when there is such a good cause behind it. If that’s not a light in the darkness, I don’t know what is. So now my Sunday blog will be called Sundays in Sawyer…. until I do something different.

The mission and history of Infusco ….

A sign on their counter said their eggnog latte was divine, so I ordered one. Ashok was out in the car waiting like usual, and I thought to ask if they allowed dogs. They do! Ashok can now hang with me instead of waiting in the car. I set down her blanket, and we both enjoyed the Christmas tree and the quiet setting of this comfortable and welcoming coffeehouse.

The darkness of depression is still lingering with me this evening. But I got up and made myself a nice, healthy dinner. A task so simple feels overwhelming when I’m depressed. But, I have to say it made me feel a tad better to put some effort into taking care of me. I think I’ll turn off this computer now and go read for a bit. Surely I have something light and humorous on my Kindle to ignite a little lightness in my spirit. If not, I can always fall asleep and get some rest. Either way, tomorrow will be another day.

We got out for a hike today at Warren Dunes State Park. That helped my mood a bit, too….

 

The Extraction of a Troublesome Tooth

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This morning I had a tooth extracted. But this was no ordinary run-of-the-mill tooth. This was THE tooth. This was the tooth that cost me hours upon hours in dental offices and literally thousands of dollars. This was my first root canal, and it would become my first extraction. “I know this isn’t what you want to hear,” the Michigan endodontist said, “but that tooth needs to be extracted. The root is cracked.” My heart sank as I looked out the window where the birds were eating at a feeder. But a voice inside my head, said, “Let it go.” And shame washed over me.

In my early thirties, this tooth had lost a filling or cracked or something, exposing a nerve. I’d never had any kind of serious tooth problem. But when I would drink anything hot or cold or even bite down on it, it would hurt. It keep getting worse and worse, and it got particularly bad one day when I was at a sportswriter’s convention with my ex near Gatlinburg. The pain was so bad, I called up a friend’s husband who was a dentist, and he agreed to see me right away.

I was so naive back then and so filled with anxiety that I was literally shaking as I went in to his office. I thought this was going to be horribly painful, and I would be broke for life. I had always been healthy, so this seemed like the end of the world to me. The pain was so horrible that I was literally traumatized by it. He was so nice. It was a tooth with 3 canals, he told me, and it needed a root canal. He usually sent those out, but since it was me, he agreed to do it. I’m quite sure he could tell I was scared to death and would burst into tears if he didn’t do it.

I drove the hour back to Gatlinburg and then returned the next day for the procedure. I was pleasantly surprised that the procedure was no worse than getting a filling. And the pain blessedly was gone. I was still woosy from the drugs, so the curvy hilly drive back to Gatlinburg seemed like a drug-induced dream. But the worst was over.

It was only about a year later that the tooth got infected. The very same dentist who now had my undying loyalty sent me to a specialist for a re-treatment. I wasn’t as afraid this time as I knew the drill – pun intended. The pretreatment went fine, and the tooth seemed happily content for many years. One day when I was in Louisiana, I noticed a bump on my gum above the tooth. That’s weird, I thought. It didn’t hurt. It looked like a pimple. I didn’t think much of it, but when it didn’t disappear I called my amazing dentist in Baton Rouge.

“That tooth is infected,” he told me. “The pimple is releasing the pressure so you don’t feel it, but we need to retreat the root canal.” Off I went to yet another endodontist to retreat the root canal. I expected him to advise extraction since it had already been treated twice, but he didn’t. The second treatment had lasted about 20 years. That was three years ago.

I found the pimple again the day before Thanksgiving. I’m trying to rid myself of troublesome things. I have beliefs that don’t serve me, and they haven’t served me for decades. I’m making headway in letting those go. I’ve made choices in my life and in my relationships that make my life lighter. I’ve downsized my belongings, and I’ve gotten out of debt. As I stood in front of the mirror and looked at the telltale sign of a hidden infection, I truly felt it was time to let this go, too.

Extracting a tooth is fairly serious. It’s why we put so much money into keeping them. After you extract one, you have to either bridge it which involves destroying two other teeth or get an implant which is surgery. If you leave the socket empty, you risk bone loss or shifting teeth which causes a new set of issues. Whatever my choices, it will take time and money and a bit of an attitude shift. And in a weird, surprising way I feel a bit of shame that I didn’t – or couldn’t – take care of my tooth. I remember feeling shame the first time it was worked on. Perfection? Failure? Loss? Not sure of the root, but there’s shame there.

So, today I have a hole where a tooth once lived. I’m eating soft, cold foods because it has to scab over. Luckily it’s hidden so I don’t have to look at it, but I’m sure I’ll take a peek. When the dentist was done, I asked his assistant if I could see the tooth. She gets a tweezer and picks up this tiny little bloody thing I could hardly see without my glasses. It came out in two parts because it was broken. “It’s so tiny,” I thought. In my mind, it was massive with big hairy tentacles and dripping with blood.

My first instinct was to ask to bring it home. I’d invested so much in it over the years, and it was a part of me. “No,” I heard. “Let it go.” And I did.

 

The Power of Gentleness

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I chose a meditation this morning from my 10% Happier app that promised to provide focus. Sharon Salzberg was the teacher, and she promised to help me focus on the space between the breaths. I noticed my breathing was labored. I struggled with pausing between breaths. As soon as the exhale ended I was gasping to inhale. My body was reacting as if I would die if I went a second without oxygen. I know from experience this is a symptom of my anxiety.

My anxiety’s creator is what I call my drill sergeant. He literally has a whip that he uses to keep me on the right track. “Do it right,” he screams and cracks the whip. “You can’t stop now,” he admonishes when I stop to rest. His goal is to keep me on track, to shame me into sticking to a standard is always be elusive. And when I’m meditating, he rails at me to “relax …. stop thinking … quiet your mind … breathe smoothly and easily …. you’ll never get this right”. What actually happens is I can’t do any of those things. I just get scared that I’ll never do it right, and I lunge at my breath to help me feel safe.

“Be gentle with yourself,” I tell my friends when they are lunging after their breath, their eyes wide with anxiety and fear over something that they can’t seem to accomplish or make right. I see their drill sergeant and can almost hear the crack of the whip as he admonishes them to meet an impossible goal. It’s not infrequent that people tell me that they can’t be gentle with themselves. If they are not harsh with themselves, they will fail.

When I recognized what was happening this morning, I stopped trying to follow her instructions, and I said, “I love you, Sharon”. I gave myself a big, imaginary, long hug. Immediately my body relaxed, and in a few minutes my breathing and my mind settled into an easy, relaxed cadence. I love the lessons of meditation and yoga. They are so subtle, and they only come when I pay attention to my internal drama. I think the drill sergeant is my internal voice, but he’s not. He’s an external structure built by a lifetime of experiences, demands and uninformed authority figures. He is not what is within me.

Yoga, meditation, therapy, 12-step recovery and other spiritual practices quiet the unhelpful voices that cause us to lunge after our breath or material goods or addictive substances of any kind. These safe practices – and if they are not safe, they are not healthy – provide a different structure that provides a soft spot to land and an absence of expectations. We all have enough goals and demands and expectations that drive us nearly to our death. The inner voice of the spirit is so gentle and sweet in comparison. It’s only when we meet it with gentleness that it becomes audible.

Ms. Salzberg echoed my experience this morning when she said that we can only improve and succeed if we lovingly support ourselves. Want to stick with a diet? Need to stop drinking? Is your life not working? Don’t listen to the drill sergeant. He’s what drove you to this place. Listen to your inner voice that tells you what you need and want and who genuinely adores you just the way you are. In my experience, it’s in the safety of sweet gentleness that my spirit ignites. The human spirit is infinitely more powerful than being driven from the outside…. and a lot more pleasurable, too.

Be gentle with yourself. See how powerful you really are.

 

A Saturn with a Clutch

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The Daily Prompt today is clutch.

The first thing that comes to my mind is the only new car I ever bought. It was a red Saturn coupe with a sunroof and manual transmission. I had driven several cars with manual transmission, and I actually preferred it. It was kind of fun to have so much control over it, and for every turn, start or stop to require my intervention and energy.

I bought this car when I was engaged to a guy from Seattle. We had just moved to Michigan, and he did not bring his muscle car that wasn’t very practical for snow. We needed to buy another car so he could drive to college, and I could drive to work. Saturn was a brand that catered to females and featured the first no-haggle buying promise. The price was the price. And when you picked up your new car, they put it up front with a big red bow on it. I was handed a rose and,  they took my picture with it. It was all very exciting.

It was exciting until we went to lunch afterwards to celebrate and my fiancee told me he quit school. That was a dealbreaker. He had already told me he didn’t want to find a job, and I was concerned about the direction this was taking. We broke up that day, and he headed back to Seattle with all of his crap two days later. I was left with two cars and a house note that was intended to be financed by two people. It was just another lesson in getting to know people better before you commit to them.

I loved that car. After he left, I remember driving up Hwy 31 to Manistee MI to stay in a bed-and-breakfast that we had booked for us that weekend. It was my first fall here, and the leaves were beautiful. My B&B hosts were really nice, and I had a very relaxing and beautiful weekend walking around in Manistee.

I never even paid the car off. My second husband didn’t like having a car with manual transmission. He didn’t find beauty in the simplicity of it. So, one day he told me he wanted to sell it so he could buy a car we both could drive in case we ever needed to switch. It was only one of the things I loved that I got rid of because he didn’t like it. He bugged the hell out of me to sell my beautiful four-poster bed because he didn’t like it, and I finally did. I think he got $500 for it on some website. I still want that bed back. And, to be honest, I’d like to have that Saturn back, too. I still see those cars every now and again even though Saturn is long out of business. They were good cars, and mine was really sporty and cute, too.

Funny, when I think about this story, I bought the car for one star-crossed lover and got rid of it for another. Maybe that car was just a catalyst for a couple of life lessons. I stood up for myself and sent one guy packing. In the other case, I swallowed my voice and let somebody else sell something I loved. I am a Capricorn, and Saturn is my ruling planet. I suppose on some level I should have known that a buying a Saturn would be much more significant than just a mode of transportation.

Sundays in Saugatuck: Listening to Dragonfly

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I thought I might head out for a hike today, but, alas, it is raining. So, for the third week in a row, I headed up to Saugatuck for my seat at Uncommon Coffee Roasters. The cushy chairs were waiting for me. I plopped my stuff down and ordered my mocha in a real coffee mug. Let the new Sunday tradition begin.

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Ashok looks cute but had to wait in the car anyway.

The dragonfly card popped up in my spread of my Medicine Cards today. As usual, dragonfly delivered a message that directly applied to my world. I actually called my friend Jessica this morning and spoke almost the exact words in the reading. Native Americans say that dragonfly was once a dragon, and he flew around transforming things with his fiery breath. One day Coyote played a trick on him and transformed him into a dragonfly. Dragon ended up losing his power because he allowed someone else to change him.

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After our run yesterday, Ashok rolled in the tiny bit of snow that was available.

The reading tells me that I am holding on to some illusion that is restricting my actions. I’ve been struggling with my people-pleasing tendencies lately, and that’s what prompted my call to Jessica this morning. Trying to twist myself into something or somebody that other people will like is not working for me. And, honestly, if they don’t like me, they don’t like me. In this particular situation, the change expected of me is not behavioral but personal. I am who I am with my own set of unique gifts and faults. And I honestly think if I could change, they still wouldn’t like me anyway. It’s about them. It’s not about me.

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Oddly enough, I have on my dragonfly earrings today. “Misery is a prime clue that you lost your will and personal validity when you bought into someone else’s idea of who or what you should be,” says dragonfly. “Who am I then?” I ask dragonfly, knowing the answer somewhere deep in my soul. I spent so many years of my life following someone else’s rules that misery was my constant state of being. But the soul never gives up trying to breathe. I can stuff it down as far as I want, but the soul never dies. It wants to BE who it is … no matter how long it takes.

I know I am still evolving. I know I am not perfect. I know that I continue to work on my personal challenges, and I see progress slowly but surely. I also know that I am talented. I am funny. I am courageous. My friends say that my special gift is helping others see how wonderful they really are. I actually sort of like that person that can help others love themselves. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

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The holidays are upon us. I’m excited about spending some time in Chicago and plans with friends. I’m looking for a 5k to run in December to cap off my successful running season. It’s been years since I’ve been able to run uninjured. Jessica has been coaching me since July, and I’ve been running a 5K every month. Yesterday Ashok and I ran a 5-miler in South Haven, and it felt great – albeit cold. I could run the Speedo 5k in Chicago or the Whoville 5k in Grand Rapids or a New Year’s Eve run. Hmmm … they all sound kind of fun. I’m just very grateful to be running. Along with all the other stuff that my souls longs to be, I suppose it likes to run.   Not sure about the bikini in December though… 

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Finding Laughter in the Darkness

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I was searching for new podcasts a couple of weeks ago. I wanted something that was not political, informative and thought-provoking. I listen to one called Women on the Road about women who live in campers and travel all the time. One of my favorites is How I Built This about entrepreneurs who made it really big. They have featured the builders of Eileen Fisher, Five Guys and Starbucks. I thought humor might be a good addition to my library, and I found one called The Hilarious World of Depression. Hmmmmm… really? Hilarious? Not my experience of depression, for sure.

I had some windshield time yesterday, so I plugged in and listened to a couple of episodes. So far, they are interviewing comedians who struggle with depression. They are somewhat funny, but the focus is their journey with depression. A friend of mine asked if that seemed odd that comedians would have depression, but, as a sufferer of depression, it makes perfect sense to me. Who can articulate the wildly insane world of mental illness better than someone who writes or performs? And since depression separates us from reality, we see all of its quirks and ironies.

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Depression is more of a numbness for me. Sometimes I feel sad, but mostly I just feel down and hopeless. I describe it as feeling like I’m in a box or as if I’m a small child hiding in a corner. There is a heaviness in my heart that I can only describe as weighted weariness. Moving around feels monumental. I watch the world disconnectedly as if reality is a movie where I didn’t get a part. The hardest part is feeling disconnected …. disconnected from my emotions, my relationships and from my hopes and dreams. The landscape is a movie screen. And it’s not even a really good movie. Is this all there is? 

Listening to these comedians talk about their darkest days and their journey with depression has been very comforting in an odd sort of way. People tell me that I often describe what they are going through in my blog, and it helps them to hear it described in prose. Sometimes – they say – it gives them words to describe their feelings. That’s exactly how I feel listening to this podcast. Even people who are famous and successful and wildly funny have periods where they sink into the dark hole of depression. Often, their inner world is at its darkest when they are at the peak of their success.

So, I just thought I’d pass this on. If you suffer from depression, it could be a warm blanket on a dark day. If you live with someone who suffers from depression, it will most certainly provide some insight on why they can’t “snap out of it” or use positive thinking to shift their mood. Most of all, I hope it will provide the perspective that depression doesn’t limit you unless you don’t get help. There is help available, and there is success and laughter and hope after – and even during – depression.

 

The Indiscriminate Taskmaster

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This morning I am enjoying downtown St. Joe in its post-summer quietness with a mocha (decaf), the book Quiet Your Mind by John Selby and my sweet Ashok. A chipmunk just raced across the road which perked her up as I dove into Shelby’s thoughts on how judgement impacts others and, more specifically, our own minds.

The first premise he asserts is that we all judge. We see a dark alley, and we judge that it is not safe. We see our unclean house, and our critical minds asserts that we are messy. A friend says that they are $10K in debt on their credit card as they charge up a new dress, and we think to ourselves that they need to be more financially savvy. And we tell a grieving friend that they need to trust God. Judgements keep us safe, destroy our peace of mind and confidence and ruin relationships. I first need to accept that I judge and stop judging myself about that.

I have been judged harshly by others about my lifestyle. People have judged me and condemned me for my divorces. Some people even judge me for feeling and expressing my opinions. In a really odd turn of events, others judge me for working on my problems. It is painful to be judged. And, lately, as I’ve been sinking into my meditation practice, I have become aware of how much I judge.

Meditation is not about stopping your thoughts. Experienced meditators say there is no way to do that. Our brain thinks. That’s what it does. Our body breathes. We can’t stop it from breathing either. The goal of meditation is to ground yourself and just notice what goes on in your brain without following the thoughts down the rabbit hole. I’m going to follow them down the rabbit hole inevitably when one interests me, and then I judge myself for doing it. I breathe, and I judge myself for trying to control the breath instead of just watching it flow. “STOP doing that, I tell myself,” as the meditation guide says to be gentle with yourself and don’t judge yourself for going down the rabbit hole.

My mind is a never-ending stream of thoughts and judgements and fears that are at once profound and a meaningless waste of time. One of my yoga teachers said that the mind that tells us to eat the apple pie is the same mind that berates us after we do. We are not our thoughts, and our thoughts are not excellent guides. I would love to study more about what creates our thoughts, and maybe that is something I will research later. Meditation sometimes relaxes me, but it is sometimes extremely frustrating. Following my thoughts can keep me constantly contradicted.

My thoughts are often the reflection of criticisms I’ve received in the past. It’s as if the very words that cut me to the bone get stuck in a recording that plays itself back to me throughout my day.  I feel confident that I was productive and creative, and I hear a disapproving parent telling me that “every time you think you screw up.” I feel healthy after a great run, and a long-ago passer-by says “hey fat-ass!” Luckily, therapy and healthy friends have recorded complimentary messages that counteract my everyday failures as well. When my house is a mess, I hear a good friend’s comment that “your house is your home. You can keep it how you like it.” When I snap off at a colleague, I hear a therapist’s message “No one is perfect. That’s why we have apologies.” The brain, it seems, is an indiscriminate recorder that plays its messages with no particular motive. In fact, sometimes I get two or three contradictory messages at once that can paralyze and confuse me

I’m playing with not reacting to my thoughts in meditation, and I’m finding that I’m playing with not reacting to my thoughts in real life. I’m becoming more aware of the content of my thoughts and my gut reaction to them. No wonder I was being jerked around so much by the thoughts in my head. Without awareness, they are a brutal taskmaster.

I’m Not Weird… Just Highly Sensitive

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I always knew I was sensitive. But I was surrounded by people who thought it was a fatal flaw. Toughen up…. don’t be so sensitive … you need to learn to cope with life … you are weak … insults around my sensitivity engulfed me. As I tried to process things like anger, sarcasm, violent movies and interpersonal drama, I struggled immensely.

I became depressed for the first time in my teens. All I wanted to do was hang out in my room, paint my nails and listen to my record player. Something was wrong with me, I told myself. How will I ever cope with my life? Why did God make me like this? Didn’t he know how hard this would be to live like this? I knew I couldn’t stop the “incoming” that was pushing my buttons everyday.

I eventually found alcohol and marijuana and started self-medicating. Of course that didn’t help either, but it helped me check out from the pressure of my overwhelming sensitivity to the world and its impact on my psyche. When I got sober in my mid-twenties, I found myself back in a world where I felt assaulted continuously. I really didn’t know how I would manage. It was just hard to be alive.

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I don’t remember when I found the book The Highly Sensitive PersonI’m pretty sure a therapist recommended it to me. I finally recognized myself, and there was nothing wrong with me. I was just sensitive to my environment. Anger overwhelmed me. My feelings drowned me. I needed lots of downtime to decompress from what others might describe as day-to-day drama. And the author offered tools for self-care and living a normal life.

I don’t know about other countries, but our culture doesn’t accept sensitive people as an asset. If we aren’t tough and in your face, we are considered weak. If I am empathetic to others, I’m a snowflake. I had a coworker tell me once that he couldn’t even have a conversation with me because I didn’t watch TV or violent movies. I feel out of step with society at times because of the way I have to “lock down” the intrusions upon my world. In order for me to show up at work in a demanding job, take care of the many tasks that single people have to handle and manage the many personal relationships that an extrovert craves, I have to be really clear about my needs. I don’t function well when I’m overwhelmed. And I know my limits.

I think I’m a good writer because I’m sensitive. I notice little things that others don’t see. I find the words that describe the smallest details that make life special. I’m a good teacher because I sense when others don’t understand. I’m a good strategist because I see connections everywhere. I anticipate problems at work way before anyone else can see them because I’m always asking questions and trying to understand the needs of others. My affinity for being immersed in my inner life makes me unique … not weird. 

If you think you might be a highly sensitive person, here are some resources for you. If you love someone who is a highly sensitive person, take a look at this material. Understand that there is nothing wrong with them, and they don’t have to “toughen up”. They just need to learn how to arrange their world so that they feel safe contributing. Our world needs more sensitive people. But we are often hiding under mushrooms. Make it safe for us to shine.

Resources for highly sensitive people can be found on this website. There’s even a quiz you can take. If you answer yes to 14 items on the quiz, you are highly sensitive. I had 23! And some areas have Meetup groups where you can meet others like you!

senschild