Because of intense and atypical sensitivity to both physical and emotional stimulus, I have felt humiliated, not only for being wired differently but for having been shamed and shunned for it– never taught to manage the frequent and difficult emotions. Naturally, I came to envy those unaffected, composed— indifferent to others. I think it is boasted as thick skinned. As if that is strength. But I realize today, that I would not prefer to be that way. Feeling deeply is difficult and a gift, and requires inner strength. Yesterday, on our way to camp, a homeless woman approached our car for money, Having just gone to the ATM, and having no singles, I was pleased to have no choice but to offer her more than I typically would. What I also did, was make and hold intentional eye contact as I told her to take care. And then I wept as we drove away, explaining to my sons–that if the suffering and need of a woman whom I do not know causes me pain, imagine what I feel when a person behaves with unkindness to me.
It is true that I cry in the presence of a new baby person or animal, children singing, weddings, homeless or hurt people or animals. I am powerless to change this, though life would be more manageable and less painful if I could. This is the same me that cannot just move on and let go as my family has for decades done with me–the ability to individually and collectively go on as if my existence does not matter in the least. I do not wish to be that way. Ever. My sons have plenty of models of indifference in their lives and I am grateful to have something different to offer and model for them.
I will say it again. The opposite of sensitivity is not strength, but insensitivity. I married the person I did because he was so good at composure and indifference and I had been taught that was the measure of strength, maturity, and rightness hoping that I might learn from him or receive validation by proxy and association with such valor. Emotional stoicism/vacancy are things I would no longer wish for myself or my children. I am slowly learning to manage my feelings. They are deep and many, but they are not crimes or defects. I offer generous space to anyone suggesting otherwise. Compassion and empathy are the most wholesome badass ways of being. All of the people whom I respect most, are leading in this way. Leading people to understand and connect rather than shame, judge, distance, and punish for differences of skin, orientation, or opinion.
Feeling less pain would be nice but I am blessed to feel what is meant to be felt. My program and spiritual striving suggest nowhere, that indifference and thick skin will help me to become my best self. For appearances only, I would like to be less affected. But my heart is big and open and for that I am learning boundaries and healthy coping. I am a work in progress– a love warrior. I unapologetically feel it all–openly pained by diminishing or dehumanizing words and behaviors.
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