Yesterday at the vet for routine procedures, there was a man, with his very old and loved, black cocker spaniel neatly bundled in a blanket with only a grayed muzzle and one yummy little paw poking out. He seemed serene, almost smiling. Hopefully and foolishly and unhelpfully–I asked, “Will he be ok?” and he shook his head No. Without skipping a beat, I crumbled. My tears streamed without consent and I apologized. (With my relatives, I learned to apologize for sensitivity, difficult feelings, empathy, and compassion, for failure to mask genuine pain or struggle is a trouble-making failure. Acknowledging pain and struggle was equally offensive under certain circumstances–because those things are weak and or not real).
Anyway, I could not help but recall when my dog was 14 and suffering- the grief of THE knowing– it was time, time to help him, to do right by him, to ease his journey over the rainbow, to say good-bye. I can liken that experience of holding him, in our last precious moments, only, to holding my sons in their first moments and months. The gravity of their vulnerability and the gift of their faith in me as provider and protector, made it difficult to breathe.
The man(with the bundled pup) was with his wife and their other dog– they all entered THE ROOM together. From where I was sitting, I saw through the window of the door that the other dog sat faithfully on the table beside his buddy. They were all there, in the final moments. It may take me a few days to fully recover from this. You see, I did much more than just observe this. I experienced it, at a cellular level, the way I do all things-which are deep and true.
I have always been this way. When I see pain or suffering of others, I feel it as intensely as if it were my own. Homeless people or animals, starving children on tv, movies in which people are cruelly persecuted and violated. I am equally affected by tension and anger whether directly expressed or poorly contained. It gets on me and it takes a while to break free from it.
I am equally affected by sensory stimulus and recently read that for HSPs and people with sensory dysregulation, it is as if we hear with 100 ears and what may not register for an insensitive or neurotypical person and will overwhelm us in just seconds…all of the senses, for me are hyper tuned in–with no dimmer switch.
My older son is sensitive in these ways also. He recently explained how it seems difficult, for only him, when his brother fights with his father(or me), saying: “they each walk away and are fine and I am the one left with all of the feelings, and it wasn’t even about me”. I remember being yelled at “it is not about you” as if I were in violation of someone by feeling so much.
This way of being, is not a choice. It feels like a curse much of the time. I am learning to seek serenity, to shelter myself and my son from too much stimulus, and to remove myself/US, entirely from people of the opinion that growing thicker skin is all that is needed, and who assert that it is as simple as making the intellectual commitment to do so. And for the record, the opposite of sensitivity is NOT strength, but insensitivity. I think some may be confused about this.
I have felt unable to write since my declaration that I would no longer write about “them”. Anyone intimately familiar with trauma, grief, and healing will understand that forgetting is not possible. I am reminded of the “family commandment” to forgive and forget, and the collective judgment that comes for not doing so. And here is what I know today: Kind people seek but do not demand forgiveness. Time changes nothing. People change things or they do not.
I would like to forgive my sister and my ex for the Nagasaki bomb they dropped on my sons’ little family with their arrangement. But it is both unforgivable and unforgettable. Not because I lack the ability to forgive, but because it is harmful to my children— for the rest of their lives—my young sons have lost the hope and peace of having two parents who work together for them, for us. We had managed to do that before the arrangement. I may write less about it, so as to not deep dive into the despair. But I do not get to forget. I am willing to lessen the proverbial grip on their throats, let go of the unforgiveness, because that is a healthier choice.
While I write for myself, I often wonder if people who knew me back when, read these posts, if they would think that my claim to sensitivity is also a intended as a claim to angelic behavior. It is certainly not. I can say that my behavior for the last 10 years has been spiritually driven, rather than guided by very sick and destructive programming of my first 40 years. Wholesome and Badass–These are my strivings– to recover the best parts of my self, not a suggestion or claim of my status. I was a terrified human with no resilience and no healthy coping skills. I am a work in progress, always and gladly.Much Love,
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