Have you ever...
read a passage in a book or heard someone speak in an interview and you thought, “Oh my gosh! They understand! They know what it’s like to be me!”? That was my experience when I read this line:
“I was most at home with my inner life . . . afraid of the challenges of daily life.”
Some of you reading this may have no idea what I’m talking about. You may actually have trouble connecting with your inner life and feel more comfortable just getting up and doing what you need to do for the day.
That’s great! I’m so glad you’re here and I’m so thankful for you!
And, I hope you’ll still read on, because you might just find that there’s someone in your life that you can understand a little better if you do.
And, knowing a bit about who tends to read Thriving Thursdays, I’m guessing that a few of you felt that same “ping” I got when you read this passage (it’s in Mark Nepo’s book The One Life We’re Given –you’ve heard a lot from this book lately because I read a passage from it most mornings.)
It’s not easy being a sensitive soul who feels the world so deeply.
It’s also quite lovely.
So, if that description resonates for you, I hope you will take a moment to express genuine thankfulness for that part of you that makes the world feel so hard to be in sometimes…
That part of you that makes the emotions of others show up in technicolor and seep into your bones before you even realize they’re not yours.
That part that causes you to cry at the amazing beauty of the early morning sun shining on a drop of water held tenuously at the end of a blade of grass —
And the part that makes it so hard for you to shift from that mystical moment into making lunches for your kids, or prepping your classroom for the day, or just taking a shower and brushing your teeth.
Because this part of you that makes daily life such a challenge and even frightening sometimes? It’s the same part that makes the world light up for you in ways others don’t see.
Lucky you. Lucky us. And also, it’s not easy.
It’s not easy to feel the rough pull back and forth from the mystical to the everyday.
AND we can do it and do it well – if we take good care of ourselves AND build up our bad ass muscles at the same time.
When I was a professor a few years ago teaching (and learning) about children’s varied temperaments, I read about research that shows that some children’s nervous systems react – physiologically – in much more extreme ways than others to the same stimuli.
And I realized that often we teachers or parents are unintentionally really unkind to these children. We call them fussy, or “difficult.” We think that they aren’t very strong or courageous. When in reality they are literally experiencing a loud noise, or a change in routine, or a new scent in a very different way than other children. It is ACTUALLY harder for them than for the other child.
Then I realized that I was judging myself in similarly negative ways.
Those of us with extra-sensitive nervous — some people call us “empaths;” some people call us “mystics;” some people call us “emotional basket-cases,” “too sensitive,” or “weird.”— we can pick the name we choose to own for ourselves. That’s step one.
For years I accepted the “emotional basket case” label (it still shows up in my brain sometimes.) I regularly asked myself,
"What's wrong with me?"
I saw that other people could work longer hours, watch more intense movies, heck, even enjoy their kids’ competitive sports games, but all those things wiped me out emotionally. Surely I was broken, inherently wrong somehow.
Now, I just know that I’m highly sensitive and empathetic. And those characteristics are basically neutral. Like money or power or other resources it’s not having these characteristics or not having them that matters – it’s how they are used.
Once I accepted that I have a sensitive nervous system, maybe even a sensitive “spirit,” I began caring for myself in ways that support the unique challenges and gifts that come along with it. That's step 2.
For example, I often ask for quiet when riding with my husband in the car, or at home. Total quiet, not even jazz music in the background.
I also make sure I support my ability to sleep for at least eight hours a night. (Which involves all kinds of small choices about how much, when and what I drink. How rigid I am about having my teenager finish his evening chores so I can check on them before I go to bed. When I stop looking at screens or doing other thinking for work, etc. etc.) It seems ridiculous sometimes – how much effort it takes!
I get support for my spiritual self through retreats and hanging out with other people who understand.
But I’m not stopping at caring for my sensitive self – and I hope you won’t either.
It can be easy to take on the label “sensitive” (or “depressed” or “anxious” or “shy”) and use it as an excuse to avoid growing our capacity to do hard things that will help us also to do our work in the world and follow our aliveness wherever it leads.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not letting the label of “sensitive” to keep me from being courageous and sharing love, healing and joy! I am determined to continue to increase my capacity to do my work in the world, to “follow my aliveness,” as Mark Nepo says, and to share the goodness I find with others. I’m intentionally developing my skills and capacity, so that I can handle more of life’s daily challenges even with the sensitive system and spirit that I have.
We can be sensitive AND be bad asses at the same time.
For me that was a big shift - changing my thought from “this is too hard” to “this is hard and I am strong” (or “this is hard and I am an epic fucking bad ass,” ala Katherine North, if you prefer.)
So I work on my mindset/my thoughts. I gather encouraging and empowering books and podcasts. I hire coaches. I go to trainings. I push my limits and edges and sometimes I crash and burn and have to adjust my approach. Other times I find that I am able to do more than I thought I could.
And, of course, these are ongoing processes. Practicing care and kindness. Giving our souls what they need even when it seems ridiculous AND building up our “daily life” muscles a little more so that we can handle more today than we could the day before.
There's been some crashing and burning for me in recent months...
AND there's been some expansion of my capacity at the same time. I look forward to sharing what comes from all of it with you in the coming months. (Have you connected with me on Instagram yet? - I'm starting to share more there!)
In the meantime, I hope you will find time to enjoy the long days of summer (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere) by watching a sunrise or sunset this week. Your sensitive soul will love it!
Here’s to thriving and equity!
P.S. FYI One resource that I’ve returned to a lot on this journey is Katherine North’s Practical Magic for Secret Mystics. Let me know if you decide to try it out. I’d love to walk alongside you as you do!
P.P. S. I’d planned to launch my Less Stress, More Justice course this coming Sunday, June 16. But I hit a few of those emotional/spiritual walls as I tried to do ALL THE THINGS. So I’m pausing and listening for the right timing.
If you have been waiting for the course to show up so you can work with me and connect with other social-justice-oriented-sensitive-souls, please let me know. Send me a message and tell me what it is that you need most in order to keep going on your journey towards your own aliveness and the ability to share that with others and I'll see what I can do to help you out!