In another life, we might have been flowers.
Not roses, their petals are far too strong to describe us. Not daffodils or daisies either, or any of the cultivated varieties. We would be the tender little wildflowers that dance in the fields of grass.
As the summer storms tear us to bits, we would not mourn losing our petals. We, who have learned to trust our roots, will rise again next year.
The morning after my mother died, I woke up and wept.
Wept, as in deep, guttural sobs with gasping breaths and snotty nose.
You might call it ugly crying. I call it the first time I’d felt anything in many years.
But the little voice that guides me to be honest says that the above statement isn’t true. Before that bucket of tears fell, I’d felt plenty of the “hot” emotions. Anger. Frustration. Annoyance. But it was surface stuff – not from the holy cauldron of feeling we’ve been asked to release on behalf of our ancestors. My rage was low hanging fruit thrown at easy targets.
In the years that followed that morning breakdown, my life as I knew it disintegrated. My marriage fell apart. My job became untenable. I lost nearly every friend I had made in those years of numbness.
You could call me a victim, but these were my choices. You see, the morning I wept for the passing of my mother, I woke up to the wisdom of the sensitivity I had denied myself for so many years. Its unwrapping asked me to become very honest with myself about who and what I wanted around me. I found that I did not want much of what I had.
I don’t think that my mother intended to die so I could see how I really wanted to live, but we don’t get to choose the consequences of our actions. This was the result of hers.
The Gift of a Sensitive Soul
I call sensitivity a gift, though it is one that is often poorly packaged and run over by the delivery van on its way to our door. I received mine as a child, when I learned that I could intuitively read life and see where alignment existed and where it did not, but this gift came with no instructions. I fumbled to figure it out. Tinkered with its workings. Some helpful things came – a life partnership with my journal and a solid moral compass from feeling the weight of injustice – but mostly I couldn’t figure it out.
What was I supposed to do with a soft shell in a world that rains razor blades? The only thing that made any sense – learn to be like iron.
The Gift of Numbness
Though I do see that I missed a lot during those years of numbness, I see now that time as a gift. Without the overwhelm and distraction of my emotions, I was able to activate my inner warrior. She is who got me to and through the battleground of New York City, who helped me build a career and a reputation for being a rather tough broad. She helped me duck a million punches and come up laughing. None of that would have been possible if I had stayed as soft as I came in.
But the fate of warriors is to die. Ideally honorably. When I took off my armor, I removed the resistance I had to feeling and gave it to the crows. I saw that the toughness was a persona, an identity, and therefore just one of the multitudes I contain. These days, I invite my sensitivity and my warrior to sit next to my heart. I see the value in both.
I am proud to say that I feel now, but I also use what I learned in the numbness to protect myself from traveling too deeply into dark woods. I use my sensitivity as a compass for what I am willing to let into my life, and what I will not abide by. I’ve learned that when my body collapses in pain, I am carrying too much. I’ve learned that when I feel an icky feeling that won’t leave, I must pause and see where I’m lying to myself or letting someone else lie to me. I let my sensitivity do the noticing from a cozy perch, while my warrior cuts away what doesn’t belong.
Tips for Sensitive Souls
I’m going to tie up this story hour with a very brief overview of sensitivity from a practical perspective (with an invitation to work with me directly if you want to go deeper).
Nervous system regulation = the ability to use sensitivity as the gift it is. Dysregulation is an inevitable consequence of being alive, but a constant lifestyle as such means we’re spinning without an orbit, bumping into all sorts of celestial flotsam and jetsam and spending all our energy tending to the bruises.
If you want to be able to use your sensitivity as a tool to build the kind of life you actually want, you must tend to the part of you that feels, and ask its intuition to work for you while offering it a protective container. (You also must be prepared for some inconvenient answers to the questions you’re asking, but that’s a different story entirely.) My favorite recipe begins first and always with breath. The breath holds invaluable clues about your feeling state (is your breathing constricted, easeful, etc.?) and offers a tool to cope when you feel too much. Honestly, sometimes all it takes to make it through a feeling is five minutes of intentional breathing.
With breath comes aliveness. With aliveness comes the possibility to experience not just unpleasant feelings and sensations, but also pleasure and the erotic. Trust me, the ability to feel the latter makes up for the ick of the former.
A Sensitive Science Experiment
Mostly, it’s important to experiment with how you feel and the intuitive abilities your emotions offer. Do it slowly, in a sort of laboratory setting where you feel safe enough to open. As you deepen your feeling side, also nurture the noble warrior who will stand in front of you when the big winds blow.
Even with years of practice, there will be days when it feels like too much. Those are the moments to tuck yourself under your warmest blanket with a cup of steaming something between your hands, and remember these words: You don’t feel too deeply, the world just spends a lot of effort to convince you to shut down.
Let’s do it differently this time, and see what happens.
If you’re ready to learn how to feel, sign up for intimacy coaching through Erotic Alchemy. Now accepting clients virtually and in-person.