Category Archives: Highly Sensitive Person

Something Good

1. Fall session of ZenPen, “Body-Based Writing for Healing, Transformation, and Personal Growth” from my dear friend Courtney Putnam starts September 30th.

2. Finding Freedom and Writing Memoirs with Meg Worden, an interview on BlogCast FM.

3. Funny stuff from Elephant Journal, Sorry about all the poop: The 10 Commandments of Your Dog and Conan O’Brien and Louis CK “Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy.” And not so much funny as true, The Truth About Hitting Bottom.

4. An excerpt from The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert’s new novel.

5. A Bunch Of Young Geniuses Just Made A Corrupt Corporation Freak Out Big Time. Time For Round Two. on Upworthy. Boulder certainly is one of my favorite things about Colorado, for reasons just like this.

6. 36 Surreal Instagram Images From Burning Man. I’m not hip enough to attend, and besides it would be too hot and there would be too many people for me, but I’m so glad that something like it exists.

7. Are You a Highly Sensitive Person? on Tiny Buddha, (and, the answer is “uh, yes!”). Also from Tiny Buddha, 10 Journaling Tips to Help You Heal, Grow and Thrive.

8. Honor the Signs Your Future Self is Sending You and Finding Your Creative Flow: 17 Writer’s Tricks to Get Un-stuck and Start Creating on Scoutie Girl.

9. A few thoughts & actions that will help you open up more and Money: A Love Story. Kate Northrup & I talk debt, cash, freedom. from Danielle LaPorte.

10. This post from 3x3x365, in which Patti Digh describes the very best reason to marry someone.

11. Brene’ Brown interview, Vulnerability and Shame, on How She Really Does It with Koren Motekaitis.

12. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön, in her book Comfortable with Uncertainty,

Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allowing ourselves to move gently toward what scares us. The trick to doing this is to stay with emotional distress without tightening into aversion; to let fear soften us rather than harden into resistance. We cultivate bravery through making aspirations. We make the wish that all beings, including ourselves and those we dislike, be free of suffering and the root of suffering.

13. Wisdom from Thich Nhat Hanh, “For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”

14. Wisdom from Atticus Finch,

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyways and you see through it no matter what.

15. Truth from Gloria Steinem, “Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”

16. Wisdom from Tara Brach,

When we identify with a small self, we are perceiving ourselves as a cluster of ocean waves, not recognizing that we are made of ocean. When we realize our true self is ocean, the familiar pattern of waves—our fears and defensiveness, our wants and busyness—remains a part of us, but it does not define us.

17. Wisdom from Tama J. Kieves,

When you’re in transition, you walk in two worlds. You walk in the world in front of you, which may seem stark or burdened. Yet you also walk in the world you carry in your heart. You know you are blossoming & the fruit trees hang heavy, the sun shines, & the clients call, & money is not an issue. The life you are feeding is the life that becomes true.

18. 10 Paradoxical Traits Of Creative People from Fast Company.

19. 10Q, a really fun thing that Rachel Cole shared last week,

Answer one question per day in your own secret online 10Q space. Make your answers serious. Silly. Salacious. However you like. It’s your 10Q. When you’re finished, hit the magic button and your answers get sent to the secure online 10Q vault for safekeeping. One year later, the vault will open and your answers will land back in your email inbox for private reflection.

20. The Magic of Impermanence from Lisa Congdon.

21. Stop Chasing Success. Seek Significance. from Becoming Minimalist.

22. Interview with Jen Smith of LivingLegendary.org from Lisa Bonchek Adams.

23. Wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook, and even more wisdom from Elizabeth.

24. 10 tips for a mindful home from Karen Maezen Miller.

25. Staying Awake from Jeff Oaks.

26. I Found A Blind Baby Sparrow Below My Balcony After A Storm from Bored Panda.

27. {this moment}, a beautiful end of summer image on SouleMama.

28. 8 Good Morning Questions that Create Happiness on Marc and Angel Hack Life.

29. What this internet addict learnt from three weeks offline from Satya on Writing Our Way Home.

30. Truthbomb from Danielle LaPorte, “It takes as long as it takes.”

31. My friend Sherry sent me this last week, a poem from Hafiz,

How did the rose ever open its heart and give to this world all its beauty? It felt the encouragement of light against its being, otherwise, we will remain too frightened.

32. Wisdom from Geneen Roth’s latest newsletter,

…binge eating is not defined by the amount of food you eat but by the way you eat it. Two cookies can be a binge if you eat them with urgency, desperation, and the pressing need for an altered state. Food is a drug of choice, and when you binge, you are using your preferred substance to deny, swallow, or escape your feelings.

33. Whatever Happens Next, a beautiful and heartbreaking story of saying good-bye on Huffington Post from Judy Clement Wall.

34. I want to talk about Body Positivity, OK? from Mary Lambert.

35. Here Come the Good Movies: A dozen films opening before Thanksgiving are more than worth your time and money on Purple Clover.

36. Stop beating yourself up…It’s a WASTE of time! from Kute Blackson. I already shared this yesterday, but I really want to make sure you don’t miss it.

37. The Value of Suffering, an opinion piece by Pico Iyer on The New York Times, also something I already shared, but want to make sure you see it.

38. Shared in this week’s Positively Present Picks list: Custom Pet Stamp on Ebay and Do You Suffer from the “Easy to Buy, Hard to Use” Phenomenon? on Happiness Project.

39. From Susannah Conway’s Something for the Weekend list: It’s OK Not To Want It All from Amy Palko, Amelia the Airstream, a Vacation Home on Wheels on Design Sponge, and A poem a day from Austin Kleon. Bonus: Susannah shared two of my links!

40. Speaking of Susannah, How I Do It: An Interview with Susannah Conway (+ a Giveaway!) on In Spaces Between.

41. Wisdom from Kute Blackson, “Every feeling is a signal, which if you pay attention to will point you in the direction of something that you actually need to deal with, a part of you that needs loving compassion or needs to be released.”

42. 55 Quick Tips to Start Your Self-Care Practice from Anne-Sophie.

Something Good

1. Wisdom from Geneen Roth, ending with such a good question,

This morning, as I begin preparing for our twice yearly retreat, I remembered something that I realized years ago, when I was struggling with my own weight challenges: that until and unless I wanted something more than I wanted to be thinner, I would never lose weight and keep it off. Not in a way that didn’t include deprivation and judgment. For myself, I had to want to know what was at the bottom of my eating. I had to want to touch that hunger. To become aware that the whole thing wasn’t really about food, but about something much more profound–and it was that that I had to want to touch, know, heal. Once I did that (and it was a process, not a one-time event), the weight came off, and stayed off for all these years.

So–what do you want more than you want to lose weight? What do you really really want?

2. 15 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy.

3. Sustainability and the Sacred on Huffington Post, in which Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee says,

If we are to sustain this world of wonder, what is essential in our response is not just action but a shift in consciousness, a shift away from seeing the Earth as something separate from ourselves, as a resource to be used and abused. Real sustainability is not the sustainability of our present lifestyle — our image of progress and economic growth — but the sustainability of a sacred Earth, rich in biodiversity and wonder.

4. How I see my dog vs. how my dog sees me on The Oatmeal.

5. A Short Study in Insurrection, Jennifer Boykin on Jonathan Fields’ blog.

6. New Wheels & a Lesson in Confidence from Vivienne McMaster.

7. “The antidote to exhaustion isn’t rest. It’s wholeheartedness.” ~ David Whyte

8. Love your sadness. It won’t last. from Danielle LaPorte.

9. Jessica Jackley: Poverty, money — and love, a TED Talk by the founder of Kiva.org. The last few minutes of this talk are amazing.

10. HSP That’s Me from Hannah Marcotti.

11. Coverflip: Maureen Johnson Calls For An End To Gendered Book Covers With An Amazing Challenge (IMAGES)

12. Daily Truthbomb from Danielle LaPorte, “You can always find someone who thinks you’re an idiot. Speak up any way.”

13. The Forest House, East Sussex. I posted about this last week, but this week SF Girl by Bay shared even more of the pictures, along with a link to the original site with the full set. I want to go to there.

14. New paintings from Paul Bond. The way he describes Eleanor Dreams of a Miraculous Rescue, made me tear up. You see, I know the real Eleanor, who I called Danger Baby and now Danger Kid, because every time I see her, I want one just like her. I am going to happily settle for a print of this painting instead. Paul says this about it,

The resulting scene became a story of innocence. Of a child’s belief that she can always protect and nurture those things that she loves the most. And a prayer that the adult Eleanor’s of the world never stop cherishing whatever calls to them.

Eleanor_Dreams_of_a_Miraculous_Rescue_30x30_Oil15. Notes on being a hermit from Susannah Conway.

16. What’s in my pantry? from Kris Carr.

17. In Praise of Safety by Rachel Cole.

18. Depression Part Two from Hyperbole and a Half. And if that sounds like too much for you, read one of the funniest posts she ever wrote, Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving.

19. This is Water, a cool video using David Foster Wallace’s 2005 Kenyon commencement speech.

20. Wisdom shared by Justine Musk on Facebook,

“What makes the content you create awesome is that it’s a story told through your unique lens. It’s you, telling a story. It’s you not giving a fuck about anything but telling that story.” ~Paul Jarvis

21. Shared in Patti Digh’s Thinking Thursday post, recipe for Strawberry Balsamic and Olive Oil Breakfast Cake on Food52.

22. Pumpcast News, Part 1 – The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I want to be friends with these people.

23. Sunni Chapman’s design site, Salty Olive Design. *sob* #itissobeautiful Does anyone have $7000 they’d want to give me so Sunni could build me a website?

24. Sad Cat Diary by Ze Frank

25. Reflections on the Road Back from Insanity on Elephant Journal by Kara-Leah Grant, who gives one of the best descriptions of yoga, ever.

It’s about connection. It’s about being open. It’s about being vulnerable and true and courageous.

It’s about yoga as a path to self-realization.

Not one blinding flash when we suddenly become enlightened.

But those small moments of self-realization that happen every time we step on the yoga mat. When another illusion drops away. Another samskara dissolves. Another insight arises.

That’s what it’s about. That’s what yoga as a path to self-realization means.

We realize, moment by moment, all that we are not. And one day, when all that we are not drops away… there we are.

26. Stop Caring What Others Think and Stand Up for Your Dogs on Notes from a Dog Walker. I say amen.

27. Another interview from The Conversation, Ashley Madekwe.

28. 3D Face Masks Created from DNA Found in Public Spaces. So freaky.

29. Celebrating Grandmas and Their Cuisine From Around the World.

30. Show Your Work! My Creative Mornings Talk from Austin Kleon.

31. Amy Seeley singing Beloved, frogs and bugs and maybe crickets singing in the background. No matter the version, the piano in this song wrecks me.

32. 7 Behaviors to Stop Tolerating in Others from Marc and Angel Hack Life. I would add that these are behaviors we should also attempt to stop doing ourselves.

33. “Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one” ~Bruce Lee

34. your daily rock : come as you are

35. This wisdom from Thubten Chodron: Wishing others to be happy doesn’t mean we give them everything they want, because sometimes what they want can be harmful. Wishing them to be happy entails wanting them to be free from pain and loneliness.

36. Fat Shame, (btw: there is language, but I love what she has to say).

Not Knowing Where to Start

This is one of those posts, kind and gentle reader, that is at this moment as much of a mystery to me as it is to you. All day I have been thinking about what I wanted to tell you, what I had to say, to share, without being sure exactly what I would write. There is a big shift happening in my life right now but it’s not entirely clear to me how this is going to work out so I haven’t formed a neat and tidy way of communicating it. All I know for sure is that I want to tell you the truth.

I finally had an appointment with my new doctor. I have been struggling with fatigue for the past few years, have hypothyroidism and a family history of diabetes, (all kinds, on both sides), am most likely perimenopausal, and don’t get enough rest. I am a highly functioning food addict who has struggled with disordered eating for 30+ years, having gained, lost, and regained the same 20 pounds at least that many times. I want to be free of it, this struggle and dis-ease. I want to be strong, healthy, and whole, with the energy and stamina necessary to do the work I long to do, to live a full life.

Things have to to change. A series of unfortunate incidents with my previous doctors made me realize that I wasn’t being cared for as well as I should be, that I needed to seek out a new perspective, someone who would view me as a whole person (not just a body) and consider all the potential healing modalities available. I chose someone who practices Integrative Medicine, which according to her, “evaluates the patient as a whole. It does not view the patient as a chronic disease, an illness, a list of medications, or a recent hospitalization–but rather as a complex being made up of physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual parts all interdependent and woven together. All of these elements are respectfully addressed in developing strategies to treat illness and more aggressively prevent disease.” Sounds great, doesn’t it?

It was good. But, we have some work to do. I have something to teach her about dealing with people who have a history of dis-ordered eating and self-loathing. For starters: don’t call them obese, no matter what the BMI chart says. And for heaven’s sake, don’t call them obese repeatedly. Call them curvy, solid, voluptuous, thick, full, well-rounded, sturdy, slightly heavier than optimal, weighted down–but don’t call them obese.

Brave Belly

I get it. I need to lose some weight. It’s the same weight I’ve been losing and gaining for years. I already knew that. I get it. It’s there, in part, because I am an incredibly sensitive and porous person, without natural thick skin or any other kind of protective barrier between myself and the energy of my environment, the suffering of every person I encounter, the meanness and brutality of life. I am easily hurt, and I eat my feelings. This in turn makes me bigger, more stable and substantial, heavier, harder to knock down, safer, calmer (at least in theory).

What she said hurt me. I’m pretty sure she thought I was confused about my situation, didn’t realize it was serious, and that this “truth” would motivate me to change. In reality, it sent me into a shame spiral. Thank goodness that same afternoon I was leaving for a retreat with Susan Piver, had a safe, supportive space to go in which to process what she’d said. I truly believe that without my practices, the support and wisdom I have access to, she would have only made things worse with that one word. I’m hoping the next time we meet, I can effectively and kindly communicate this to her so that she is better able to help the next person like me, a person who might not have the support, the tools I do to process and cope.

whole

For now, I get back to the work of educating myself. Along with Susan Piver, her support and wisdom and our shared practice, I am so grateful for the work and friendship of Rachel Cole. Both of these amazing women, (along with such writers and healers as Geneen Roth and Tara Brach), remind me to always approach myself, my struggles, with gentleness, to give myself space and compassion. In this way I can face this transition, which is going to be so difficult, with wisdom and lovingkindness–because this is so much more about loving myself than about what I do or don’t eat.

I can also count on the people in my life who love me to support me, encourage and help me, to make me smile, to laugh. Like my trainer, who after hearing what my doctor had said was extra encouraging to me when we worked out, telling me much more often than normal what a great job I was doing, (seriously, it was adorable). And my husband, who told me “we’ll figure this out, you’ll know what to do, and I’ll help you,” who loves me, is more concerned with the size of my heart and how much I love him back than a set of numbers anyway, who won’t judge me when I eat a cinnamon roll the size of my head. And my courage circle and other friends who reminded me of how much I am loved, of my real value, my truth worth. And my friends who gave me recommendations when I asked them for a kind and gentle therapist who works with dis-ordered eaters.

I can find and accept help, but more importantly I can trust myself.

Three Truths and One Wish

1. Truth: Being highly sensitive is both a blessing and a curse. I was born completely porous, raw and naked and open wide. I had no defense, no barrier between myself and the world, myself and others. What you felt, I felt, and I felt it deeply. For years, I wore heavy armor (invisible yes, but heavy and hard nonetheless) and masks, cocooned myself, padded my body with extra weight, distracted with smoke and mirrors, hid myself away, anything I could to do to protect myself.

What I didn’t understand yet is that this sensitivity, this keen emotion, acute intuition, deep knowing, this tenderness was something that others spent their lives trying to achieve, that there were many ancient practices to teach one to be so openhearted, so present, spacious and awake. I had what others wanted, what they worked so hard to experience. I have slowly allowed my gentle self to peek out, have been working with being vulnerable and brave, keeping my heart open, but it’s so hard sometimes–the beauty and the brutality, the tenderness and the terror can be so overwhelming.

2. Truth: “You should put on your own oxygen mask before attempting to help someone else with theirs.” I was chanting this silently last night as I tried to fall asleep. My worrying about Dexter wasn’t letting me rest, mind or body, and I was exhausted. That phrase was the thing that kept coming back to me, the only thing that was helping. No “he’s fine” or “everything’s going to be okay” or general allowing or accepting of reality or releasing of attachment would work, but the awareness that I needed to take care of myself or I wouldn’t be of any help to him did.

3. Truth: I can’t control everything, and perfection is impossible. I know this, deep down know it, and yet I keep acting as if it’s not true. I keep Dexter home from hiking, thinking I can keep him safe, and he hurts himself chasing after a squirrel in our backyard. I feed my dogs the best possible food, provide the best health care, give them tons of exercise and affection, take better care of them sometimes than I do myself, and still two of them have been diagnosed with fatal cancers. I obsess about Dexter’s physical therapy and medications and various appointments, thinking I can fix him, keep him safe, when no matter what I do, he will eventually die, as all mortal things do. I try to be so careful and prepared and diligent and alert, but bad things still happen. Things break, feelings get hurt, mistakes are made. I am not always responsible, and even when I am, I am forgivable, still loveable. I am trying to do as Karen Salmansoh suggests and, “Let go of what you can’t control. Channel all that energy into living fully in the now.”

One Wish: That we can approach our experience, our struggle and suffering, with great gentleness and a loving presence. That when we despair, are afraid and sad, we can experience some ease, remember our innate strength, have confidence and find comfort in our fundamental wisdom and compassion. And as Hafiz says, “I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in the darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.”

Something Good

1.This quote: I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see. ~John Burroughs

2. The Conversation: Transformation episode. This is a really great show. On this episode, Amanda de Cadenet talks with Melissa McCarthy, one of my favorite actresses. She also interviews Diane von Furstenberg, Glenda Bailey, and Miley Cyrus. Here’s a short clip (go here to view the full episode, Melissa McCarthy’s interview starts at minute 10:23).

3. The day I lost everything & how you can lose everything too on Writing Our Way Home. A good reminder from Fiona Robyn.

4. I am the one, on Painted Path. Another good reminder from the always wonderful and inspiring Julia Fehrenbacher.

5. The Little Guide to Contentedness on ZenHabits. And yet another good reminder from the kind and gentle Leo Babauta. Also from Leo, but on his other site, mnmlist, Living for Everyone Else, in which he says:

When it comes to others, be helpful, compassionate, grateful. But don’t live up to their expectations. You’ll be freed of the shackles of meaningless customs, so that you can live as you want.

6. Radio Time Machine. This is fun. I first heard about it in an interview with the creator on NPR this weekend. I am listening to 1986 (the year I graduated from high school) as I write this, and Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love is playing while I have flashbacks.

7. Sense and Sensitivity on Psychology Today, an article about Highly Sensitive People. You know at least one of them, (hint: me).

8. Thing Finding Thursday with Michelle Ward from Tanya Geisler. This whole series is really great, but this one is especially good, and there’s singing!

9. Create your own writing retreat from Jennifer Louden. More and more, I’m thinking that retreat is super important, and I also know that “retreat” doesn’t mean you have to go somewhere private and/or exotic for a long period of time. Small retreats at home are perfectly workable and beneficial, and you don’t have to be a writer or a meditation practitioner to go on a retreat.

10. You: A Love Letter by Sunni on The Daily Breadcrumb.

11. Being here: starting the work of letting go by Jenn on Roots of She. I shared the link to the first part of this exploration in my Something Good list last week. This is the follow-up, which asks the important question: What is stopping you from letting your stuff go?

12. How to Listen by Bindu Wiles. I really liked this, since just this week I’ve been thinking so much about Right Speech.

13. When You Have a Bad Day on Be More with Less. I don’t need it today, but I’m going to save the link for when I do need this reminder from Courtney Carver.

14. And on the day I need the above link, this might help too: 75 Day-Brightening Stories of Generosity on Marc and Angel Hack Life.

15. Droopy, wilting, fully bloomed roses from my garden. I love them as much when they are almost dead as when they are new.

And Your Little Dog, Too!

I was so afraid of her when I was a kid.  Back then, before VCR’s or DVD’s, they played that movie on TV, once a year around Thanksgiving. The Wicked Witch of the West terrified me. This was back when kids were still innocent about media, and had to be calmed down and comforted–“it’s okay, she’s not real.” Now I see that green face, the thing she does with her hands, wiggling her fingers and leaning in close, and the crazy voice she uses, and I’m more amused than anything.

There are other things that scared me as a kid that don’t bother me so much now: the dark, an open closet door in the dark, strange noises in the dark, being alone in the dark, guns, spiders, choking, the deep end of the pool, horses, African Killer Bees, and giving speeches or presentations. But I am still easily rattled or upset, and frequently feel threatened.  It’s just who I am.

As a HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), I am:

  • affected by other people’s moods
  • uncomfortable around loud noise, strong smells or bright lights
  • need frequent alone time to recover from overwhelm or over-stimulation
  • rattled when too much is being asked of me

I am also an INFJ, (Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging), unable to close myself off from other people’s suffering, their emotional experience. I am so wide open to outside stimulus, and so connected to my own awareness that I can get completely overwhelmed. 

It’s sometimes even hard for me to watch TV or movies or read books, because if something bad is happening to someone, even though I am intellectually aware that “it’s not real” and it certainly isn’t happening to me, I can’t remove myself, can’t protect myself from it. My empathy, my intuition is so intense, it is as if it’s happening directly to me, happening right now, and I have to work really hard to convince myself that everything is okay, nothing bad is happening. I rarely ever watch the news for this reason. People sometimes misunderstand and think I just don’t care about politics or global warming or the economy or the war or what ever else is happening in the larger world. I can’t watch the part of nature shows where something is getting chased or killed, and I certainly can’t watch documentaries about things like September 11th or Hurricane Katrina.

The other thing that can happen because of this is if I am too close to the person suffering, too connected, or the suffering is BIG, I sometimes can’t help them, and end up hurt myself. This usually happens when I am too tired, too run down to both be in the moment and able to act.  I’m at my worst when I’m sick or exhausted or hungry or overwhelmed.  I’m vulnerable.  I can cry, I can make myself sick, I can panic, but that’s probably not going to help.

I don’t know how to close off, disconnect, rise above.  Numbing out can work, but I’m trying to stop doing that.  The consequences are too dire, and I can’t keep doing it to myself. So, the alternative is to always be sure that I am rested, that I am taking care of myself so that I can be there, so I can help.

We’ve talked about this before, though.  I’m not very good at it.  I keep thinking I can keep going, if I just push through the tired or promise the sick that I’ll deal with it later, I can get this one more, really important thing done.  Just one more thing, just one more day, just five more minutes…bleh.

  • “Take my hand. We’ll hide in the corner.”