Tag Archives: Highly Sensitive Person

New Life Lessons and Naptime Needed

In 2012 I started blogging. Not on this blog, but on the adoption one I shared with my daughter (July 2012) and then, soon after, I started the family history blog, The Family Kalamazoo. It seemed as if I began this blog, Writer Site, many months afterward, but in fact, I began TFK very hesitantly in September 2012 and first posted on WS on October 24, 2012!  So all three blogs began in a four month period in 2012.

I had no thoughts to how long this would go on. At some point, we stopped posting on the adoption blog because my daughter and I had done what we wanted to do there. We still keep the domain and occasionally reblog something of interest, but the project sort of feels complete to both of us. As for family history, that will never be completed, especially since people keep giving me old photos and info!

Writer Site is my fun place for writing, reading, travel, and whatever strikes my fancy. I always have lots of ideas for blog posts, but not enough time to write them all. Right now I don’t feel that way. For the first time. So I ask myself why. I think the main reason is that my daughter has been living with us all summer and is still here. There are good reasons for that, and it won’t last forever. But it’s EXHAUSTING to me to have another adult living here.

The funny thing is that we get along great, and I love spending time with her. But her young person life exhausts me. I hadn’t realized how stuck in the mud the gardener and I had gotten. We get tired so easily. We get overtired if we see too many people or if the procession of events moves too swiftly. And it does with a younger person living here.

When did I get so old? And when did everything start to tire me out?

WAHWAHWAH. You get the drift.

I don’t feel like writing with her here. Even when I’ve pushed myself to do so, I don’t get the joy out of it. I feel as if I’m in a holding pattern while she is here.

She’ll be headed for the city to spend time with her boyfriend soon, so maybe I can take some naps. Or write. Or let the world stop spinning for a few days.

Sun on the mountain
Alaska

ON ANOTHER NOTE . . .

Let me point you up above, where I wrote that it’s exhausting having another adult living here. In 2013, I posted about my discovery that I am a Highly Sensitive Person. Now five years later, I can tell you that using today’s terminology, I am a Serious. Freaken. Empath. An Empath picks up on the emotions of others or, in my case and that of others with it really bad, you actually FEEL the emotions of another person. It’s kind of creepy. I think it’s important to remember that having sympathy–or even empathy–for somebody else doesn’t mean that you have to experience their emotions. So when I say it’s kind of creepy I mean it’s really creepy.

Nature is one of the best ways for people like me to replenish themselves. Probably why I wish I was still in Alaska.

Is an HSP always an Empath? Is an Empath always an HSP? Or are they two different things? I am trying to come to grips with this new revelation about myself, so if you have any insights, please share away!

#amwriting: I will continue to plod away on the gun essay, just don’t hold your breath haha.

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, #amwriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Blogging, Writing, Writing Talk, Writing Tips and Habits

No Music in My House

Usually I think I know myself pretty well. But every once in a while I get an epiphany that shows me something I hadn’t quite realized. Maybe the knowledge was somewhere inside my head or even my body, but it hadn’t come to the front of the brain yet. Then, snap, there it is. Today it was about my relationship with music.

I love music. Sometimes I go to symphony concerts, classical and pops. Sometimes I go to old-timer concerts. I love Broadway musicals and have a ton of “soundtrack” CDs. I have an eclectic assortment of music on my iTunes. When I hear country music, I love it. My favorite is bluegrass. And jazz. In the car, I always play music (my daughter’s singing some of the time).

But I rarely play music at home. And I can’t talk country music with people because I’m not familiar enough with it. Or jazz. Or pop. Or blues.

So why don’t I listen to music at home? I thought I was “busy,” but today the reason occurred to me.

I’m a Highly Sensitive Person. Don’t laugh. You can read my old post about it, if you don’t know what that is.

Too much stimulation is the devil to an HSP. And music in the house is too much stimulation. Hubby has the TV on so often that when it’s not on, I crave the silence as a way to heal the synapses or slow down the neurotransmitters in my tummy and my limbs.

Maybe if I had a quiet house I would crave music. My mother does. But we have our offices in the house, and it’s often like Grand Central Station here. So it is definitely not a quiet house.

So. Am I weird? Nope, wrong question because if you’re not an HSP of course you think I’m weird. How about this question: anybody else out there like me? Easily over-stimulated?

On another topic, I was saved by the bell. I don’t want to say dodged a bullet as will become clear.

We got a new kitty at the shelter. She is a beautiful very young long-haired tortie with the absolutely sweetest personality EVER. Makes all my cats appear to be suffering from personality disorders. Anyway, they found a BB in her collapsed stomach, and they fixed her stomach. Her front leg is limp with neurological damage–also from the abuse she suffered.

They wanted to amputate her leg, saying it was dangerous to keep it. I felt that the reason for that decision was because it’s not possible to call in specialists and give special physical therapy and surgeries to a shelter cat. I offered to foster her (I KNOW, I KNOW, I’M CRAZY) and take her to specialists and for alternative care and give her therapy. But a lovely young woman came in the shelter today and adopted her along with a male kitty. She says she has a friend who is a vet who works with brain and spinal injuries. I asked to be kept in touch with her so I can follow our sweet kitty’s recovery.

Working with the shelter kitties calls for a lot of wine–or whiskey.

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Filed under #writerlife, Arizona, Art and Music, Cats and Other Animals, Nonfiction, Writing

Does Anne Sexton Still Deliver A Fairy Tale Punch?

Fairy tales serve as powerful archetypes for me.

I’ve written before how the Little Red Riding Hood image is at the center of the story I am shaping into a book-length memoir (link to post).  The girl, the wolf, the grandmother, the danger, and the huntsman are all there.  In my post which describes how I found out I am a Highly Sensitive Person, I wrote about the function of “The Princess and the Pea,” and how I go through my life-like the girl who feels the pea underneath all those mattresses and featherbeds. In my last post, I wrote about my terror at meeting Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty.

So it’s probably not a surprise that I love to read different versions of these tales. There are a lot of movies which remake the old stories. Ever After might be one of the most popular, but there have been many versions of the Snow White and Cinderella stories.  If you want to watch a really creepy Red Riding Hood tale, check out Reese Witherspoon in Freeway.

Because the majority of these tales originated either from the ancient oral tradition of storytelling or from storytellers who lived hundreds of years ago, the cultural mores and expectations are different from those of today.  That’s why seeing them through modern eyes, such as witnessing the Rapunzel character in Tangled showing herself to be the opposite of the helpless princess of days gone by, can be very satisfying.

Library shelves are jam-packed with picture book versions of these traditional stories which have been re-told, either by staying true to the original or by updating to conform to today’s viewpoints.  There are also feminist versions for adults, such as are found side by side with the classic versions in Maria Tatar’s The Classic Fairy Tales.

Some of my favorites are the poems by Anne Sexton.  She based each poem on a Grimm Brothers fairy tale.  Note: these are not Disney versions.

Sexton passed away in 1974, and her book of fairy tale poems, titled Transformations, was published in 1972. So there are some dated references.  At the very ending of “Cinderella,” Cindy and the prince are described this way:

Cinderella and the prince

lived, they say, happily ever after,

like two dolls in a museum case

never bothered by diapers or dust,

never arguing over the timing of an egg,

never telling the same story twice,

never getting a middle- aged spread,

their darling smiles pasted on for eternity.

Regular Bobbsey Twins.

That story.

Clearly, to understand the reference, a reader needs to know who the Bobbsey Twins were. The Bobbsey Twins books were a series developed by the Stratemeyer Syndicate in the early 20th century.  The twins were two sets of twins which comprised, with their parents, the Bobbsey family. They were a younger reader version of books like the Nancy Drew books, which were also Stratemeyer books.  The term “Bobbsey Twins” has been used for decades to mean two people who are a lot alike, such as “two peas in a pod.”

For fun, here’s the full text of Sexton’s Snow White version.  See what you think–is it still relevant?

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

by Anne Sexton

No matter what life you lead
the virgin is a lovely number:
cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper,
arms and legs made of Limoges,
lips like Vin Du Rhône,
rolling her china-blue doll eyes
open and shut.
Open to say, 
Good Day Mama,
and shut for the thrust
of the unicorn.
She is unsoiled.
She is as white as a bonefish.

Once there was a lovely virgin
called Snow White.
Say she was thirteen.
Her stepmother,
a beauty in her own right,
though eaten, of course, by age,
would hear of no beauty surpassing her own.
Beauty is a simple passion,
but, oh my friends, in the end
you will dance the fire dance in iron shoes.
The stepmother had a mirror to which she referred--
something like the weather forecast--
a mirror that proclaimed 
the one beauty of the land.
She would ask,
Looking glass upon the wall,
who is fairest of us all?
And the mirror would reply,
You are the fairest of us all.
Pride pumped in her like poison.

Suddenly one day the mirror replied,
Queen, you are full fair, 'tis true,
but Snow White is fairer than you.
Until that moment Snow White
had been no more important
than a dust mouse under the bed.
But now the queen saw brown spots on her hand
and four whiskers over her lip
so she condemned Snow White
to be hacked to death.
Bring me her heart, she said to the hunter,
and I will salt it and eat it.
The hunter, however, let his prisoner go
and brought a boar's heart back to the castle.
The queen chewed it up like a cube steak.
Now I am fairest, she said,
lapping her slim white fingers.

Snow White walked in the wildwood
for weeks and weeks.
At each turn there were twenty doorways
and at each stood a hungry wolf,
his tongue lolling out like a worm.
The birds called out lewdly,
talking like pink parrots,
and the snakes hung down in loops,
each a noose for her sweet white neck.
On the seventh week
she came to the seventh mountain
and there she found the dwarf house.
It was as droll as a honeymoon cottage
and completely equipped with
seven beds, seven chairs, seven forks
and seven chamber pots.
Snow White ate seven chicken livers
and lay down, at last, to sleep.

The dwarfs, those little hot dogs,
walked three times around Snow White,
the sleeping virgin.  They were wise
and wattled like small czars.
Yes.  It's a good omen,
they said, and will bring us luck.
They stood on tiptoes to watch
Snow White wake up.  She told them
about the mirror and the killer-queen
and they asked her to stay and keep house.
Beware of your stepmother,
they said.
Soon she will know you are here.
While we are away in the mines
during the day, you must not
open the door.

Looking glass upon the wall . . .
The mirror told
and so the queen dressed herself in rags
and went out like a peddler to trap Snow White.
She went across seven mountains.
She came to the dwarf house
and Snow White opened the door
and bought a bit of lacing.
The queen fastened it tightly
around her bodice,
as tight as an Ace bandage,
so tight that Snow White swooned.
She lay on the floor, a plucked daisy.
When the dwarfs came home they undid the lace
and she revived miraculously.
She was as full of life as soda pop.
Beware of your stepmother,
they said.
She will try once more.

Looking glass upon the wall. . .
Once more the mirror told
and once more the queen dressed in rags
and once more Snow White opened the door.
This time she bought a poison comb, 
a curved eight-inch scorpion,
and put it in her hair and swooned again.
The dwarfs returned and took out the comb
and she revived miraculously.
She opened her eyes as wide as Orphan Annie.
Beware, beware, they said,
but the mirror told,
the queen came,
Snow White, the dumb bunny,
opened the door
and she bit into a poison apple
and fell down for the final time.
When the dwarfs returned
they undid her bodice,
they looked for a comb,
but it did no good.
Though they washed her with wine
and rubbed her with butter
it was to no avail.
She lay as still as a gold piece.The seven dwarfs could not bring themselves
to bury her in the black ground
so they made a glass coffin
and set it upon the seventh mountain
so that all who passed by
could peek in upon her beauty.
A prince came one June day
and would not budge.
He stayed so long his hair turned green
and still he would not leave.
The dwarfs took pity upon him
and gave him the glass Snow White--
its doll's eyes shut forever--
to keep in his far-off castle.
As the prince's men carried the coffin
they stumbled and dropped it
and the chunk of apple flew out
of her throat and she woke up miraculously.And thus Snow White became the prince's bride.
The wicked queen was invited to the wedding feast
and when she arrived there were
red-hot iron shoes,
in the manner of red-hot roller skates,
clamped upon her feet.
First your toes will smoke
and then your heels will turn black
and you will fry upward like a frog,
she was told.
And so she danced until she was dead,
a subterranean figure,
her tongue flicking in and out
like a gas jet.
Meanwhile Snow White held court,
rolling her china-blue doll eyes open and shut
and sometimes referring to her mirror
as women do.

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Poetry, Vintage American culture, Writing

My Personal Recipe for Peace

“You cannot find peace by avoiding life.”
― Virginia Woolf

I’ve been thinking lately that the more I try to hole myself up to find peace and serenity, the farther I am from achieving it. Maybe Virginia Woolf is right that I can’t find it by avoiding life.

That said, I am an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), so I have to find the proper balance.  Two teaspoons by myself and one with others.  Maybe that’s the recipe.

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A New Look at Boredom . . . Sort Of

Or Investigations into Developing My Own Characterization, Part III

I’m still on this HSP kick that I talked about on Monday.

Elaine N. Aron, in her book The Highly Sensitive Person, suggests:

This greater awareness of the subtle [on the part of the Highly Sensitive Person] tends to make you more intuitive, which simply means picking up and working through information in a semiconscious or unconscious way.  . . . This is that “sixth sense” people talk about.

That’s right, I have ESP.  Sometimes.

This intuitive introvert stuff is probably why I am an INTJ in Myers-Briggs terminology.  Introverted.  Intuitive.  Thinking.  Judging.  That is someone who is an introvert (duh) and intuitive (see above).  It is also someone who values logic (thinking), which I might add is because I view it as “fair.”

Then everyone either uses judgment or perception.  People who rely more heavily on a structured lifestyle use judgment, whereas people who rely on a flexible lifestyle rely more on perception.

I do like a structured lifestyle because otherwise I would be overwhelmed with new stimuli coming at me every day, and I couldn’t handle it.  My body and my mind begin to shut down when they are inundated or, as Dr. Aron would describe, overly aroused.

Now that I think about it, maybe this is why I am rarely bored.  The littlest thing can amuse me.  Well, let me adjust that a bit.

Stick me in a room with nothing to do but listen (I am not an auditory learner) for hours on end, and I will start to go nuts.  As a kid, this situation used to result in me “talking in class.”  You know how that turns out.  In first grade, I had to sit in the corner, and freshman year of college I got the lecture about how the professor didn’t care if I talked, but that the kid I was talking to was failing so I needed to take pity on him ;).

Recently, I was in a situation where I was stuck in a chair for hours, listening.  So I counted bricks on the wall and calculated distances between objects using typical brick and mortar measurements.  I memorized all the distances.  This kept me busy for at least an hour.  My mind worked like a computer, and that’s because I was the opposite of overly aroused, but actually leaning toward boredom, so my mind wasn’t overwhelmed, but working sharply.

Anyone need room dimensions and don’t have a tape measure handy?

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Research and prep for writing

The Highly What Person?

Or Investigations into Developing My Own Characterization, Part II

When I was growing up my mother called me names–well, at least one nameThe princess and the pea. It was quite a mouthful.  I hope it gave her a lot of pleasure because it certainly made me feel lousy.

She was referring to a story in my fairy tale book by Hans Christian Andersen where the prince’s mother tests the new girl by hiding a pea under twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds.  The girls wakes up black and blue.  That little pea underneath all that bedding was too much for her.  So the name “the princess and the pea” is meant to be a metaphor for ridiculous sensitivity.

It wasn’t just that I cried when people made fun of me, though I was talented at those tears.

“Look at the baby! She can’t do cartwheels.”

“Those are the ugliest shoes I’ve ever seen.  Don’t your parents love you?”

Boo hoo hoo.  I didn’t usually cry in front of people, but at home, in the privacy of my bedroom.  Until I could make my getaway, I would get very quiet, melt, and spread out thinly over the nearest wall.

Mom would call me “princess and the pea” for other reasons.  If I felt sorry for a shivering kid and gave her my sweater, if Mom found out, she would be mystified when she heard my reasoning. If my father snapped at someone else, and I thought it was unfair and told my mother I found it upsetting, she would look at me in wonderment–as if she were wondering where I had come from and who I was.

“You’re so sensitive.”

“Nobody else would be bothered by that.”

“You need to grow a thicker skin.”

After a time, I learned to tame the tears, and how to harden my heart when it was absolutely necessary.  And I began to think I was no longer a hypersensitive person, as long as I guarded myself.

But there were other mysteries about me.

Then two months ago I found a book and my entire vision of myself changed.  This book is the first to theorize this specific personality type.  Once I read one page of the book, I knew I was reading about myself.  I didn’t need the initial quiz, although when I took it I wasn’t surprised to tally a dramatically high score.

The book is called–drum roll, please–The Highly Sensitive Person, written by Elaine N. Aron. Please don’t laugh.  I can hear you laughing.

No?  Well, if you’re not laughing, maybe it’s because you, too, are an HSP, a highly sensitive person.  Dr. Aron suggests that this inherited traits occurs in 15-20% of the population, to varying degrees.

Instead of viewing our sensitivity as a flaw, something to be overcome, or as a reason for failure, she argues that once we understand the personality type we were born with (and in some cases which has been enhanced by our environment, such as our families), we can reframe our past in light of this characteristic.  We can heal and we can learn how to live a life that is right for us, rather than one that is right for non-HSPs.

Another mystery about myself is why I get so over-stimulated when I am around other people and in new situations.  Why do I find it so difficult to drive a car and talk to a friend sitting next to me at the same time?  Why can I read a map so well and yet get lost every new place I go?  Why do I love people and want to be part of their lives and yet avoid social situations?  I thought I had social anxiety, but that didn’t seem to fit.

It all has to do with being an HSP.  Dr. Aron presents us with two facts:

1. Everyone, HSP or not, feels best when neither too bored nor too aroused.

2. People differ considerably in how much their nervous system is aroused in the same situation, under the same stimulation.

HSPs cannot handle as much stimulation as non-HSPs.  So when I drive the car to the grocery store, I am handling a lot of stimuli: the turns and dips in the road, the trees and other vegetation, cars, people in the cars, the dog walking on the side of the road.  All these things crowd and confuse my mind and body.  Now if you add in my good friend sitting next to me–someone I trust and love and enjoy talking with–she is also a huge stimulus.  The conversation we are having is exciting, but also I have to weave together listening and speaking with when to stop at the light, turn at the sign, watch for that dog by the side of the road.  It all puts me on overload, and I need three days locked in the house, working quietly, to recover.

You might be thinking that this sounds like a completely crummy personality type to be stuck with.  But hold on.  There is a positive side to it.  There is a pearl in the slimy oyster, so to speak.

Aron says:

What this difference in arousability means is that you notice levels of stimulation that go unobserved by others.  This is true whether we are talking about subtle sounds, sights, or physical sensations like pain . . . .  The difference seems to lie somewhere on the way to the brain or in the brain, in a more careful processing of information.  We reflect more on everything.  And we sort things into finer distinctions.  Like those machines that grade fruit by size–we sort into ten sizes while others sort into two or three.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?  This is an ideal trait for a writer.

Also, Aron goes on to explain in her book, this is a good trait for some people in society to have.  HSPs use their traits to benefit society in all walks of life, but they also tend to be heavily found among “scholars, theologians, psychotherapists, consultants, or judges.”  We are not the “warrior class,” but the “priest class.”

I believe that HSPs use their sensitivity to see the world more finely, more precisely, and can benefit society by reflecting back that detailed image to others.

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