So This Is 2021

A new year has begun.

Some years, December 31st passes into January 1st without a lot of fanfare, it seems.

I mean, there are always potential parties to attend, places to go, and other ways to ring in the New Year.

(But we HSPs generally don’t go for those things anyway … big crowds and small talk are the kinds of prospects that make us want to turn and run the other way.)

But this year was different. The turning of the year gave us all a little more reason to celebrate (even if we needed to do so from home in order to safely socially distance).

This past year was 2020, and I need say no more. We all know what transpired in 2020. We also all know we’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re still going forward one day at a time. (What other choice do we have?)

But while we all “know” what happened in 2020, we don’t. Not really. Because each of us has seen the year through our own eyes, none of us know the whole story. The story that is all of us but is also each of us.

It has been a lonely year for me.

Strange, because I actually have had less alone time than usual due to my particular circumstances. But it has been lonely in that I have felt in some ways forgotten, neglected, pushed aside (again, due to certain things that took place in my particular circumstances).

I have found that loneliness isn’t exactly a state of being. It’s a state of mind. A state of feeling.

And as a highly sensitive person, I realize now that loneliness is something I have struggled with nearly all my life in some way.

Perhaps the struggle for you has been similar. Or maybe you have faced something else.

  • Insecurity due to losing a job.
  • Sorrow and grief with the loss of a loved one.
  • The pressure of trying to provide for a family in an uncertain economy.

Your struggle has been part of your story this year.

Your story and no one else’s. I think part of the loneliness I have felt was that I didn’t have anyone to share my story with.

I mean, I could vent some things to a couple of family members, or share other challenges with my partner, but perhaps it is part of my “beingness” as a highly sensitive person that makes it difficult for me to truly share just how difficult some things have been.

How hurt I have felt by friends failing to stay in touch when I needed them most. How frustrated I feel because of the lack of space and solitude (which is different from loneliness and something I, as an HSP, deeply need).

Yet a new year begins. It is 2021 now.

The days before me spread, unlived, unmarred.

How will they unfold? What story will I find written on the pages?

There is much out of my control, but also much that I can control. Little things, mainly.

  • Taking a few moments outside, even if the weather is too cold for my liking … just to get a bit of space (and some needed exercise).
  • Or waking up a little earlier than I would otherwise to fit in a bit of reading.

It doesn’t have to be a big thing to make a big difference, does it?

Maybe it is the little things that make the biggest difference.

I don’t know if my sharing these few thoughts has helped you, the one reading this, in any way. But I hope it has.

I hope it has offered a little bit of clarity, perhaps, to your own feelings or experiences of this past year.

More than likely, your year was also more challenging than the average year. Lonely. Stressful. Even grievous.

But it is a new year, and I wish you moments of peace, bucketsful of hope, and skies of bluest blue.

Let us make this journey together.

HSP Struggles with Perfectionism

I’m having a hard time maintaining this blog because my head keeps struggling ahead of my heart.

Just write who I am and say what I need to say. Share who I am as a highly sensitive person and don’t worry about all the mechanics and structure and technological housekeeping.

But then the other part of me (the perfectionism speaking) says I have to get it right. I have to have a schedule for my blog posts I have to keep up with the things that I originally planned to do.

I’ve made the mistake of reading articles about what it means to be a successful introverted blogger and how to create a successful blog.

For so much of my life – and even now sometimes – I felt alone about the way I absorbed and processed and looked at life.

And I hope to make that same difference and bring that same hope to others … to anyone who might happen upon this blog for introverts and HSPs.

Rediscovering Madeleine L’Engle

I can’t remember when I wasn’t an introverted bookworm. Can’t remember a time I didn’t love books.

Once I discovered libraries, it was always a joy to find a new author, a new set of books to read and love.

Discovering Madeleine L’Engle’s Fiction 

I didn’t discover Madeleine L’Engle at a library but at a friend’s house. I was spending a week with friends in Sacramento and happened upon A Wrinkle in Time. I sped through it. My friend had a big family and some cousins visiting at the same time. It was easier to bury my introverted self in a book than to interact with so many people in that household. 

I loved the tale of introverted Meg Murry and her little brother, Charles Wallace, whose name always seemed too big for him. Of Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which and Mrs. Whatsit and Meg’s fantastic journey that took her to the end of herself where all she had left was love, and it was enough.

That same week, I also read the next book in Madeleine L’Engle’s classic Time Quintet: A Wind in the DoorAt the time, some aspects of the story went over my head as I fell headfirst into the microscopic yet immense world of quantum physics merged with supernaturalism. 

My friends didn’t have a copy of A Swiftly Tilting Planet, but I found that one at our local library after returning home. After reading it, I began scouring the library for everything written by Madeleine L’Engle.

I found And Both Were Young, a coming-of-age story about a girl at a Swiss boarding school who falls in love with a French boy and begins a secret relationship with him. I loved the character Flip, an introverted girl who never quite fit in with her classmates and preferred wandering among nature and sketching the sights of the great Swiss outdoors.

Then I read The Young Unicorns, which I found slightly confusing. Although I was familiar with the way that Madeleine L’Engle merged normal-seeming characters with supernatural events, something unnerved me about the darkness of this story. It has been over 20 years since I read it and I remember little (a sign that I should read it again) but I still remember the way I felt when I learned about the source of a young girl’s blindness … as though my own life could easily suffer that same upheaval, as though I could easily face that same darkness.

Much later I realized that The Young Unicorns was the third book in a series written by Madeleine L’Engle: The Austin Family Series. No wonder I felt like I was jumping into the middle of something I didn’t quite understand; I hadn’t read books one and two.

Discovering Madeleine L’Engle’s Nonfiction

The next book of Madeleine L’Engle’s I found at the library was The Summer of the Great Grandmother. I also found this confusing, but for a different reason: all I had read so far by Madeleine L’Engle was her fiction. And not just Madeleine L’Engle; fiction was pretty much all I read up to that point, period.

I didn’t know what to think of this work of nonfiction. I can’t even remember if I finished the book, though I must have. My life revolved around books as an introverted tween.

A decade passed. Possibly two. I revisited Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet, but not her nonfiction.

Then at a used book sale, I happened upon several of her Crosswicks Journals, including The Summer of the Great Grandmother. Of course, I picked them up. 

During this 40-Day journey toward healthier living, I decided to begin reading the book once more. I wanted to immerse myself in good literature and refamiliarize myself with this introverted female author with whom I felt a kinship since I was a child.

The book chronicles her summer caring for her aging mother who was suffering from dementia, and also journals other aspects of that summer, including a scare that her husband might have a brain tumor (it turned out to be diabetes). 

Discovering Madeleine L’Engle’s Introversion

This introverted author journals with such care and precision, following philosophical tangents and reflecting on matters weighted with truth and meaning. She writes:

I used to feel guilty about spending morning hours working on a book: about fleeing to the brook in the afternoon. It took several summers of being totally frazzled by September to make me realize that this was a false guilt. I’m much more use to family and friends when I’m not physically and spiritually depleted than when I spend my energies as though they were unlimited.

The observation felt so true, especially at this time when I’m seeking out healthier living amidst the stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s easy to spend and spend and spend, to pour out into family and work, forgetting that we have limited resources.

Part of healthy living comprises carving out time for oneself, especially when we have jobs or situations where much is expected of us – emotionally, mentally, or physically. 

For years, I worked at a job that exhausted me – mentally more than anything else. It wasn’t a good fit but because the job opening came through a friend, I felt guilty at the thought of letting go of the position.

Finally, after weeks of insomnia and numerous occasions of heading home in tears at the end of a challenging day, I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. I just didn’t have what it took to keep that job over the long term; it took me far longer to let go of the guilt of quitting the job. 

I feared that I would be thought of as “too weak” and “too sensitive.” It took a while to recognize that this job was simply a bad fit for me due to the kind of person I was: a highly sensitive person who thrives in other environments. 

Madeleine L’Engle observes this about guilt:

When I try to be the perfect daughter, to be in control of the situation, I become impaled on false guilt and become overtired and irritable. 

I intimately know this overtiredness and irritability. I think many introverts and HSPs do. But when we let go of this guilt by embracing who we are and not allowing ourselves to be ashamed by it, we can find freedom.

Madeleine L’Engle found freedom as a mother, wife, daughter, grandmother, and introverted author by allowing herself those times to disconnect from everything else as she wandered among peaceful, quiet places in the woods near Crosswicks. 

While dealing with the stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic, my task is to discover and embrace what is healthy living for me as an HSP and introvert.

Perhaps something like this is your task too in your own journey toward healthier and mindful living.

The Complex Emotions of a Highly Sensitive Mama (on Mother’s Day)

So, it’s Mother’s Day 2020. By the looks of it, a lot of moms are celebrating by posting photos of their kids or photos of their mom or both. There’s not a whole lot more we can do with the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic.

I remember reading somewhere that Mother’s Day is the most popular day of the year for eating out (they can’t expect us moms to make dinner on our special day, right?) so plenty of restaurants are probably ruefully counting the amount of money they’re losing by not being open today … but that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about motherhood and belonging and complex emotions and just how exhausting they are for a highly sensitive person (HSP). This Mother’s Day, I’m at the point of tears and just keeping them at bay because I don’t want anyone in the household to know what I am dealing with.

I’m trying to do my best to follow social distancing guidelines by not visiting my parents because they are both nearing 70 and in the high-risk category. Although I and my kids have been staying home pretty much 24/7, we definitely don’t want to put my parents at risk. So although we live in the same city, I called my mom to wish her a happy Mother’s Day instead of stopping by.

I also asked her what she was doing, hoping that she’d find some way to celebrate and enjoy this day. She did. She and my two sisters (both moms) are meeting up to spend a few hours together.

That’s it. I should be happy for her, for them, but instead, this highly sensitive mom feels shattered.

It’s not that I necessarily even like going places. I’m an introvert. Spending more time at home with my family is one of the best things that has happened during the coronavirus pandemic.

But I’ve also been stuck at home for weeks on end with no “me time” or free time and would so love to have been invited for a few hours out “with the girls.” My husband is home today and could have looked after the kids. I would have been available. I would have gone.

Sorrow wells up inside me. I try to step outside of my emotions, stand beside myself and figure out what exactly I am struggling with most among these complex emotions that threaten to wash me under. Is it disappointment? Hurt? Just plain old feeling left out?

I come from a large family – seven kids; I am the sixth. Many of my earliest childhood memories involve being left out, feeling left out, or feeling like no one wanted me around. As a highly sensitive child, I picked up on the comments, attitudes, and reactions of my siblings and it affected me deeply. I mean, what child does not want to belong?

After a childhood and teenhood facing these same problems of seeking and not finding acceptance among my family, I moved away from home at a young age to try to find it in other places. A decade or so passed with little luck.

Marrying and starting a family gave me an automatic place to belong, children to belong to, although I enjoy my space as much as anyone (and need regular space in order to process as any HSP DOES). But sometimes I feel like my mind and heart are pulled back to those exact same emotions I struggled with as a child … of truly needing to find acceptance and belonging, and failing to find it among my own family members.

I get along fine with my brothers and sisters, my parents. I have seasons where life gets busy and I don’t stay in touch as much as I should. I also have seasons where social media gets to be too much so I don’t keep up with what others are doing in life online. I call them my hermit seasons, when I would love nothing more than to find an abandoned cottage in the mountains and live in solitude and contemplation for a while. (I don’t know if that will ever happen, but it remains a dream of mine in times when life gets a little overwhelming.)

I think of my sisters and mom gathering together. I think of me not being there. Instead, I am here, in my home, sheltering in place and finding the need to find shelter in my complex emotions as well.

I have a daughter doing something in the kitchen. (She told me in no uncertain terms that I am not allowed in there.) I have a son who drew me a lovely picture of a mama bird with three baby birds beneath. They look up at her with something like admiration or at least acceptance and belonging. I have a child sitting near me now, occupied with something and showing it to me every few minutes for my reaction.

It is Mother’s Day and I am not alone, though the complexity of emotions that face me regularly might threaten to overwhelm me even on days like this. (Although, running through these thoughts feels like a mental marathon and I might need a nap … or two.)

To all you highly sensitive mamas, wherever you might be and whatever way you might be finding to honor this day … you are important, you are loved, you are needed … Happy Mother’s Day.