Some days, I feel a bit broken.
Like I’m skinless, and all the noise of the world goes straight to my nerve endings.
Like I have enormous antennae that tune into all the sounds and lights and smells and pain, leaving me overwhelmed, over-stimulated, and over-anxious.
This morning was one of those times. The kids were fighting.
All. Morning. Long.
“Mama! Mama!” they bellowed as I attempted to pack their lunches for school.
My extra-sensitive child was dysregulated, and it took all my energy to remain semi-calm as my kid emoted all over the house.
By the time my children got on the bus and I was ready to start working, it felt like I’d already put in a full day.
It’s hard not to beat myself up for feeling so frazzled. For being so easily jangled by other peoples’ emotions. Or for not being able to go to the mall or a busy restaurant or concert without going all fuzzy-brained from all the people and lights and energy.
It’s easy to feel like there’s something wrong with me—why can’t I just shrug it all off like a too-thick sweater, and move on?
My favorite cat was sensitive. Like me, she startled easily. Unlike me, she spent most of her days hiding under my parents’ bed. She must’ve felt safe and soothed in the dark drape of her bed-cave. But when she wasn’t under the bed, she’d cuddle up on my chest, her green-gold eyes looking into mine, like she could see right into my essence.
Like she recognized one of her own.
When I start to feel like I did this morning, like I was made for softer, simpler times, I need to remind myself that I’m not broken. That I loved my cat for the sweet soul that she was, and that I didn’t think less of her because she needed to spend hours cocooning to recharge her frayed nerves. That some of the deepest, kindest, most creative people I know are highly-sensitive, too. That there are gifts that come with deep sensitivity, not just challenges.
It can be hard to remember this in a wild and noisy world. A world that tells us we’re too sensitive or weird or broken.
So we need to remind ourselves.
We are not too sensitive.
We are not broken, or weak. We are not wrong for this world.
We are the seekers and seers. The poets and prophets. The singers and truth-tellers, the fierce feelers.
We can feel the seasons begin to shapeshift like other animals can sense a storm coming.
My cat never apologized for who she was. For the fact that she scampered off when she heard a loud noise, for those hours spent under the bed, for her wariness of strangers. Partly, because she was a cat. But also because she instinctively knew what she needed to take care of herself, and she just did it, the way that animals do.
She didn’t second-guess herself, or shame herself, or wish herself different.
And we shouldn’t either.
We might need more self-care than we feel comfortable giving ourselves. We might need more space and time than others seem to need. We might need to gaze up at tall trees or bursts of stars to recalibrate our nervous systems. We might need to take long, winding, wooded walks, or crawl into bed early, or just escape for five minutes to lie on our backs and surf on the sound of our own breath. We might need to hear ourselves whisper, soft and sweet: You are just right. You are exactly who you’re meant to be.
About the author: Lynn Shattuck lives in Portland, Maine with her husband and two young children. She blogs about parenting, imperfection, spirit and truth telling—you can connect with her through her website or find her on Facebook.