“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.” + Siddhartha Gautama
I have been thinking a lot about balance lately, especially when it comes to mental and physical health. As a true introvert; someone who desperately seeks quiet solitude on a daily (if not hourly) basis, and as a quite sensitive soul, maintaining some form balance is important.
I’ve watched these traits carry on in my son. He’s what has been labeled “spirited,” which essentially means that he is more, in every sense of the word and the worlds in which every part of him inhabits. He is more loud, more quiet, more sad, more happy, more talkative, more silent, more sensitive…ah, more sensitive. In parenting him – in loving him – I’ve been discovering more and more how to care for and love myself in deeper ways with an increased awareness of my intrinsic needs also.
Growing up, especially into my teen years and young adult life, I believed that my own sensitivities and spiritedness were wrong. These traits seemed to cause problems, and to be the soul reason why I would lose people in my life, especially romantic relationships. I’m fairly certain at one point or another, every man I’ve been in a relationship with has used the words “sensitive” and “intense” to describe me. I’m sure my female friends who know me at my core would describe me the same. And this always felt like an inconvenience. And I always wondered why I was different. Why I couldn’t just let things go, why things affected me differently, why things seemed to feel differently to me than to other people.
I felt different, and I felt wrong for feeling and being different.
I liked being at home, in the safe confines of my room with my sketch pads and journals, where I would draw and write to the steady beat of whatever CD I was playing on repeat that month. As a young child I would sit in the dark corners of our basement and write poetry and song lyrics. I took many mental health days off from school, where I would just lay quietly in my room regrouping. It actually wasn’t until grade 12 when I flourished at school work. I attribute that to the correspondence school I went to. I was able to do all of my work alone only seeking help when I needed it, working at my own pace. I graduated five months early and with better marks than I had received the five years prior.
As a child I loved flipping through books, examining the beauty of the pages and the way the words hung delicately on paper. I made countless books of my own. Ten pieces of loose-leaf stapled together at three points on the side. Each page numbered and titled. This felt like my safe place. But somewhere between childhood and adulthood I lost that place of escape where I found my solitude, where I felt safe to be myself and free with the pages between my fingers.
It wasn’t until I began writing my current book that I recognized how cathartic and deep this passion and need is in my life. There was a decade of my life that I likely poured all of those emotions, sensitivities – spirit – into people, rather than onto paper. I’ve always felt shame for this.
I had someone recently make a comment to me about how my son will have a hard time in school because he is so sensitive, and it hit a very deep wound. For years I thought I was wrong for being sensitive, that it was a burden not only for me but for everyone around me. The shame ran deep, telling me I wasn’t worthy, I wasn’t capable, that I would forever live in the tight confines of the boxes that read “sensitive” and “intense.”
As I’ve watched my son grow, I’ve been witness to how vital this sensitivity – vulnerability – is to relationships. I’ve seen how important these people are in our world. I don’t know if I ever would have come to this realization without fully, unconditionally loving someone like this. And likely would not have come to love these parts of myself if I had not been able to view the magic of the spirited through objective eyes. I’ve come to realize how incredibly beneficial and necessary sensitive people are in our world. When I look into my son’s eyes, I see him as a healer. He healed me, and I know he has the potential and capacity to heal anything he touches through the compassion and empathy he already encompasses. These are traits that need to be nurtured. These are good things. To be sensitive to others and to oneself is not a disservice. And perhaps those who believe it is ought to practice more sensitivity in their own lives.
When we think of sensitivity we often think of vulnerability. Which, as the lovely and talented Brene Brown reminds us, is the birth place of connection. Without this, healthy relationships would not form. With others and with ourselves. When I think of parenting my son, I hope that I can continue to mother his vulnerable side; that he be encouraged and always feel safe to lay it all down, to feel intense and quiet and sensitive and for it to be okay. We need this world to make these things okay, especially for men. To stop labelling. To start appreciating the balance.
To my precious readers who feel these parts of themselves, please nurture yourself, please continue to be vulnerable, sensitive, spirited, intense. We need you, the world needs you. Don’t feel shame in these parts of you even if others don’t understand them. You’ve got solace in me.