Tag Archives: life lessons

A Sensitive Year: The Bravest of Them All

It took me months to admit I might be Sensitive.   I hated the idea since the admission seemed to carry with it a connotation of weakness.  As I’ve learned more about the trait and living the life of an HSP in our hyped up world, I’ve adjusted my thinking.

I suppose it seems weak if a person can’t sit through violent movies.  I suppose it appears to be weakness if a man chooses to go home after work instead of going for a drink with the guys.  I suppose it looks as if a woman is weak if she becomes overwhelmed quickly in a highly stimulating environment.  I’m sure it must suggest weakness if a person is constantly empathizing with others instead of getting on with life.

While all those scenarios are true of HSP’s, it must be remembered that we don’t like or do those things because of a weakness, we behave this way because our wiring. Which means most of what we do requires a level of bravery that others don’t need to employ.

It’s a brave soul that moves beyond the constant fight or flight tension to engage with a stranger and get to know them.  It’s a brave man that speaks out against an observed injustice in the workplace.  It’s a brave woman that disciplines her involuntary empathy to pass up a relationship with a narcissist. It’s a brave person that notices the oddball in the crowd and pulls them in to feel more comfortable.  It’s a brave individual that pushes back the fear and reaches out to help, teach, guide, and care, because we don’t just see the suffering around us, we feel it as equally and as vividly, and we’ll do damn near anything to ease the suffering in this world.

It’s a two sided coin for sure.  HSP’s appear to exist along the sidelines, preferring less exposure since we’re already inherently exposed; yet we often lead the way in situations that necessitate diplomacy, empathy,  and the ability to see details while simultaneously observing the big picture.   The only way we have the ability for doing so is by literally ignoring, or overcoming, or swallowing the energy of every alarm system going off within us.  Such acts require a deep well of bravery that only HSP’s possess.

We are the bravest of them all.

Yours,

Frankie

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A Sensitive Year, In a Poem

“It’s Like”

 

It’s like –

Existing as a singular nerve ending

Exposed incessantly

Raw, reactive

Always gauging the atmosphere.

It’s like –

Knowledge of every nuance

Unable to shut out the details

Observance of minutia

With ability to interpret it accurately.

It’s like –

Involuntary empathy

Impervious to selfishness

Emotional insomnia

Absolute incapacity to rest feelings.

It’s like –

A human sea anemone

Waving in peaceful currents

Then retracting, revolted

By any maligned touch.

It’s like –

Walking the thin

Knife’s edge

Dodging incessant flying rubble

Still maintaining balance

It’s like –

Processing

A hundred thoughts

Into a thousand categories

With millions of layers

And, understanding them all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Hymns for an Atheist “Poison the Parish”

“If I dare to believe at all, it leaves me deflated.”

Once again, the magical intersection of music and life experience has occurred for me, I share it to inspire and encourage.

It’s not easy living as a non-believer.  I have a friend, a former JW, raising her boys without religion but with curiosity and inquisitive minds.  She often frets over the possibility of her parents shunning her, as they did her brother, because of it. A preacher I heard recently accused non-believers of seeing themselves as ‘god’ – as if a human being could exist and live without any kind of god-like figure head – and condemned us for our prideful ways.

Currently, my husband and I live with and take care of his grandma, who is a firm believer in all things christian.  She’s lived a high quality life thanks to our efforts.  She gets a decent, home cooked, well balanced meal every night for dinner (important for a diabetic).  We do her shopping, run her errands, pay her bills, keep up her yard, keep up her house, take care of her dogs, all of which she could do herself, if she wanted.  We do this out of respect, on top of jobs and our own kids and pets to tend, because there’s a strong sense of doing what is right and having a clean conscious when we lay our heads on the pillow each night.

It matters not.

We are perceived as bad, evil, lost, gone astray.  We are treated with alternating contempt and condescension.  Take for instance the gossip and condemnation of us we hear during her phone conversations with friends.  Many times this takes place with my grown son in the next room, able to hear every nasty insult hurled towards his own mother.   I walk my talk, so I am certain he sees that my words and deeds match up, nonetheless he is exposed to a fair amount of negativity and there are days I’m certain he struggles because of it.

And then nearly every morning, like clockwork, she gets a call from a chick who is a gambling addict but apparently a believer.  There’s an entirely predictable arc of conversation:

Her:  “I messed up again.”

Grandma:  “We will pray for forgiveness and that God gives you the strength to overcome.”

It’s one of the most perverse things I’ve ever witnessed:  It’s okay to keep falling in the same mire, it’s okay to keep blowing rent money and food money, just as long as you believe in Christ and ask forgiveness.   But if you don’t believe – in anything – yet still maintain a daily focus to do good in your community, still work hard and take good care of your elders, still keep track of the words coming from your mouth, you’re held in contempt of some court to which you don’t even belong.

We are in the process of moving so as to alleviate the crazy stress involved with such a situation.  It is, however, immensely challenging  to continue to live graciously while knowing and understanding that we could be alcoholics or cheating on each other or fighting all the time; yet if we believed, we’d be given a pass and a prayer to be healed and all would be right in the world and our house.

Such an acknowledgement presents the temptation to become cynical, judgmental, or live in perpetual anger.   Meditation helps to keep the mind calm, choice allows us to stay positive and focused, and thoughtful, engaging music encourages.  I am particularly grateful for Seether’s latest album, “Poison the Parish”.  Many songs on it speak poignantly to the unbelievers dilemma of coexisting in a world of sanctimonious religiosity:

“Will you catch me when I fall and keep me elated?”

The music and lyrics provide a safe place for me to declare my frustration and feelings of betrayal.  They inspire me to keep to my path, they remind me there are others out there in similar, or worse, situations.   If that’s you, if you’re in this kind of place, I’ll beg you to have a listen to the album, specifically the tunes “Against the Wall” and “Emotionless”. The work is a source of meat and sustenance to me at just the perfect time, may it minister to your hurting heathen soul as well.

I am, as always, grateful for the intersection of music and life experience.

I wish for you much peace,

Frankie

 


Dark Polish

Finally, today, I can break out the fun colors.  Pinks, purples, corals, blues, and even bright happy teals.   I’m talking about fingernail polish.   For the past year I’ve confined myself to wearing only dark, dark shades.

I’ve done so as a means to mourn the death of my mother.

The traditional ways of mourning the death of a loved one have fallen by the wayside in our shiny, busy world.  I mean, I thought about wearing black for an entire year, but that wouldn’t go over so well at work because of uniform requirements as well as the nature of the job.

There was a moment I wanted (needed?) to stay home for a couple of weeks and just be sad.  I was feeling like I couldn’t contain myself and would break down into a puddle of mush any minute – I didn’t want to do that in front of my colleagues. But, of course and like most, I’m only allowed a couple days off for a family death. So I mustered the strength and with  monumental effort shoved aside all that pain, plastered a smile on my face that I was certain looked as fake as it felt, and drove myself to the high school where I worked.

I had to get creative.   I had to find a way to mark the grieving period,  a way to show respect to my mother who lived a life full of challenges yet exhibited a toughness and fierce independence, she deserved that honor.  So in my own little corner of carved out existence, I thought about some gesture that could fill the job of acknowledging my grief, at least to myself, while still going about the business of being a citizen in a frantic society.  I realized that one action I could take was to wear only dark fingernail polish until the first anniversary of her death.  I made a vow to do so.

It was indeed a small gesture, but to my surprise it was exactly the right one.  It wasn’t easy.   This decision came at the beginning of summer when bright orange or yellow would typically decorate the end of my phalanges, shouting to the world that I was ‘with it,’ and ‘on trend’ with the fashionable hues.  Besides, I am generally a big fan of  vividly colored fingertips, they scream fun!  energetic!  this is me!  Yet, there I was with mud browns, black purples, and dark blues that captured zero light and received no compliments, living out the promise I made to the universe that I was setting aside this time for my mother.

Winter came and went, including a couple of firsts that were difficult to endure:  mom’s birthday and Christmas.  It wasn’t so hard to keep to dark shades then, the weather and lack of daylight was in keeping with my mournful aspect.  But I did find myself growing weary of the same five nail colors and when I usually break out an iridescent orange in the middle of January as an instinctive reaction to missing the sun and yearning for summer, I instead slathered on one more layer of ‘Gunmetal’, but with a smile of contentment: I found it somehow healing to deny myself this small thing out of deference to my beloved mom.

Spring arrived after enduring days and days and days and days of rain.  I ran out of two of my favorite dark colors and was rotating between just three others.   On the premise of “I only have a few more months left, I don’t want to waste the money.” I didn’t purchase anything new.  I found I was okay with the narrow selection anyway:  as the anniversary grew closer, the more meaningful the memorial became.

I was able to end that memorial yesterday, the first anniversary of my mother’s death.   There’s a sense of relief in it’s arrival – all the ‘firsts’ are out of the way, I’ve survived them.  Her birthday will come and go, but none as painful as that first one without her.  I can announce to myself that I am done mourning now.  I can throw out the three remaining dark shades of polish, and keep bright happy colors on my quick typing fingers the rest of my days, if I want.

Grieving the death of a loved one is work.  It requires time and attention and the ability to step aside from life for just a moment in order to process the pain and adjust to a new reality.  The society we’ve built in the US doesn’t allow us that.  In fact, it would deny the mourning process altogether if it could.  I recall the words of President Bush after 9/11 when he urged us to ‘get back to normal’ as soon as possible.   After the loss of a loved one, there is no normal as we know it.  We MUST have time to reflect and assimilate our new life.  Anyone who has denied themselves the room to grieve will attest that doing so only makes it worse to deal with later, or it solidifies into a mass of anger which no one can identify.  In our current society, we have to be strong and rely on our ingenuity and adaptability for ways to mourn the departed while still functioning at the hundred-ten percent capacity required by the system. Maybe its a once a week trip to the Synagogue that you normally wouldn’t take, maybe it’s a black tie that can be worn every Wednesday, maybe it’s a black curtain in the kitchen window, maybe it’s strictly dark nail polish for a year.  Whatever the solution, there still remains the ability to set aside holy time for a loved one, in some way, that enables the healing process.  I encourage you to find one that works for you if ever the unfortunate need arises.

Yours,

Frankie

 


Resurrection Realization

With the knowledge that much of the world is celebrating a well known hero and his resurrection story today, I’m taking time to reflect upon the ways that we can apply the story to our lives, even if we don’t spend time in a church pew or singing holy hymns.

In Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s with a Thousand Faces” we learn that over the relatively short span of our existence, we humans have been really good at consistently telling the same story over and over and over again:  We are born, we face trials, we die and go through hell, we are resurrected.   Campbell says the archetypal steps of the story line give us inspiration for our own trials and tribulations:  Who doesn’t go through hell when a loved one is lost?  Who isn’t faced with guilt or shame when a divorce occurs?  How many of us come face to face with our dark selves in the caves of awareness and must wrestle our own demons there in order to escape?

Life is suffering. “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling you something.” Yet the human spirit is amazingly resilient and repeatedly has shown strength in the face of great adversity.  This is the miracle we can celebrate today – that we come out on the other side of our descent into hell.  We triumph over grief, we become better partners in our next relationship, we figure out ways to accept and then overcome our weaknesses. We resurrect ourselves, consistently and perpetually .

We echo this sentiment in our cultural story telling.  Our heroes endure isolation and hellish torture, overcome their adversaries, and are ultimately stronger than before. They provide inspiration to us as we go about our daily lives so that when we do endure suffering, we can have hope in the fact that if our heroes have made it out alive and more powerful, then so can we.

So even if we aren’t subscribed to the religion celebrating the hero story of the day, we can still reflect on our propensity as humans to muddle through whatever hell life might throw at us, and our ability to resurrect ourselves to live once more.  We can also be grateful for the strength and resiliency inherent in our spirits to do so.

Yours,

Frankie


My Hero

Emerge from a grave of darkness,

That you thought would never end.

Writhing pain and torment kept you

bound there, and emitted the illusion of

hopelessness and death.

You sought help, and though it was slow to

answer your pleading, it came and confused

your captor.

The assistant was not the ultimate

savior, you see, rather the tools she gave you to

strengthen your own resolve became the

keys to freedom.

You sit in this hell for a while, and sharpen these

devices until they are deathly.

Then, set yourself free.

Self – control, meaningful meditation, deeper

understanding of your own weaknesses,

Allow an escape, once and for all from the

darkness.

Triumphant, born again with fortitude that evaded you before,restingplace

 

You will now walk your path without trepidation.

You have a quiver dressed with arrows to deter future captors,

And a soul covered with armor to protect from further attacks.

You are stronger, more alive, more

determined.

You have become your own hero.

 

 

 

 


Happy New Year! My Year of Being Open

Happy New Year to all.  I hope this post finds each of you inspired at the bright shiny twelve months ahead of us.

As we recollect on 2016 and make out our calendars for 2017, it does some good to reflect upon where we are and where we’d like our year to go.

This year my reflections are upon the concept of ‘openness.’   The notion stems from the tenant that ‘like attracts like’:  if I am open to energy and resources that are positive and helpful, then those things will attract themselves to me.  Cool!  But it’s a bit of a concerted effort to be conscious about openness.   Our everyday lives, the news, some health scare, or just the fast-paced society we live in can remove our focus and daunt our thoughts.  Being open is a state of being, a constant choice,  because life is busy and it’s too easy to get distracted.

There’s another element to being open that I’ve been thinking upon as well.   It’s about being open to change, and changing.   If I am willing and consciously open to the universe and it’s positive energies, then I should expect some of those energies to illicit changes in my behavior by enlightening me to better ways of doing and being.

It’s one thing to become aware of something needing my attention, but quite another to enact the change necessary to bring about improvement.  I need to be open, therefore, to a willingness to change, grow, evolve.  After all, we’ve only gotten this far as a species because of our very ability to adapt, that is to change.

Being open is also an important trait to utilize at this particular moment in US history.   Tensions are high within our society and our instincts would have us ‘build walls ‘or  ‘stay inside’, but these actions only tend to further our  problems and they certainly prevent any kind of translation or communication across social lines.  Openness requires a kind of strength in this case since we are forced to override our instincts to close up.

Openness takes some effort.  But our brains are great at rewiring themselves if we’re willing to exert enough conscious energy, so it’s only a matter of focus.   Yet openness itself isn’t quite enough.  We must be willing to adapt and change to new information as it comes along and inspires us.  In our current social/political climate, openness feels opposite to the actions our instincts might have us take.  Awareness and attention will allow us to keep our spirits malleable instead.

May the year be as gentle as possible.

Yours,

Frankie


Memory Games

Oh memories!

Snapshots of going places,

Recollection of shared laughter,

Connective moments of time –

Weave their threads through my soul

with indifference as to their deposit.

Yet when I reach back to effect a withdrawal,

I am met with a bittersweet welcome.

Shiny and cherished, those memories

Tug nostalgically at the heart:

“That was a quaint time.”

“Wasn’t it a beautiful day?”

“My babies were little once.”

Turn the past psychological pictures over and see

How their initial viewing changes

To one of pride and treasure:

“I am glad to have had that time.”

“That day will always stay with me.”

“My babies are fine young men now.”

Memory Games.

The twofold experience of pain and pleasure.

 

 

 

 


“Hey Girl” A Lesson About (Self) Compassion

It’s a rough world.   Life is hard.  There are no guarantees. So, we need each other.  We need others to let us know it’s going to be okay. We need someone to sit beside us and hug us and validate our fears, our failings.  That’s why we have friends and why we take care of each other.

The song “Hey Girl”, out on Lady Gaga’s newest album puts this notion to a musical twist.  It’s a collaboration with Florence Welch and the track is musically reminiscent of Elton John’s ‘Bennie and the Jets” with a hit of a bridge containing some heavenly harmonies.

But, as usual, I look for the deeper meaning and found that the song works well when you sing it to yourself…

“Hey girl, we can make it easy if we lift each other…Hey girl, we don’t need to keep on onein’ up each other…If you lose your way, Just know that I got you..” is some powerful stuff to hear yourself tell yourself.

I’ve recently been turned on to Dr. Kristin Neff’s work concerning self-compassion.  It’s about becoming a friend to yourself, instead of the critic that we all grow up with.  You know, that self-talk which typically admonishes and scolds, instead of helping and caring.  It takes work to change that gig around, to come to the rescue of your self in a moment of hurt or anger.   Most of us go right for the throat of our selves:  “If you made this choice instead, you wouldn’t be in this mess,”  “You deserve this because (fill in the blank).”  “Why can’t you figure this out?”

But – what happens when we approach our self from the side, with an arm around our soul and a voice soft with support?   “Hey girl, if you lose your way, just know that I got you.”

Magic happens.

Suddenly, we become our own best advocate.  Think about how we will pretty much drop whatever we are doing and go help a sister.   Now consider how that same energy can be channeled into self-compassion as we learn to drop everything else and go help ourselves. There’s a peace that is acquired.  More than that, there is a kind of neutrality that can empower a person.   If I know I can comfort myself for my deepest, darkest wounds, then no matter who comes at me or what stands in my way, I will muster through because I know that I ‘got myself’.   I know that I can come to my own rescue.  I know that even if I am experiencing the worst imaginable pain, I can be my own source of solace.

Yes, it is hard.  Damn this life is difficult.   But there is a way to manage, and it begins with self-compassion.  Try it out, at least once….”If you lose your way, Just know that I got you.”

Yours,

Frankie

 


Acquired Strength

Against my back is the rough texture of oak tree bark,

I give it my entire attention, for it is here that I find my strength.

Fragile spine against a layered trunk of experience and trials,

I am inspired by it’s sturdy habits.

At times, strong winds bent it nearly to breaking, yet it remains upright;

Reminded of the forces that have threatened my own grounding,

I am reassured that I too will stand tall once more.

Long limbs reach down and like a crone’s overgrown nails

scratches the itch within my soul, their shadows hug me close to the earth.

Invisible cocoon that welcomes and nurtures,

I sit with my back against the rough texture of an oak tree,

and there acquire the strength to live.