Love for a sensitive self

Last night I found myself in a pretty hilariously typical situation for this time of year: the zany family dinner. Holiday celebration! On a weeknight! Hooray! Laughter and glasses of wine! Glittering decorations and oodles of good food!

Also: overwhelm. Panicky, HSP overwhelm.

Perhaps that’s no surprise. This year I’ve been learning more and more about my sensitive self: she is unpredictable. Some things that sound perfectly awful in advance turn out to be lovely and calm, when I get there. (This makes for the occasional lovely surprise, but can also make it hard to plan ahead, you know?)

Last night, I didn’t realize what was going on until I found myself camped out in a corner, frozen, quietly looking at my spouse.

All I could say was, “I think I need to go home. I’m very….tired.

{Insert here: small and powerful prayer of thanks for allies who understand That Pleading Look and know how to pack the car and get us home fast, when we are unable to do it for ourselves.}


I got home. I got into pajamas. We put the littlest mermaid to bed. And then I climbed into my own bed, desperate for refuge, warmth, safety, quiet, and sleep.

But my brain was screaming, wailing, crying. So very, very unhappy.

What to do?

It is so hard to be present. But I tried. Gently.

The longer I lay under the blankets with my pain and my woe, the more I became aware that my body was in pain, too. The shock of flight was wearing off. I became aware that my body was full of bottle-up unhappiness.

Hello, pain, I said. Where are you located?

No! responded the pain.

(My pain had very specific instructions.)

It said, Stay out of your body, it is not safe here. 

So in my desperation I did a wacky and unlikely thing (as one does!) and went to the Pensieve.

Wizards are smart folk

I don’t know why this particular image came to me. I am not particularly into the whole Harry Potter thing. But the venerable wizard Albus Dumbledore had this cool thing, the Pensieve.

It looks like a pool. A bowl of water. Or it might be a sieve.

Your thoughts and memories go into it.

Your shining memories spool out of your head, like a thread you pull from your ear, and drop into the pool. And I needed this Pensieve to hold the different things that had hurt me. This is all I knew.

I started by telling it the obvious things. I’m tired. I’m uncomfortably full. It was a lot of people.

The not-as-obvious things. That chair was uncomfortable. My pants were itchy. And oh the happy noisy chaos of dinner with kids. 

More: That was really half a glass too much wine. I didn’t like sitting on the floor when we were opening presents. I felt rushed.

I kept adding more and more things like this. Every single tiny seemingly-insignificant thing that begged to be heard and witnessed.

There were other things, too. The more I remembered the insignificant things (Was that really my wineglass? Did I forget to pick up that thing when we left? I need a new pie recipe!) the more the bigger stuff became more apparent

Those uncomfortable comparisons I made in my head.

The fear that sat with me when I heard a triggering thing.

The other triggering thing that gave me heart pangs.

The really important thing I was too scared to say to my dad.

I visualized these things, all the unheard internal voices, big and small, gently spooling out of me. Into the Penseive.

As I did so, my body relaxed a little. And then a little more.

Eventually, it didn’t matter how bottled up my body was, or why it hurt. I had listened to some of the pain, and it was enough. I was just tired, and I slept.


My wish for the coming new year is that I may learn how to listen to my sensitive self even more. That I may practice it more. That I do unlikely kooky things to help myself out, even when they seem so ridiculous that my rational self has rolled its eyeballs all the way over the moon.

Because this year held a lot of pain. Pain that released other pain. Holding still when it wasn’t possible to do anything else. Projects that were a lot of fun and projects that scared me.

This year was a little bit like last night, really. Overwhelming. A lot to unravel.

I wasn’t always able to meet myself. The story would only get a little clearer as time passed (mostly).

I’d like to use this year as very important evidence toward whatever theory or plan or project carries me forward in 2012. To love the sensitive self. To plan for her even when it is painful to do so. Gently, of course.

Seeds have been planted. Projects are whispering and getting ready. In 2012, I hope to listen as well as I know how, and to remember what has brought me here.


Even though this calendar year still has several important weeks left, I’m posting this today. Thank you, as ever, for reading, friends. Love and wishes to you, and all the unlikely kooky allies you need. xo


About jesse k.

Writer. Mama. Spy in the house of self-awareness. Occasional crafter, letterpress geek, and academic snob.
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6 Responses to Love for a sensitive self

  1. Rhiannon says:

    Wow, I love how unlikely but effective the pensieve turned out to be! I may use that the next time I’m in this situation (and I know it entirely too well.)


    • jesse k. says:

      It was definitely one of those “where the *%&$ did this come from — oh well — run with it!” moments. In my sleepy state I couldn’t really do anything but comply!

  2. Yael Saar says:

    Yay for the pensive, and hugs for the hard and the pain, and thank you for this, and for you.

  3. Paulita says:

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you sharing this.

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