Being sensitive

I’m sensitive. I did an interview with a really famous guy yesterday and at one point he got annoyed at me for a question I asked. His tone changed. He got a little defensive. I laughed and said, “Let’s move on.”

I was proud of myself after. Proud because it hadn’t even bothered me. Which is maybe a little embarrassing to admit. I mean, why should it have bothered me?

“I’m sensitive,” I told my mom last night. We were at dinner, at Dovetail, on Columbus and 76th, which is always way too warm, but has the only alcoholic drink I’ve liked so far: pear cider (I’m a wimp).

She laughed. “Well, yeah.” And then she told me about how I used to cry when my parents read me a book about a barking dog. The idea of the dog barking was upsetting. That is seriously sensitive. She said I used to cry, as a little kid, when someone spoke in a harsh tone to me. “Put that down, now.”

My brothers were not like this, so anyone who wants to blame homeschooling for making kids soft and wimpy and namby-pamby (how is that even an expression?) can just not even start.

But I was. Namby-pamby, I mean. I was that. And a lot of people would probably say that if you have a kid like that she’d better toughen up, because the world is a tough place full of tough people and only the tough succeed. (At least I am a girl. It’s much worse when you’re a very sensitive boy.) People would tell the mother of a child like I was to let that child cry herself to sleep at night, until she learned to stop being such a sissy. Until she learned independence.

I would’ve gone to school and gotten made fun of and learned to live with it. I would’ve toughened up.

But that didn’t happen. And so I never got particularly tough. I pretty much stayed the way I was. I mean, I got better at some things, like tying my shoes and telling time (still not my strong suit), but my nature seems basically unaltered.

“I think about stories all the time,” I told my mom. “Everything is a story in my mind.” (That sounds kind of cool, actually, in a freaky, Rain Man way. In reality, it’s mostly distracting.)

“You always did,” she said. “You told stories from the beginning.”

It’s weird, to have been myself from the beginning. To be able to trace my interests and habits and inclinations so far back. Shouldn’t I have become something else? I get the sense that people are supposed to.

And at the same time, I love being sensitive. I love being unable to tune the world out. Being unable to stop translating the world into stories. I love being unable not to care. I love being deeply moved by corny things like mountain ranges and late afternoon light. Also, I can really, really appreciate a good milkshake. Or a slice of amazing pizza.

(or some pear cider, of course. source)

I’m also glad that I didn’t burst into tears when the famous guy got annoyed, and start wailing, “Why are you so mean?!!” That would’ve been a problem. But the thing is, even when you’re really sensitive, you learn when it’s not worth bursting into tears. When it’s not worth even one tear. Or even a moment of hurt feelings. That happens naturally, from being alive. From interacting with a lot of people. From paying attention, even when there are stories in your head.

No one needs to force you. No one needs to toughen you up. You don’t really need to lose something to gain something. Sometimes you just need to leave something well enough alone.

I think that was a pretty strong conclusion.

:-)

P.S. I had absolutely no good photo ideas for this post. I’m sorry.

15 comments to Being sensitive

  • […] Post about being sensitive over at Un-schooled. […]

  • Loved this post. You could have been talking about my daughter! Thanks for sharing… Would you mind if I shared on my facebook page? xxxx

  • christa

    Thank you so much for this post. My youngest son is also sensitive and my older sister is often making comments to me like, “What are you going to DO about him?” (i.e. how will he survive in the world???) We like to accept and support and love him for who he is, but she does not understand this and seems to feel people need to be “fixed”. The other night when we all got together for a family birthday celebration, she purposely tried to get a reaction out of him, I assume to try to “toughen him up”. It took me so by surprise (as it did my son) that I didn’t even know how to react. Needless to say, it was upsetting. Have I mentioned he just turned 4?

    Anyway, I love my little sensitive guy and would never want him to feel he needs to be anything but who he is. And I just loved your post!

  • Ellen

    You’re conclusion is so right! That’s what makes you a good person, not toughening up!

  • I too am very sensitive. I went to public school. It didn’t “toughen me up” it just made me more guarded. I think I have trouble forming friendships because of my school experiences. My son is sensitive too, but he’s very confident and makes friends easily. I partly credit homeschooling for this.

  • rachel

    2 things:

    1. Hard cider is amazing

    2. I was sensitive and being in public school didn’t toughen me up. I’m still amazed when I’m able to talk about my insecurities with my faculty member and only tear up a little.

  • kate

    I should clarify that I don’t think that going to school actually toughens people up all of the time. I do think it makes it harder to stay obviously sensitive. But not being obviously sensitive is often how people define toughness.

  • Phoebe

    I’m incredibly sensitive. I went to school until I was 13 very almost 14, and I would say school made it worse, it made me feel ashamed of my sensitivity and made me feel like I stood out terribly. I think its got a lot better since being out of school, some things hurt me but I don’t obsess about them so much, I think about them and move on. Being sensitive and anxious probably wasn’t a good mix, I’m growing on myself though 😀

    Thanks for the awesome post!

  • Brenda

    You don’t have to apologise about the lack of photos. I love pear cider, too. 😉

    I was called sensitive in a derogatory manner in my early working life. It took time to realize I has positive abilities because of that sensitivity. Like compassion, an awareness of injustice and the desire to bring comfort to the hurting people I encounter. And I’m bringing up my sensitive, socially ackward homeschooled daughters the same way.

    Love your blog and look forward to it in my inbox. You bring hope to this elementary level homeschool mom.

  • I just want to tell you that pear cider over vanilla ice cream is just about the best thing ever. Try it. Also try Lindeman’s Raspberry Lambic Framboise. With vanilla ice cream. I like ice cream + booze.

    I also have a soft spot for sensitive girls who, despite their sensitivity, grow up knowing their voice should be heard. Go you. Too often, sensitive kids think there’s something wrong with them and that sense of wrongness turns into a debilitating quiet that makes them think they don’t have a voice. I have sensitive daughters and the most important lesson I want them to learn is that they have a voice and it’s worth hearing.

    But seriously, try the booze with the ice cream.

  • I love the way God wired you.

  • Theresa Vaz

    I am/was sensitive and school did not make it better. It taught me that there was one more thing that “I had to change”. Sometimes being sensitive is just being logical. My daughter cannot listen or watch the news. She gets upset when she hears that people have been murdered or living in countries where thery are tortured. I think that makess sense.

  • I too am very sensitive. I love that you have been so bold as to write about it.
    I am a teacher in a public school, actually a consequence school, where they send the VERY bad boys and girls. I have chosen to be here because I believed, up until recently, that I could make a difference in these young people’s lives. It seems harder, and harder to hold that thought as I am mocked, ignored and generally bullied by the gangsters.
    I would love to blog about it, but with what is happening with Ms. Munroe, I feel like the blog outlet is closed as well.
    Last Thursday, a particularly brutal verbal attack happened and I left the classroom crying my eyes out. I have awakened every night since with tears and heart racing as I struggle to extricate myself from the nightmare that continues to repeat itself.
    I am wondering if I can go to work on Monday.
    Maybe your readers can understand that being a public school teacher is difficult as well, and some of us are sensitive too.

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