The day started off well, she opened the blinds and let the sun cast a comforting, warm glow across the room. The dogs snoring on the floor, an otherwise quiet house. She opened up her laptop and started the social media scroll. It is never long before a heart-warming story pops up; a rescued animal, a cancer survivor, military husbands and wives reunited with their families and pets. It is not even 10am and she has tears streaming down her face. Shake it off! She closes out of the internet and throws on some music, starts to wash up the dishes. Its not long before a song comes on that reminds her of a different time. Memories rush back. The tears begin to fall. Snap out of it, lady! Get a grip on yourself! She decides to hug the dogs, that always makes her feel happy. Their hearts thump inside their warm, soft bodies. Their chests rise and fall with breath. They sigh with contentment, they love the snuggles too. One of them is an older dog. The thought crosses her mind that his time is limited, he needs extra snuggles… who knows what tomorrow will bring? She should probably begin to brace herself for that eventuality. She hugs him tighter. The tears flow again. But she is not sad, she’s not depressed. Not anymore, that time is behind her now. In fact, she has never been so happy in her life! So why the tears? She’s just too damn sensitive…
All of my life I’ve been a sensitive soul, but it was only recently that I began to embrace this side of me. In the past, I thought of it as a flaw. A weakness. An inconvenient lack of control over emotions. Family and friends would encourage me to toughen up or be more resilient. And oh did I try! I tried to be tough. For a while there, I tried not giving a shit about anything, and closed myself off emotionally. Pushed loved ones away. But I discovered something in the process… when you close yourself off from the hard emotions, you also close yourself off from joy and passion and love. There cannot be light without the darkness. So I started to let myself feel. I started to embrace my sensitive soul, and accept it as part of what makes me who I am.
Now, I cry all the time. I cry for the world. I cry for its beauty, its suffering, the majestic mountains, and deep seas. I cry for a soulful voice, for an act of true love. I cry for small miracles; a butterfly opening its wings for the first time, a child prodigy, a rescue dog finding his forever home. I read hard stories about loss; learning to love again after heartbreak, the birth of a rainbow baby after miscarriage, a person who dies tragically in an accident, but is a registered donor, and another life is saved. My heart bleeds for the suffering in the world, but I also see all the good that people do to fight against it. Just when the hate in the world threatens to break me, I discover unwavering love. Hope is restored. I might cry all the time, but for the first time in my life, I am truly happy. I fall in love every day with the beauty of the world, and my heart swells with joy. If feeling the hard stuff opens me up to the indescribable joy of running through life with passion in my heart, then that is a price I am willing to pay. In fact, I feel compelled to hear those hard truths! People around me have experienced heartbreaking things that I can’t even begin to imagine, and I yearn to understand their pain so that I may offer them compassion. It is the least I can do for the people I care about. For the world.
My children follow in my footsteps, they feel things deep inside. My daughter especially, her eyes well up with tears and my heart breaks to see her cry. I will her to be resilient, I will her to be hardened against the harshness of the world so that it can’t hurt her. I tell her to save her tears for bigger hurts. I only want to protect her, shield her from pain. But I don’t want to shield her from joy and love either. I am wrong. So I let her see me cry, and I hold her when she cries. We talk about it, and we take a deep breath together. I can’t let her close herself off like I did, it is no way to live. About a month ago, her fish died. I know it is only a fish, but we really loved this fish. We both cried. Afterwards, she wanted her fish replaced, with an identical-looking fish and we could call it by the same name. We still need to have a proper ceremony for her fish, she didn’t want to at first. She wanted to pretend it didn’t happen. She wanted to close herself off. I suppose we all cope in different ways. But she will know harder loss than this before the end, and she will need to learn to face it. She will need to learn to feel the hard emotions, so she can know the beauty of the world in all of its glory.
I need to help her to manage her emotions, so I’ve been reflecting on the ways that I have come to be more resilient without losing sight of what is important. But I know there are more sensitive souls out there, people who could benefit from some insight as to how to find happiness as a sensitive soul in a cruel world. So I’m going to share what has helped me:
Search out the good: When I am feeling overwhelmed by the sad things in the world, I train my thoughts to focus back onto the good. Having a positive perspective is extremely helpful when facing adversity! If I need help, I learn about positive psychology, and use cognitive-behavioural strategies to change my thought process. Once you are focused on the good, it is incredible how much good will appear before you.
Self-help genre: I used to think it was just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, but I recently started reading books from the self-help genre, and my confidence and sense of self has begun to soar because of it! These books teach you to embrace your unique qualities and have self-love. Among other things, I’ve learned to be proactive and resilient, and to have faith that things will work out the way they are meant to.
Positive affirmations: You are going to try to tell me they are cheesy as hell, but I don’t care… THEY WORK!!! Search out empowering messages that remind you what it feels like to be truly alive. They teach you to believe in yourself, to dust yourself off when you fall down. Put them up in your office or home, say them out loud DAILY!
Uplifting social media feed: Its hard to be a sensitive soul when you are constantly being bombarded by negativity and hostility, so I filter what I see on my social media feeds and I am selective about when I read news stories. I unfollow people who are overly negative, and I search out sites that are uplifting and empowering.
Cut out psychic vampires: Toxic relationships are especially hard for a sensitive soul, so I’ve learned to bless and release those lost souls who would wish me ill-will. I don’t have room in my life for anyone who doesn’t treat me with love, respect, and compassion. Family included. I used to allow them to poison my soul with their hurt, but now I feel in control over how other people treat me because I am demanding respect.
Find like-minded people: You will also want to surround yourself with people who will lift you up. Find your tribe. Find those people who will have your back, cheer you on, and celebrate your achievements. If you haven’t found them yet, start thinking about what makes your heart sing. Open yourself up to making connections with people who love the same things. Love fiercely, there is nothing greater than love.
Do what you love/follow your dreams: It is easier not to get lost in the drudgery of life when you are going out of your way to do the things that fill your cup. Do the things you love, as often as possible. Love what you do. Don’t be afraid to take a risk if it means following your heart and chasing your dreams. When you are too busy filling your life with substance, you wont have time to be held down by hard realities.
Hugs: I’m not talking about an ordinary hug, I mean a deep, long hug. Let your breathing slow, let your worries melt away. You are an animal lover? Hug your pet! I do it every chance I get. Tell people you love them, tell your dog or cat. Hugs are extremely therapeutic, I strongly recommend them!
Express yourself creatively: If you are bursting with emotions like me, then you are going to want to be able to release that stuff. Don’t keep it bottled in! Talk, share, write, sing, dance, do whatever you need to in order to let your feelings flow out of you and into the world. Your feelings are not a curse like I once thought, they are a blessing! I’m NOT too sensitive, I’m perfect just the way I am. So is my daughter, and so are you dammit! Manifest those energies into a piece of art, or whatever form of expression suits you best. Share your gifts, live with passion.
Cry: Let it all out, baby. There is no shame in it. I cry in public if I need to, I’m through with holding those feeling in. Crying is a natural part of being human, it means you care enough to be touched by things, and that means you are living life with purpose. I speak from experience when I say that numbing yourself to the world is not truly living.
The last thing I will leave with you is one of my favourite poems, it holds universal truths that we could all live by. It helps me to remember the important things. And usually, when I read it… I cry.
Desiderata – Max Ehrmann
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.