A Gift

February 24, 2010 at 5:45 am 5 comments

My friend gave me a great gift today.  She knows who she is.  She said something to me in a way I don’t think anyone ever has.

You see, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been told that I am “oversensitive.”  I get it. I am highly emotional. I cannot stand seeing any living thing in pain. I cannot watch a scene on film or television that is violent, or else I have nightmares for weeks.  I get my feelings hurt by things others would not even hear. I worry about that one person who may be left out in any situation, I want to be sure no one is hurting or feeling alienated (apparently I started doing this in preschool). I tend to shut down in loud places with sensory overload.  You get the picture, the list goes on.

So, I’ve always received the message that it is in my best interest to “toughen up.”  Always thought that was what I am supposed to do.  “Don’t let it bother you.”  “Oh, relax.”  “What’s the big deal?”  Toughen up.  And I’ve tried to, with not much, perhaps just a smidgen of, success.

I said to my friend yesterday, after a conversation in which someone I don’t know very well said something I felt was particularly insensitive about a choice my husband and I have made, “I guess I am just learning to have a tougher skin when people say things like that.”  Her response?  I will quote her flawless wisdom exactly (I really hope she doesn’t mind, as it is for the good of the world that I put this out there):

“You will find no comfort in defenses or toughness.  You will find comfort and solace and peace and healing and understanding by staying vulnerable and open.  No one will attack you.  And if they do, it is but mist.  Stay Open.  Your kids need you open.”

Oh, the relief I felt in those words, the validation, the YES.  The: THIS is what I’ve always known but never could quite articulate with confidence, or never had articulated to me.  She also said, and this is a paraphrase: if you put up your dukes or stiffen up, you will get knocked down.  If you remain soft and flowing, no one can push you over, you just keep moving.  Again, I know this, I believe this, but somehow having her say it to me just put it all into perspective today.

What if everyone in the world was actually emotionally open?  What if we had not been taught to toughen up, shut down, fight back, criticize others, and turn off our sensitivities — but instead were taught to open up and embrace those sensitivities, and use them as a gauge and a guide in being with one another, and to see them as a gift?  What if we traded our closed-minded judgements for open-minded listening — so that we actually took in what others’ did and said in the most sensitive of ways, rather than with defenses heightened, or wall built?  Do you think the world would be different?  That there would be less prejudice, less divorce, less war?  I wonder.

It’s messier when you take it all in, feel it all, tune in to it all.  I imagine it could be easier to be tough and unflappable. I imagine it could be easier to sit comfortably believing that your judgements protect you, rather than practicing detaching from those judgements, as in Buddhism, which I’ve also tried with a smidgen more success.  But perhaps in the long run it is not easier to be tough.  It still takes energy, and then the energy must release somewhere, at some point — that can’t be good.

I know one thing: I felt like a success today because someone validated who I am, in a way that our culture often does not.  I felt like a success because I was heard and seen and appreciated for a trait I’ve been criticized for by others.  And I also know that I feel like a success when I can validate others in this deep and meaningful way.

Think about it.  Maybe you could give someone this kind of a gift today.  Maybe you could give it to yourself. How?  Stop toughening up.  Remain open.  And see what happens.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Enough Prejudice! Really Remembering

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Slawebb  |  February 24, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    This post is so helpful to me. Thanks for writing, I find myself trying to be so rigid and it never works out well. especially as a parent. Love the quote. Does her name start with a V? Sounds like something she would say and maybe has even said to me.

  • 2. Vicki  |  February 26, 2010 at 1:42 am

    Oh Meg. I do not have words. But, oh my heart. My heart is so full that my eyes are running and my mouth is smiling and I feel …well, I just feel perfect. I love you. Thank you for befriending me.

  • 3. Megan  |  February 26, 2010 at 6:09 am

    Slawebb, of course you are right! Vicki, you are a guide and a muse, an amazing teacher and friend. It feels a bit vulnerable putting this one up, but I had to, so I would remember the wisdom. Thank you!

  • 4. Lynette  |  March 16, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    I found your site “by accident (yeah, right) by looking for positive female blogs (via ‘girlwithpen’), to hopefully link off my own blog (we are in this together!) and for my own fortification. Thank you! Thank you! Your sharing about being told all your life that you are overly sensitive really helped me remember that I am not alone. And your brilliant friend’s words are something that I am going to make my mantra. I have numbed myself to not feel things so I wouldn’t even have the emotional response that would disturb others around me. And yet, it is no coincidence that for as long as I have been shut down, I also have not been writing, which is one of the few things that makes me feel most alive. I guess it is the same for you. While I am not a mom, I think we all need to stay open for the rest of the human beings out there who need people like us who are comfortable showing them how to exist in the messiness. You are truly a success in my eyes. So glad to have found this site!!

    • 5. Megan  |  March 16, 2010 at 6:15 pm

      Thank you SO much for your comment, Lynette, and welcome! Can’t tell you how I needed your words today. No accidents… Thanks again!


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Blog Mission

To spark conversation about redefining success (as individuals, families and institutions) and to counter "never enough" messages currently circulating in our culture.

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Megan Pincus Kajitani: Writer, Editor, Former Academic Overachiever and Career Counselor, Mom, Wife, Feminist, Gen Xer, Californian who believes that change is possible View Megan Pincus Kajitani's profile on LinkedIn

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