“I feel too much. That’s what’s going on.’
‘Do you think one can feel too much? Or just feel in the wrong ways?’
‘My insides don’t match up with my outsides.’
‘Do anyone’s insides and outsides match up?’
‘I don’t know. I’m only me.’
‘Maybe that’s what a person’s personality is: the difference between the inside and outside.’
‘But it’s worse for me.’
‘I wonder if everyone thinks it’s worse for him.’
‘Probably. But it really is worse for me.”
― Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
I’m sitting at a tiny table in the Galaxy Diner tucked away on the corner of 9th Avenue and West 46th Street. After a fresh rain fall, a cool breeze keeps wafting in through the open patio doors as noise, color, stimulation, and more noise streams by outside.
Typical New York day. Diverse, busy, crowded, loud.
One wonders where one goes to find quiet in a city that never sleeps. Where going to the park on a sunny day means sharing space with the hundreds of other people also at the park. Where the steps of the public library are stuffed with hoards of people reading, sitting, lunching, chatting. And where people sit inches apart at small dining establishments and talk about the intimate details of their lives within the hearing of the 10 strangers nearest to them.
I guess in a city of 9 million the expected anonymity from the person sitting inches from you serves as a substitute for privacy. Because if people waited until they had privacy here before they could talk, well the city would be a lot more quiet and no stories would ever be told.
All I know is that the man at the table behind me in the Village yesterday should definitely take the advice of his therapist, stick to his guns, and not have sex with his ex who sounds dreadful. Also Xanex isn’t candy. Try yoga instead.
I do love it here though, despite the massive overstimulation that has been an assault to my senses. I find this to be a curious contrast to my usual solitude seeking self who requires loads of time and space to herself and who can rapidly start to fray like a ripped seam when this is denied. And who doesn’t tolerate overstimulation well most of the time.
My quiet spaces are the only time I can even begin to make sense of my inner interior that thinks and feels and observes things in such a way that I can feel them trickle all the way down to the marrow of my bones. It seems that if I can’t find ways to set all this free and honor this inner garden in some shape or form that life goes south rather fast and does not right itself until I have spent adequate time cocooning in order to tend to repairs and maintenance of that landscape.
There is a book by Elaine N. Aron, PhD called “The Highly Sensitive Person.” First book I’m aware of that doesn’t pathologize but simply legitimizes a small part of the population who also feel things deep down to the marrow of their bones. They know who they are for they have been told their entire lives “you feel too much,” “life is just harder for you, isn’t it,” “you are being too sensitive,” “you’ve got to learn to grow a thicker skin.”
Usually those speaking to this “too sensitive” soul are well intending, encouraging them to just shake it off and toughen up a bit so they feel more defended in the arena of life. But the truth is that the recipient of these statements is really hearing a message that tells them they are too much and their way of being in the world is wrong.
That somehow who they are is a problem.
These are the people who are so emotionally available and present in their relationships they struggle to feel seen by others who don’t have that degree of capability in their relationships with others let alone in their relationship with self. Hard to expect someone to be emotionally available for you if they are not even available for them.
These are the people who after a long day of work realize if not careful, that they could easily lose it and break down in the grocery aisle as they try and make a choice between the vast array of too many choices. They avoid big box store like the plague and have to give themselves a mental pep talk before even beginning to think about entering a place like Costco.
These are the ones who like interesting shows and books and any artistic medium which focuses on a nuance of human nature that the general population often misses. They like the nebulous, the thought provoking, the ambiguous that comes without a gift wrapped bow tied easy ending, for they know life has no such endings.
These are our artists and poets and writers and creators and dreamers and inventors and intuits and therapists and hopers and wishers and philosophical thinkers and lovers. Some of them find a way to channel this into their way of life and share their creation on a large scale. But I think most simply have amassed a lifetime of a body of work that none might ever see save their inner self who knows without this outpouring to validate their way of life they never could have made it in this fast paced, linear, disconnected world whose collective conscious does not validate their way of being.
And some simply embrace it. They stop beating themselves up for being different and accept that they are. They dress in rainbows and become a walking piece of art that isn’t intended to serve as a styled defense against the world but really to serve as trying to show a lack of barriers between their inside and outside, so their exterior can better match their deep, diverse interior.
They start blogs and make art. They let their Dog be their best friend and consider making him an official therapy Dog so he can go everywhere as he is so good at regulating and calming mood. And they write. And write. And write. And write. And write some more. Not for those who don’t care about such things, for they already have a large voice in the collective of this world.
But for those who do because they have found that their life has been just a little bit harder too.
The truth is, highly sensitive or not, that we all have our own path to walk in this world. I am currently surrounded by the energy of 9 million different paths in this crazy metropolis, and no matter how much black everybody wears, I know that deep down people are trying to find a way to make their interiors match their exteriors.
To lead lives that feel more authentic. Honest. True. Lives that better reflect who they really are inside. Lives of emotional integrity. Lives of love. Lives that reflect our love stories. With ourselves, with others, with the world, with something much bigger than just us.
Because when you have love in your heart, you start to find that your insides and outsides gradually start to match up, no matter how close and loud and noisy the pulls of this world can be.
For today, I have one last full day in New York. Plans to walk and explore the Upper East and West sides. An evening of dinner and a Broadway show. A slightly overstimulated mind. Some bright yellow tights. Fresh air in my lungs and free sky above.
And all the love one could possibly need gently bubbling deep inside. Extremely Love and Incredibly Close.