Alive, Deeply



I chose Alive as my word for 2014 mainly because I’m constantly tempted to shut myself down.

Without getting into personality theory (because it would quickly take over this post), I’m inherently sensitive. Since childhood, I’ve had lower lows and higher highs than most people. I’ve cared too much and thought too much. I’ve been too aware of the emotional energy around me. It’s like being in the middle of an imaginary Times Square, with a million internal and external forces beaming chaotically down at me. The daily sorting-out of all those forces can be a job in itself.

Since no one can (or should) survive life as a raw wound, I have learned to create space between myself and everything else, to gain some healthy distance and pragmatism. But I’m still affected – sometimes deeply – by things that more practical people shrug off or don’t even notice. And honestly, the older I get, the more I envy those people. Their decisions are easier. Their sufferings aren’t so soul-deep. They aren’t easily dismissed (sensitivity makes people uncomfortable). They look so much more together than I do.

On the surface, my life is great right now, free of major crises. In a day-to-day sense, I’m content and have nothing to complain about. This is where we live out much of our lives, and many people are happy to skim unquestioningly along the surface. I often feel frustrated and defective because I can’t. My problems are in the deep undercurrents, tough to quantify or discuss: scars, fears, hard realities, long-term disappointments. Also, grief is a lifetime companion that grows and changes with you, and sometimes a lifetime seems like way too long to carry it. I over-empathize when friends pick it up too. I get weary, and long to be light and free and not care so much.

In the short term, I’m sure I would be happier (and easier to be in a relationship with) if I somehow turned off my increased emotional capacity. But it would kill a central part of myself that God put there on purpose. Besides, joy and sorrow is a package you can’t unbundle. I don’t want to forfeit the highs with the lows. So, for me, remaining alive to my sensitivity is the first key to being fully alive.


About Brenda W.

Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister's iced tea. View all posts by Brenda W. →
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12 Responses to Alive, Deeply

  1. Amy Young says:

    I’m so glad you linked up with Trusting Tuesdays! Just the other day and friend and I were talking — like you, she’s a very sensitive person and was reading a book that helped her understand herself better and be able to explain herself to others. I look forward to your February post!

  2. I think that some nice number of the practical people who shrug things off easily still carry their worries, some of them intense and marvelously well-concealed. This topic, which is never far from my thoughts anyway, has come up particularly today, as there was a CNN article and a bit of ensuing activity in the legal blogosphere about the unusually high incidence of depression and suicide in the profession. One of the essays I wound up tweeting, for instance, told the story of a very successful trial attorney who admitted to one of his associates during his career that he was always troubled inside, but—and the young lawyer who related the story confirmed this from his own observations—he kept it perfectly concealed. Well, perfectly until something especially horrible happened right when he was set to retire.

    Some people are, no doubt, more shallow in their ways than others. Probably a lot of the folk who are cool as ice on the outside also have icy interiors. That’s not how God made any of us (cold or hard-hearted, that is), but, well, one is reminded of something in Scripture about consciences being seared. Who can know another’s heart well enough, though, to know whether that has happened to any degree? I myself have a reputation among some of the folk I deal with for being very well put together and impermeable to the cares of life. I have to be that way in a good many situations. It’s my job.

    In any case, this also calls to mind a more famous part of Scripture, and one, as these odd things will coincide, that also came up in my online discourse today: the Beatitudes. Who are those who follow Christ’s commandments and who have the eternal joy of heaven? The meek, the mournful, those who hunger. It’s no promise of joy in this life, though. Being alive in this world means being afflicted in it too, if you have your heart set on the next.

    Nice post.

  3. lwerezak says:

    I’m a super sensitive soul too, I think it has made the season of pain I’m going through even harder (you can see my blog post on the Trusting Tuesdays link-up). I totally understand the tendency to create space or diminish this side of myself. But I’m glad you’re choosing to live in it right now. It can also be such a special gift. I’ll look forward to reading more about your journey!

  4. Abby Howe says:

    I find I tend to shut down when trying to process lots of mental or emotional stimuli too. Sometimes that response is not good for relationships when I stop talking when I need to communicate, but I’m learning a little more during that process. Thanks for putting into words what it is like in your experience!

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