I am quite happy at this point in my life and I am 99% comfortable with living solo and spending time by myself. For 15+ years, I was in a relationship that consumed almost every facet of my life. Without intending to do so, I now realize that I had allowed that relationship to distance me from family and friends. Once it ended, I really didn’t know what to do with myself or how to reconnect with those that I had unintentionally abandoned. However, it feels like I’ve been working four years on completing a 1000-piece puzzle (remember those?) and I have a few pieces with which I am struggling to find the right place. It seems that no matter hard I try to fit in and make friends, I am still mostly a loner. I often travel, dine, and attend events solo. Sometimes I connect with people I consider to be friends or would befriend if we were strangers before, but I still don’t have the companionship or the level of friendship that I had with him. I do know now that I would never, ever allow any relationship to have that much control over me, but I definitely miss having a best friend with whom I can talk about anything. I carry many thoughts and emotions inside of my head and my heart.
I feel like I have a lot to contribute to a friendship. I am loyal beyond a fault, kind, polite, and caring. I usually give way more to others than I accept from them. I go above and beyond. So why is this so challenging? Interestingly, I think that some find me a bit threatening, for lack of a better word, although nothing could be further than the truth. I believe living solo is a sign of bravery that some may not possess and it makes them uncomfortable. All that being said, does the friendship world have a place for someone like me? Or am I destined to remain a loner?
I think part of the reason I feel the way I do is the influence of social media, with which I have a love-hate relationship. I scroll down my Facebook News Feed. I see people out and about with others, spending time with loved ones, and posting the perfect parts of their lives. It compounds the feeling of singleness. I wonder why I don’t have that level of comraderie in my life. Why am seeing all of this from afar instead of living it?
The good news is that living life completely on my own for the past four years is ultimately a testament to my strength and to some, that may be intimidating. I moved 2626.9 miles away from home. I take care of myself and my cat all by myself. I manage every detail of my life. I have learned a new career in only two years. My writing has blossomed. Perhaps being a loner is actually a gift waiting to be shared with those who understand and embrace my power and affection.
If I’m not at my best, I can’t give the you – my friends, my family, the world – my best. I have to put myself first to be the best I can be for everyone.
In my situation, it should not be that difficult to take care of me. I am single without children, so I have no dependents of any kind. However, as an HSP or an empath, I not only take on my own stress and emotions, but those of others. It’s not a conscious choice, it just happens because that’s who I am. Therefore, it’s not as easy as it seems.
This weekend, I decided to forcefully let go of everything and put myself first. I made a statement out loud: I am letting go. It was hard. I felt like I was betraying you. I felt guilty. I felt selfish. However, as soon as I said it, it was a huge relief. I spent the whole weekend doing what I wanted, when I wanted, and with whom I wanted. I enjoyed a wonderful Friday evening working, but it was a fun kind of work. Saturday morning, I slept in a bit (as much as a cat will allow), then took care of things I don’t have time to do during the week, such as paying bills, replying to emails, whatever I felt like doing. In the afternoon, I went to a party, then an unexpected afterparty. It turned out to be the best day and evening I’ve had since I moved to California. Sunday, I chose to stay at home. I even did some work and it was almost effortless because I was in the right frame of mind and environment. I love days when I am not committed to anything or anyone and have the freedom to do as I please.
I don’t think I realized how much of the world I was taking on until I let it all go. Being everything to everyone is like an heavy anchor. It brings me down and makes me feel immobile, constrained, and stressed. On the other hand, when I say yes to me. it makes me a better person, the person I know I am.
I’ve written and talked about letting go as many times as I have failed at letting go. My challenge is that when I commit to someone or something, I’m in it for the long haul. I invest myself and my emotions steadfastly and completely.
Then it happens. Something or someone hurts me or disappoints me. I am treated unfairly in some way. For most people, that would be the final straw, but with me, I try to remain hopeful. It takes a few times for this to happen before I really let go. This week, I was kicked to the curb. It shook me to my core and made me re-evaluate myself. After some tears, anger, and feelings of hatred, I realized I can’t keep allowing unfair circumstances or hurtful people to control me. When I hold onto something so tightly, that means I am allowing it/him/her to control me. I was giving the situation too much of my attention and energy.
After this experience, I promised myself no more, and after a few days, I am still keeping my own promise to myself. It’s not easy. Sometimes I have to just say to myself, “Stop thinking about it. It’s done. It no longer matters.” Sometimes I start to react, then stop in my tracks. I redirect my focus to something or someone that does matter. I regain control and distance myself from the circumstances.
The good news is when I obey myself and relax, I feel so much better. I know this is going to sound bad on some level, but sometimes not giving a damn is the best choice.
I have been doing a lot of soul searching these first 16 days of the new year. I’m not one to make resolutions, but instead, I take an assessment of where I have been, where I am, and where I want to be. Last year was a learning experience in many ways, both professionally and personally. By the time the holidays arrived, everything sort of came to a head for me. I was not making the kind of progress that I wanted to make in any area of my life.
As a Highly Sensitive Person, I tend to take on the world’s feelings as my own and I take things too personally. Imagine being bombarded with sensory overload 24/7 and constantly trying to say and do what is right. That’s how it is to be me. I was overwhelmed with immeasurable fatigue and stress.
A little over a week ago, I made time to go to my doctor for a physical. I am generally healthy. In fact, I lost 17 pounds in 2014, gave up caffeine, and stopped taking unnecessary long-term medications. However, I also learned during this visit how much chronic fatigue and stress have been affecting me. I gave into my doctor’s recommendations to improve my sleep and alleviate feeling overwhelmed, thus assisting me reach my greater potential.
The results have been remarkable so far. Better sleep has an astounding effect on mood, mindset, and physical health. I catch myself starting to worry about something or becoming angry, but I quickly stop, regroup, and refocus. I feel a sense of calm I have not felt in a long time.
Giving of myself until I can’t give anymore overwhelms me. Being nice to the point of risking becoming a doormat exhausts me. Feeling guilty because I cannot be everything to everyone smothers me. Put a fork in me, I am done. I am giving in to what makes me happy, releasing what doesn’t, and rediscovering myself again. Letting go is not giving up, it is a courageous act of moving forward. More is not more. Less is more.
When you numb your pain you also numb your joy. ~ Brene Brown
I have one more thing to write before 2015 begins after all.
Yesterday, I had a panic attack about being alone. I don’t mean not being in a relationship, I mean feeling disconnected from the world, away from East Coast family and friends. I never had panic attacks until I lost my relationship and job in 2012, but I guess they are a form of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), maybe? Most of them are about finances, but this was personal. With these moments of panic often come moments of clarity and enlightenment.
While I took a big risk by moving across the country for a new life and I love to travel to new places, I’ve never really opened myself up completely to opportunities or people since I moved. I have RSVPed to events or get-togethers with people I didn’t know, then chickened out at the last minute. I wanted to go, but I was afraid. Sometimes I attended, but I would quickly exit. I just arrived home from Hawaii and realized that while I was there, I did the same thing. I spent a lot of time with new friends that welcomed me into their fold, but I also would retreat to my hotel when I could. Part of that is because I’m an HSP and crowds and activity can overstimulate me. However, I also think it’s because I am drained from keeping my guard up.
On Christmas Eve, I watched one of my favorite movies again, French Kiss, but with different eyes. It has comedy, romance, France, a great wine moment, and it has a woman like me, a crazy chick who takes a risk that goes against her grain. However, she discovers along the way that she had been living a very closed life.
As I thought of all of this, it hit me. I am like an egg, closed, afraid to break open. I’m afraid of someone breaking through the shell that I’ve built around me for two and a half years. I’m afraid of not being accepted. I’m afraid of rejection. I’m afraid to really live. My chiropractors have known this for seven months, as they have had to open me up physically nearly every week.
In 2015, this egg will be ready to crack open. What good is an egg with an unbroken shell? The shell is meant to be removed to get to the deliciousness inside. I know it will be a process to let go of my fears, but it’s all about baby steps. It’s about peeling the shell away one piece at a time. And just wait until you see what’s inside of me.
Today a friend shared a Huffington Post article with me, accompanied by these words, “This really is you, Beth.”
I read the article, “16 Habits Of Highly Sensitive People.” This might be the single most important piece of writing I’ve ever read. I didn’t even know there was a label for people like me, HSP (Highly Sensitive Person). I wish I had known earlier that I experience life and the world differently than 80-85% of the population.
In elementary school, my teachers called me “a sensitive child.” My classmates were much more harsh. They called me a “crybaby.”
I cry when I am angry. I cry when I watch commercials, videos, TV shows, and movies. Twenty years after the movie was released, I still cry when Mufasa dies in The Lion King.
Music like this often gives me chills and brings me to tears as well.
I am still afraid of the Flying Monkeys and the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz. That movie terrorized me when I was a child. Now I understand why.
I will do anything to avoid conflict. I try to repress my thoughts and feelings so as to not offend anyone. In doing so, I make myself physically ill.
I have uncanny attention to visual, written, and spoken details and I often remember exact conversations – words exchanged, as well as when and where the conversation took place. This attention to detail makes me a great travel planner and wine club manager, but all of these details about everything swimming around in my head often overwhelm me.
I often have trouble sleeping at night because I can’t turn off my world, thoughts, and emotions. I feel like I am always connected, whether I want to be or not.
I love to spend time with people that I really like and who really like me. But put me in a place full of people I don’t know and I become anxious. I am torn between being polite and staying anyway and plotting my escape. I opt out of large gatherings of people and prefer one-on-one and small-group interaction.
I am more empathetic than most, which means I feel what you feel, both the bad and the good. I take your burdens upon myself along with my own. Sometimes the weight is unbearable.
I prefer to work alone. My ideal work environment would be to work at home, at my own pace. As a college professor, I managed to strike a balance between performing in a classroom and my 10 required office hours. I was a pioneer in online instruction at my former college, because I preferred this method of delivery and flexible scheduling. I recently changed careers and I work an 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. job in an open office with five other people. I have found this environment to be stressful. I love when my colleagues are out of the office, not because I don’t like them, but because it’s more quiet and I work better alone, setting my own schedule and working through my to-do list.
I can’t count how many times people have told me not to take everything so personally. Believe me, I don’t want to. It just happens. I am like a Bounty paper towel. I absorb the world around me and it becomes a part of me.
At this moment, I’ve never felt more validated. Thank you to my friend for finding this article and sharing it with me. What a relief, there’s a method to my madness after all. It’s called being highly sensitive and it’s real. I’m Beth and I’m an HSP. I’m different than 80-85% of you reading this. Please bear with me as I begin to learn how to better fit into this world. If you are someone who feels like me, let’s connect.