it turns out, i'm highly sensitive.
I would never have generally thought about myself as sensitive, for a variety of reasons - I enjoy (but don't require) affirmation in my work, I am comfortable in my own skin, I can handle teasing and in most cases am fairly thick-skinned. But as I've recently been geeking out on personality types and traits, I was intrigued by this post that focused on what apparently is up to 20% of the population: highly sensitive people.
The current expert on the trait is Dr. Elaine Arons, who defines HSPs as those who are "aware of subtleties in your surroundings, a great advantage in many situations. It also means you are more easily overwhelmed when you have been out in a highly stimulating environment for too long, bombarded by sights and sounds until you are exhausted."
I feel highly stimulated by, like, the grocery store.
It turns out the HSPs aren't just introverts either. Extroverts make up about 30% of the HSP population, according to Arons. Which is, I guess, a bit of a relief since introverts already have a bad rap in a culture that glorifies loud, fast, people-y environments. If you want to do some more research on this whole HSP thing, be my guest, be my guest, be my guest.
Here is why I am really bringing this up:
I am running low these days.
I am running low on energy and having a hard time figuring out what is "wrong" with me and why the normal day-to-day things seem to take a greater toll on me than they do on others. Given my mid-to-high self-confidence, this is not a comparison issue. Given my stage of life, it's not just a "kid hangover". It's a really practical assessment of the things going on in my days/weeks and the utter end-of-myself-ness that I feel when all is said and done. To quote Modern Mrs. Darcy , even "clutter makes me cranky". When I'm overstimulated, I sort of mentally check out. I cannot hibernate as in days of old (read: pre child that needs caring for), though hibernation would be my preference. I just get mentally fuzzy and can't really focus on anything that needs doing.
Last weekend, I sat and listed to my husband the things I want to be doing, the things I know others want me to do, and the things I need to do for my family and home. He listened and said, "Okay, so let's figure out how those things can fit into the week." I began to cry and just said, "No, you don't understand. I cannot do them. This is not 'I'm spinning too many plates' or 'I just need more sleep' - this is 'My body does not actually have the reserves to perform all these tasks and perform them well. I have to say no to some things that seem like very good things or I am going to fall apart." And for a minute, he really didn't get it. (Which is okay, by the way.) That same list doesn't make him feel this way. He is energized by it, he is capable. And I wept because I wish that I could do them all, but I am not designed to handle it. When I have social interaction on 3-4 days of the week, that's about all I can do that day. And that includes texting! Texting is exhausting!
It's a big, hard thing for the pride of this self-confident woman to discover that God gave me less energy and more sensitivity than He did others.
I am sensitive to loud noises, to hyperactive environments, to lots of things going on at once, to clutter in the spaces I am working/living. I am stimulated more than the normal person by social interaction, by being in large groups of people (even stores). This weekend, we are going away for a retreat. We will join with other believers and study the Scriptures. We will have quiet time. And we will be WITH people all weekend. And when we get home, we have family coming for four days. Basically, I am warning my man: I am about to be overwhelmed with stimulation for an entire week. I will probably have a people hangover for a minimum of 3 days. Do not expect much during that time.
I want to learn how to steward my energies & resources well. Aside from time with the Lord, my husband and daughter are my first priority. Then my church family - my commitments and responsibilities there. Follow that by work. Follow that by other relationships. At some point, I am probably going to have to look at a list and begin crossing things off - things that appear "good" for all intents and purposes. But the thing is, because I have less energy to steward, I cannot simply do all the things that seem good for me or others. I can only do what is God for me.
So that's why I am about to "call in sick" to some ongoing activity and rearrange how I spend my time, according to my needs in this season. I'm going to be sitting down with my Bible, my calendar, and my husband to determine what things are currently God's best for my time and energy. I am going to be adapting my going to bed and waking times, so as to be sure I am getting solitude when I am fresh and can be filled. I have already deactivated my Facebook account and for the foreseeable future, will be limiting my twittering and instagramming to one day a week. Just saying that makes me feel a little burst of "maybe I can do this"!
God's design for me isn't to limit me and it isn't to frustrate my family. It's to glorify Himself through me. I'm responsible for obedience in the daily tasks and relationships and if I am so spent that am impatient with my little girl or rude to my husband, then something needs to change.
"Dying to self" is not about trying to be and do things I am not. "Dying to self" is about listening for His voice and agreeing with the demands He places on me. And His commands are not burdensome...
So I am on a quest to do whatever He tells me. And this Ann Voskamp quote is a just perfect reminder:
His voice is what you keep listening for…. and the heart of faith is your ear pressed into the heartbeat of His Word.
“This is the way for you — not her way, not their way — but My Way for You.” Stay close enough to the Word to hear your Father’s voice. Do Whatever He Tells You.
Do whatever’s the next thing. Do whatever He puts in front of you and do it with great love and this is what makes any day, any life, anybody great. Miracles keep happening in the mundane.
Do whatever makes you a God-wrestler, that makes you push and press into Him, till He wrests your hip socket and you never walk the same.
Do you have a good handle on what God is asking of you in these days? How are you making room for God's say-so in your family, work, relationships?