What You Wish For

In the first post I ever wrote for this blog, I said:

I love silence with a passion. To me, it’s not an absence of something, but an iridescent, sublime presence, that can move me to acute and transcendent bliss.

It’s 4 in the morning, and the great urban noise bowl that surrounds me has not yet begun to roar. Wrapped in a fog cocoon, the night is still.

Too still.

My cat died yesterday. She was the last of her family, and now I am a person without pets for the first time in almost two decades. And I am feeling so, so ambivalent about it.


There are people who should not be parents, and mine were among them. My mother regularly expounded on what a burden children were. She said she loved me, but didn’t like me, and I’ve never felt likable or lovable since. And when she was stressed by her responsibilities, which was often, she lashed out in rage. If there is anything I don’t want to be, it is her.

Yet in the end, I am my mother’s daughter.

I talk about almost everything else, but my struggle to meet my own expectations about treating my dependents with kindness and patience is a dirty little secret. When a friend joins me at the vet’s office to see me through the final moments, she is platitudinal – verbal expressions of emotion are not her forte.

“You gave her a great life,” she says.

“I have regrets,” I reply, with a crypticness and brevity that are extremely out of character for me. But I owe honesty that much.

A leafless tree on a barren muddy hillside is weakly illuminated by a fog shrouded sun

The truth is, I often couldn’t deal constructively with my cat’s demands, especially when they were vocal. I felt desperate – I thought I would break under the pressure – I just needed her to stop. She couldn’t help it, poor girl, and she was obviously stressed and confused by my reaction. Why didn’t knowing that reduce my desperation, or strengthen my compassion, or patience, or selfless love, or whatever it is I didn’t have enough of??

Many times, I resolved to change my behavior. But no matter what my intentions, I just couldn’t sustain those changes. More than once, it crossed my mind that I might benefit from anger management classes. Or a daily yoga and meditation practice. But I pursued neither solution. I didn’t even read a book.

I did finally succeed in altering her behavior in a way that improved our relationship during her final months, but I am deeply ashamed that an 8 pound cat with a wasting disease was better able to regulate her emotional expression than I was.

I want to think this is a cultural failure. If I lived in a world that acknowledges differences in sensory reactivity, perhaps I would have better tools and support for dealing with stress and sensory challenges – and less shame to impede availing myself of them.

And maybe that is true, as far as it goes. But HSPs are more independent of their culture than other people, which has certainly been the case for me throughout my life, so how far is that? I understand my mother better now, but the damage she wrought upon my life is beyond repair, and therefore beyond forgiveness.

So how can I forgive myself?

Half Empty

I spent yesterday weeping, posting memorials, poring over photos and videos, trying to stake down in the present that which has slipped irrevocably into the past. All the things grieving people do.

Yet despite my wrenched heart, the fact that my load is lightened intrudes itself constantly. Already there is more time, money, peace, space. As I move through the rooms of my small house and discover all the different cat-things I no longer need, I can’t help noticing there was literally not enough room for her in my life.

But the silence.

I never thought the house could be too quiet.

I was wrong.

The silhouette of a black cat painted on a wall along a paved alleyway

Negative Emotions Are Key to Well-Being

Hah, I knew it! In this Scientific American article, a psychotherapist discusses the benefits of “negative” emotions, and the risks of repressing them. Maybe we should stop calling them “negative” and instead refer to them as transformative. What’s that you say – “transformative” could apply to all emotions? Exactly.

Being the Peace

I’m so angry today. I don’t know who to be angry at — but I’m furious! I don’t know what to do — but something must be done! So much must be done, where to even start? This is unacceptable! Yet I have to find a way to accept it.

A picture of a bullet against a black backgroundWhen I go to work, there is a little shrine on the sidewalk across the street from my office. This is where 17 year old Reggina Jefferies lay yesterday, after a stray bullet from someone else’s conflict smashed into – and ended – her life. Sitting at my desk, I heard that bullet.

Now, the shrine. While I gather windblown flowers and compose a note about senseless waste, other office workers from neighboring buildings stop by. We piece together our bits of the puzzle. There’s security camera footage that might help. Good.

Later, a crowd gathers – a very quiet crowd. I give up trying to concentrate on work and go down to see what’s happening. The street is partially blocked by people with “Stop the Violence” signs. Other survivors of other murders speak, sad and angry and trying to make sense of it. Then the man who called the gathering says, “Be the peace.”

I see at once that I am not being the peace. I’m too angry sad anxious frustrated disgusted frightened. There’s no peace in me right now. And there isn’t a lot of peace in the gathering, which I have to leave to return to work. It’s not so quiet anymore. But the anger and frustration I can still hear through my open window aren’t making me as anxious and stressed as angry crowds usually do. Today I can relate.

Yet even if I don’t remotely resemble the peace at the moment, or maybe because of that, I can see how being the peace makes sense. Which is saying something in the face of so much senselessness. Unlike all the macro “out there” things – the wounds to heal, the minds to change, the mountains to move – the choice in every moment whether to be the peace (or not) is entirely in each person’s power. Maybe it’s the only thing that really is.

Can I find my own way to being the peace? I don’t know. You’d think if it was easy I’d have already done it. But maybe I just never thought about it that way before. In any case, I’m sure going to try.

Photo of a bird silhouetted against the sun.

Unfinished Business

I don’t know if this has anything to do with introversion or being HSP, but it’s what I’m thinking about right now, so I’m going to write about it anyway. Yesterday I discovered, quite by accident, that someone I once had contact with on a daily basis had died. Continue reading