Tools for the Highly Sensitive Mother: An Introduction
Before reading this, you’ll need to understand what it means to be a “highly sensitive person.” Let me start by saying I haven’t read any books about it because I’m too busy being overwhelmed. Go on and google it, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll take a test to see how sensitive you are, and you’ll score a big fat A++! Yay for us! Shhhhhhhh. You’re freaking me out.
I started a post two days ago called “Tools for the Highly Sensitive Mother,” and then I fell out of my chair laughing because I don’t work in tools, except by accident. I work instead by gusts and intuition. I’m an emotional MacGyver, feeling my way through motherhood and wifery like a sonar bat. If you title your blog post “Ten Ways to Blahbitty Blah,” I promise I’ll be blind to it. Those lists run through me like water through a colander with holes too big to catch a thought.
I can give you amazing advise all day long, but the truth is that I never followed it myself – not on purpose anyway. This isn’t to say I don’t have tools, but this is to say that these tools never seem to be in my belt when I need them … until now.
Allow me to set the scene:
Imagine a mother. Put an apron on her and then you can call her wise, because without the apron, she ruins every stitch of cloth within a grabbable distance. Imagine she works by feel, by suds through the gloves, and by smell of the lilac. She’s one who sings lists and cries when she thinks of other mothers. What are they going through, she worries. I magine how she bought beautiful little chicks and held their fuzz to her cheeks. Imagine in one room the smell of chickens and the socks of four little boys, plus the socks of one very manly man. Imagine her in a whip, chunking the brooder box of chickens and nearly all the laundry into the garage for the overwhelming smell.
Think of the noise. There’s no way to explain the rattle of a potty-training three year old, begging for chocolate milk. He’s said “chocolate milk” 500 times in a row, and he has poop in his underwear, but the mother can’t find the 7 year old. She’s yelling his name, but he’s is 40 feet up in a tree and can’t hear her. The 8 year old and the 10 year old are brooding worse than chicks. Who’s the fastest? They need to settle this right now, and they’re hollering: he thinks he’s better! Imagine all that in a 1400 square foot house without a dishwasher.
Hear the dog barking and see the muddy floor. Who brought this mud in here?! Aww dang it; it was the mother, always feelings, hollering, sweeping, and holding it together.
This is my beautiful life, and I am not complaining. Sometimes I have 8 arms, and sometimes my arms are tied behind my back. Sometimes my senses tell me I’m alive, and other times my senses receive information like live wires, ungrounded. The sound of too many things at once can make me feel like I’m dying.
Often to protect myself, I go dark. The world spins its chaos, and I hit reverse. I walk backward out of rooms and voices back mask. I don’t understand. I sit in the floor of my bathroom and cover my ears. Sometimes I eat bags of chips in my closet. I wish I were just trying to be funny.
Some of my friends handle the chaos by knitting up a storm. Everything’s gone to crap, but they have their needles. Just look down, sister. I know it’s summer, but knit that 40 yard scarf. I feel you.
If any of this makes sense to you, keep reading, because as I find a tool here and there, I plan to write about it, so you won’t feel so alone – or at least so you can be thankful you aren’t as bonkers as I am.
Tools #1 and #2
Yesterday I went to the plant store for more flowers, because I am taking flowers these days instead of antidepressants. I only had five minutes to throw the lovliest things I saw into a buggy (a buggy is what people mean when they say grocery cart), and all the while I was coercing my three year to follow me and not rip the pretty little heads off everything he saw.
We were down the hill from the small building with the checkout desk, but we should have been loading back into our van already. I told Titus to hop on the cart as I ran toward the top of the hill. He jumped off as we ran in the building to complete our purchase. I was saying, “Hurry! Hurry! Titus, we only have two minutes before we pick up your brothers!”
But as we entered the building, there was a shift, something amazing. It must be how Dorothy felt when she first stepped into Oz or how Lucy felt when she popped out the back of the wardrobe. I walked into the small building lined with beautiful ceramics, planting gloves, and yard ornaments, and the entire room dangled with chimes. On every side of me, chimes nudged in every gentle direction, and time disappeared as the rings wooed me. I just stood there and let my breath suspend. I wasn’t pulled anywhere. My schedule shut up a minute. The world was beautiful. It was the sound of being old and calm in a bee-drunk yard. It was the sound of my children living on and fine without me. It was the sound of moving with the wind.
I turned slow circles there. I lifted my arms above my head and touched them all. I heard the different notes from different lengths and shapes.
This is a tool, I told myself – We’ll let it be my Mother’s Day gift. So I bought one and didn’t even notice the Irish Blessing engraved at the bottom.
Do I feel overwhelmed right now, you ask?
Again, let me pick myself up off hysteria’s floor and tell you all about it just as soon as I can figure out a few more tools. I’d like to come here with more to offer than this, but it’s all I have for today.
Buy a wind chime. Buy one and stick a straight-back beneath it. Tomorrow, right when it’s finished raining, get your kitchen towel and dry the chair off. Sit down in it and close your eyes.
A chime and a chair. A mother always needs to sit and listen to the sky.