I don’t know about you, but I am still recuperating from the winter holiday flurry. While there aren’t snow flurries where I live, I have mental flurries throughout “the season”. And, by the way, I consider the holiday season to be from Halloween (still feeling guilty I didn’t get out the Halloween decorations this year) to Valentine’s Day.
Whether, like me, you travelled over the November or December holidays, or you stayed home and hosted or you were home alone, there seems to be a cultural imperative in the U.S. to somehow create a special feeling of warmth and familial bliss over this time. Think of the tremendous effort we all put forth to set aside our challenges and focus on making everything “just right” for our family rituals. Is it worth it or is it all an illusion?
It is not an illusion. Making a conscious effort to focus on gratitude and generosity is magical. In my family, we pay special attention to the darkening days and lengthening nights until at last, Winter Solstice turns it around, and we celebrate the return of the light that most religions celebrate with ritual. As I mentioned in my December letter, and in my HSP Holiday Survival Guide webinar, we are meant to focus more inwardly during the winter months, our ancestors had no choice but to quiet their lives when 12 hours were in relative darkness (pre-electricity). Well, January is that time for me. I push myself out, out, out into the world at the end of the year, and as a result, I feel the need to be in. Do you?
In January, I found myself having an “Introvert Backlash” after all the extending. I lived my life and worked and took care of basic business, but I couldn’t do more. My solutions included more sleep, more fiction, more meditation, more breathing, more time in nature. Am I fixed? No. Like my website and this letter and my marriage, I’m a work in progress. It’s hard for some of us to show up as less than perfect. I’m practicing and I hope to practice with you.
As an introvert HSP, traveling and extending myself toward others, while fun and heart-warming at times, can sure exhaust me. Then comes New Year’s and the idea of the resolution. Re-solution (solution), resolve, re-solve (solve), resolute…am I resolute? Or, as I asked my HSTeen therapy group, “What makes you resolute? Are you resolute about something?”
If a resolution is about re-finding a SOLUTION, what do you need to solve? I call these quandaries we need to solve The Hard Things™. Okay, I know that isn’t especially new or creative, but I’m a straight shooter, and hey, if something is hard, that’s all it is, hard. So, what is your solution to your Hard Thing? I know most of us have more than one, but as they say in the 12-Step programs, “One Hard Thing at a time.” Well, they actually say, “One day at a time,” but we can also say, “One minute at a time,” or “One Hard Thing at a time.” So…what is your way to solve that Hard Thing? What is your solution?
We HSPs tend to have a list of Hard Things. Is it because life is harder for us? Or are we somehow flawed, and thus life isn’t easy? No, actually, we are not flawed…sometimes life feels hard because we are soooo aware and then we process soooo deeply.
Our trait gives us strong emotions and empathy so our brains can handle all that awareness and thinking. One of my solutions is to soften my chest, open my heart, and LOVE my Hard Things, I mean really love them, consciously and with TLC. Stress, anxiety, grief, trauma, sorrow, disappointments, finances, overwhelm, I could go on, but you know, these things are a part of life, as are the people, events, and things that are mixed up in them. Trying to live the best life means, for me, stepping into these Hard Things and opening myself to them, allowing their existence, loving them and myself through them. How do you manage your Hard Things? Keeping them locked up in Harry Potter’s cupboard doesn’t actually hide them. Rather, it gives them the opportunity to build up energy and grow without a resolution.
Now, for many of us, The Hard Things can feel like too much to think about, much less love. I say to you that I understand. And, I feel VERY STRONGLY that the vast majority of HSPs will benefit from some skilled counseling or therapy to help them manage their “magic”—Look, Harry Potter was a hot mess until he got some control over his magic. You, too, have magic. But, like Harry, you might need an entire school full of experts to help you manage yours. I am honored to be on your school faculty. Who else is on staff for you? Do you have a spiritual or religious teacher? Maybe you did but haven’t been in contact for a while.—Call them. How can I support you?
Do you read and listen to spiritual teachers? One of mine is the ever funny, practical, and insightful Pema Chodron (quote below). While I gain a lot from the podcasts, books, and talks of spiritual teachers, they aren’t enough. I need to go on retreat, have a therapist, get coaching, meet with my mentors, and practice meditation in order to integrate and manage the dance between healing/growth and The Hard Things. If you have a religious practice or used to, I encourage you to revisit it and re-connect. If you have a history of trauma or your childhood wasn’t as supportive and loving as you probably needed, you need to heal now, and therapy is a great way to do so. (Come onto my Q&A calls and ask me about finding a therapist if you are struggling with this.)
Solutions! We have so many, but one of my favorite quotes is this. “When it’s hard, it’s hard.” These profound words come from Yours Truly, me. What I mean is that when we are struggling or stressed or sad or overwhelmed, it’s hard to remember to use our tools. In a fit of anxiety and stress about your children or spouse or work, or in a panic about the things you should be doing, or when you are completely overstimulated by recent life events, or the news…in all these moments, when you most need to self-sooth and use your tools, is when it is the hardest to do so. THIS IS WHY WE HAVE TO PRACTICE.
Practice your tools when things are easy. If they rarely feel easy, practice in that one minute when you CAN breathe. In fact, breathing is a great tool. Take three right now. Extra credit if you close your eyes. I promise it won’t make you late to take three breaths… See, I feel a little better already. Of course, my mind goes to, “Well, Alane, you should do it for 20 minutes. Imagine how much better you would feel!” STOP. Just do what you can do in this minute. That is why we need faculty to train us, and I am here to help.
Don’t Be Predictable by Pema Chodron
We are 100 percent predictable in that if we don’t like something we’ll run the other way, and if we do like it we’ll spend quite a lot of time and effort trying to somehow eat it whole. If someone does something nice for you, you always remember it and you want to repay their kindness. But if somebody hurts you, you remember it for the rest of your life and you always want to get revenge in one way or another. That’s the meaning of this slogan “Don’t be so predictable.” Don’t always react so predictably to pleasure and pain. Don’t keep taking the wrong medicine for the illness. Pema Chodron from Start Where You Are, A Guide to Compassionate Living.