I was all dressed up for the occasion – my baby sister’s birthday. My hair is normally waist-long, red and curly with bangs. This Sunday night I had managed to make it all sleek in a tight bun right on top of my head. Felling kind of great and actually a bit sassy too. Accompanied by Beyoncé (the old stuff that makes me sooo nostalgic), I had delicately and, may I say so myself, successfully contrasted my blue eyes with a rusty red-ish shade applied on my eyelids. I have really had these great self-care moments lately, just concentrating and being happy applying a freaking eye shadow. No shame in that! Well, I was feeling fresh and all lit up from spending a day alone in my own bubble – I just LOVE my alone time, I really thrive on it. However, energy levels were up and apart from the physical pampering, I also felt mentally ready to be conversational, happy and I felt in a light mood. A state of mind that is not a given, but I’m doing my best to find peace with being who and how I am – practicing gratitude and acceptance. Whatever that means. BUT. At least I’m trying to figure that out.
The second we arrived at my sister’s and stepped inside – after having exchanged the initial hugs and “hello’s” in a voice a little too pitchy – I felt the mood within me changing. Shit. Her hug was weird and non-welcomingly cold. It really looked like she hugged the others much more tightly and authentically. (By the way “she” is not my baby sis, but dad’s wife through 15 years). Was I the only one sensing a phony tone in her voice towards me? But it was of course subtle enough for her notto risk being accused of anything. Big breaths! Like in yoga. I’m sure it’s nothing. At least Ican behave impeccably and make sure to create a feel-good atmosphere – for the sake of my sister’s celebration. Looking back I can see that it already went south right there. My spirit and light mood was already somewhat broken and I felt the self-doubt and uncomfortable tight stomach creeping in on me.
The night went by; drinks, snacks, dinner and dessert (Gateau Marcel <3). I had spent all the time I could washing dishes, avoiding too much sitting conversation. 'Cause being only a party of seven, it’s a bit noticeable just sitting there, looking blank with the mouth shut closed. And being close to her energy really upset me. Helping in the kitchen is my all time go-to party saver when in “the gloomy mood”. That and the toilet. I don’t know why but in those kinds of dinner situations I often just cannot muster participating in conversations which direction you can predict 10 steps ahead. And this was unfortunately the case this evening. Again breathe. (Okay, that is not true, I doknow why I can’t handle it: It’s because it feels like meaningless conversation, superficial, cliché-filled and I’m not sure anybody’s reallyenjoying themselves). But who am I to sit there silently and judge? It’s not like I was doing my part to change it for the better. But I could just feel her energy towards me – cold and negative and it kills me! I hate being some kind of cause of conflict. I really just want to get along.
So I just sit there. At the end of the table, no more dishes to do, watching everybody work hard to keep up a somewhat conversational flow. Get a grip, come on!I take a breath, smile and say to dad and his wife that I would love to come visit in the spring, when it suits them of course. She looks at me, no mimic – no polite smile. Just stating that of course I cannot come visit when they have plans, not in any ways reciprocating my attempt to join in with a polite, lovely comment. My heart just dropped. I know it’s such a small interaction but it supported the exact fear I had: She just really does not like me, I know it. I feel it in my gut. Every since our family summer vacating she has been cold to me.
The reason why? One night on the vacation I was having a kind of anxiety attack while approximately 100 eyes stared at me at a restaurant because it was mybirthday and the staff wanted to sing for me (panic!). She had not asked the staff – when they told her they would bring the cake and song – to please not to give me any attention, even though I had really tried, firmly but lovingly, to set a clear boundary: Please, no birthday attention, I’m serious! And – all while I was fighting the tears and flight-anxiety in the middle of the attention hurricane, forcing a somewhat defeated smile onto my lips to not look like a complete brat to the nice, singing staff – she said loudly: “That wasn’t that bad, RIGHT?” Right there I just was not in a state to answer her politely, or to answer at all. I just looked at her, like “Really?” with tears and concentration in my face. Waiting for the really uncomfortable moment to pass, with anxiety running all through my body, I could see in my other family member's face that they felt really bad that nobody had stopped all of this from happening, but here we were. The quickest and least dramatic way was to just concentrate on not panicking, hyperventilating and crying right in front on an entire restaurant. But she stormed away, insulted that I did not answer her or applaud the attention.
This is almost two months ago now. Every single time I see her, I think she has forgotten and softened a bit. And she is really sweet to everybody else – she loves my friends too. That she doesn’t hide.
In those specific situations, being a highly sensitive and really introverted person as me, I struggle not being misread as either arrogant, a brat or something worse. With my sensitivity and introversion follows that I’m a really bad small talker, I hate conflict and I can feel when something is off in a room of people. And I really do not like feeling trapped in a specific situation I did not chose myself.
And after a night of picking up every little bad vibe being sent my way this particular Sunday night, I’m just ready to cry – and I’m almost 30... I guess I shouldn’t cry over that. Anyone else rarely notices the subtle things that can take my mood from light to dark. And that is another issue with sensitivity: What I perceive and experience during this “lovely” Sunday dinner, other people often do not even see – double up on feeling alone and like a misfit freak!
I know for a fact that she thinks me being sensory and socially sensitive (ALWAYS sleeping with earplugs, being really stressed out by loud noises, tiring quickly from being social, feeling every emotion and other peoples moods really deeply) is just too much. Tooall the things. Too sensitive, fragile.Not strong and cocksure enough. The culture’s prejudice against sensitivity is, I think, pretty established. But the everyday, more or less small, social situations where I just feel so wrong can be really hard to handle.
Everybody has had a great time at my sister’s birthday – me, I’m crying on the way home. How to explain it, or talk about it? Well, she didn’t hug me as hard as the others, she didn’t speak that kindly to me, I just felt the cold vibes. Duh? That story feels like it doesn’t give me “permission” to cry on the way home – it’s just too much of a reaction for that little a thing.
People often try to rationalize everything: “I’m sure she didn’t mean anything. She is waaaaay past that incident this summer. Are you sure it’s not just you who are being TOO SENSITIVE?”
I’m so freaking sensitive– in all kinds of respects. I’ve actually planned my entire life around my sensitivity, and that is a good thing. But I’m not TOO anything. I’m just the right amount. I’m just highlysensitive – or, you could say: highly perceptive. And that is not always such a bad thing to be. Even though it is like swimming against the cultural current a lot of the time. And even though you sometimes just want a lovely, cry-free evening celebrating your baby sister’s birthday.
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