Thursday, November 28, 2013

C'mon God ... Did I have to be an Introvert and a "Highly Sensitive Human Being," Too?

 
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
 
Many great souls have said there are no mistakes in life; that everything happens for a positive reason. So, help me understand, God.  Why did I receive the Double Whammy of being both an intensely shy flower who felt threatened by attention – good or bad – and, at the same time, one of those people constantly wounded by the huge boulders of life casually tossed around by stronger types, as if they were tiny pebbles? Wouldn't just one of these conditions be more than enough of a life-long challenge?

You may recall my mother’s stories about when I was very young and strangers came to the house.  She would have to cover my head with a blanket to quell my “screamin’- meemie fit.”  Even though I was born into a large family, I felt alone and vulnerable.

The happiest time of my young life was when we lived in a rural area and our house was surrounded by wild woods and a massive paw-paw patch.  My imagination took flight as I swung on the magical vines that hung from the magnificent stately trees, and played in the bubbling brook that was fed by an underground spring. I called it my home and the memory has never paled.
 
After we moved to the city and I started school, I lived in terror of being called upon in class despite the fact that I always knew the answer.  I soon learned to lie about the good grades on my report card because if you were too smart you were hassled.  And, yes we had school-yard bullies way back then.  I had no choice, I thought, but to start crafting a mask that would keep the real me hidden for many years of my life.

Fortunately, in fifth grade I met Mary Elizabeth, an equally bright youngster who was also an outsider, and the two of us became bosom friends.

While Mary was just like me in many ways, I realized quickly she could hold her own with the other kids. Also as the years went by, if Mary came to my house to get me, my parents never questioned what we were doing or where we went. They seemed to trust her quiet assurance.  We had bus passes and the municipal library in St. Louis, near the Soldier’s Memorial, became our home away from home.    We were each allowed only 10 books at a time on our library card, but in the summertime by the end of the week, we had read all 20 books. By the time we were starting high school we had devoured many of the classics, the selected works of Shakespeare, and a number of mysteries by Mary Roberts Rinehart. 

Mary helped me choose my first bra in the basement of Famous-Barr department store, and told me the facts of life, because my menses started at school.  She found me crying in the bathroom because I was having a hard time accepting that I was dying at such an early age.

During the summer before our sophomore year in high school, my family moved out of state, and soon thereafter Mary and her family moved to Sikeston, Mo., and we lost contact with each other for about thirty years. 

When I arrived at my new high school, I quickly realized what a boon it was to have known Mary.  As a lonely outsider once again, I just put my head down, concentrated on school, went to summer school and had enough credits to graduate in three years instead of four.  I had managed to get close to one person over the summer, Barbara Jean, and when college started she was the only person I knew. 

The junior college campus was somewhat small at that time, the sun shone 300+ days of the year and everyone seemed to be at ease with each other and happy to be alive.  I realized that I didn’t want to go through life being so out of what I thought would be a more desirable way of living.  I decided to draw on Mary’s ability to overcome her introvert-ish tendencies. I began to smile and say “hello” to everyone I passed.  It worked.  By the end of my first year, I was one of the most “popular” girls on campus, won all sorts of titles, and was elected vice president of the female student body. 

From the surface it all looked grand and wonderful, but inside I was still exactly the same, a loner, an introvert, scared of my own shadow and wanting to be the star of my life, but still suffering terribly every time I had to speak up or out.  Apparently I put on a good act. I graduated as the Most Outstanding Female Student, with a full scholarship to the local university.  Yet, Barbara Jean was my only friend and confidante throughout my college years.

The good news is that I had mastered the extrovert role enough to be able to draw on this experience when I needed it.  It would eventually play a vital part in my future.  But before we get to that, I was destined to spend another 20 years, including a marriage and motherhood, trying to balance being a highly sensitive introvert and a practicing extrovert.  The worst part was being born a Leo and wondering what was wrong with me, for at the core of my being I always felt I was meant to be a contemplative in a monastic environment.

When forced as a single mother to be the major breadwinner, I entered the corporate world as a public relations professional (what irony), and while successful, I always felt like there were rules that I never knew, and no one would tell me.  It was very stressful.  I would drive into my carport each evening and have a good cry before I could go into the house and face my children.  A male friend came by my office one day to take me to lunch.  He told me afterward that as we exited the high-rise building I became myself – and when we returned, as I stepped inside the building – I took on a robotic persona that was the norm for the corporate world at that time, but it wasn’t the real me. That comment stuck with me. 

Some years later when I founded my own public relations firm, it was stressful but I was determined to live by my rules.  I was successful because I was more facile at balancing the role of an extrovert to the degree necessary to set my clients at ease – and to spend time alone to nourish and nurture the inner me.

My writing had always been a vital part of my repertoire and had brought me a level of achievement that was comfortable for me. This ushered in an incredibly wonderful decade of my life.  I helped found and directed a holistic medical foundation which bore the name of my dear friend, life coach and mentor, Dr. Gladys T. McGarey.  I met and worked with many of the leaders of the mind-body-spirit approach to medicine, including the late Elisabeth K┼▒bler-Ross, M.D, who single-handedly elevated the way humanity thinks of death and dying. She became a dear friend as well as a mentor. 

During that decade of being with enlightened souls who were living their dreams and making a difference in the world, I discovered a new-found peace, and was empowered enough to act on my inner soul urging to turn within.

I retired in 1999, because my husband was in the last years of his final life journey.    I wanted to help us through this challenging time in the most loving and conscious way possible.   To me this meant turning within and seeking a personal spiritual relationship with God.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that committing to that relationship also meant following all the guidance I received, which I was perfectly willing to do to help my husband have a more loving and peaceful death.  Where I resisted and had a grueling emotional time was in realizing that the guidance included publishing books that chronicled my spiritual journey, and that revealed the truth of me at the core of my being. I also had a deep-seated fear of publicity tours required by publishers for commercial purposes, and thought of them as a form of crucifixion. 

Since traditional publishers would have nothing to do with someone who wouldn’t go on the road and sell their books, I knew I would have to be a d.i.y. publisher and totally trust in God. I was also told the Law of Attraction is stronger than advertising and promotion, and those seeking the books would find them.  At the time, this was equivalent to imagining a wheelbarrow on a high wire with an invisible force pushing it and, trusting enough to get in the wheelbarrow.

That’s why it took me a decade to release my latest book, “Becoming a Spiritual Warrior of the Heart,” which I did in April of this year.  I had to be able to say from the core of my being—that I seek first the Kingdom of Heaven, and completely release the book to God.  As long as I had one twinge of desire for what I wanted for the book, or held any trace of fear for what I would have to do out of my comfort zone, I wasn’t able to release it.

I had been told more than once that I would have to become the energy of the book before I could release it.  I finally understood this meant to quit focusing on trying to convince others of the truth, and to focus on becoming that truth. This meant I needed time and space to spend within, creating a closer, deeper, more constant and aware personal relationship with God.

Now I’m just beginning to see and understand that my lifelong journey/travail has been what psychologists call a redemptive life story, because I (unknowingly) accepted obstacles as an opportunity in disguise. Overcoming them to any degree is a sign of mental health and well-being.  In the process I figured out what I was to contribute to the world and got busy doing it. 

Surprise!  Being a highly sensitive introvert was perfect preparation for a contemplative life, communing with God-Nature and writing about the insights I gain to help others on their paths. Every day I give thanks for my life and for getting to do what I love, which feels like swinging on vines and landing softly in the paw-paw patch.   I get it, God.  There are no mistakes.  Thank you.

I was born an original and refuse to be a copy. 
The Real Me is priceless beyond measure.
There will never be another me.

____________________________________
Copyright © 2013 by Fern Stewart Welch
 
The author's books: “Becoming a Spiritual Warrior of the Heart," April  2013; “Tea with Elisabeth," recipient of the 2010 Silver Award for Non-fiction; "You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World," 2008; "The Heart Knows the way - How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within," 2008, are available at Amazon.com, other online booksellers, as well as bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble.