I discovered yesterday that my sensitivity to spoken words is a weakness, a fault, and a chip on my shoulder.
Admittedly, I’m a sensitive person. I can cry watching car commercials. Tears flood my eyes when I watch adorable pet videos on You Tube. A beautifully worded poem will cost my box of tissue about 10 tissues. When a soulful guitar solo wafts towards my ears, the whites of my eyes turn red and I sniffle through the song. Yes, I’m a sensitive person.
Words can really scratch or pet my sensitivity. This week, from out of nowhere, following a plugged garbage disposal, harsh words spat through another person’s lips directly into my face. It was as if all the garbage this person felt toward me churned thru this person’s internal grinder, filled his/her mouth, then shot at me like the wailing garbage disposal back-spewing the potato peels I sent its way just moments earlier.
“I told you not to put those peels in there!” this person fumed.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you say that, or I would have sent them to the trash bin,” I returned.
“Of course you didn’t hear me! You were talking and not listening,” shot the second accusation.
“Yes, we were talking about the news while I peeled the potatoes. Anyway, I’m sorry if I didn’t hear you. Let me see what I can do to fix it,” I suggested, while feeling my own anger begin to swell knowing that I was never told that this garbage disposal was useless.
“Just get out of my way. You can’t fix it. I’m going to have to call a plumber now,” this person continued, and then turned to me and said, “Charmaine, someday you might just learn to listen.”
Frankly, this insulted me not by the accusation but by the tone of voice which was meant to be demeaning—as if I were some sort of idiot. Never mind that I was preparing a meal for this person who is somewhat incapacitated and rarely has home cooked feasts—especially near the holidays. It also hurt my feelings. My sensitive side took offense. I shot back, “I’m sorry. Maybe I should cook from cans more often.”
This aggravated the scene of pissed-over-plugged-garbage-disposal.
My accuser tossed another nasty comment back at me, and then I excused myself mumbling, “I’m outta here.” I didn’t want to fight over something that seemed silly to me. Heck, I’m always messing up things in the kitchen—but, I rarely cook with predigested food—so stuff’s going to happen. It’s an assumed job hazard.
I went to my car and prepared it to take me far, far away from this ugly. But as I calmed down, I decided to apologize and explain why I shot back at this person who was clearly angry as hell with me.
“I just want to offer you my apologies for snapping back at you. It was inappropriate,” I began.
“If you would shut up once in a while and would have listened to me, I wouldn’t have a plugged sink,” sneered this person with a now-twisted and red face.
My thought was to explain why I took offense and that’s when I said that I’m sensitive to other people’s words and that I have been all of my life for a variety of reasons—mostly from many, many years of verbal abuse I received as a child.
“I don’t want to hear your sob story. Gee, you’re sensitive, so what? It’s time you learn to shut up, grow up, and listen to others once in a while.”
We call this hitting a brick wall, I believe. Well, I didn’t shut up. I kept trying to explain myself until I hit the bricks in this metaphorical wall towered over my head. I already had one black eye from tripping in my garden a few days earlier, and I surely did not want another one from pounding my head against the clay and concrete barricade. My final words were, “The potatoes will be done in about 15 minutes, the meat has about another 45 minutes, the cranberries are in your refrigerator, and have a nice meal.” And off I drove into the desert night. I didn’t cry. I freed myself from being told to shut up and ridiculed for my sensitivity.
I love my sensitivity. It is one element that fuels my inner artist. Without it I fear I’d lack passion, imagination, compassion, insight, and the soul it takes to craft words, music, food, and family. My sensitivity helped me create my masterpiece—my two daughters. So no apologies for my easily bruised thin-skin.
It took several brick wall collisions, a half-dozen face in the gutter plants, a year of no eyelashes, losing the ability to digest food for a while, and a bout with breast cancer for me to accept that this receptive side of me is a good thing, and a thing so good that I had to learn how to embrace it and call it my own.
While driving through the desert night I thought of the people I know—about 80% are artists of one fashion or the other. Some are near-famous and others keep their equally remarkable talents at home. I know they are sensitive—it’s why they create. Their passion burns as does mine. And that is not a weakness, a fault or a chip on one’s shoulder. It’s a blessing.