Introvert / HSP

The strength in our differentness.

Did you know that the kinds of life that flourish in ecotones (narrow Places on the edges where different ecosystems meet) are often unique to that small space?

The denizens tend to be flexible, hardy, innovative, and especially resilient because they have adapted to thrive in the borderlands between different environments. 

Being highly sensitive, multipotentialed, body-wise, womxn of deepening years, these are all traits that place us firmly on the edges of what society names "normal." As womxn with these traits, we spend most of our lives in social and cultural ecotones. 

We are different. I love that about us.

We're good at adaptability, innovation, flexibility... It is the water we've been swimming in, after all. 

For example, I'm a poet and a mentor for womxn of deepening years. And, yes, they're linked. 

Becoming a poet is an ecotone adaptation to the rigid, linear, thought-only based approach shoveled into my child mind in early life.

Rigid, linear, thought-only ... I am none of those things. I sense. I feel. I think holistically. In spirals and spheres and fractal systems.

Writing poetry lets me circumvent acculturated behaviors and invite in my sensitive, body-wise, multipotentialed ways of knowing.

It helps me stand in the strength of my differentness, and hold fertile space for other womxn of difference as they discover their own adaptive, innovative strengths. 

And that, my amazing friend, is how mentoring and poetry are linked.

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Why is this important?

Because you may have something similar happening. A creative adaptation that seems unrelated to your work or to what you’re trying to create in your life, yet may be one of the best tools to help you stand in the strength of your differentness.

It would be good to know what that/those is/are, right? It would be good to understand how interwoven your interests and explorations are so you understand how they weave webs of knowledge, support, perhaps even healing for you.

So, maybe take a moment and think about it...

Was that an "Ah-ha!" I heard? (With any luck, we’re both wearing cheeky grins right now.)

Understanding what I need to stay vibrant

Today, I find myself using my oh-so-vivid imagination, hovering high above the terrain of my life looking into and across the threads of events over the last six-ish months. The view is .... well ... very instructive.

It's an exercise inspired by a wise woman friend who invited me to do the same with the physical terrain of this ecosystem where I live, so I could better understand this land and her needs.  

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Understanding what I need - what this crone-woman body/soul needs to stay vibrant and vital - feels urgent.

As if the promise I made to Life to place thoughtful, heart-kernel, bone-truth words into the hands/hearts of the world will go unfulfilled if I don't get better at spotting patterns, nourishing myself, and defending my time, space and energy. 

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From this hawks-eye perspective it's so clear that the events/times/moments where I have been connected with truth, willing to see and listen deeply, are as solid as stepping stones.

When I lose track of the pattern-making threads - usually because I've let go of the willingness to see clearly and listen from my bones - that's what causes ruptures in my truth/clarity continuity.

That's when I see myself tumbling in murky water at the mercy of "should" and "must" and assorted other absurd external or internal expectation currents.

That's when nature-informed, flight-borne, rebel crone words come second or fifth or twenty-seventh to everything else.

That's when my joints hurt and I stop sleeping and I crave sugar and I stop moving from joy and start moving from restless emptiness and ache.  

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What I'm realizing from my cloud's-eye perspective -- discerning patterns is where our crone years truly shine as a gift. We've lived a lot of life. Had the chance to see those longest threads used by nature weaving. Watched as they appear again and again. Noticed patterns, even if we didn't know we were noticing.

As introverted women, we've likely spent time in solitude with what we've noticed, integrating it into our worldview. Making new, more thoughtful meaning with it. 

As highly sensitive women, we've not only been observing and integrating events, we've also been picking up subtle, non-verbal information and processing all of that deeply. As Elaine Aron says about how we make decisions, "HSPs simply process everything more, relating and comparing what they notice to their past experience with other similar things. When we decide without knowing how we came to that decision, we call this intuition, and HSPs have good (but not infallible!) intuition." 

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As sensitive, introverted, crone-women, we've essentially spent our lives honing our pattern recognition and intuition, whether or not we realize it. Using these skills, we're resourced to choose for ourselves and be decisive in implementing those choices. So, the best ways to nourish ourselves, creating boundaries, initiating creative habits....these move from "wouldn't it be nice" wishes to doable practices.

Being body-wise

I believe being body-wise is a state of being anyone - HSP or not - can cultivate.

Most importantly, it's a state of being, like being highly sensitive, that can feel both deeply beautiful, and deeply vulnerable. 

The beauty...

Those days when I'm holding space for a client or class (this works virtually and in person) and I feel like a tuning fork ringing my unique tone ... alternately leading, following and harmonizing with the other tone(s) in the room ... creating a symphony of insights and shifting perspectives. 

The vulnerability...

The days when I feel as if the world is ringing my body like a giant cathedral bell, knocking me off center, leaving me wobbling and swaying along a path of someone else's making. And that’s so disconcerting…

A body-wise womxn knows how best to support herself because she feels it in her bones.

  • But, what if the world is so loud you can't hear your bones?

  • Or what if you're sick, or overstretched, or overwhelmed? 

  • What if you wake up and realize you're wobbling along a path not yours?

Nature, once again, is solace and companion.

Anchoring our tuning fork bodies into an earthy port opens space for being and belonging. For knowing we are innately interwoven with our ecosystem, part of a planetary system of support, never alone with the intensity of how we perceive.

And, once anchored, we are more resilient. More resilience means more experiences of body-wise beauty.

Being HSP

I recently sat in a room with 25 women who identified as HSP. It felt extraordinary. Literally, outside the ordinary. 

Only 20% of the population carries the trait of high sensitivity. I was sitting in a room full of women of difference. 

Each woman carried in her own experience of living with high sensitivity. Experiences covering territory from enjoyment and appreciation to extreme discomfort. 

As I listened to the stories of discomfort, I felt an echoing tremor in my bones.

Sensory Processing Sensitivity is a complex gift to live with. 

On one hand, we experience beauty intensely. In our marrow intensely. It can be breathtaking. We are also uniquely tuned to be exceptional leaders and changemakers. The world needs this aspect of our trait so much at this point in history.

On the other hand, in certain situations we can feel like our nerve endings are being sandpapered. Like there's nowhere we can find relief. Exhausted and utterly out of place. The discomfort is visceral. Sometimes relentless. 

Eighty percent of the world doesn't get the experiences we have. It's not malicious. They literally cannot understand what we are feeling, sensing, or experiencing. Frankly, we weird them out a bit.

So, to participate in our families, workplaces, and communities we're put in the position of choosing to do the emotional labor of educating skeptical people, or hiding our perceptions, squelching our insights, and trying to fit in. 

Community where we are seen - like the room full of 25 women - becomes essential. In community, with support, we can discover ways to resource ourselves and develop greater resilience. 

And, remember, community doesn't just mean human community. HSP's are especially responsive to time spent with more-than-human community. So, hug a tree. For real. And find some women of difference to spend time with. 

Take up space ... please!

I'm slowly reading - or maybe experiencing is a better word -  Margaret J. Wheatley's book "Who Do We Choose To Be?"  It's one of those books that offers unglazed reality so wisely, with such compassion, that I cannot rush through, nor can I stop. I keep going back to read bits over and let them sink deeper into my body. 

The words are jiggling loose unconscious assumptions - the kind that have been keeping my choices small and meek. Cracking my little bubble world more and more open. Holding up uncomfortable truth with such clarity I find myself drawing closer, rather than turning away. 

Her subtitle really gets to the heart of what she explores in this work, "Facing Reality. Claiming Leadership. Restoring Sanity."

The world has been feeling like a pretty intense and insane place lately.

That's why I'm asking ... encouraging ... imploring you, body-wise, highly sensitive, multipotentialed folks to take up space. 

Let me explain...

The more intense the world feels, the more likely we are to retreat - anemone-like - into ourselves. Staying present feels hard. Taking up more space than usual - harder. It seems to be the opposite of what feels safe and looks sensible. 

Yet, our ability to sense underlying emotions, to observe and absorb information others are not seeing, to deeply process and integrate all that input and see long-range possible outcomes not obvious to 80% of the world -- that's the role we play for our species. That's what we're wired to do. 

So especially now, when western cultures are locked into extremes of behavior and beliefs, retreating into lizard-brained survival mode, now is when our trait is deeply needed. When our leadership is deeply needed. 

Taking up space becomes both revolutionary and evolutionary. Literally evolutionary, in the biologic sense.

Janine Benyus said, "Life creates circumstances conducive to life." Ecosystems - and human communities are absolutely ecosystems - respond to threats to life by evolving new resiliency strategies...by foregrounding the members who enhance life-affirming acts. When we take up space, we're creating circumstances conducive to life.

We love, we empathize, we feel what’s happening to our communities in our marrow. AND…we are uniquely qualified to midwife small, local changes that will make a difference.

We do it every day when we use the gift of our differentness in our practices, easing people who are suffering. 

"So much is possible if we consciously and wisely choose how best to step forward as leaders for this time." M. Wheatley

(If you find taking up space daunting, let’s have a (free, no pressure) tea….)

Finding belonging off the beaten path

Wherever I am, whether it's a shopping mall or a local park, I notice how I look for places where people are not, and go there. How often I am literally off the beaten path. How I simply have to be in the places that other people don't go.

Today, I am on a muddy trail running through underbrush full of new young poison ivy. Five yards to my right I can see a nicely paved trail. But, not two yards to my left the broad creek is murmuring. A pair of Mallards are floating past, chuckling softly to themselves. And I can see, through the sparkle of sun on water, algae-furred rounded stones lying on the muddy bottom.

Yesterday, I almost lost a shoe in that mud's cousin out here on the bank. And it didn't matter. Because the experience of the creek from here is magnificent. The experience of the creek from here reminds me that I'm alive.

There is such infinite peace here. My edges soften and blur and take on the contours of tree and stone and murmuring water. I am, simply, home.

This desire to be off the beaten path…

…rises from so many parts of me. Rises from my multipotentialed curiosity, from my highly sensitive self needing the space and the ease of natural spaces to recover, from my introverted self for the same reasons, and for my Crone-woman self.

The more years I spend on this Earth the more aware I become of how essential these spaces and experiences are to reminding me of why I'm here.

I am a being of experience and senses. For me in particular, translating those experiences into words and sharing them…

that's part of why I'm here.

I'm rambling on muddy trails so other people will be inspired to do the same. I'm laughing about almost losing shoes in the mud, so other people will laugh about muddy near misses, too. And so people will fall in love with this place, with this Earth. Perhaps we can rediscover our sense of belonging, and work to ensure that all species, including humans, thrive.

But it's not just to be in service to the Earth that I am here off these beaten trails…

It's also to be in service to women like me.

Women who have walked so much of their lives feeling like they were skirting around the edges. Like they didn't belong. Like they didn't quite fit.

When I wander a new trail, even if it's only new to me, and share that experience, I like to think that it inspires women like me to do the same. And when I share how these out-of-the-way places, these trails that are often unpeopled, help me to find a deep sense of belonging, then my hope is that women like me - women like us - will recover their belonging and start to share their own off the beaten trail experiences.

But it's also about courage. It's also about developing our capacity to navigate unknown terrain despite being scared, or worried, or anxious. Unknown external terrain and unknown internal terrain.

Because, if we're being ourselves, if we're following the urge that takes us to these off the beaten path places, there's a lot of unknown terrain to navigate.

Can you imagine how much richer our culture would be if women like us shared our experiences rather than discounting them?

Terrified and hopeful

Recently, driven by a restless yearning for thinking of substance and concern for the future of this country I call home, I've been drinking in great gulps of Terry Tempest Williams' "The Open Space of Democracy."

It started because I’ve been trying to stay present and engaged in the events of this world and that’s tumbled me like a river stone and deposited me into a space both terrified and hopeful. I’m qware of systems - natural, social, and political - collapsing. I can smell the salty tang of evolution in the wind.

My wild she-who-remembers-her-interconnectedness self understands what’s happening. My indoctrinated-in-separateness human self wants to panic.

When I take several steps back and look from the outside, this divisive and chaotic mess looks like the decay it is. In our collective ecosystem, diseased old trees are beginning to fall. Space in the canopy is being cleared for sunlight to reach through. Soil is being made. Fertile places are being prepared for new systems to set their roots. It’s death so rebirth can happen.

Seen through the eyes of one fragile human who depends - or thinks she depends - on the collapsing systems for survival, it's hard to remember this. Hopelessness and apathy stalk me, snarling softly.

So I turn to the words of one who has walked this trail before me, finding both solace and warning.

"Expect anything.
Patience is more powerful than anger. Humor is more attractive than fear.
Pay attention. Listen. We are most alive when discovering.
Humility is the capacity to see.
Suffering comes, we do not have to create it,
We are meant to live simply.
We are meant to be joyful.
Life continues with and without us.
Beauty is another word for God."
- Terry Tempest Williams "The Open Space of Democracy"

Image credit: Unsplash


Applying nature’s wisdom to social change work

Applying nature’s wisdom to social change work

I have these groovy cards (kinda like flashcards) from Toby Lynn Herzlich of Biomimicry for Social Innovation.

They talk about applying nature’s wisdom to our social change work.

To restructuring leadership and organizations as living systems so they are more effective.

To making organizations function as living systems based on the principles of life so they are creating conditions conducive to life for all life. Human, more-than-human. All of us.

In the borderlands among aging and body-wisdom

In the borderlands among aging and body-wisdom

I’d recently finished a really big project for my business. Always an energy expensive thing to do, I was expecting to need a bit of extra restorative time. Some deeper self-care.

But when I landed on the other side of the project, I found myself not only deeply tired, but also feeling like the fire in my belly that’s always been my guide had burnt itself out.

And that was disconcerting. Very disconcerting.