A newsletter from Jacquelyn Strickland |
March 2004 Vol. 1 Issue 1
Notes from the Fall 2003 East Coast Gathering
By Charles Gulotta, Prince Edward, Canada
It was my first HSP gathering, and I didn't know
what to expect. I didn't completely want to be there. I didn't
even know why it was called a gathering. HSPs don't meet, apparently,
they gather. What are we, dust?
Then one of the first discussions was about coming out. "Have
you come out yet? Who came out in the last five years? The last
two years?" I hadn't been there three hours and I was already
getting nervous. Come out? I thought about my neighbors. This
is what I need, more blank stares? More people walking away
shaking their heads? What's the point of trying to explain something
to someone who isn't going to know what I'm talking about, and
worse, isn't going to care? I decided that maybe I could learn
to like myself more, but I was staying in.
There were twenty-four of us. We sat at long brown tables arranged
in a big rectangle. And we talked. We talked about how the world
made life hard for HSPs, and the things that would make it easier.
We talked about relationships - wives, husbands, parents, children.
We talked about what makes someone a highly sensitive person
in the first place, how many of us there are, and the value
of contact among us. We talked about the rules at our gathering
place, the food, the lighting, the heat, the cold, the rain,
the bathrooms, the beds, the chairs. We discussed noise levels,
blood sugar levels, and energy levels. We listened as individuals
tearfully described the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job,
or just feeling lost in general. We agreed that we had to take
care of our own needs, set boundaries, respect ourselves. It
was exhausting. And exhilarating.
Every time I spoke, I noticed something unusual about the others
in the group: they were listening. No one was rude, no one ridiculed,
no one condemned. It was safe. When I left the room for a break,
I didn't wonder if the others were talking about me or laughing
behind my back. When I returned, I had that feeling you get
when you've been trying on new clothes for a while, and then
you put your old things back on. Comfortable. Free of resistance.
Strangely familiar. There was a gentleness in that room I had
never experienced before. I tried to soak in as much as possible.
I tried to inhale these people, their kindness. I needed to
fill my lungs with them, because I knew when I went back to
my life, I'd be holding my breath a lot.
The physical setting for the gathering was less than nurturing.
The staff seemed, especially to HSPs, somewhat cold, rigid,
and uncaring. We sensed that we were in their way. And maybe
we were. But that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. It would have
been fine to find ourselves sealed in a loving, supportive cocoon,
where we could have roamed blissfully in our safe little world.
But I think maybe we learned more in that environment of harsh
reality. We got to see the sharp divide between highly-sensitive
and not. It was like on-the-job training. Frustrating, but valuable.
During the closing hours of the gathering, we talked about what
we had accomplished, and what we'd be taking home with us. I
began the process of reapplying my armor. I would use what I
had learned to protect myself. I would take these wonderful
souls with me, and they would keep me company and help motivate
me during difficult times. I would go back and stop hiding behind
loneliness and sadness. I would hold on to these feelings of
connection, secure in the knowledge that, although these new
friends wouldn't be sitting with me around that rectangle, they
were out there somewhere.
We had met on a Thursday afternoon. Seventy-two hours later,
we were hugging through long goodbyes. We had assembled in that
room, most of us, as total strangers. Yet somehow we knew each
other well enough to avoid the usual posturing that accompanies
initial encounters. We didn't need to put on an act. We settled
in easily, a natural lending of individuality and togetherness.
The cocoon was there after all, but it had less to do with what
any of us said or did; it was just about being.
And that's when it hit me. Coming out isn't about announcements.
It doesn't mean you run around, flapping your wings and saying,
"I'm an HSP! I'm an HSP!" In fact, it doesn't have to involve
words at all. Coming out simply means being who you are, no
matter the circumstances, and no matter who else is around.
I guess I had come out a long time ago. The gathering helped
me understand that, gave me unexpected insights about it, and
brought me a large measure of peace. Because now I know I'm
not out here alone.
Prince Edward Island, Canada
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