Hello little sister, you sweet, frail, and scared darling. I see you standing there so many years ago bright eyed, confused, and desperately seeking every safe harbor of approval you could find. I wish I could rescue you from yourself back then. I wish I could get down on your level and gently wrap my arm around your shoulder and whisper in your ear- “not that way. not out there. here. right here. in here.”
Around 2004, I was in the midst of an identity crisis. At 28, I struggled to untangle myself from an identity I thought I was supposed to have and, though I didn’t know it then, I was years away from living into an identity that was right for me. I’m not talking about gender identity, I’m talking about a sensitive identity and a calling to be a force of healing in the world.
And even now as an older, wiser, more empowered woman, I know that years from this moment there will be another me looking back sweetly at the version I am now wishing she could reach back and comfort the parts of me that are scared of the unknown, afraid to shine brighter than this.
In ’04 I was an un-realized highly sensitive empath who was trying very hard to fit into a fast-paced insensitive world. I was an elementary school teacher and I adored the children. But I loved them because I wanted to be them. I felt like one of them and when we were in the classroom together, just me and my students I felt good and strong, like a leader. But when an adult would enter, be it another teacher, an administrator or, God forbid a parent, I would shrink down and hope they didn’t notice me. I would try to be the most agreeable one in the room so as not to upset the authority figure.
I taught for seven years before I decided to give up the career in search of something that felt less traumatic. I was also in the midst of an identity crisis around becoming a mother. Married for two years, my husband and I were having difficulty starting our family. The combination of being in search of some unknown career and being denied the opportunity to mother led me on the deep interior journey that is often called the Dark Night of the Soul.
But little sister, I want you to know right now that you do not need to worry. You do not need to feel despair. It’s alright. Like the mystic Julian of Norwich says, “All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.” In fact, little sister, it’s all so much better than well now! I wish I could take away some of your loneliness.
You don’t even know you’re lonely. But you are. That’s your biggest ache. You’ll get there. You’ll figure that part out but it is still a few years away. I wish I could rescue you from wasting so much of your energy on the loneliness you won’t allow yourself to admit. But do not be sad sweet thing, it’s so much better than fine now. You, my dear, are one of the brightest stars in the galaxy. You are so damn strong. But you can’t see it. You don’t know how incredibly fierce you are! It will blow your mind when you realize how much is waiting for you in here, and how much relief there is when you finally figure out how to rest in who you are and trust your own knowing.
You will get there. You will find a career that makes you happy. You will eventually have that baby. You will learn that you are creative. You will learn that your beauty goes beyond your skin and that in fact, your beauty is rooted deeply in your sensitive way of being in the world. And then, oh dear one, then you will begin to wield your power.
I know that just hearing the word “wield” is scary to you right now. But it won’t always be. You do make it in the world. You do find yourself. You do own your loneliness- and you even let it guide you into realizing your husband’s diagnosis of aspergers (high functioning autism) which explains SO much. And you’ll regret not digging into that loneliness sooner. But regret is a waste of energy and by then you’ll have learned not to waste too much of your energy on things like regret and holding back.
You and Brett are fine. Don’t worry, a diagnosis does not even matter now. The label was just a gateway to help you both communicate more clearly and love each other more appropriately. And it’s not the only label that helps, either, little sister. In addition to Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism, you’ll explore labels like HSP, Empath, and ADHD. Each of them will not matter in the least except to give you new language to take your relationship deeper and open you both up to more depths of love and understanding.
And then there is your son. I won’t spoil the surprises for you. But what I want you to know, that you don’t already know is that you have not been deemed unworthy. The journey in front of you that will get you to Matthew is going to change you entirely so that by the time he is born in 2009, you’ll actually feel grateful that you had so much time to grow. Because that kid, your kid, is going to know his mother for who she is, not for who she thought she ought to be.
Little sister, I see you there in 2004. I see your bright eyes, your confusion, your fear and I see your loneliness. This is the fire that forges the greatest version of you who now, as an unstoppable force of emotional intelligence and fierce sensitivity. The alchemy of the interior journey that is ahead of you is daunting and if you could see further than a few feet in front of your face, you might not move from the spot you’re in.
But you do move from the spot you’re in. You move blindly forward and all you have to go on, at first, is avoiding what inflicts anxiety. That’s enough. You’re not doing any of this wrong, little sister. You’re doing great and I wish you could see how strong you are and how bright a force you are in the world. You move blindly and you learn to trust that dark sense of feeling before knowing. This is your way. The feeling way is your way of being authentic. Just because you were never taught it does not mean it isn’t right.
Move little sister based on the undercurrent of your feelings. Close your eyes and feel your way through. It’s your way.
I wish I could tell my younger self all these things. But, in fact, I needed every one of those experiences between 2004 and now to be able to wield my empowerment not with the bright eyed sweetness of someone who believed the world wanted her to be child-like but with the bright eyed joy of someone who knows her value and who can hold court over her own life with equal parts bold authority and sweet compassion.