My sisters jest that “Sarah had a feeling once. It made her very uncomfortable. She didn’t like it.”
I don’t know that I have always been this way. I recall being very tender-hearted and sensitive at a young age, but somewhere along the way I must have learned that this is a dangerous thing, allowing oneself to feel things too deeply, and worse – letting the world see that you feel things too deeply.
I have known my fair share of people who value cleverness over kindness, those who would pride themselves on their “brutal honesty” and that they “pull no punches”. I believe you can’t have brutal honesty without a brute at the very core and I am no brute; rather than fight like with like, I learned that I must toughen up and develop a thicker skin to deal with these people and deflect their unkind cuts, their churlishness and rancor.
Over the years this thick skin has become an intangible but very organic feeling armor, calloused in some places, worn through in others. I’ve learned not to cry, or if I must weep, I steel myself against my tears, allowing them to fall and harden and become stiff patches which I will harvest and use to mend those tears in my armor where the chinks are beginning to show. These tears, now fortifications, are protection against the very things that caused them – and those things will not make me cry again.
Later in life I am learning that this thick skin, this armor, does not always serve me well. It has allowed me to only to half-feel, or not to feel at all…. and this lack of feeling, this numbness, this blocking of emotion and engagement, has stunted some relationships before they had time to flourish. Or perhaps it inhibits me from pursuing the friendship or relationship or opportunity at all.
I am learning that this skin is not one in which I can live in permanently…but nor is it one that I need to shed completely. I think it is something I can don when I know I will be in a situation during which I can become hurt, where there are people whose motivations are suspect, whose words are inconsiderate and thoughtless at best or harsh and hateful at worst. People with personalities that jab and poke and dig, and from whom I need protection
And yet I am realizing that to live fully and immersively, I need to be able to quietly slip this skin off, fold it up and stow it away and allow myself to be unguarded and vulnerable with those whom I feel safe. I do have these people in my life, and they are good people, and they deserve that part of me. And I know I deserve that experience. Of being fully loved, of crying if it comes to that, and allowing myself to feel.
Here’s to you, my thick skin. For growing and developing as I needed you, for protecting and preserving me, and for changing and adapting to fit my transformation as I move forward, feeling my way through this world.