thin-skinned

She hides under her bed, small and still. It’s not enough to go to her room and slam the door. Her feelings are sorted in a quiet, dark space. “Annie, are you okay?”

The first time she hid I couldn’t find her. I opened her bedroom door and found an empty room, and then a tiny voice, “I just need to be alone.”

“Oh.” I was surprised. “Okay.”

I left, wondering about this new thing. The whole house knew when she was upset. Every step up the stairs loud and defined, Annie always had big feelings packed into a small body. At the age of 2 she hit and pushed when she was angry, no time to explain. Always moving, running, jumping I couldn’t keep up with her. She couldn’t find her words, but she knew exactly what to do with her body. She has become better with words, curious with questions, but her body still takes over. Now, when it’s too much, she retreats.

I was all-in all year and somewhere between summer beginning and ending I got tired. My body broke down. It was too much. I’ve been hiding in this season, my favorite season, when fall steals summer in a burst of red and gold, leaves falling to invite quiet. I am feeling, but unable to find the words. Writing – my fall-back, my go-to, my sanctuary is missing. I’m not under the bed, but I’m guarded. Separating my thoughts. Being thin-skinned in a thick-skinned world.

We admire toughness. The ability to deflect, to be quick with answers. Handle noise and intensity with a smile. To shrug and say so what. We are rated, reviewed and judged, and we’re supposed to be fine with it, welcoming. What happens when you’re not so easygoing? We get hurt, overwhelmed, receive bad news and we must bounce back, and when we can’t, we’re wondering what’s wrong. Thick skin is demanded.

Yet.

It doesn’t fit.

I have always wanted to be one of those people who lets things slide off her shoulders, cares less. But things get to me and under my skin. I hang on white-knuckled until I’m pried loose. I can do it all until I can’t. Guarded, unguarded…I’m not sure which way to go, but I know armor is heavy. Rather than fight sensitivity, I’ll surrender. Be high-strung and scrappy. I am flaws and failures, honesty and strength. Secure, insecure. There is no right version of me. Of us. Whatever that means. We are two sides, all sides; heart, mind and soul.

I look at Annie – we are more alike than not. I tell her it’s not about being perfect. I know perfect lives vast inside her. “It’s okay to make mistakes. Learn from them and keep going. There is more to you than a mistake.” This isn’t profound, but it’s important for her. As I say these words, this little truth; I take a deep breath. We are doing the best we can with what we have and that has to be enough.

Swept up
in Rare Bird
This beautiful book is written by Anna Whiston-Donaldson. It is about the life and loss of her beloved son Jack. I’ve been reading Anna’s blog for a long time, learning about her kids and her son who reminded me of mine, so when I received an email from a mutual friend sharing the sad news that she lost her boy to a tragic accident I was shocked, heartbroken. This should not have happened. I have witnessed her survival and strength turn into a book. The book is not trite or happily ever after. It is true and rich and thoughtful. I loved her courage, her incredible ability to write and let the reader in. I couldn’t put Rare Bird down. You can buy it here!

8 thoughts on “thin-skinned

  1. Kerstin @ Auer Life

    So many things I want to say to you – but most of all: I get it. I get the being able to do it all until all of a sudden you can’t. Where’s the balance? Hell if I know… Good for Annie to have you, telling her that we all make mistakes and that it’s going to be ok.
    PS: Pauline still hides in her closet or under her desk when it get too much. Unfortunately I can’t fit into either space 😉
    Love you!
    PPS: Anna’s book? Breathtaking.

  2. julie gardner

    You have hit on one of my biggest fears in this journey of becoming an author.
    I have always cared too much what others think of me and I cannot brush it off.

    I’d like to think you get better at it, but now I’m not so sure. Maybe the thin skin is what we need.
    To be writers, we have to feel. Deeply.

    And I suppose that comes at a cost. But at least we’re not alone.
    You’re not alone. Enjoy your season. Let yourself be quiet.

    The thick-skinned world isn’t going anywhere.
    XO

    p.s. Anna’s book is miraculous, isn’t it?

  3. Alison

    Oof. This hit me hard. I’m definitely thin-skinned, but I try to hide it. I put hurt feelings aside, slap on my armour and say it doesn’t matter, though it does. I don’t know how to be otherwise.
    Love Anna’s book, such beauty in her words.

  4. Kate Coveny Hood

    I have always been thin skinned and I think that’s a big part of why I’m not much of a risk taker. But the older I get the more I think people are far less thick skinned than they let on. They just fake it better.

    Love you Heidi!

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  6. Justine

    It is funny to read this because just 2 days ago I was talking to my aunt about how I have been through the unimaginable (for most) and yet I still have thin skin when it comes to being brave. I too look for others approval and I am not even sure why, but it holds me back on a regular basis.
    I decided that I was going to grow this “thick skin” one way or another. I have a story too, like many people do, and although I am not ready to share it, I am ready to shine light on others and help out where I can with people who need it through raising money and volunteering. I am using a blog to start my mission online and have a meeting tomorrow to find out more about charity work in my community that I am interested in.
    I wanted to say thank you for this post, and all the comments. It’s nice to know I am not alone on being afraid, but I hope someday I can too inspire others because I finally made a step towards bravery that lead to many more steps to come.
    My blog is http://www.dreams2designs.com and my name is Justine. There is really not much there yet, but soon there will be lots…I will not give up <3

  7. Karla

    All I can say is WOW! As a writer who often feels and thinks very deeply, my biggest fear has been exposure. Wondering if others will get my writing, like my writing and so forth. Exposing our deepest feelings on paper for the world to read; however, fearing to do so for fear of what others may think. I am incredibly glad I stumbled upon this and read it as it really hit very close to what I have often felt.
    I recently pushed through all of those fears and begin writing a blog http://www.sprinkleofinspiration.com in the hopes to inspire others through my writing. Am so glad that I found this blog that has inspired me through your writing. Thank you.

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