Not High Maintenance; Highly Sensitive

Sunroom
Sunroom sanctuary

I’ve never thought of myself as a highly sensitive person. Somewhat sensitive? Yes. But highly sensitive? Not so much. However, after reading this eye-opening article by Jenn Granneman discussing “The Highly Sensitive Person”, a book by Dr. Elaine N. Aron, I realized I’m a lot more sensitive than I thought.

I thought I was just high maintenance. Or old. Here’s a few things this highly sensitive person (HSP) needs:

  • Time to decompress – According to the article, “noisy, busy environments can wreak havoc on a sensitive person’s highly reactive nervous system.” Yes! Crowded restaurants with blaring music, shrieking kids, and 17 TVs playing sports make me want scream, “Shut the hell up!” Instead, I just get the hell out of there. (This is also why I don’t frequent heavy metal concerts, clubs, or jam-packed stadiums.) I’d rather curl up with a good book and a “cuppa” in my quiet little cottage.
  • Plenty of sleep – Everyone gets irritable when they don’t get enough sleep, but the article says, “lack of sleep for the sensitive person can make life almost unbearable.” Preach. Eight hours of sleep a night is my ideal, but I can manage on seven. Any less than that and it’s not pretty. Trust me. Ask my husband.
  • Healthy meals spaced regularly throughout the day – Thanks to this article I learned a great new word: “hangry.” That’s me when I don’t eat regularly. The author says this is because “extreme hunger can mess up a sensitive person’s mood or concentration.” Got that right. Michael knows to leave a clear path to the kitchen when I announce, “I need to eat something RIGHT NOW!”
  • Time to get things done – “Sensitive people hate busy schedules and rushing from one thing to the next.” Can I get an Amen? Packed weekends without any downtime especially stress me out. I can’t be going, going from one activity to another all weekend long, no matter how fun it is. That’s why I never schedule things on Sunday nights (and preferably after Sunday lunch). I need my Sunday nap. Naps are delicious. Almost better than chocolate.
  • A space of my own – HSP’s need “a quiet place to retreat to” when they need to get away from noise and people. My home is my retreat. And luckily I have several retreat rooms to choose from: sunroom, den, living room, bedroom. My favorite newest retreat spot is our patio where I’ll stretch out in my gravity chair next to the new fountain Michael got with his last work bonus. Running water, a meditative margarita and sweet Mellie-girl sprawled across my chest. It doesn’t get much better than that.
  • Beauty – When the author wrote, “I’m deeply affected by my surroundings, especially the way they look. Cluttered, chaotic, or just plain ugly environments bother me,” I did an inner fist pump and breathed out, “Yes!”
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    (Excuse the catty-wampus chair. Other than that, all that’s missing from this bucolic outdoor scene is me, Mellie, and a margarita.)

    I can’t stand chaotic, messy environments. Cluttered dining room tables–aka the drop zone–are a pet peeve. Bills, groceries, junk mail, glasses, magazines, pens, snacks, piles of paper, errant tools and all manner of things get dropped on the table. Makes me twitchy. And that other word that sounds like that. The only thing the dining room table should hold is that week’s tablecloth, Pimpernel place mats, candles, and a jug of fresh flowers. Although I do allow food and dishes at mealtime.

  • I also like a clutter-free living room. (Stop laughing, Lana. And Shane.) There’s a difference between warm and cozy and full of things that matter to us and cluttered with stuff that doesn’t belong. I’m a big believer in beauty and everything in its place. Before I go to bed (in addition to making sure the front door is locked) I’ll put Mellie’s toys in her basket, pick up books, shoes, jackets, and any empty cups or glasses and return them to their rightful place. Then I’ll straighten coasters, adjust crooked area rugs, tuck in slipcovers, plump pillows, and angle pictures. It only takes five minutes—seven at the most—and in the morning I wake up to a pretty, tidy living room. And all is right in my world.
  • I wish I could say the rest of my house is always as neat and tidy, but I’m not Wonder Woman. During the work week, clothes get dumped on bedroom chairs at night, shoes multiply in front of the closet, and Mellie’s random dust bunnies polka-dot the hardwood floors. By the end of the week though, the piles of clothes and shoes really agitate my aesthetic sensibilities so I spend an hour Saturday mornings doing a quick power clean so I can relax and enjoy the rest of my weekend. Thankfully, after 25 years of marriage, my sentimental pack-rat-man knows the importance of keeping the common areas clean and clutter-free. Sure, when unexpected guests drop by we may have to do a quick scoop and dump into the back room (his bursting-at-the-seams office/studio) but that’s what doors are for.

Any other Highly Sensitive Person’s out there who can relate to this? Don’t be shy; I know I’m not the only one who needs my Sunday naps and drop-free-zone dining room table. What pushes your HSP buttons?

 

Tub Travels

Bathtub Vacation

Everyone needs to get away from it all occasionally. That’s why people take vacations to such exotic locales as Greece, the British Virgin Islands, and Hawaii. Some of us, however, have to settle for the economy excursion, or as I prefer to think of it, the budget-bathtub plan.

My tub is my ticket to paradise. All I need is a good book, some hot water, and Calgon (lately replaced by Bed, Bath & Beyond) bath salts to “take me away.”

It’s not the same for Michael. He’s a shower-guy. I enjoy showers too, but I’d IMG_0832much rather settle in for a long evening’s soak. And I come prepared. A cup of steaming hot tea with milk and sugar and some English shortbread on a flowery plate is essential if I’m reading Maeve Binchy or Rosamunde Pilcher. If I’m reading Sue Grafton, Daniel Silva or David Baldacci, I’ll have a margarita. But if it’s Harry Potter, Little Women, or Mitford, I choose milk and cookies.

Just not Oreos. Dunking’s too difficult in the tub. (Those little crumbs from the chocolate cookie outside have a tendency to adhere to the skin when there’s bath oil in the water.)

It took my husband a little while to adjust to my bathing habits. We’d been married less than a month when one night I told him I was going to “have a bath” (an English turn of phrase I’ve held onto after living there years ago; so much more elegant and Downtonesque than “take” a bath.) Michael was busy in the other room when I informed him of my bathing intentions, so just said, “Uh huh,” and continued with whatever he was doing.

An hour later, however, he called in to me, “Are you all right?”

“Yes. I’m just reading.”

“Okay.”

After another hour had passed and I still hadn’t surfaced, he knocked on the bathroom door, then poked his head in, concerned. He found me in the empty tub. Buck naked and bone dry. Clutching my John Grisham.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Trying to finish this. I’m on the last chapter.”

“But there’s no water in the tub.”

“I know. It got cold, so I let it out.”

“Wouldn’t you be more comfortable in a chair or on the couch?”

“Not now. I only have a couple pages to go.”

(Adapted from Dated Jekyll, Married Hyde)

How about you? Do you take tub vacations too? What kind of refreshments do you bring for the trip?

A Few Things I Love, A Few Things I Hate

A Few Things I Love, A Few Things I Hate

In the musical The King and I*, British governess Anna sings “Getting to Know You” to the children and wives of the King of what was then-called Siam (Thailand.) One way to get to know people is to learn what they love and hate. So, IIMG_5202 thought I’d share some of my love and hates with you. (Heads up: I’m a tad passionate—some would say opinionated. When I love something, I LOVE it! And when I hate something, you’ll know.)

*I had the privilege of seeing the amazing—and still sexy—Yul Brynner onstage in his iconic role in London’s West End, FIFTH ROW CENTER in the ‘70s. Fabulous!

A Few Things I Love “Truly, Madly, Deeply” (in no particular order)

Truly, Madly, Deeply is a romantic and quirky little English film starring the remarkable and much-missed Alan Rickman long before he was Professor Snape.

  1. Books
  2. England
  3. BBC mysteries
  4. Michael Kitchen (My Foyle’s War crush. Says more with a lifted eyebrow than most actors can in an entire monologue.)
  5. Our spaniel-pug mix Mellie and her adorable underbiteIMG_0187

A few things I “Hate, Loathe, Despise, and Abominate”

Judy Garland says the impassioned line, “If there’s anything I hate, loathe, despise, and abominate…” in Meet Me in St. Louis, a delightful movie-musical we watch every Christmas. It’s full of such memorable songs as the “The Boy Next Door,” “The Trolley Song,” and the achingly beautiful “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” with Judy resplendent in red velvet.

  1. Coffee (The taste AND the smell.) Since childhood, I’ve never liked coffee, or anything coffee-flavored, including mocha icing. Yuck. But the worst thing was selecting a piece of yummy-looking candy from a box of chocolates, and biting into it in delicious chocolatey anticipation, only to get a mouthful of mocha. Ick. I’d immediately spit it out and chase it with a chocolate-covered caramel to get rid of the awful coffee after taste. My lifelong coffee aversion was strengthened during my chemo days when the hospital orderly would bring me a breakfast tray with a cup of coffee. The minute he entered the room and I caught a whiff of coffee, I’d start puking. ‘Nuff said.
  2. Noise
  3. Crowds (especially in elevators or on light rail)—I need my personal space.
  4. Brussels sprouts and cooked cabbage
  5. Dirty bathrooms (Eew. Just eew. Ever heard of bleach wipes and pumice stones?)

And in case the above introductory references didn’t give it away, I also love movies (good ones.)

So what about you? What are a few (Top 5) things you love and hate?

IMG_0209

Boomerangle

IMG_0209I didn’t have a miserable childhood with crazy, alcoholic parents. I didn’t escape a third-world country after being sold off as a child-bride at 12. I wasn’t raised in the projects by a drug-addicted mother who turned tricks to make ends meet. I’ve never made a sex tape. (You’re welcome.) I’m not fleeing an abusive relationship with my tattooed and pierced lesbian lover. I’m not a woman trapped in a man’s body longing to develop an Adam’s apple, facial hair, and wanting to change my name to Bruce. I’m not psychotic, schizophrenic, anorexic, dyslexic, or eccentric.

Just occasionally neurotic. Although my friends and family might disagree on the occasional part.

I’m a happily married (most of the time), soon to turn 60, lower middle-class suburban white woman packing some extra pounds who has a steady 8-5 job, drives a 20-year-old Honda Civic, and sings in the church choir.

In short, boring with a capital B.

At least to young people and New York publishers. All 15 of them (or was it 25? I’ve lost count) who rejected my funny, sometimes spiritual, sometimes heartbreaking, good-girl-gone-bad-gone-good-again memoir. The best (she says humbly) book I’ve ever written. Of the dozen or more—17—I’ve had published. The most transparent. The book of my heart and soul.

But I’m not bitter. Just “unknown” and not very exciting, apparently.

photo - author in airforceI sure was in my younger days. Not many (any) girls in my high-school graduating class of 1974 ran off to join the Air Force, fly a typewriter through Europe, and date fighter pilots. Or toss back schnapps and eat wild boar in Germany, tilt at windmills and tiptoe through the tulip fields in Holland, and visit 13 countries before they were 23.

Not to brag (too much) but I also skied in the Alps (okay, snowplowed into cars in the parking lot, but let’s not quibble. I was on skis in the frickin’ ALPS! Were you?) enjoyed a gondola ride in Venice, went au naturel on a topless beach in Sardinia, and tried not to gasp in good-girl, Midwestern shock when I saw the women in the windows in Amsterdam’s red light district. I did gasp at Winged Victory in the Louvre, swim in the Mediterranean, watch Yul Brynner polka across a West End stage in The King and I, eat snails in Paris, frog legs in Luxembourg, and drink ouzo in Greece. (That ouzo left me winding through tables in a taverna doing a Zorba-like snake dance with the waiters and other drunken patrons, smashing plates and yelling “Opa!”)

I also flew a glider over the English countryside, belted out “Don’t Rain on my Parade” on the 3 a.m. ferry from Dover to Calais, and kissed Gordon MacRae. (My childhood musical crush Curly in the movie-musical Oklahoma. Shortly after that kiss, he died from mouth cancer. Just sayin’.)

At first glance, my life now—the year I’m turning 60—may not seem as exciting and adventurous as it was in my 20’s, but who needs all that excitement anyway? These days I’m excited about Sunday afternoon naps.

IMG_0237I’m glad I experienced the wild and crazy things I did (most of them) in my younger days, but I’m happier and more content now than I ever was back then. You couldn’t pay me to go back to my 20’s. Or 30’s. Forties? Maybe. Those were good years. (My first book published at 40.) But I prefer to look forward, rather than back. This year, in addition to turning 60—a number that seems surreal when I say it aloud since I still feel about 43—I’ll also be celebrating my 25th anniversary with the love of my life. And I find that pretty exciting. We’ve only just begun. Cue The Carpenters.

What about you? Are you more content now?