Okay, Look…

I was going to wrap up my highly-sensitive person bit tonight. Well, I was going to on Saturday, but I spent the evening at a bar on the water instead. Thought about writing on Sunday instead, because I’ve done that before, but then I didn’t. Honestly don’t remember why. Might have been tired. Anyway, that was the plan. I even have a draft post written up, nearly finished. Now that I think about it, it was because I was tired. I was rambling more incoherently than usual, and I wasn’t in any condition to go through and make sense of it. So I thought I’d leave it for today.

Then something hit the news.

Donald Sterling, owner of the LA Clippers, was recorded in a candid moment saying something he wouldn’t necessarily want made public. He had no reason to assume he was being recorded, so it is a bit unfair. Still, the recording was released, and we heard his words.

A small segment of the conversation released by TMZ:

DS: You can’t be flexible. You can’t.
GF: I am flexible. I understand that that’s the way you were raised, and that’s your culture. And I’m respectful and…
DS: Well why do you have to disrespect them? Those are…
GF: Who am I disrespecting?
DS: The world before you
GF: Why am I disrespecting them?
DS: By walking, and you’re perceived as either a Latina or a white girl. Why can’t you be walking publicly with black people? Why? Is there a benefit to you?
GF: Is it a benefit to me? Does it matter if they’re white or blue or yellow?
DS: I guess that you don’t know that. Maybe you’re stupid. Maybe you don’t know what people think of you. It DOES matter, yeah! It matters!

We heard the thoughts and beliefs of a man who is afraid, who sees his world crumbling, who understands a world where he is automatically on top by virtue of his race, and of his wealth, for whom the rules don’t quite apply. He has the mentality of an owner, perhaps even can be loosely compared to a slave owner. I say ‘loosely’ because the people in his employ are 1) getting paid and 2) free to leave. There might be a financial penalty, but they are free to leave. In his mind, though, based on this recording, and another of the next fifteen minutes or so, this is a man who believes he owns these people to an extent – his team, his girlfriend, probably his wife. Things go his way because that’s how his world works.

At the end of last year, we had a similar ‘scandal,’ comments by a reality star, Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame. Got him in a bit of trouble with his employer, A&E. He had all sorts of things to say about homosexuals and black, all of it ignorant, some of it hateful. He was suspended for a little while, then reinstated. The reasons for the actions are known only to his employer; we can only speculate. I take a cynical view – follow the money.

Both of these men have become the cause celeb for those who are convince the right to freedom of speech is being challenged, since Donald Sterling has been banned from basketball, and faces censure from the other owners, and Phil Robertson was suspended for his comments. What those who argue for their rights fail to recognize is what, exactly, the freedom of speech we hold so dear really means.

In short, it means that as long as your comments cannot be construed as intentionally harmful (such as yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, with intent to cause a riot, or a challenge to the life of the president – any living president), the government will not, CAN not, break down your door and incarcerate you for it. What it doesn’t mean is that you are free from censure from your employer if you should do something that besmirches their image, or violates the terms of employment. A person cannot be fired because of their religion or color of their skin or gender, and in a few places, because of their sexual orientation or gender identification, provided none of those things cause harm to others in the workplace. That’s the key, right there. A practicing Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or atheist does not hurt me in any way. A couple of the same gender in a committed relationship has no effect whatsoever on any relationship I’ve had or will have, has caused no damage in my life.

Photowalk 213b
Genius of Water Something nice to look at.

Even when the KKK won their case to erect a cross on Fountain Square every Christmastime, it did not take away any of my rights as a citizen of the world. The cross did not carry any racial epithets, it wasn’t a charred representation of hatred, it was not a blatant attempt at inciting a riot; it was two planks of wood erected in a familiar form. The source was disturbing, yes; they filled out the proper paperwork and met the needed requirements to be permitted their display on a public space. Had that cross included a KKK member in their whites standing beside it, or represented in some way, then that would be an intent to intimidate, and is something that cannot be permitted. That goes for any group. Not allowing them to place what was, without the history, without the source, an innocuous religious display presented by a private group, when they were within the rules set by the laws of the city, that would have been a violation of their freedom of speech. The rules were eventually changed; so that no one could put up a display like that again, if I understand correctly.

Donald Sterling being banned from basketball is not a violation of his freedom of speech. If he is forced somehow to sell his team, that also will not be a violation of his freedom of speech. Neither action is being carried out by any local, state, or federal government. Phil Robertson being suspended by A&E is not a violation of his freedom of speech, because A&E is not an arm of the US government, or the state of California, et cetera. Do I think their punishments are appropriate? Well that’s not up to me. My reputation hasn’t been damaged by an employee or member, I don’t need to do damage control. My only concern is whether their right to freedom of speech was violated as a result of their words.

It hasn’t.

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HSP Once More

Easter Eve_0078a
Egg hunt for the older kids.

So, been a while. I wasn’t on vacation or anything, just had a really busy, exhausting week. My choir was preparing for our Easter concert; we did a couple of 20th century pieces – Berliner Messe by Arvo Part, and Stabat Mater by Karol Szymanowski – and selections from a Haydn, which was very Haydn indeed. Thursday was Maundy Thursday, the day of the Last Supper, and a day when my church has a service. So our choir rehearsal prior to Friday’s performance had to be on Tuesday. Because of the complexity of two of the pieces we did, we needed two dress rehearsals, so we also had Wednesday night. Saturday, we had our Easter celebration/gathering at my father’s house. There were a lot of us. Over 30, maybe, just family and accessory people (children, spouses, grandchildren, et cetera). That, at least, was a great night.

I was trying to determine a topic for tonight’s post. I figured I’d wrap up the HSP thing.

From hsperson.com:

  • Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?
  • Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?
  • Do you make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows?
  • Do you need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?
  • Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?
  • Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?
  • Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
  • When you were a child, did your parents or teachers see you as sensitive or shy

As I’ve mentioned, the highly-sensitive thing is more about physical than mental impacts. Do I get rattled when I have to do a lot in a short amount of time? Sure, on occasion. Depends on how much pressure I’m under, and how direct that pressure is. I don’t think it’s significantly worse than anyone else on average.

  • Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?
2013 LaRosa's Balloon Glow
About a mile away; perfect distance.

Short answer, yes. I hear sounds nearly no one else can hear. Lighting and fireworks brought me to tears when I was a kid. The brightness hurt my eyes, and the sound hurt my ears. It wasn’t only frightening, but painful as well. Very sensitive to light. So was my mother. We wouldn’t turn on the lights in the house until it got fairly dark, since we could see just fine. My brother would go behind us turning on lights at dusk, like pretty much anyone else would at that time of day. A little better than a decade ago, I went to a fireworks display in one of the nearby towns. Small area, so we were pretty close to the action. I spent that entire show with my sunglasses on, and my fingers in my ears. It was too painful to do otherwise. Even now, if I get up in the middle of the night, I don’t turn on a light; don’t need to. Everything looks grainy, like high-speed film, which is kinda neat, but I can see well enough. So far, I’ve not stubbed my toe on some random sharp, pointy corner or rogue Lego piece, neither of which I have, but everyone knows they materialize in the dark.

My hearing is sensitive enough that I have a hard time falling asleep if there’s too much noise. During the summer, once I get used to it, I have the sound of my air conditioner to act as a white noise machine. I had to buy a box fan to help during the rest of the year. I have a small radio I use at work to help drown out the myriad noises going on around me – telephone conversations, computers rebooting, printers and fax machines printing, live conversations in the offices along the wall, the scratchy, tinny sound of a radio on very low volume, people standing up quickly from their chairs, it just goes on and on. I do use soft earbuds, and I have my volume turned down low. As low as it can be without being muted. People who speak loudly are difficult for me, especially in confined spaces.

Easter Eve_0156a
I like the way they sparkle, but if those glitter eggs are rough like sandpaper, I can’t hold them for long.

This bullet point doesn’t mention it, but I’m also sensitive to touch. Not really sure how I got through the double-knit polyester 70s, but that stuff feels like sandpaper to me. Nearly everything I own is at least 50% natural fabric of some sort. There are a few pieces I have that aren’t, and many of them are uncomfortable to me. Not all, there are some synthetic fabrics that are quite pleasant, but a lot are not. I can often feel things that others can’t on a surface.

The taste and smell ones, those seem to cause me the most trouble. I’ve always been able to pick out the artificially-sweetened foods and drinks – sucralose, saccharine, sorbitol, aspartame – I could always taste them. I used to chew sugarless gum fairly regularly when I was a kid; that was the only kind my mother would buy for us, because of the whole teeth thing. When I’d gone on my quest for a healthier life and lost about 100 lbs, if I drank any sweetened beverage, it was usually sweetened with Splenda or Equal. I even made desserts with Splenda. Now the taste of those sweeteners has gotten so strong to me, I can barely tolerate them. My mother wound up allergic to them.

Easter Eve_0001a
This neat fruit bunny was quite tasty, though.

I discovered at work that I am violently allergic to some perfumes. I’ve known for a while that some scents bother me – there are air fresheners that give me a nasty headache, for instance – but I’d never experienced such a reaction where my chest started to close up. I couldn’t breathe, and it was just getting worse. For myself, the detergents I use to clean my clothes, my home, and me all tend to have very light or very simple scents to them. My favorite perfume hasn’t caused a reaction yet. I hope it stays that way.

There are foods I’ve never tried, not because I didn’t want to, but because I couldn’t get past the smell. The current Brussels sprouts fad? Still haven’t had any – the smell is overpowering and unappealing. There’s a texture issue, too. Beans, for instance, even when made into a paste, feel, I don’t know, almost like they’re coating my tongue or something. Quite unpleasant. When I was a kid and had to eat them, I swallowed them whole just so I didn’t have to chew. Still begs the question of where the line is between HSP and Asperger’s. From what I’ve seen in descriptions, I do not have Asperger’s. I’ve entertained that notion more than once, but the more I learn, the more I’m convinced I do not.

These are the sorts of things one expects to grow out of. And maybe I have; maybe it’s not as bad as when I was a kid. I like broccoli now, for instance. Still don’t care for cooked carrots or mushy broccoli, and cheesy broccoli is disgusting, but I do intentionally eat the stuff now.

Mom would be so proud.

_________________________

Part One – HSP
Part Two
 – HSP and Stuff
Part Three – HSP Once More
Part Four – More Fun with HSP

HSP and Stuff

Been a while, sorry. Saturdays are apparently tricky for me this month. Well, Friday I actually spent a good chunk of the day in bed. I have arthritis in my lower back. Sometimes it gets a little uncomfortable; sometimes it gets unbearable. Because of the kidney thing, I can’t take any pain killers that actually work for me (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen). Well, I can, it’s just  a really bad idea. So, I make do with what I can. Except that by Thursday evening, standing for even ten minutes almost had me in tears. Friday morning, it was just too much.

Eden Next_0130b
Eden Park magnolias backed by old waterworks

Neither here nor there. Everyone has something they’re dealing with. Comparing one’s problems to another’s is a loser’s game, and a good way to make someone feel inadequate, and maybe even push through something that should make them rest or take notice. Deal with what you’re dealing with, not what someone else is.

Saturday, after 24 hours of doing very little, I felt well enough to go out with my camera. Had to see how the magnolias were doing. I didn’t hit both parks – I felt better, but far from perfect – just the main one, Eden Park. Ault Park has a bunch of other garden plots that will be lovely in the coming weeks. My focus right now is the short-lived magnolias. There are a few varieties at Eden Park. Smelled delightful.

Back to this Highly-sensitive person thing. Really an exploration more than anything else. I’m sort of working it out in my head, trying to determine where my challenges lie. If I help someone else with their own struggles, so much the better. Not talking about something doesn’t make it go away.

From hsperson.com:

  • Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?
  • Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?
  • Do you make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows?
  • Do you need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?
  • Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?
  • Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?
  • Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
  • When you were a child, did your parents or teachers see you as sensitive or shy
Eden Next_0007a
Pretty sure this is a tulip. Live and in person, it hurt my eyes, it was so bright. Really.

The three items I’ve made bold and red seem to me to be related. While the sensitivity isn’t about empathy, per se, it does demonstrate facets of empathy; physical empathy. As I understand it, this is the sort of feeling one gets when they see someone fall and land hard or break something, or when someone does something that makes them look stupid, or is angry or afraid. As with just about anything else, there’s a spectrum, from annoying to crippling. A fairly recent article regarding this “physical empathy” provides a few questions that might answer if you are physically empathic.  All of that also sounds an awful lot like introversion, on the high end of that spectrum. High-energy situations, ones where the energy comes from other people, tend to be exhausting for me. I can handle crowds, so long as I don’t have to interact with them. Angry crowds, not so much. Even happy crowds wear me out. It’s a lot to process. On the high-stress days, I need to go away and not talk to anyone for a few hours at least, just so I can unwind and be civil. My weekends are spent at home. Not because I have nowhere to go, but because as work gets more stressful – not just for me, but for everyone – I get more exhausted. I have nothing left once I get home. Family events are a little different – they know me, I know them. If I wander off and don’t talk to anyone for a few minutes (I’m not the only one in the family who does this), it’s not a big deal. Safe, I think, is the word I’m looking for. It’s safe.

I am far from a severe case; I like going to festivals. Alone, usually. I do like going with people, too (okay, person – one at a time is best, more than three, not so much), it’s just harder, sometimes. No, it’s not social anxiety; it’s energy. Dealing with a faceless crowd that I don’t have to talk to unless I want to, I’m good there. Having to keep track of someone else is a little wearing, but if it’s someone capable of entertaining themselves, then it’s almost no stress at all. For example, I have one person with whom I’ve been to our area Renaissance Festival for the past three years – wait, has it been three? Yes, it has! Wow, didn’t even realize that. Anyway, we’ve gone every year since I’ve been back. Low-key and low-demand, I love going with her; we have fun. And no, that’s not the only thing we’ve done together. It’s just the first one I thought of. Nor is she the only person like that in my life. Not anti-social, just easily overwhelmed sometimes.

2014 04 12_Eden Next_0400a
Magnolia in the sun

One of my friends posed an interesting question, one that I’ve thought of from time to time – where does the highly-sensitive person end, and autism begin? Since I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist, or physician of any sort, I can only speculate. I don’t know. One suggestion I’ve read – from the HSP website I’ve already referenced – deals with understanding emotional cues of others. Empathy, if you will. Basically, it seems to be saying a person on the high end of the autism spectrum, a person with Aspergers, is incapable of empathizing with another’s emotions. She even provides a specific example. NAMI appears to agree with this as well.

There are others who contend that a person with Aspergers is perfectly capable of empathizing, provided they know a person is feeling something. One source states that a person with Aspergers won’t automatically understand that someone will be upset by the death of a beloved pet, if they see that person is upset, or are told, they can empathize. In either case, the expression of that empathy is a major sticking point. Some even say that while a person with Aspergers might not readily express empathy, they feel it, and more strongly than the average person. All three of these could be considered similar to a person who is highly sensitive or highly introverted. So how do you tell the difference?

The only things I’ve found that really tells me anything is non-literal expressions, where someone says one thing and means something else entirely. A great example is sarcasm. For someone who has difficulty recognizing facial cues and tones of voice, it’s very easy to not be clear when someone is being sarcastic. That’s pretty much a 2nd language for me, sarcasm. Runs in the family like The Force™* runs in others. What does that mean for me? Again, I just don’t know. What I do know is everything I’ve read points to me being a highly-sensitive person, rather than someone on the autism spectrum.

2014 04 12_Eden Next_0290b
Reading by a fountain. Nothing to do with the post; just wanted to share it.

_________________________

* Since Star Wars™ is now owned by Disney™, I thought it might be a good idea™ to try and not anger The Mouse™. Acknowledging that I don’t own The Force™, or any intellectual property™ derivative of The Force™, Star Wars™, the Sith™, or even a Death Star™ might be a good way to keep me from getting banned™ on YouTube™.^

^But, you know, sarcasm. Second language.

Part One – HSP
Part Two
 – HSP and Stuff
Part Three – HSP Once More
Part Four – More Fun with HSP

Briefly…

So it’s Sunday, not Saturday. I didn’t forget – I was out shooting. It was too beautiful to pass up. I spent the day in two of my favorite parks, Eden and Ault. Had to see how the magnolias were coming along. These are from Eden Park on Saturday:   And these are from Ault […]

HSP

It’s Wednesday. That means it is one of the two nights I intend to write here, like it or not. It was something I missed in my life, something I felt I needed to do to provide some balance, some stability. The hardest thing about this is coming up with a topic in the first place. Once I have one, then it’s staying on topic. The later it gets, the harder it is. I couldn’t decide if I would continue what I was talking about on Saturday, either the highly-sensitive part or the INTP part; that indecisiveness kept me from even sitting down to write until 8:30. Been up since ten ’til 4 this morning, so I’m getting tired. Making it even more difficult to stay on topic. Obviously.

HSP Susan CainThe whole HSP, or Highly-Sensitive Person thing has been shuffling around in the back of my head for a couple weeks. It’s grabbed my attention, and it won’t let go. The way my mind works, it takes a while for things to be thoroughly tasted, tested, tried, trashed, recovered, recycled, revised, and finally, reluctantly, released, tethered tenuously to the potential of retraction.

What that means is with ideas requiring careful consideration, the first thing out of my mouth isn’t necessarily my final word. In fact, it often isn’t. The rest, the multiple polysyllabic alliterations, that  just amused me.

I could have written much more on the topic this past Saturday. In fact, I had. I was closing in on 2,000 words, which is significantly longer than I like. I had to cut it off somewhere. Unsatisfying ending, but it ended. So where do I pick it up? I thought I’d go with a clearer definition of what a Highly-Sensitive Person is. Just a simple definition isn’t what I want to do, though; I want to color it through my own experiences. Makes more sense to me that way, and it does what I want to do, which is show how it may be different for someone.

So what is an HSP?*

From hsperson.com, Dr. Elaine Aron’s page dedicated to the books she’s written on the subject:

  • Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?
  • Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?
  • Do you make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows?
  • Do you need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?
  • Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?
  • Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?
  • Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
  • When you were a child, did your parents or teachers see you as sensitive or shy

I’m going to worry about the first point right now.

Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?

2013 LaRosa's Balloon Glow
Far enough away, they’re pretty. Coney Island (Cincinnati), July 2013

As I mentioned Saturday, fireworks and thunderstorms used to make me cry. Not because I was scared, but because I was in pain. I’ve not had too much trouble with thunderstorms since college, partly because I met one of my closest friends during a thunderstorm, changing the memories I associated with them (much better), and partly because I am no longer in the Valley in my city. That particular area seems to magnify the thunder and lightning. I thought I was just imagining things until I met others who’d grown up in that same area. It wasn’t uncommon for thunder to rattle the windows, or even crack it now and again. I don’t know if it’s the configuration of the geography that makes the difference, but that’s the only thing I can guess. I was just relieved to find I wasn’t the only one who noticed that.

Even now, at an age where some of my peers have enough hearing loss to need assistance, and others close to it, I still am very sensitive to loud sounds of any type. Some are worse than others. High-pitched, short pitches bother me and if loud enough, hurt. Low bass, constant, unrelenting, leads me to anger, and even rage. Really, rage. When I reach that point, I have a couple of choices – play my own noise loudly and bother my ears, but lose the rage, or leave. The latter is rarely a viable option when this becomes an issue. Fortunately, I’ve discovered my new earbuds, which act as noise-cancelling ear plugs. Not completely, nor would I want them to, but they do cut down the noises at the extremes, the ones that bother me most, and allow me to turn up whatever I’m listening to without hurting myself. It’s a passive-aggressive sort of thing, but so far, it’s not been all that frequent lately. Summer is coming, though; that’s likely to change.

I have a small radio I listen to at work. It also happens to be an mp3 player. I don’t have the patience to load up songs on it; I really bought it because of the tuner, and the built-in battery. I also would have accepted something that can be plugged in, but also portable. Lasts about eight hours on a charge, so I am charging it every day I’m at work. I need it. Where I sit, there’s a reception desk and a place where sales people like to hang out. I also sit near a few muckity-mucks, and people tend to congregate outside of their doors. And there’s a person with a radio with a shrill overtone that just crawls right up my back. Without my earbuds, I get stressed. I don’t have it all that loud – just enough to help me drown out the outside noises that throw me off. I can still hear conversations, and I can hear my phone; they’re just less of an annoyance. Of course, the fact that I have the volume turned to one or two ticks above mute, that probably helps. Much louder and there is aural pain. I had a secondhand iPod a while back. I couldn’t handle wearing the earbuds in my ears. Even at the lowest, it was too loud to be comfortable; it still hurt.

I am still very sensitive to bright lights. I have a pair of sunglasses with orange lenses. Not amber, not yellow, orange. They are best ones to really help me to see in the sun, or on brightly-overcast days. Without them, I get the sharp knife into my head through my eyes. Seriously, it hurts my eyes. Sitting too close to fireworks hurts – not just the noise, but the brightness of the explosion. Nearly all of my clothes are at least a percentage of natural fabric, simply because many of the synthetic ones bother me in some way or other, to the point of distraction. I’ve no idea how I made it through the double-knit polyester days of the 70s. And smells? I can smell perfume when no one else can. That’s good and bad; I’ve been able to make some positive use of that, although because of it, I could never be a nurse. Too much poop. Makes me nauseous.

So…

Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?

Well, yes, I am.

_________________________

*A HSP? An HSP? I dunno. Either works. I’m going to read it as the letters, so an HSP makes more sense. Unless I change my mind. It could happen.

Part One – HSP
Part Two
 – HSP and Stuff
Part Three – HSP Once More
Part Four – More Fun with HSP