The woman behind the curtain . . .

One of the images that made a lasting impression on me from The Wizard of Oz (besides those really scary flying monkeys) is the scene when the curtain falls down and we see the little white haired man speaking into a device that turns his voice into the booming Wizard’s voice.

As a highly sensitive person, I often feel that same need to present “bigger” and “better” than my current state — be it at work, in social situations, in social media, even with family and friends. This need to be in the land of “all-rightism” as Ann Lewis, my friend in the UK describes it, can be quite tiring. Most of my life I have been told not to be so sensitive, so I became quite wary of appearing this way to others, even when I was feeling it in every bone of my body. The truth is, I am highly sensitive, and acting like I am not, well it is like wearing a big fancy costume, complete with make-up, that makes me look like the other, “normal” people.

When I interviewed Dr. Elaine Aron, psychologist, researcher and author of The Highly Sensitive Person, I told her that the first time I read her book I broke down in tears. Since then I have recommended her book to numerous people who struggle with being highly sensitive, and they always tell me that it was life changing to realize they really are okay and that there is nothing wrong with them. According to Elaine, we HSPs represent between 15-20% of the population. This is a pretty big number, so it seems to me it’s time to pull down the curtain and make ourselves known, just as we are.

Raw and Unedited

Which is why I am doing something here that is, even now, a little bit scary. I have been stuck in a creative wasteland for several weeks, and I’m going to talk about it. I decided to make a video on the spur of the moment this morning, sans make-up, nice clothes, and coiffed hair, to try to describe what I’m feeling. And I’ve decided to include it in this post, thinking that it might help a lot of people who feel like this and think they are the only one who is like that little man behind the curtain. So here goes . . .

The breakthrough I talk about in the video happened last month. I wrote about it in my other blog, so you can read about it at the link at the end of this post if you want to know more. Basically, I finally let go of the burden I’ve been carrying around for a million years (well, okay, only about 67) that I am damaged goods. Now, I have done a good deal of work, both psychological and spiritual, to let go of this. And I have made great progress, but the thing is that this was wired into me when I was pre-verbal, so it has been very hard to reach. But through this amazing 10-day EFT tapping experience, I reached it. Something so fundamental in me has changed dramatically, and my guess is that this creative wasteland I’ve been in is because I am much like a fish who has suddenly spouted legs and is walking around wondering how the heck she got on dry land, and what to do next.

When I began writing Choosing to Be in the 90’s, I was in the process of letting go of my wish to leave the planet, to kill myself. What I didn’t say in the book was that this was not the first time I had wanted to end my life. Up until that time, I had always held that escape chute near and dear to me, and I think that was what kept me going — saying to myself that “Well, if it gets too unbearable, I can just leave.” The big change that happened to me in learning to meditate was that I was able to let go of that escape chute. I learned that I could choose to be here, and that I would be able to deal with pain and suffering in a way that was new to me.

And I have done that. But since then I have continued to deal with the pain of feeling that down deep I am garbage. This has not been a constant state. It would come and go. I would be fine, then one day I would catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and the thought would come blasting into my head that I dare not go outside because my ugliness would repel people. Fun, uh?

The Unholy Burden of Shame

There is a name for this, it is called shame. Shame is at the bottom of the pit, below guilt, below apathy, below grief. What I gained through meditation was the understanding that this shame was not permanent, just as nothing was permanent. I learned to feel my anger, then to be willing to accept and forgive, to gain understanding about my life path, to deeply feel love and, yes, even joy. But that shame was still lurking around in the basement.

And now, I don’t care about it any more. I’m done with it. I have opened up the basement, and brought that shame out into the light. Turns out, it can’t live in the light. Who knew?

Now here is where this gets interesting, at least to me. Having let go of shame, I think that what has been happening to me these past few weeks, as I reclaim that beautiful little girl I was and share pictures of her and revel in her goodness, intelligence, spirit and beauty — I think I am grieving all those lost years, the life she wasn’t able to enjoy because she was dragging all those chains around with her.

Voila! I have actually talked and written my way out of this. . . I get it now. Grief is good. Grief is necessary. I can do grief because I know I need to honor this loss, and I know that when I do, I will be stronger for it. I am on my way out of the wasteland, and I suspect that a beautiful landscape is waiting for me just around the corner.

Go to to read the post about my breakthrough with EFT (Tapping).

Go to Finding Magic in Midlife for my interview with Dr. Elaine Aron.