My Father was intelligent and funny, he played guitar for us and sang. He took my sister and I on adventures through the woods to hunt for berry bushes and pick apples. He’d build a fire in the backyard and we’d make “toast on a stick” or “potatoes on a stick”…any food you can burn on a stick, really. He was silly and enjoyed teasing Mom about pretty much everything. It’s not easy to get a laugh out of Mom, so making her giggle made Dad feel victorious.
He’d put iodine on our cuts and scrapes, baking soda paste on our bee stings, calamine lotion on the poison ivy we got from all the berry picking. Me and my sister brought an abandoned puppy home once. When he saw the pitiful little thing he dropped to the floor almost immediately and loved and squeezed on that puppy until I saw tears streaming down his cheeks. Dad was sensitive.
Being sensitive can mean several things…I consider myself to be sensitive but it doesn’t mean I fly off the handle, cry easily when embarrassed or hold grudges. My Mom would say to nearly total strangers: “She’s my artist, she’s sensitive.” As I grew older, she’d sigh heavily and remark, “You’re just like your Father.”
I always thought that meant I was logical and smart…but she meant sensitive.
What being sensitive means, to me, is that I pick up on things. My therapist actually called me a “noticer.” She once changed out her chair…it was the same antique wooden chair as before (with pink floral cushions) except it had arms. “Did that chair have arms before?” I’d asked about fifteen minutes into one appointment. She was amazed and said it was the same as the other chair only it had arms. Another time I noticed a pillow on the settee had tassels…she laughed saying she’d only recently added the tassels. I catalog my surroundings and behaviors of those around me; it’s all tagged, color coded, evaluated for safety and filed away for future reference. Where does this even come from?
Perceptivity isn’t a superpower, it’s instinctual; a survival skill I honed while learning to maneuver the ups and downs of a mercurial parent. My Father had a quiet violence about him. I’d try to stay a step ahead of the darkness, watching him for the slightest shifts in mood; a way of giving myself the illusion of control so that I could keep everyone safe. Even though there were moments of light, darkness seemed to loom over my Father. I was 17 before he would finally get a diagnosis (manic depressive/bi-polar disorder).
Remember the things that the darkness taught you.
It’s by learning to overcome our personal trauma (navigate the darkness) we become nuanced and enlightened individuals capable of empathy, forgiveness and love.
Forgiveness is key, forgive others, forgive yourself. From the darkness I learned to pay attention to my gut (intuition), to expect nothing (good or bad) from anyone except myself, to accept responsibility for my own emotions, to respect the grief, pain and love of others. I learned to look for the light and appreciate it while it lasts. ♡
What has darkness taught you? Do you struggle with forgiveness or does it come easily to you?
Artwork © Aimee McEwen. Photo: Annie Spratt
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