Last night was one of heart-clawing panic. It was one of those “Evenings of the Brain” that Emily Dickinson knew well. If that sounds Intense, that’s because it was. It’s difficult for me to even acknowledge that in Words now that I have a small, expanding window into the Sufferings of this world. My pain last night was a sand grain compared to the mountains of famine and loss and injustice. And it was still Intensely Intense.
I’ve learned that my Brain interprets the world in big, bold colors, in the shadows that hover between lights and darks. I feel things in a Big Way-the Intense Intensity. When I am truly living in my Sarahness, the experience of joy is a physical bursting that has me dancing on the sidewalk, the experience of sadness is a weight behind my eyes that is oceans deep. It’s a gorgeous way of living, and it’s one that nearly killed me.
I know this to be different from the way many other Brains work. Last week I stood at a busy downtown intersection, fogged with that empty-tiredness that sometimes comes from truly Living. My attention was caught by the honking of car horns and swerve of tires that are leaving tread; there was a seagull in the street. This isn’t uncommon where I live; we are surrounded by Ocean. This bird, though, was injured, or sick, or both. He looked like an old man, gray tufts of feathers sticking out haphazardly from the top of his head, stooped like a cane. And he couldn’t manage to get himself out of traffic. Over and over I watched as he was narrowly missed by trucks and taxi cabs, would just barely hop flutter out of danger, only to settle for a second and be almost hit again.
Watching this unfold, I also became aware of two men standing next to me. They had ID badges hanging from their belt loops and ties loosened around their necks, and they were laughing. “That one sure isn’t gonna make it,” one told the other, nodding his head towards the gull as it dodged a fender by inches. They chuckled, and then shifted towards dinner plans. My vision expanded-I saw the bird in the road, these men who saw it and then moved on, the tears in my eyes. I felt incredibly alone. My urge was to run into that intersection and scoop that tired soul up, cradle it and comfort it. I felt angry that these men could find humor in such pure suffering, and then anger towards my Brain that couldn’t-can’t-witness suffering (or perhaps it is more accurate to say suffering I can’t immediately change?) and then move on to the next meal.
The layers of that experience are still unfolding. I try to describe it because it makes me feel less alone when Words are put on it, because it is true that I have a way of existing in this world that I believe is foreign to many AND familiar to more than is apparent, because it’s a way of validating my Intense Intensity when it is so easy not to.
The anecdote to Panic is moving towards it, turning to face the roaring beast in the eye, staring it down and then welcoming it in. It’s some of the hardest, scariest work I’ve ever done, being that I’ve spent most of my life desperately trying not to feel my Intense Intensity. I’m still figuring out what it looks like, exactly, when I make friends with the Beasts. It’s an imperfect process–thank goodness. And because I’m newly facing it with my Sarahness, it is Intensely Intense. I wouldn’t have it any other way…and still I have so very much to learn.