The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him... a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create -- so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.
—Pearl S. Buck, novelist, Nobel laureate (1892-1973)
I collect quotes, and this one is one of my favorites. I think I like it because it shows that if I'm not normal at least I have companions in my abnormality.
Sometimes I feel like the Man from Mars in Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. Whenever something important happens, I have to withdraw for a little while so I can grok it. It's one of the reasons class participation always makes me feel a little like I'm going down a steep hill on a roller coaster. I like to have time to pause and ponder and decide what the best response is going to be, not just fire off the first thing that pops into my head. How other people manage sponaneity I don't know. One theory I have, that ties in with that quote above, is they simply don't have the problem where the minute someone suggests something their mind immediately goes into frantic activity, offering all possible obstacles to the course of action, proposing solutions, weighing alternatives--until it's easier to just say No, I can't do it, so that I can shut off my hyperactive brain and have a few seconds of mental silence before something else comes up.
It works like this in relationships too--I have a hard time with casual conversation because I have this idea that everything ought to mean something. So afterwards I'll go back and analyze every word and think about how I would have responded if I'd had a little more time to reflect.
All this is a somewhat rambling way of saying that I spend every waking moment of every day processing an enormous amount of information. Maybe other people do this too, but it seems sometimes like I'm the only one who has to think so hard about everything, who can't just make a simple decision without having to see how this course of action might tie into everything else.
It's why I don't have a lot of friends. I can remember names pretty well but I don't consider somebody my friend just because I know their name. I really don't think I know them well enough to call them my friend until I have an idea of what makes them tick. My idea of my best friend is not just the name Emily and what she looks like. My mental image of her includes her brothers and parents, my relationships with them, her relationships with our mutual friends, her relationships with people I don't know, what she wants to do with her life...etc, etc. When I have conversations with my friends I'm not just chatting, I'm collecting random bits of information to add to my mental picture of them. I've creeped people out once or twice by remembering some small random detail they mentioned once a long time ago. Maybe this is one of the reasons I'm called to marriage--I can't imagine anything more fulfulling than spending the rest of my life learning and cherishing every detail, no matter how seemingly insignificant, about another human soul.
There are times when I want to shut off my perceptions, shut out the world. A few weeks ago I was heartbroken over some small disappointment--I can't even remember what it was now, but it seemed then like the world was going to end--and I remember crying about it and asking God why He made me feel things so much. Why do I have to be so fantasically sensitive? Why can't I just take the little ups and downs in stride like other people?
In the end, though, I decided that I didn't really want to be different. Sure, small crises can ruin my day; but when a big crisis hits one of my friends my ability to feel it so intensely is an advantage. I spent the whole summer of 2006 crying alongside one of my friends and it hurt horribly, but I wouldn't trade that summer for anything. It felt like I'd been broken and put back together again; but in my new shape I realized that it was one of the most important things I'd ever done. In 50 years my friend and I won't remember what we got on the SAT but we'll remember that summer.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but it says right over there on the sidebar that this is about my journey towards Heaven and as I've been saying for a while now, if I get to Heaven it will be because of other people. I could draw into myself and try to find salvation by pondering the mysteries of the universe, but I've tried that and I barely made it out sane. So then I tried giving myself permission to be broken, to be imperfect, and I found out that people will let you do that. There are some incredible people in the world who mend broken souls. Then there's me, with my abnormally sensitive soul, my ability to see hurts that nobody else sees and to cry with the person who's hurting. I'll consider it worth all the difficulty of going through daily life with a soul that sees every misfortunate as tragedy and every joy ecstasy, if I can mend one broken soul that way.