Monday, 7 February 2011

I survived a train wreck : oversensitivity, fear and bravery

{Caution, text heavy post!}

This weekend marked the 11th anniversary of the train accident I survived while studying in Europe as a sophomore in college. (The arrow points to where we were sitting.) Last year I wrote a post that described what happened, so check it out for the backstory.

I was thinking how I wanted to mark the event again this year. Indeed, I am SO thankful for every morning I've been given since that awful night in Germany, but sometimes I forget how lucky I am. I need the anniversary to remind me that I survived a train wreck and that life is precious.

On Saturday, I went with several friends to hear Anne Lamott speak at a book festival in Seattle. It was, as you can imagine, amazing. I loved what she said about being sensitive, how when she was little she was dubbed "the oversensitive child" and adults and peers didn't really know what to do with her. She'd read the back cover of one of her parents' books, which said "By the time you've finished this paragraph, 250 children in India will have died of malnutrition" and she'd be devastated. "How can I even go on?"

I totally knew that feeling! Of feeling way too deeply, for mourning with people across the world I'd never meet, and way overthinking things.

By the nods and sounds of agreement it seemed like I was in the company of about 700 "oversensitive children". What do you expect at the "Search for Meaning Book Festival" though? It's like a mecca of sensitivity.

Ms. Lamott encouraged all of us oversensitive adult children that, though sensitivity may be a burden in seventh grade, in the long run it's a blessing beyond our wildest dreams to embrace.

So why am I bringing this up in a train wreck post? Because after the talk, when we were going to my car, my friend Claire called me brave. Which was very kind.

I thought, in many ways I am brave. I move across the world without a plan. I take lifestyle risks and am bold and outspoken. I have very high shame thresholds and don't mind sticking my neck out. lifestyle and social bravery is matched by huge issues of fear in other areas of my life, mostly revolving around freak accidents and transportation. All having to do with what happened eleven years ago.  And though it's usually manageable it can also be limiting.

At risk of being too vulnerable, I admit that fear makes me:
  •     cry and freak out whenever Dan wants to go surfing or snowboarding or drive on the freeway in LA
  •     avoid going to Spokane to visit our good friends because I don't want to drive through the pass
  •     avoid anything remotely physically dangerous, unless a thorough risk assessment is given
Of course I don't make a big deal about it to people, because I don't want to be seen as oversensitive. I don't want to still be dealing with crap from over a decade ago, however faint.

Empowered by Anne Lamott's encouragement that sensitivity (and in this case spiritual sensitivity) is a good thing, I want to throw this out there: Is it any wonder that a girl who's true identity is bravery deals with fear?

I'm not trying to boast, just being honest. Bravery really is a part of who I am, my calling if you will. I was created to be someone who doesn't go with the flow, who isn't confined to her comfort zone, who tells truth when it needs to be told.

I am someone, who until that train wreck, hardly felt fear at all, as testified by my pre-wreck driving style.

Is it a big surprise that in the first few months of moving to England I got mugged, making me fear walking around in urban Britain, the place I'd taken a huge step of faith to move to? I'm telling you folks, the enemy of life (whatever you may call it), goes for the jugular.

The enemy of life goes right for people's strengths, for their powerhouse.

Is it strange when girls gifted with hospitality develop eating disorders that cripple their ability to share meals with friends? Textbook strategy.

Is it odd when powerful people with messages that need to be heard are riddled with insecurity, turning them inward and shrinking them until powerless? Of course not. I'm not saying it's great, just that I'm not surprised.

There will always be resistance to what brings life and to what pushes you toward your purpose. If you feel that resistance, maybe you should be heartened. Maybe the enemy recognizes something in you that is powerful and that will bring life to many people.

I may be emotionally and spiritually sensitive, but my name is not Fear, it's Brave.

Thank you Claire for reminding me, on this anniversary of a weekend that introduced me to fear, that that is not who I am.


Kristen said...

thank you, alisha. beautiful post. it is so good (and necessary!) to have friends (or even strangers, sometimes) who will name us again, hold up the mirror and show us our true (and beautiful) selves. i am blessed reading your words of truth this morning!

Nadine said...

This post was so beautifully written and it spoke right to my heart. I too am one of the over sensitive children and if I hear something sad, it will affect me for days.

Whenever I talk/email my parents, I always add "drive safe" as I fear something will happen. And whenever Matt goes bike riding, I worry the whole time he is gone.

Thanks for sharing your story and letting me know that I'm not alone. You are awesome, caring and very very brave.

Rachael Randal said...

I'm in a cafe in Devonport and have just read this post through tears, twice. You are brave Alisha and you certainly have a powerful message to share. And how beautifully you do so. I know that you will overcome that resistance. As I hope we all do.

alisha said...

Thanks for the encouragement! I amchallenged to call out the true names of people I know ever more. :)

McNabb Clan said...

i needed to hear this friend! thanks for sharing your heart so well, and for being so brave. its true!! reminds me of that song, "you shall no longer be called..." love you babe!!

Rosie said...

Beautifully written, Alisha. Bought me to tears. Man I miss you over here...(not because you bring me to tears though)!

Jessica said...

Wow Lish, I don't know how to comment without writing a book (a sign that a phone chat is overdue I suppose:) but this really hit home for me as well. My own areas that the enemy flings in my face, totally opposite to who I was created to be, have been very real in the last months and I feel like I'm finally getting some clarity. Thank you for sharing, love you friend!

Di said...

I can relate to the mugging in Urban Britain situation. When I first moved to London I would walk about at all hours in all states, get the night bus home to Tooting [unsafe!] by myself and think nothing of it. Then one day I got mugged in Hackney, which totally messed me up. I now can't go out if I know I will be out until late and have to come home by myself, and I most certainly never plan to set foot in Hackney again. I have to call someone and talk to them if I am walking home by myself after dark until I get home. Its strange that I only recently linked the mugging and the lack of confidence in the city.

Mommy Girl said...

thank you for your words and the reminder that the enemy attacks our strengths. I've been feeling that a lot lately, but not able to totally identify it. Thank you Brave Girl.

alisha said...

I'm glad this truth hits home with so many people. :)

Jenny said...

i love you alisha and i'm so glad that you mark this anniversary on your blog. because i wasn't in Italy when you were in your accident it's not always "top of the mind" but I know this is part of your story...and you are brave. and an inspiration.

stay strong!

Carol said...

Great self-reminder, Alisha. I think I'm going to need one for myself too. I'm glad you were able to survive the accident. Keep safe everyone!

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