I Am Emotional and Sensitive.

All my life, my mother told me that I am emotional and sensitive. She not only told me, she told everybody else. If I ever got upset over anything, she’d say, “Kathy’s sensitive. Be careful what you say around her.” If I got my feelings hurt, even if justified, and if I cried, she’d say, “Kathy’s emotional. She’s just that way, and you have to take care of her.” Everyone — my sister, other family, friends — learned to define me in that light. My sister was supposed to be the strong one. I was the weak one. I was emotional. I was sensitive. I felt like a freak, a cripple.

I grew to expect being described as such, to believe it myself, almost. What else could I do? It was pounded in my head from the earliest age I can remember. It was fed to me daily. As I lived through my teen years, I played it all out. I did get my feelings hurt from time to time, I had disappointments, my hormones soared and I cried, and I figured it was because I was emotional and sensitive. My mama told my husband that, she told my children — and any time I displayed any emotion over anything, valid or maybe not so much, she repeated her longtime stance. “Kathy is emotional and sensitive.”

It bothered me to the core. I hated to be tagged this way. A surge of hot flame ignited in my chest when I heard my definition. I responded with a staunch “I. Am. Not.” I said it in a way that could melt glaciers.

The honest truth is that I never saw myself this way. I always saw myself as standing strong, as taking a lick and getting back up and forging on. Sure, I got upset and cried. But so did other people. My sister did, my friends did. Why was I singled out for doing it? Why me? What was so different and wrong about me?

After I divorced in my forties, the hurts had piled up so high that I put a stop to it all, dammit. I stopped feeling, I stopped crying. I didn’t cry for fifteen years. I closed my heart and grew rock hard. I wouldn’t let anything penetrate. I wouldn’t let anything shake my solid image. It took three weeks before I could drop a few tears when my father died. I was  in my fifties then and not long after the loss of my father, my second husband died. I had no choice but to break down then. I needed to cry. Then my mother died.

I am sensitive to these losses. I do get emotional. I do cry. Every day. Maybe just for five seconds. But I cry. And I accept willingly the part of me that feels and acts on the emotion and cries. I do not apologize for this.

Then I happen to notice something on page 14 of my pink satin baby book that was given to my mama by the Galloways when I was born. It’s titled HOROSCOPE. There’s a blue wheel with all the months on it, their signs, and a description of people born under those particular signs. The wheel is surrounded by blond-haired cherubs, holding long pink ribbons, appearing to turn the wheel like a Maypole. My mama had circled my birth month of September. I read about myself.

SEPTEMBER — VIRGO (Virgin) — Keen. Alert mind. Introspective. Emotional and sensitive.

Emotional? And sensitive?

I’ll be damn, I thought. I’ve lived my whole life under this umbrella for no more reason than there it was, written in my baby book, under my horoscope, printed, fixed, so it had to be true. Mama had read it and believed it. And scooped me up and put all the pieces of me in that category and held me to it all my life. How do you mold someone to something they are not and never were?

Why in the living hell couldn’t she have described me as keen and with an alert mind? But there you have it.

Six decades and here I am, emotional and sensitive.



5 Comments on “I Am Emotional and Sensitive.”

  1. Don Day says:

    I am glad to hear it from a real person. No apologies needed and it makes for a more stable and centered individual.

  2. That’s why I’m so lucky that the family “myth” around me is that I was switched at birth. No expectations that I am “like” anything or will turn out like “anybody!”

  3. Kathy Rhodes says:

    Funny, Beth. This is funny, too — just checked my sister’s horoscope in MY baby book — guess my mother read that one, too –“Great personal will and creative ability. Dependable and tenacious.” The way we were viewed our whole lives was based on these horoscopes. Amazing.

  4. I think you really are on to something very interesting here. On a (much) darker note, my younger brother, who has had great difficulties with depression almost his entire life, now cancer and other issues, was “laughingly” referred to by our mother as “her blue-eyed tumor.” Yep. Gives me chills, too. He was a “change of life” baby, born when she was 40.

  5. Kathy Rhodes says:

    Ooh, wow. I guess mothers can set these things up and keep them in the channel. My first child has the same horoscope as I do, but I certainly never saw him as emotional and sensitive. Quite the opposite. As he grew, I came to see him as proactively caring. If you’ve got a crisis, he’s in the middle of it, and he’s the one you want there. Always true for him. A wonderful quality that he set himself.

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