So I was kind of a big Jewel fan in high school. Remember her? Hippy blonde woman who sang earnest pop-folk tunes and had a back story about living out of her car before hitting it big? Yeh, she got heavy rotation on my Sony DiscMan back in the day. jewel_kilcher_photo_5 Can’t say I’ve listened to a single of her tracks in at least a decade, but there’s one lyric of hers that has stayed with me over the years despite my waning appreciation of her music. It’s from the aptly titled song “I’m sensitive” and it goes like this:

please be careful with me, I’m sensitive and I’d like to stay that way

My sensitivity is at once one of my biggest strengths and greatest weaknesses.

It is a strength in that my depth of feeling makes it easy for me to feel empathy for others, and to connect with people on a fairly deep level − often quite quickly.

It is a weakness in that when I open my heart up that widely and quickly to people, it can lead just as easily to a beautiful connection as it can a really unbalanced situation wherein I am acting from a place of vulnerability that the other person has not yet reached.

Because of this risk, over the years I learned to build a pretty big fence around my sensitivity. I came to understand that my expectations of people would, in many cases, have to be adjusted to account for the fact that there are a lot of people walking through this world with well guarded hearts.

So good did I get at these adjustments that there have even been times in my life when I adopted this guarded heart posture myself. Particularly as I rebounded from an especially big wound to my open heart.

But always, even during my worst phases of letting my fear of being hurt lead me to close off my vulnerability, I had that Jewel lyric in the back of my head.

and I’d like to stay that way.

Weakness though it may be, I’ve always felt my sensitivity was a quintessential part of my character, and I believed deeply that if I ever truly lost it, I would be losing one of the best parts of myself.

So instead I learned to manage it.

To turn it on and off depending on the context of each new situation or relationship.

And this has mostly worked.

Except when I make a massively wrong call on with whom I can let down my sensitivity fence.

And when I get it wrong . . . oh boy, does it ever hurt.

And, oh boy, am I ever tempted to adopt the guarded heart posture for the next round of life.

But then I turn to the people in my life who I trust to treat me and my sensitive heart with the kind of gentleness it requires . . . I reach out to the world with vulnerability . . . and it reaches back to me with loving kindness.

And I remember.

I’d like to stay that way.