Risk Being Seen

Art by Amanda Clarke

Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye. ~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Often these days, I feel a little like a prairie dog popping my head up from my underground hidey-hole. I find myself wondering if it is safe to live above ground and let myself be seen.

Invisible is a place where I feel safe.

Invisible is easier for me, less exhausting. Allowing myself to be seen leaves me raw. It terrifies me in a hundred different ways.

I want to stay where it is warm and quiet. The clang of the world is too much for me. It bruises and twists my brain. It makes me ache.

How can I live in such a world?

How can I move through this river of noise and violence and hatred? How I can risk breaking my own heart by watching the news of bombings, blasts, and shootings? How can I bear the increasing litany of mass extinctions?

It is terrible to be so able to see and feel what so few are able to see and feel.

I am a stranger in a strange land.


But then, I remember.

I am not as alone as I often think I am.

I am not the only empath hiding my head, bracing for impact, wondering when the next blast will come.

There are others who feel all of this and still bravely peek out of their rooms. They unpin the blackout curtains and venture out to talk to barren trees standing like centaurs in the yard. They listen to songbirds devouring a bowl of seed left out for them and take in the easy chit-chat those tiny birds engage in.

They hear the wind differently and watch the lenticular clouds pile up like blankets over the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

This world can be hard but it is still beautiful.

We can spend our whole lives standing outside the life imagine we were ‘meant to live,’ only to suddenly sink into the terrible realization we’ve bought into an illusion.

Then, we see the cracks in everything. We recognize we’ve been fooled.

All along, there were others.

All along as we hid and ran and soldiered on in solitude there were others just like us.



I have trouble asking for help.

I was raised by a woman who never asked anyone for help. She still bristles any time she has to ask for help.

As a result, I felt deep shame if I ever needed help. I was taught it was honorable and necessary to bootstrap it through life.

Buck it up, buttercup.

To need help was a bold admission of my complete failure as a human being.

Living in this universe of ‘perfectly holding my shit together’ and ‘never needing to lean on another person [ever]’ made me hermetic and scared.

It shriveled me up and made me small.

I lost years, hiding out.

Yet, as I reached my mid-fifties, that stoic ‘I-do-not-need-anybody’ version of me, started to fall away.

I began to see the bereft child inside me.

I began to understand her fierce desire to nest close to me yet also venture into the fray.

I falteringly began to acknowledge I did need a lot of help.

In fact, it became clear I no longer need or want to go it alone.


This week I saw a documentary called Sensitive: The Untold Story.

It told my story.

It reflected my life perfectly, unraveling and explaining exactly what it is like to be a highly sensitive person. This is a character trait I didn’t even know existed until I read Elaine Aron’s book, The Highly Sensitive Person in 2016.

For five decades, I never knew anyone like me.

To realize there are others was catalyzing.


This past weekend, I’d signed up for a streaming online workshop. As it started with its hip-hop soundtrack and loud audience call and response, I found myself shuttering. I stayed online for the first two hours and then turned it off. My head was pounding.

I didn’t care about the money I’d lost by not attending. I simply couldn’t deal with any aspect of it. I was completely overwhelmed.

Instead of trying to motor through, I practiced self-care. I let myself enjoy the ensuing silence. I went out to my backyard and visited the trees. I made myself a delicious lunch. I soaked my feet and read a book.

I remembered to care for me.


These days, I hide my light, less and less.

I don’t feel safe, per se, but I realize the whole idea of safety is overrated. Being a big, juicy, creative mess is better.

Being authentic is better. Sitting inside the comfortable imperfection of my heart is better. Being me is better.


Do you relate to my experience, dearheart? Leave me a comment below or click the link to get connected to my website and email list so we can exchange stories. You can also find me via the links below to my Facebook writer’s page.


Everyone has a book inside of them. Everyone has a story. Wouldn’t you love to share yours with the world? Get your free writer’s toolkit, packed with tricks and tips to get you started. Just do it. Don’t wait. Don’t die with an untold story inside you.

© 2018  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved

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4 thoughts on “Risk Being Seen

  1. I know exactly what you mean about all those feelings and emotions! Sometimes I have to close myself off from the outside world, snuggle down on my sofa, and disappear into my own world for a while. Then I can emerge rested and refreshed, and able to cope with the onslaught of drama and activity that comes at me from all around. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    1. Yes! I can so relate to what you say. I am just now emerging from rest after the end of a hectic semester teaching writing! Exhausted but glad to recharge. Thanks for your comment. Shavawn

  2. Hi, I too feel like a prairie dog. Popping my head out of the whole to check things out. I am slightly concerned about this. I do work 5 days a week but I try to come right home and I don’t go anywhere else once I’m home. I do not like to leave my house. I don’t have any friends. I am 50 years old.(My partner left me 7 months ago. I also have some other major problems in my life but I don’t want to bore you.) I guess my question to you is, do you think I have a problem? Ami I becoming a shut-in? A recluse? A Hermit 😮?

    1. Sorry, I’ve been slow to respond to your very thoughtful question. School started the week you wrote and I am just now coming up for air (I teach college writing). I personally don’t think soloing is a problem if you are happy doing it. I prefer a good chunk of solitude. If I don’t get it, I turn into someone who isn’t much fun to be around. As a highly sensitive introvert, I need the solace and tranquility of that alone time. However, if you don’t have any friends that you speak to regularly, I recommend you get out a bit more if you possibly can. Take yourself out, even if you do it alone. Go have a meal and see a film. Only you can know what’s right for you. To me, being a bit of a hermit is normal life. I hope you take care of yourself. ~ Shavawn

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