Friend, writer, and teacher extraordinaire, Patti Digh wrote a great blog post a few days ago. Writing about her daughter, Tess, who was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome she asks the questions, “What does Tess need to succeed? What helps her sit fully in her sun?”
Certainly these are questions that most anyone could one day wrestle with, if their own child or another family member is in need of special help in order to be successful in life. Unfortunately, we don’t ask those questions of ourselves and it is rare to hear them asked in the workplace by those who run the show. Whether or not we have a particular disability, we should all be asking ourselves these questions, as should CEOs if they expect the best work from their employees.
In reality, all of us have special needs. Introverts need quiet and solitude to do their work. Extroverts, on the other hand, need continuous interaction with other people in order to be comfortable in their world. And some of us have sensitivities that can bring us too our knees. Music that fills a room may be therapeutic to some and nothing but bruising noise to others. If on in the background, I find the garbled messages of a television anxiety producing when I’m trying to read or am doing any activity that requires my focus and attention.
On some days I write with music playing in the background. On other days even the gentlest of instrumental sound can keep me from my quest. I just turned off Yo-Yo Ma’s album, Obrigado Brazil, that I love and often exercise to, as I did this morning. But today in order to concentrate on writing this post, it is getting in my way. On another day I might find it just the ticket I need in order to write or paint. I never know, and I’m learning to listen carefully to what I need in any given situation.
As an introvert, I often need time to myself after I’ve been with large groups of people. I dislike small talk and would prefer to converse about life and philosophical issues. I do much better in intimate settings with only a few people at a time. For me, the perfect dinner party size is six people. Good talk and good food … there’s nothing better.
Should you decide to turn on lights or make noise while I’m trying to sleep, you’re toast. That’s why the only roommate I can tolerate is my love, Bill. He understands and goes out of his way in order to keep me from being awakened in the middle of the night and chopping off his head :-)!
I’ve spent years trying to come to grips with my introversion and sensitivities. Until just a few years ago, I thought that I was broken, intolerable to be around, and that most people thought I was a snob, elitist and/or beyond loony. Certainly my parents didn’t help, with their incessant complaining about my being too sensitive as a child. Of course, they were too, but hid it behind their iron curtains of denial.
These days, I try to be with people who tend to understand my kookiness. They are extroverts as well as introverts. And after a recent bout of overwhelm, I’m learning again to pay attention and ask myself what I need in any given moment. Knowing that everyone has needs of his or her own helps to keep me from feeling freakish about mine.
What are your special needs? Do you consider yourself to be extremely sensitive? An extrovert or an introvert? We’re all different, of course. But no one should suffer from feeling different and alone in what sometimes feels like a world gone out of control.