48 essays by Elizabeth Shé

Essay #43: welcome

In Love on January 2, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Welcome: admitted gladly, freely invited or permitted; synonyms: comfortable, wanted

Last night I watched Cary Fukunaga’s film version of Jane Eyre. It opens with Jane running across the moors in the rain, periodically falling to the ground weeping. “Jesus,” I thought. “What a loser. Running around without gloves, not bothering to keep her cape closed or the hood up.” Of course she washes up on a friendly doorstep, not quite fatally ill, and recovers.

When I was 17, in the middle of a fight, my mother told me she had found another house to live in. There was no room for me. Devastated, I ran out the door, jumped in the car, and drove to find my boyfriend. “Let’s move in together,” he said. A friendly doorstep!

Unfortunately, I believed that if your own mother doesn’t want you, you’re lucky if anybody does. If you’re not welcome at home, it’s a miracle you’re welcome anywhere.
This is what is known as faulty logic.

For decades I was convinced that my welcome could wear out at any time. At home, at work, with friends, lovers, family — I could never rest, or get comfortable. I had to be ready to go at any moment. In order to survive, to protect myself, I thought I had to know which way the wind was blowing, what people were thinking, what they might do. My natural sensitivity became extreme.

Today I tried an experiment. What if I were welcome… everywhere?
What if I did not need to know what others had up their sleeves?
What if my paramount concern was my comfort? my happiness?
What would that be like?

Turns out, I would be like Emmett. You’re having a party? Here I am! You’re going for a walk, a drive, a bike ride? Let’s go! He always assumed he was a part, not apart.

Do I ever welcome myself?

When I listen too long to a neighbor’s chatter instead of saying, “Gotta go,” I put her comfort ahead of mine. When I plan a party I don’t want to host, who am I considering? Not me.

Who is wandering the moors instead of sitting by a fire sipping brandy, saying, “Look, this is not working. You have got to let the mad woman out of the attic.”

Come in from the cold. The fire is lit.

  1. Sensitive people can be hostage to walls of their own design. Some then fashion, first a window, then a door.

  2. No, I haven’t read any of Elaine Aron’s or anyone else’s works on the subject, perhaps because my sensitivity is something upon which I rarely reflect. I am aware of it, however, and appreciate it in others.

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