If I had been in charge of building the human body, I might very well have built a lobster. With such tender preciousness inside, why not protect it with a sturdy armor and a big-ass set of claws? Instead, we are built with a sensitive suit of skin, wrapped around pliable, strong, but bruise-able muscles, which attach to and move, finally, the solid structure of bones. Seems a little bass-ackward, doesn’t it?
For sure, there are days I wish I was a rock lobster: impervious. What a relief not to feel the pinch of tight jeans, the hardness of the chair, the coldness of the wind. If I had a suit of heavy armor, I wouldn’t notice the stone in my shoe, my knee smacking the table leg, or the hot pan on my forearm. And those big claws might be helpful when someone cuts in line at Kroger.
But, alas. We aren’t lobsters. We are humans. With our soft, skin tenderness on the outside.
Funny, though. Somehow it works, to be so alive and sensitive to our surroundings, to receive so much information through our skin, and then to manipulate our 200 bones with our 700 muscles to make infinite numbers of movements. Our design invites us to feel it all and respond. To receive the information and make a choice: jump up and wave to hail a cab, sidestep gracefully to avoid a collision, reach out a hand when someone falls, or walk away when we need to.
So I get it. I see the wisdom in our design even though the world can pinch and burn and smart sometimes. I’m glad to be soft on the outside. I’m grateful to have the chance to feel the full spectrum of sensation in my body. It is a practice, no doubt, to really pay attention rather than tune out what my body is telling me. It is the gift of our physical design to feel it and allow ourselves to move accordingly.
Physically, our tenderness and sensitivity is on the outside. Emotionally, our tenderness and sensitivity is on the inside. And many of us throw up all kinds of protection for our tender tender insides. As Paul Simon sings in Something So Right,
They’ve got a wall in China
It’s a thousand miles long
To keep out the foreigners
They made it strong
I’ve got a wall around me
You can’t even see
It took a little time
To get next to me
We all know someone who defends themselves from emotional pain with humor or bullying or anger. I’ve defended myself that way sometimes. I’ve created an illusion of safety by armoring myself against the pain of vulnerability, embarrassment, or fear. There is a way that these defenses act as a rock lobster shell – allowing us to blunder through life not noticing the pain we feel or cause. Our human emotionality, so sensitive on the inside, invites us to feel it and respond. Just like our skin on the outside, our emotions beg for us to pay attention to the inside, to listen deeply and to respond with awareness. It is the gift of our emotional design to feel it all and allow ourselves to be moved accordingly.
This week, in your body, notice what you feel through your skin. Notice and respond with sensitivity and awareness. Emotionally, notice what you feel and respond with gentleness and kindness. And even if they cut in line at Kroger, do your best not to pinch them.