By day, she is the mild mannered Madame Paradox, aspiring author. But at night, oh at night Ladies and Gentleman, a beast is unleashed. One with powers heretofore unheard of on this planet. For you see, deep in the superhero bunker that I share with the two guitar-playing stoners next door, and the couple with the power tools upstairs, I am known simply as…The Sniffer. Feel free to insert whatever dramatic theme music you feel is fitting here. I’m partial to Underdog myself, but use your imagination.
I speak to you now of my hypersensitive sense of smell, passed down to me by my mother, The Scent Whisperer. Yes, back in the day, mom could root out even the hint of a smelly banana skin days before any laymen might discover it. Incidentally, you may know my mother by her tribal name She-Who-Expects-You-To-Use-A-Coaster, but I digress.
Are your cupcakes just barely on the verge of scorching? The Sniffer knows and will keep the world safe for PTA bake sales everywhere. Got a gas leak? Faster than you can say, “canary in a coal mine” The Sniffer alerts the authorities, or at least the doorman. Yes, be warned, if you’ve forgotten to empty the litter box recently, or you’re smoking some of that hippie lettuce, The Sniffer knows.
I’m sure you’re wondering why I have finally chosen to reveal my top secret identity. I guess I’ve been thinking about what inspires a person to create. For me, certainly a part of it is due to my natural hypersensitivity. I have a bloodhound-like sense of smell, it is true. But as a child there were many other sensitivities as well. A person’s angry tone of voice supposedly hidden could easily leave me in tears. Witnessing another person’s pain would typically cause an empathetic response of pain in my own body. As I think I’ve mentioned before, even my skin was hypersensitive. The elastic on my knee socks, the weather, pretty much anything gave me hives. (I still haven’t gotten over the Crazy Foam incident. I was scratching for days.) Of course there was also my overactive imagination resulting in many a sleepless night. It all added up to one fairly neurotic little girl let me tell you.
That is the downside, the painful, negative mythology of my youth. However, that’s not all there is. There’s a beauty to sensitivity. Take my trouble sleeping, for example. As I would lie there wide awake I began inventing a tale about a village that lived on my tummy. I guess I sort of saw myself as the mayor of Heidiville, if you will. Sometimes I’d grab the edge of the sheet tossing it high in the air and announce “Oh no, there’s an overblow!” My warning to my tenants of a potential storm. The sheet would float gently back down leaving all my people safe and secure for another day. Someone remarked to me recently that this was probably when I first became a writer or at least a storyteller, anyway. Yes, I was just a little child comforting my fears with made up tales. But I’m willing to bet many of us have our early years to thank for the creative impulses and inspiration that comes to us now. After all, Sarine, the main character in my novel does have the ability to smell people’s moods.
Here is an incredible quote by Pearl S. Buck that talks about hypersensitivity in a creative person.
The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him…a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create…so that without the creating of music or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.
So what do you think, is being sensitive standard fare for the creative mind? Have you experienced this yourself? Do you find being sensitive a blessing, or a curse? Don’t leave me hanging out here exposing my naked underbelly alone. The villagers might get upset and need sweets, after all.
I’m sure you’re wondering by the way what The Sniffer’s kryptonite might be. Let’s just say if you wanna watch an attractive women go from charming to blotchy in one fell swoop, just spritz a little Tea Rose perfume in my direction and I’m out for the season. Ah well, just sensitive, I guess.