Scents and Senses

Since I got home from my trip to NOLA last Friday, I've had a doozy of an upper respiratory infection; croupy cough, stuffed sinuses, the works. And as it began to work its way out of my system, I found that for the last few days I had completely lost my sense of smell.

I realized it when I was dropping eucalyptus oil into my diffuser. The waft of menthol usually fills my senses but I couldn't detect a thing. I wondered if perhaps I had bought an off-brand that had already worn out or if the essence had leaked out through a loosely-closed cap. Then I realized I also wasn't tasting things right; everything had a dull, metallic taste and I didn't have much of an appetite.

I was reminded of another time this happened many years ago as I recovered from a similarly bad cold. I was getting ready for a date (yes! I actually dated once!) and I dabbed on a little perfume. But I couldn't smell it at all, so I slathered on a bit more, and a bit more, and then figured there was something wrong with it. When my date arrived, I asked him if he could smell my perfume and he said, "Are you kidding? I could smell it down the hall!"

It's a strange sense to miss, the olfactory sense. It wasn't too unpleasant to not smell the cats' litter box, or my son's feet, or the trash that needed to go out. But I missed the smell of my morning coffee, my hippie-scented soap and my evening herbal tea. Even the chocolate egg I tried was just bland sweetness on my tongue without that dark, rich aroma.

The sixth sense that I have honed through years of practice and passion can yield similarly mixed experiences. When I'm tuned in, I can feel the grief, pain and anguish of others. I can sense their insecurities, their struggles, their anger. I can feel the full weight of the burden they see as their life and I will sometimes wish that I had chosen a more "normal" existence, one that didn't require diving so deeply into these wells of difficult emotions and feelings.

But without it, I wouldn't know the joy and satisfaction of helping others work through those difficult times. I wouldn't sense those burdens lifting as they realize their power to move forward. And I wouldn't be living my true calling and passion.

After the birth of my second child, I experienced severe post-natal depression and was medicated for it. While the medication stopped the emotional pain and incessant crying, it also dulled all of my feelings. I wasn't really depressed anymore, but I also wasn't feeling joy. I couldn't even cry over a sad TV show or laugh at a comedy. I was in a neutral zone which kept me safe, but it deadened my ability to feel to such a degree that I eventually realized I couldn't live there anymore. I needed to feel the sadness in order to heal it, and if that's what it took to bring me back to myself, then I decided to take it on.

Embracing this life means engaging all the senses in all experiences, whether we label them good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, joyful or sorrowful. We cannot close our eyes to the things we do not want to see, but we can decide where to focus our attention. We cannot turn off the feelings we don't want to feel, but we can choose what do with those feelings.

As my sense of smell begins to return, I realize I actually did miss the unpleasant cat box odor, as it signaled that it was time for a scoop-out. And even my teenage son's stinky feet are somehow a comfort to have around. What a blessing our senses are, and what a supreme gift it is to FEEL all there is to feel in this life of contrast and joy. And how amazing that the Universe found a way to remind me that in order to do what I do best, I have to be willing to see, hear, touch, taste, smell and feel ALL the magic of what this gift has to offer.


Tracy Farquhar