I knew the moment I saw your face something was wrong. You asked me how I was and I asked you in return, not sure if you would acknowledge the red in your eyes and the flatness of your face. Sometimes I don’t.
You did, and I felt myself pull into myself while simultaneously wanting to reach out to you. I asked if I could hug you, you nodded vigorously. I hugged you tightly and verbalized your pain, but I felt like it wasn’t enough.
I feel like it’s not enough, but I struggle with making up for the inadequacy. Outward displays of emotion make me uncomfortable. Any kind, not just sadness. Joy, chills, screaming. I fold into myself. It seems disingenuous, even though I know for different types it’s not necessarily. It’s completely real for some people. For me it is not.
But then I felt guilty, trying to make you laugh, trying to distract you. Feeling like I was belittling your pain, or ignoring it. I don’t know how to bridge that gap between what you’re feeling and what I’m uncomfortable with.
I’m here for you, you surely know that, but I also know that there’s nothing I can say you don’t know. There’s nothing I can do that will make anything easier. Maybe for a moment. But you will cycle back through. I want to make you feel better, completely, but that isn’t possible.
“Empathy requires knowing you know nothing. Empathy means acknowledging a horizon of context that extends perpetually beyond what you can see.”
There isn’t a finite economy of empathy.
“Oh my love,
I know I am a cold cold man.
Quite slow to pay you compliments.
Or public displayed affections.”
I just can’t physically do it. The guilt though, flows around me and through me and I will carry it like a sail for the next few days. Like a sheet in the wind at my back. I’m doing you a disservice, but I have to be true to myself. I fell short. I’m not who I claim to be.
“Empathy isn’t just something that happens to us – a meteor shower of synapses firing across the brain – it’s also a choice we make: to pay attention, to extend ourselves. It’s made of exertion, that dowdier cousin of impulse. Sometimes we care for another because we know we should, or because it’s asked for, but this doesn’t make our caring hollow. This confession of effort chafes against the notion that empathy should always rise unbidden, that genuine means the same thing as unwilled, that intentionality is the enemy of love.”
Do I believe in intention? No, but I’m trying to convert.
I’d rather sit in the quiet with you and feed you ice cream and let you process than touch you, or share my experience, or nod my head. I’d rather give you the space you need. Is that one-sided of me? Narrow-minded? Because that’s what I would want. I don’t want you to invade my space, ever, not when I’m happy or sad or heartbroken. And I show you the same respect. I offer you the same opportunity.
I know you have that ache in your heart and I know will lead you around for a while, and that’s okay. Let it out when the rising gets too intense. Let it out when it’s too severe. I don’t mind. But I am not a puller, not a plunger, not a deep-sea diver. I won’t go looking for the color of your pain. I won’t ask you to draw me the map. It’s not mine to discover with you, is it, this wound of yours. It’s mine to witness only, to watch unfold, but I won’t even bring popcorn because it’s not that kind of story. I don’t really like popcorn anyway. The kernels in the teeth.
Most people understand this about me, but it still happens. And it happens because you can’t help but spill over sometimes. I, too, scream on the rollercoaster and cry in the movie. I don’t care if you spill over, but I get so worried that you will want me to help you clean up, and I can’t do that. I can only move out of the way so you have easier access to the mess. Is that okay? Do you hate me for it? Is my detachment so unworthy if it comes from a place of love?
And what about that other knee-jerk feeling I had, which I was reluctant to express? How this happening to you only adds to my distrust. In a sense my distrust of good, of possibility, of clinging to the rope and swinging out over the water, but also to my distrust of bad, of losing faith. Because this too is temporary and this too shall pass and whatever it points to, will be ultimately better. And who knows, this may even turn around and end up to be nothing. How can you tell? How can you know? I’m falling out of place, so aware of how temporary everything can be. I don’t want to lose the meaning. I want it to matter, and I want to give it its worthy due. But all the same, I know…
“The days to come, the days gone by. Before we go back to what we’ll always be.”
flower of life, Frida Kahlo
Is this something or is this nothing? But you don’t wait until the context arrives to express what it means to you. You can’t wait until the end of your life to reflect on all the moments and then decide how you feel. The feeling while it’s happening is part of the inventory, part of the guide that you will use to see your way out of it. What will determine if it’s memorable or not at the end. I scream on the rollercoaster because I want to remember the high, the sense of flying that I feel only then. I cry when I’m heartbroken because I want to remember what it was like when I deceived myself. I laugh with my head back not to express my like for the joke, but for when everything aligned and I realized this moment had never happened before. My emotion is my net, my classification system– not my approval system.