Empathy can be among my best friends and worst enemies. When my empathy is on, I’m at my most creative. I’m also at my most vulnerable and tend to be at my worst with taking care of myself. (I’m never all that good at taking care of myself in the first place.) Empathy makes me care immensely for the people around me. That has brought me some incredible joy and love. It has also brought me tremendous hurt.
Empathy often comes quite easily to me, but I wouldn’t call it natural. I learned it from my mom, and she has always been one of my great role models. It might have been natural for her, but I doubt it. Her caring for people was certainly natural, but one thing I’ve learned about empathy is that it takes a lot of work.
Like my mom, I generally care about how people feel. However, actually paying attention and giving careful consideration to the feelings of others requires effort. I often do things without that careful thought, and every once in a while, that means I do or say something quite insensitive. Furthermore, there are times when I’m tired or hurt or drained from trying to give too much. At those times, I tend to lack empathy. I also tend to be miserable and isolate from the rest of the world.
Empathy is like a miracle drug with sometimes awful side effects. Despite the effort it requires, it can be well worth it, and it makes life wonderful. Unfortunately, there are also times when it hurts like hell. Empathy is my yin and yang. It’s the best thing ever and also the worst. I love it and hate it. I can’t live without it, but sometimes it really sucks.
Writing makes me grumpy. Somebody send me some empathy. I think my own is about to turn off.