Recently, I put a pattern in my life together and came up with something odd and rather sad. It appears that everyone in my immediate family is lacking a trait I consider vastly important. I’m not sure why this may be true, although I have some theories. But I do know that I find it disturbing on some levels for sure.
As a young child, I had a very hard time reading books like “Bambi” or watching movies like “Lassie” because I found them so upsetting. Even though I knew on some level things might turn out OK, the in-between parts just tore me up.
When I got older, reading “Black Beauty” had the same effect, or watching certain TV commercials. I was always a sucker. And now as an adult, it’s almost impossible for me to listen to the news dry-eyed.
This is all because my empathy meter is off the charts. I’ve never figured out if this is a blessing or a curse. In my job now as paramedic, I’m with people all the time in various degrees of suffering, so you can imagine how this takes a toll on me. But it also allows me to be a decent provider because I truly relate to what they are feeling–and honestly, it’s real.
But it is draining being this kind of person. Not only that, it has always been disheartening when others are so unlike me. And so, the fact that my family is thus, it’s like being surrounded by aliens. It’s as though someone plopped me in the middle of another country where I don’t speak the language. Where everyone is looking at me like I have three heads. It leaves me feeling out-of-place and out of sorts.
It started when I was young and my adopted mother’s reactions were often quite different from mine about things. And when I had ‘too strong’ an emotion about something, this somehow was labeled as being unwieldy and uncomfortable. Sharing these feelings with others was not tolerated either if I happened to find someone (an adult especially) who might be more like me.
And throughout life people would often tell me: calm down, why does that bother you so much, you shouldn’t let these things get to you. These were constant mantras folks put in my ears, but somehow they didn’t feel right to me! They DID get to me, and why shouldn’t they?
As my kids have gotten older, I see the trend continue with them. This really surprised me! I figured given the fact that I had raised them, they for sure would have some modicum of empathy in their bones. But emoting on my part either sends them huffing off to their rooms, ringing off their phone or thinking I’m ‘over-reacting’.
When I had my appendix out and when I had my car accident, there wasn’t much from any of the above mentioned. No help, no phone calls to check in, nada. It was so very odd–not to mention hurtful. But mostly, I didn’t understand it.
So what does it all mean? Is it some weird karma? Was I an undeserving human in my last life, destined now to live out being surrounded by people who don’t care? Or is it something more?
It may depend on what one believes. If it is in our genes how we act, then maybe this has something to do with things. So I will put forth some theories.
My birth mother walked away from my life when I was 18 months or so the story goes. I don’t know much about her (except she was a prostitute and Italian). Could she have been lacking in empathy?? It’s hard to say. But my 3 daughter’s Dad was not filled with it–that I will say. It’s one reason I walked. His personality was the antithesis of mine. So is this where is comes from?
Or is it the new generation? This me, me, me personality of today’s kids? That doesn’t explain my adopted Mom’s behavior though and how different we are, but that may be generational too.
In the end, I know I just end up feeling strange around the people I should closest. This bothers me. There’s a strong sense of not belonging which I always felt, and now more so than ever. Isolated and an island unto myself.
It’s not a terrible thing, but I just wonder, where has empathy gone?