As I’ve said before, I think that I’ve been put on this earth to feel and feel strongly, to carry burdens and help out with heavy loads because the universe knows I can hold them. It’s taken a while to prove to myself that I am strong enough to hold them, but alas, that is only the first step. Once you’ve dealt with your own pain, figured out how to quiet your demons and live amongst the wolves, there is a whole other dimension to explore – that of other people’s pain.
If I’ve been given this gift of extreme empathy, this iron strength and (sometimes detrimental) commitment to perseverance, shouldn’t I open them up to other people? My life will be a continual process of learning how to wield my powers – I’m picturing Harry Potter & crew as wild-eyed babes figuring out those wands (levi-ooooh-sah), then years later battling the darkest of darkness, all the while still figuring out how to hone their particular skills (alohamora & all that shit). As I grow and expand, I feel it would be a waste of my time here to not at least try and ease others’ aches.
I’ve been very careful on my journey to make sure I don’t approach empathy as a selfish pursuit. I truly want to do my part so that someone else doesn’t have to go through the same depths of pain unwarranted – and if they are already there, I want to serve as a guidemap. Not a guidebook, mind you – I don’t have the answers, I don’t know what’s “right” or “wrong” or anything like that. But I do know the darkness, I know how to exist there, how to blindly feel out for the walls. I am good at having conversations about this darkness, which, in turn, brings a little bit of light.
What I’ve never really been confronted with until recently, however, is that sometimes “easing others’ pain” is a lot more nuanced than it sounds. It’s not as simple as being presented with Problem X, figuring out what you can do to help with Problem X, and then doing that. Sometimes “easing” means leaning into the hurt. Sometimes it means discovering that there is actually another issue entirely. And sometimes, “easing” means doing absolutely nothing.
I’ve become accustomed to sitting with uncertainty.
Not knowing how things will turn out, but pushing on anyway.
No one tells you how hard it is to sit with helplessness.
To watch someone crumple and completely lose their footing, and to just be a loving bystander.
Sometimes that is all you can do – and it is hard – but it is enough. I think. I hope.
That, I think, is where the beauty of humanity can really shine. In the unheroic, unflashy, usually-gone-unseen, act of true compassion. Just sitting, just being with another in the midst of their struggle. Acknowledging that you can’t help end it, but you can sit quietly in the middle of it, refusing to let someone suffer alone.
I want to lay by your side and warm your cold back, I want to stare right into the eyes of your demon and refuse to look away. I want to hold your hand when it shakes, I want to keep talking even though you don’t talk back, I want to love you even though you may not love me, I want to show you the sunset even though you just want night, I want to laugh deep belly laughs even though you can’t join in, I want to shower you with smiles even though your pain makes me cry.
And I want to sit with you in silence if that’s what you need. I want to just occupy space around you. I want to breathe the air of your devil and spit it back in his face.
I will open all of the windows and let the rain pour in.
I will be your blanket, I will be your comfort, and I will be here. This to you I promise.