Empathy is funny thing. I have been told that you should be careful trying to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, but to be honest I’ve always liked the exercise and the challenge that comes with understanding someone else’s perspective. Empathy is tricky, because sometimes I feel like my heart is so big that I become a sponge and absorb people’s pain, making it my own. I feel what they feel, and while this can be a blessing, it can also be a curse.
Because if you’re anything like me, when someone you love or care about gets hurt, you feel it too... to the point where if someone pinched them, you’d also flinch. One of the things that has been difficult for me growing up and learning more in my profession is how to hold people’s pain without becoming it. This is easier to do with people you don’t know, people who come to your office once a week and pour their pain into you like they would pour a glass of water. It is much harder to do when it’s someone you care about. It’s much harder to do when it’s someone you used to love.
I’ve never been the type of girl who held ill will toward anyone. If you’ve broken my heart, I’ve mourned your loss and moved on. I want nothing but the best for you. Truly, I want you to be happy. I want you to thrive; I want you to find what you were looking for, even though that person wasn’t me, and I’m grateful that I was a part of your journey to finding that person. Because even though you’ve hurt me, you’ve also helped me grow, and for those lessons I feel nothing but gratitude.
So, what does an empath like me do when the person they used to love comes to you with their heart broken, a heart break you are not responsible for? It feels a little like this:
I wish I could wring your heart out like a towel until your tears dry and your heart is ready to absorb again. I wish I could fast forward to the part where you’re happy again and you find everything that you are looking for. I wish I could nurse you back to health, tell you when it’s going to be okay again. I wish I could be your Clark Kent right now; I’d leave my day job and save you from the monsters circulating in your mind. I would put a band-aid on your cuts, and stay with you until it no longer hurts.
But the problem is, I’m not the one who hurt you. I can’t take away pain I didn’t cause. It’s hard for me to see you like that, but at the end of the day I didn’t throw the knife in your back and walk away. I wish it was me. Because then I could turn it back. I could try to fix it, try to mend what I broke. But I can’t, because I don’t even know where the pieces lie; it’d be like searching for a needle in a haystack. I’d like to think that I know you, but after all this time you are different and so am I. Besides, every heart break is different.
I’m sorry I can’t be the one to save you. I’m sorry I can’t swoop in and take away the hurt. Trust me I wish I could. But I hope you’ll settle for a friend instead: two ears to listen, a heart that cares, and a mouth that will try it’s damnedest to make sure it can talk you into a better place.