October 22, 2015 by Dadinator
Empathy means to suffer. So don’t do it.
The root of the word is Greek, “em” means something like “in” or maybe within. Pathos means to suffer. Plain and simple. To suffer feelings, pain, sadness and grief. It literally means to feel pain within -or as though you were inside someone else. It hurts. So don’t do it.
You never know when it will hit you. Sometimes a documentary, sometimes a news story, sometimes a blog post or sometimes a family member. You feel a swelling up, a tightening and a prickle in the eye. Don’t do it.
It makes the world around you, all your immediate concerns fade to black – like in a musical, leaving you alone to sing some absurd swelling solo about how hard it is, when it isn’t really any harder for you at all. So don’t do it.
You wallow. It’s a kind of reflected self-pity that pervades your reality for a time. Sometimes it can lead to action, to change, to new thoughts. A few dollars thrown to a charity, hoping that it’ll make a difference. A change in purchasing habits. A shift in stance on an issue. Sometimes it leads to helpless despair. No change, just a sigh. So don’t do it.
I sit at the table on a Sunday. My kids are indulging in morning cartoons because it’s Sunday. I’ve just read this, and I feel useless. Unable to help unable to do anything but offer a few hollow words to Bruce. A man I’ve known only through his writing. A man who has made me giggle and who has also made me form a fist pump at the screen as I vehemently agree with him. A man who like me tries to father his kids and celebrates the joys and the struggles of it all by sharing his life on a screen.
Now this man has made me cry.
Tears at such distance as to be useless, as to be invisible and as to be unheard. I breath in, but want to hold that breath for a moment as sadness swells up in my chest again, but in the end I breath out.
My sense of sadness and grief is just an attempt to understand what Bruce might be feeling, what he might be going through, and the demands and pressures it might be loading onto him.
And through it all be shares his pain. Bares his soul and lets the world know just how hard it is. Not asking for anything for himself, but sharing because that is simply what he does. He’s shared embarrassment, laughter, triumph and failure. Now he shares this. His fear, his hope and his recent resignation.
Meanwhile in my cocoon of good fortune it tugs at my heart-strings, brings tears to my eyes. It forces me to confront the reality that we could lose each other tomorrow. It makes me squeeze my kids that little bit tighter, makes me say I love you a few more times each day and helps me pause and reflect on how much I have and how much I take for granted.
Maybe that empathy ain’t so bad…
Bruce, thank you. Thank you for sharing so much of something that must be so devastatingly hard.
And I am so sorry. My thoughts are with you, as are my families.
Bruce has asked that people consider making a donation to Care Flight during this time.
Bruce hasn’t asked that people support him at this time, but the local community decided to do it anyway because Bruce is awesome. You can find the details here.