I’ve heard people talk about empaths, people who can allegedly absord emotions from around them. Like if they walk past you and you’re sad, they instantly join in, without really know how or why.

I don’t know about that, but I know that I feel people’s pain. When people I care about are hurting, I feel debilitated. I want to help them somehow, and I rack my brains to make them feel better. Actually, even when I read a book or a soap and someone is abused or mistreated, I feel their pain and get upset for hours. I’ll watch a rape scene in a movie and I’ll be burdened for ages, even if I know it’s only fiction. It’s why I can’t stand sappy country music.

The strange thing is I don’t necessarily want to fix the root of the problem. I just want the person to feel better so that I can stop being sad. Shallow and self-serving? Yes. I’m not proud of it, but there it is – I don’t like being sad.

It’s like when I freeze. Two times in my life, in emergencies, I have gone stone. It was about 5.00 a.m, dark, and my roomate’s kettle was on fire. It had been switched on with no water inside. I was sitting there watching as the filament glowed red, emitting some sickly smoke, then burst into flame. My head was clearly stating my options ‘electric fire, don’t use water. You can use soil, go outside and get some. No, it’s too far, and the door is locked. Use a blanket.’

Yet as these thoughts ran through my head, all I did was sit and stare. Then some out-of-body voice, which sounded a lot like me, gently called my roomate’s name and calmly, quietly [my voice is rarely calm or quiet] told her that her kettle was on fire. She jumped up in a second and dowsed the flame with a blanket, then turned and asked me why I froze.

Another time I was watching my nieces swim in the baby pool when another kid jumped into the big pool … and proceeded to drown. My mind was belting out instructions – I’m a very good swimmer. Instead I sat there and stared alternately at the baby and at the parents, willing them to notice what was going on. Thankfully, they did. The kid lived.

Now that I think about it, one time, when we were little, we were playing in the pool. It was a girls vs boys water-basketball game, and the boys were being pretty sneaky. So when I tripped over something, and saw that it was a boy hiding underwater, I got mad at this sneaky new trick and wondered how he could hold his breath so long. Turns out it was a baby who had drowned. It was 5 minutes before anyone saw him and pulled him out. He survived, but I never stopped blaming myself for that.

I felt somewhat redeemed recently when I was giving Princess a swimming lesson and she panicked, pulling us both under. Somehow I managed to get us to safety. I have never been afraid of dying, except when I think of what will happen to my baby when I’m gone. And especially that one day when she asked me “Mummy, what will happen to me if you be dead? I don’t want you to be dead.” She was four at the time.

But in that moment, sinking in a pool with my child’s arms pulling us both down and our lungs screaming for air, I was terrified. Not by death, but by the thought that my baby was dying and I couldn’t save her.

The adrenalin from that moment got us out safe, and nobody even noticed what had happened. But I was too shocked to do anything but hold her with my arms shaking and say again and again “Never ever do that. ever.” She forgot about it within minutes, but I was haunted for days.

I get that same feeling everytime she’s sick. My world stops, I can’t think straight, I can’t concentrate on work, everything happens in slow motion. I walk around the house aimlessly doing nothing in particular, I stand in one spot staring into nothingness and zoob in half-sentence as I give the mboch instructions on medication. I go fully nutcase even if all my baby has is a fever. I don’t know why I’m writing all this.

My friend is sad now. Her friend is in hospital, and is in a really bad way. I guess she feels how I feel when my baby is sick. I don’t know what to do. I have sent hugs her way, cracked silly jokes, tried to get her to smile, but I can’t fix it this time, coz the only thing that will make her better is for her friend to heal. Which means I am stuck being down. Crud.

I don’t know how to respond to grief. When my intimates are sick, I bring medicine, crack jokes, leave. Because if I stick around, I’ll get sad, and I don’t want to be sad. At funerals … well, I avoid them, first. And when I can’t, I look for some corner where people are pigaing stories [there’s always one] and stay there, basking in the cheer.

I stay away from the corpse for two reasons. One, I feel detached – I can’t relate the stiff thing lying there with the person I knew and cared about. The distancing gets so bad that I can’t recognise the corpse. I look at it and think some prankster must have switched the bodies. And when I get that thought I want to pull a giggaloop.

The second reason I avoid hearses is that dead things freak me out. So much so that I don’t want to poison the rat, coz then I’ll have to carry its dead body out of my house. Yes, the rat is back.

Apparently, I am a freezer. I freeze when people are ill or in pain. People say ‘pray for me’ and I’m thinking what do I pray? Do I pray ‘Thy will be done?’ Do I pray ‘get better soon?’ Is that even a valid prayer? Does prayer work in messes like these? Or is it simply for comfort, for the Holy Spirit to show us he’s with us no matter what? If God wants the person to get better, they will, whether I want them to or not. So do I help by praying for their health?

So many times I pray for God to keep my baby safe form kidnappers and paedophiles and rapists, but do my prayers really make a difference? All those babies that are hurt every day – what happened? Did their parents forget to pray? Did mine? Does God love all those violated babies any more or less than he loves mine?

Back to the point, all I want is for my people to cheer up so that I can stop being sad. So I pray “thy will be done, and God give them strength’. Which does not necessarily mean the person will get better.

As these thoughts ran through my head, I played Natasha Beddingfield’s song on spin-cycle.

These words are my own, [well, technically, they aren’t, they’re Natasha’s] from my heart, That’s all I’ve got to say, can’t think of a better way.

I hope my friend feels better soon, I don’t think my words will do her much good.

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5 thoughts on “These words

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