by Ariane Cunningham
I find it easier to listen, give advice, nurture, support, and console than to be a recipient of any of these things. I can humbly say I feel I have an innate gift of empathy. I am thankful for that gift. It is humbling and I feel it keeps me grounded.
The question I sometimes ask myself is when do I go from nurturer to being nurtured? When do I go from being the giver to the occasional receiver? As a good friend says, “When will you stop being everyone’s Dr. Phil?”
Empathy, or being an Empath as I have heard it described as recently is, in my opinion, a gift and a curse. The empathetic side of me will say it is more of a gift, because everybody needs somebody sometimes, as the song goes. Well, everybody sometimes includes me.
What do I say to a gentleman of particular dating interest, “I do not want to hear that you have as many “really close” female friends, if not more, than I do, or the details of the trip to Cabo San Lucas you took with your ex last year, let alone the random picture she just sent to you from Cabo?” I say nothing. How do I say to someone, “I do not want to hear your constant complaining today?” I say nothing. My responses include, “Oh really,” or “how nice,” or “that is so unfortunate,” and, go-to response, “what can I do to make this better?” When I am feeling witty, I will say, “Tell me something good that happened today,” on days where I feel my energy is evaporating into nothingness. All of my responses are said with sincerity, most often to individuals who choose to talk to me because they know it is not in my nature to complain, judge, or object. It is in my nature to comfort, understand, be the source of strength, and bring them back to a level of peace.
With all of its imbalances, I would not change or exchange my gift of empathy for the world. As others may see it as a weakness or to their advantage to take advantage of my empathy, I see it as a strength. I am able to feel things that others feel and, oftentimes, others simply need that. People need to hear “I understand,” or “I hear you.” I can also clearly feel when a person just needs someone to listen and provide them with comfort in that moment, at that time, for that season. I can also intrinsically feel when they will move on after they have received the encouragement needed in that moment, at that time, for that season.
Deep Zen Meditation
Wistfully, I am waiting for that one special person, potentially that life partner, who will pour into me as much as I pour into them. Who is a giver and not just a receiver. Who sees more than my kindness and tolerance, but sees that my heart needs to be replenished as well, and my cup of comfort needs to be refilled occasionally. How appreciative I will be when that special person arrives, is present, and stays. That would be my happy ending. Luckily, I still believe in fairy tales. Luckily, empathy comes with patience.
Until then, and likely always, I will proudly remain the Empath, Comforter, Peace Maker, and Sounding Board in Chief. I wear the title proudly. It is so much more than a gift. It is who I am.