Guilt. If I let it take hold of me, I have noticed that it essentially cripples me. Being a sensitive, empathic person I believe makes one much, much more vulnerable to this paralysis:
Jacquelynn has an edema on her foot. Caused by an impact injury 15 years ago, it has long been a source of agony for her, and lack of insurance coverage has made the concept of correcting it problematic at least. Every morning, and frequently throughout the day, the pain is overwhelming and leaves her whimpering and cursing. Much as I want to help her, as much as I’d give my entire world and my life to alleviate her discomfort, I’m helpless to really be of any aid, and her pain communicates to me so purely that I cannot stand to be in the same room with her. I want to hold her and fuel her with love and positive energy, but it makes me physically ill to hear and feel her pain. I can’t let her know this. I refuse to add to her pain by allowing her to know mine, so I close the door and sit in my studio or put my headphones on and shut the world out.
And wallow in helpless guilt. Like the wannabe skydiver frozen with fear at the airplane hatch, unable to take that last step, I feel weak and useless. Ashamed.
Just this morning, when we’re normally spending a few minutes together before I leave for work, the pain took her, and I fled. I know I can’t fix it or free her from the agony, but shouldn’t I at least be strong enough to sit with her, feeding her strength rather than hiding on the other side of the house pretending to play solitaire games on my phone?
I love my empathy. I celebrate the idea that sensitivity to others rules my actions. But I yearn to overcome the paralysis that Jacquelynn’s pain brings. I believe that to be part of my path; to learn to harness the good that I can accomplish and to expand upon that and make myself useful in situations that currently render me incapable of action.
I’m eager for that. I’m ready.