Tag Archives: empathy

Of Second Guessing Yourself And Empathy

listening to: Janet Jackson – Anytime, Anyplace

Nothing can be as crippling as second guessing oneself. If let to linger it can be paralyzing, leaving you standing still and doing nothing as the world first urges you on, yells at you to get over it and move on and finally throw up its hands in exasperation at your lack of activity.

Of all the times and places I second guess myself, this space is not one of them. Here, I don’t have to worry about run on sentences, being grammatically correct or even writing something profound. Its just a place that I use to blow off some steam, be irrelevant, jot down some ideas and thoughts, to hit the reset button before I get back to the real world. So when yesterday I found myself mulling over whether or not I should hit the publish button and read and reread what I had written over and over it gave me pause. I have shaken it off however – as long as its still something I enjoy doing blogging is something I will continue to do.

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Have you ever had one of those moments where you figure that if hell exists you will be going there with your undergarments doused in petrol? Someone I know lost a pet, and that’s something I can sympathise with because as someone who has owned several of them I understand how attached you can get to them. I once had a cat called Dave and if you asked some people they would swear that he was my first born child. Not that I dressed him up in ridiculous outfits or fed him lobster but compared to how others treated their cats he was royalty. When I left home I was in tears about leaving my family and loved ones behind and yes, this included Dave. So loving a pet I get. Here’s the thing though – her pet was a gold fish.

I wont even lie, the first thought that came to mind was “mmm, fried fish*!” then, having realized the absurdity of that I started laughing and couldn’t stop. By the by, my soul may never recover from the withering looks that were sent my way for the rest of the afternoon. Thank goodness that my fried fish thought was never uttered out loud cos I think there would have been nasty words exchanged. So, after I stopped laughing I pulled my friend aside and apologized – I may not understand how one becomes fond of a fish since you can’t pet or cuddle it and interaction is limited but that was no excuse for my attack of the giggles. Thankfully, she knows me well enough to know I wasn’t being deliberately malicious and all was forgiven. When she is ready, we are going to the pet store to pick out new gold fish, though I have been told that I’m not allowed to name them since I was in favour of the name Ambrose for a boy fish which seems perfect but she clearly didn’t agree.

I have been thinking a lot about empathy recently. It started off when I was with a group of people, shooting the shit and discussing random things and there was a casual acquaintance who seemed to have none whatsoever. Kenya being colonized? Our ancestors totally got what was coming to them, they should have fought harder and smarter. (yes, he is Kenyan which makes it all the more mindboggling). The holocaust – were he there he would have done everything he could to leave the country and had he been gassed, its cos he didn’t try hard enough. Any example you brought up he would refuse to put himself in anyone’s shoes and sympathize or empathize. It was all about getting ahead, winning, being number one. I can understand the go getter attitude – living in this country for any period of time is bound to bring it up in anyone. But seriously, someone who won’t identify with the struggles of anyone else cos they “lost” is seriously unsettling to me. I told him as a Kenyan in a country that dislikes immigrants and black folks especially those who happen to be both I hope that everything goes smoothly and that he never has to rely on the benevolence of someone who understands where he is coming from. If its one thing I am sure of is that karma can be a vindictive bitch sometimes and will strike when least expected.

Here’s the thing – as humans, there are bound to be some things we will be unable to understand. Or refuse to. There are some criminals we couldn’t fathom being able to identify with, there are some situations we can’t relate to. But often, it’s the little things that we have in common that remind us that though we may not have a shared experience that doesn’t negate someone else’s or make them less than you. Its all about embracing the saying “I am because you are” and living it. Whether that means not laughing at someone who lost a loved one, even if it is a fish or going out there and spending your time with others who may not be as lucky as you are even as you claim your life totally sucks. Its easy to be very individualistic to the point of myopia in this world but I think its always safe to remember “There but for the grace of god go I.” you never know, next time, it could be you needing a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on, even if it is because you lost your pet gold fish.

*to be honest, part of the reason my first thought went to fried fish was because of this story about a woman frying and eating her boyfriends’ goldfish for revenge. Local area news can be hilarious sometimes.

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