How Do You Feel?

When we don’t know how to direct empathy inwards, we may not understand what it means to empathise with others.

I look at myself, at the world around me, at myself in relation to this world and everything just weighs so heavily on my heart.

I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. After all, there’s nothing unique about being burdened by the human condition.

What is different now is the realisation that I never really allow myself to process how it all affects me, how it breaks my heart to live in a world that often offers very little support for living.

Too quickly, I push my feelings about my unhappiness away and feelings about other things take their place. I give more airtime to the noise of a dozen external emotions – thoughts, conjectures and analyses, pieces of other people’s lives.

But who listens to me when I’m listening to everyone but myself?

How do I feel if I don’t let myself feel as deeply as I can?

There’s no silence here, I am just unheard by myself.

My heart’s conversation with itself is endless.

The parts of it that I know of, I learn about the way an eavesdropper interacts with snatches of gossip – never fully knowing, unsure that they can trust what they’ve overheard.

I dance around the periphery of my state of mind with the inelegance of navigating a daunting language barrier.

This should be home, but I’m like an outsider struggling to fit into a foreign country.

Everything is almost familiar, but I can’t get past the cling film of alienation that defines the distance between what is known and what is mysterious.

I’m listening hard and hearing nothing. Nothing, because I’ve forgotten how to listen to myself and no one can do it for me.

And now that I no longer remember how to connect with myself, I find that I am uneasy around people who want to go deeper than the surface.

I can take the perfunctory hello and the passing acknowledgment of my existence.

I can even handle the occasional probing question but stop right there, please. Just enough to evoke some feeling, a hint of emotion. Not much past “I’m fine, thank you.”

It’s a fine response when you’re fine with grazing, not grasping.

Maybe it’s the same reason I don’t like being held – there’s safety in isolation, an emotional distancing to keep those dangerous invisible things called feelings at bay.

But love was never designed to be expressed or felt at arm’s length.

Until I wrap myself in an understanding hug that embraces and feels everything that I am; until I open up to explore the hurts, the flaws, the disappointments, and the joys, how can I love this cautious soul I carry around in this tired body?

How can we love anyone else?