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I do not understand the violence in terrorists’ souls that enables them to commit such atrocities as we’ve seen tonight in Paris. It is even more challenging to try to comprehend how someone can do these things in the name of a deity – although at this point, that’s only an assumption. I suppose that is a good thing, that I cannot understand it. But the empath that I am can understand the pain and fear and loss. I can feel a hole in spirit tonight, on a day that started with minor first-world annoyances, and ended with a perspective on what’s really important.

I have never been to Paris, but have always wanted to go. Kelsea had a picture of the Eiffel Tower above her bed since she was born. I put it there to inspire her dreams. She has been there, to the very top, and I envy her that experience. It’s a city that has been made magical in the minds of those who dream. The logical me knows that it is a gritty city, just like another other city, with it’s glimpses of heaven around corners, and sewers that make you wrinkle your nose. Sculpted architectural beauty side-by-side with McDonald’s. It’s the Seine and the bridges, and the homeless and the pickpockets. The tourist traps and the hidden spaces where you can breathe in the past. It has a heart. And tonight, I feel the breaking of that heart.
Prayers for Paris.

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Quote of the day: “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” — Ernest Hemingway

Daily gratitudes:
Our freedom
Children’s smiles
Long, long winter scarves
Fancy pajamas
That love can conquer hate

I choose to remember the days of light. 

I choose to remember the sun shining off silver.

I could remember the confusion, horror, fascination, and fear.  I could remember the devastation that an empath feels on such a day.  And of course, I do remember those things. I remember them viscerally.  They are likely contributing to my bout of depression.

But today, I will choose to remember a day, years and years ago, when I emerged from a subway station I had never been in before – one of my rare forays into the New York City subway system – and looked up.  It was a bright and beautiful day, full of sun.  And I looked up. And up. And up. Yes, I knew I looked just like a tourist, craning my neck, bending half backwards, trying to see the top of those silver pillars playing with the brightness of the day.  But I didn’t care.  I was amazed and wonderous. And oh-so-touched with joy that I was finally standing at the feet of this sterling place that I had only before seen from the air or a distance. I just stood there, letting people bump around me, with a goofy smile on my face. A goofy smile that carried to my eyes and exuded childlike joy and  light itself and that made all the rushing bumpy New Yorkers who had to interrupt their steps soften just a touch and not mind quite so much having to rearrange their hurried pace.

I remember going across the street to the old church, St. Paul’s Chapel.  It was closed, but I wandered around the graveyard, as graveyards are favorite places of mine, examining the headstones, and soaking in the peace of the place.  I was amused by the incongruity of something so historic in the shadow of something so modern – these crumbling, weather-worn stones side-by-side with the sleek, silver, glassy skyscrapers. I remember how hot the afternoon was, and how I sought shade and shelter in the cemetery. I was not taking many pictures in those days, so the pictures are only captured in my mind’s eye.  I wish that were otherwise.

Today, the interior of my body aches and weeps and quietly wails in memory of losses. It is how my spirit works. But I am going to choose to remember the sunshine of that day, and other days, and days to come.

Image credit: mikesierra

My daughter was at a midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” here in Colorado last night.  So was my niece.

Thank God they weren’t at the midnight premiere in Aurora some forty miles from home.

Like much of the world, I awoke to news of the mass shooting in a theater not too far away, a similar crowd to the one my darling girl was a part of last night.  This morning when I left for work, she was still sleeping peacefully. I kissed her sleepy little self and told her I loved her.  I don’t think she’ll mind if I share her Facebook post from about 4:00 a.m. this morning. She must have found out about this after she got home.

“I, much like thousands of other people across Colorado, went to see the midnight premier of The Dark Knight Rises. But while so many of us were sitting comfortably watching the movie we were all so excited for, at least 14 people, who were expecting a night like mine, were killed in a mass shooting in another midnight premier at the Century 16 theaters in Aurora, Colorado. My heart and thoughts go out to all of those who were injured or who lost someone in this senseless act of unprovoked violence. There really are no words to explain what happened this morning…”

I wish she had awakened me.

It breaks my heart, and as a parent, it terrifies me.  MKL and I were driving through the Columbine neighborhood a week ago, and I got very quiet.  I can’t go near that area without remembering the pain and terror and permanent destruction of lives and hearts and families that happened at Columbine High School.  Ever since Kelsea started school, an incident like that has been hovering in my fears that live in that place in your brain that you can’t let go of, but can never bear to face.

Last night struck too close to home.

You can’t protect your children from insanity.  You can’t lock them away so they’ll be safe forever. Life is unpredictable. And sometimes it is indescribably tragic and agonizing. And so often, so random. All you can do is, sadly, play out scenarios with them – “What would you do if…?”  – coach them, and hope they never find themselves having to actually experience those moments, and put those practice scenes into action.

From the empath’s perspective, I am trying hard today NOT to go to the place where I feel the overwhelming pain of those who lost someone, or the staggering fear and panic of the people who were there.  That’s my automatic response. But I don’t want to do that.

Today, I want to just say a prayer for those people, and for my own daughter.

As she said, there really are no words.

With any disaster, be it natural or manmade, empaths (like me) have a broad-spectrum struggle.

We take the “can’t look away from the train wreck” mentality to the extreme, studying and following the most minute details so closely that we embed the event within our souls.

I have often questioned why I do this. Who benefits? I do not outwardly share the pain I experience as a result of this empathy, so I am not doing it for any self-gratification or to attract attention from people around me. That’s not how empaths function anyway. I wouldn’t dream of comparing my empathic experience to those who are directly impacted by something like the Waldo Canyon fire – the people who have lost their homes, the firefighters who are wearily yet steadily fighting what must at times feel like an incredibly discouraging and losing battle.

Given the rampage of fires within close proximity to me and places that I love here in Colorado, you might imagine that I’ve spent some time thinking about this. I suppose I’ve come up with some vague and unconfirmed answers.

I draw energy into myself. I transform it and expend it back into the universe. It’s like breathing. Like pulling something from the air, and turning it into something more peaceful and sending it back out. The energy I pull in comes from the air itself, from the fire, from the heat, from the silent, or not so silent cries of people who are suffering, from their own energetic emissions of pain, fear, and loss. I breathe in the negative energy, I breathe out the positive energy. I absorb the negative energy and transform it into life force energy. That sounds a little uber-woo-woo, even for me. I guess it’s hard to find the words. I try to soothe others by taking on their energetic pain.

This unconscious exercise – and it is unconscious, second nature for me – is wearisome, yet rewarding.  It’s like giving a gift with no idea who the recipient will be, or how it will benefit them, just knowing that it will.  But my body and spirit exhaust themselves, even as they are enriched by the process.

I am like a sponge, absorbing the energetic pain of people I will never see, pain that I just pick up from the winds, pain that I intuit from pictures.

And at the same time, I throw psychic energy at the flames, in an attempt to stop them. This enters into the realm of magical thinking, which any therapist worth his or her salt will tell you is not beneficial in any way to anyone. But a belief in magic and the powers of the unseen world are part and parcel of being an empath. While I do not think that my thoughts alone can stop (or start) a fire, I do wonder if the collective healing energy sent directly  into the universe by people can impact something like a fire. I suppose Christians would translate that into the power of prayer. Although from the Buddhist perspective, I should know that things like this are beyond my control, and I should just be with it, doing what I can to help.

Fire, especially a wildfire, has its own unique energy, its own life force, highly connected with nature.  In many cases – such as the Flagstaff Fire in Boulder and (hopefully) the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs – such fires are sparked by nature and fed by nature, and it is a challenge for man to contain them.  Fires draw their strength from trees and brush, from wind and the heat of the air, all this natural energy that feeds it and that it in turn emits – a balance within itself.  I believe that empaths, who are sensitive to both the energy of nature and the energy of man, pick up very strongly on that entity that is a fire. We absorb some of its energy as well, and are disturbed by the very violence of its nature. Combine that with how we pick up on the energy of people who are suffering and you have a thick energetic pudding that we find ourselves swimming in.

It’s tough to keep your head above the surface when you’re swimming in pudding.

The whole empath thing, which I’ve spoken about before, can take me down some interesting paths and branches.  I am better about controlling it than I used to be – but not much.  I’ll admit to weaving like a little drunken rock star on the spiritual path lately due to my emotional rollercoaster. But I am pulling things together.  One of the empath gifts is a psychical connection to people with whom I share something.  I can feel when someone else feels bad or upset – or maybe even incredibly happy.  And I can feel when someone is physically farther away – on a  trip or something.  It’s like I have a slender spiritual measuring tape spool – that little invisible connecting strand that stretches with distance and is the conduit for emotions.  Maybe that’s why I find it so hard to let go after a death as well – the coil no longer has a notion as to where it ends.

Safe travels.

I haven’t talked much about being an empath, but it’s what I am.  At times of great stress, it tends to work against me.  At times of great peace, it is the best gift the universe could have shared with me.

Last fall, I took a weekend training with a Shaman about how to live as an empath.  It was helpful, and perhaps it’s time that I revisit some of the lessons learned there.  One of the things that happens with me is that I can link deeply and intuitively to people for whom I care.  It’s like sharing a piece of spirit.  I can sense what they are feeling and what they are doing. Most of the time, I’m right.  And sometimes being right can be positively devastating.

It is such a mixed thing, when you love someone and want them to be happy, but at the same time you want to be the one they are happy with and you can’t have that.

Empaths have the ability to sense things on many levels.  We can read people – their body language, their eyes, the very air around them.  I can, if I chose, put myself in a stranger’s skin and feel their thoughts and emotions.  This is not something I do, however, because it is a violation of a stranger’s spirit and space.  And I take on too much of other’s stuff when I do it.  This quality is one of the reasons that neither psychology or massage therapy worked out for me as a career.

Most times, it is a matter of finding a quiet space within myself; from that place, I can reach out tender tendrils to sense what others might be feeling, and hopefully help them on a level of which they are not even aware.  This all sounds awfully foo-foo Boulder, doesn’t it? 

The concept of the Highly Sensitive Person is very popular here in Boulder, and while some would say that HSP is the same thing as being an empath, I would disagree.  Perhaps in some people, the two go together.  But in the cases of people whom I’ve met who are Highly Sensitive Persons, it seems to be an affliction, and one that is focused on their own challenges of dealing with this world full of people, motion, light, sound and busyness.  It has very little to do with the strange, serene sense of the feelings of other beings (both animal and human) and everything to do with adjusting their surrounding (and the people around them) to accommodate their “disability”.  Yes, being Highly Sensitive has become a focus of psychotherapy here in town.  Amazing.

However you might choose to interpret it, I live it every day.  It’s a painful joy, which is the mixture of my life these days, with varying degrees of each.  I only wish it were easier.

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