Sympathy and the hollow feeling

Here’s my contribution The Daily Post‘s prompt.

Sympathy. One would probably think of its other form, pity. It also means “condolence” and also a softer but steelier “empathy” and “compassion” or simply “approval”.

A preamble first. I used to collect words when I was in high school, thinking back I thought it was initially for an English assignment but my memory leaped at me in affront. I apologize. No, I believe it was because I was getting to that glorious genre that is anime. I was watching the Appleseed sequel, Appleseed: Ex Machina. Think futuristic cloning, cyborgs, and kick-ass mechanical body suits. What the hell was Ex Machina, I wondered then.

  • a person or thing (as in fiction or drama) that appears or is introduced suddenly and unexpectedly and provides a contrived solution to an apparently insoluble difficulty (Google)

One word led to another and an itty bitty pink kitten covered book was delegated to be the mighty Book of Words. But that was years ago and I recently found it among some old school books, a bit battered but still alright filled with adolescent loopy handwriting and double red underline.

Presently, I’m chewing on the fact that words aren’t as impersonal as I initially thought them to be, I mean I kept them like a list hap-hazardously into no category in particular, like limbs without the possibility of motion. The words are there for us to string into grander meaning.

I’d been wrong. I know I was and I need to say it if I’m to keep considering myself a low-key logophile, without shame. “Hate” is a terrible word that’s thrown about without a second thought and has damage ranging to little less than a pinch to a kick in the solar plexus. “Love” is another one being bandied about at large, “I just love that chicken salad”; ” Oh em gee, I love your hair!” Dilution at work. I understand there are people who would beg to differ, and that’s alright.

Words, in all their incarnations, are units of power. They affect us. They make and break nations, treaties, and families and friendships. They voice the chaos within and should be used with care, however, like living one’s whole life with an abundance of water we tend to take them for granted.

They’re heavier to some than others. Certain words cut more. It depends on who we are and what we’ve been through. I know “love” are some people’s anathema and … then there’s “sympathy”.

Sympathy for whom? It’s easier to feel sorry for others, to empathize than it is to feel so towards myself. Self-compassion it’s called. I self-criticise often. I know my faults, I try to overcome them. Procrastination is my major problem followed by distraction. I day dream by the hour, those hours add up galloping away into the sunset leaving me bereft and tons of work still on my hands. These come together and breed frustration, a sense of hopelessness and impending doom.

One thing I can say for myself is that I don’t blame anyone else for my predicament and the outcome they foster. I’m responsible and there’s no room for sympathy. I dislike the pity party thing which, I want to point out, is not quite the same as feeling miserable and alone in my solitary despair due to my perceived insufficiency, a topic for another post. Eventually, I get up again and try to try harder to be better. Also an example of an uphill battle.

In this sense, I guess sympathy means pity to me. I’ve been there and I don’t want any of it. How dare I feel sorry for myself when I land myself in the situations of overdue reports and missed assignments? I’ve become my own whip-master and let me tell you, it’s not working. I’ve bludgeoned myself into a rut, carved out a hopeless hollow and curled up into a ball of crippling fear over and over. I can’t let this go on much longer.

With much reading from the interwebs and WordPress blogs, I learned this was unhealthy (no duh on my part) but it isn’t easy to quit beating myself up. Self-compassion wasn’t a new concept it’s just that I never thought it applied to me before. I spoke to a particular online friend, who had recommended Kristen Neff’s Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. Honestly, I couldn’t finish but there was one thought that stood out vividly.

“If you are continually judging and criticizing yourself while trying to be kind to others, you are drawing artificial boundaries and distinctions that only lead to feelings of separation and isolation.” – Kristen Neff

Towards others, it’s a simpler matter especially if it’s someone I know well. I am sorry a bad thing has happened to them. I’m remorseful of the way people treat them or at some regretful situation that’s befallen them. Naturally, not all are receptive to this sentiment. I believe the way we see ourselves can be distorted.

I do need sympathy. Not pity as in someone feeling sorry for me. It’s ironic really since it’s exactly what I can feel to others as I mentioned above but sympathy isn’t a bad thing if it’s sincere. What I need is to be understood; understanding that chances are that when I’m grumpy I’m not mad at you but at me. Understand that I don’t always like who I am and that I can be a terrible person to myself. I’ve begun opening up to my sisters about the dark spots and it’s helped somewhat.

If anything, I need to be kind to me. It means “I see you hurting and I’m here for you” or “I hope you get better and overcome your obstacles”.

It won’t pay the bills, sure, but it’s a warm hand to hold for a while letting me know I am not alone as I think I am.

Here’s to one more day, folks. I hope you’re all safe and thriving.


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