Some days are just hard. Some days just cost more. The cost is the currency of emotions, or rather the energy required to have emotions. When I have one of these days, I burn through all my reserves for feeling anything. I cannot muster anger or joy or bliss or concern or outrage or thrill. I’m just hollow. I no longer have the capacity for empathy or regard. I don’t care about you, your ailing, aging parent, that homeless guy, the half dozen armadillo carcasses blotted the roadways on my short, 9-mile drive out of town, the insurrection on January 6th, my enormously obese cat who cannot clean her own butt or my own health.
I don’t care what I eat. If I sleep. What I wear. How my hair looks. If my teeth are brushed.
But the niggling consideration over what OTHERS care about is often enough to make me brush my teeth and do my hair and iron my clothes. It is less about earning the respect and praise of others and more just slipping past the radar unnoticed.
Can I be inconspicuous enough that no one squanders their brain cells on trying to understand why I look disheveled or seem *off*.
I don’t have empathy to give and I don’t really want empathy from anyone else. Just leave me alone. Leave me be.
Restoration takes time.
How do you fill a bucket with a hole in the bottom? I imagine an old-fashioned aluminum pail with a hole in the bottom the width of my index finger. Water pours through it at a steady pace, draining the bucket. Meanwhile, hands reach into the bucket and scoop our cupped palms of water. Taking vital resources, oblivious to the steady trickle out the bottom. Then a staggering three-year old snatches the bucket and runs away, sloshing water over the rim all while a non-stop rivulet drains out of the bottom.
Soon, the bucket is dangerously low of water, and with a hole, many wonder if its even a bucket worthy of use. What good is a bucket with a hole in the bottom? Find a new bucket!
You have to refill the bucket at a faster rate then it flows out the bottom. You can fill the bucket and then set it down in a shallow pool. Mitigate the hole. It’s unnoticed, ineffective, non-threatening. Counterbalanced. That hole doesn’t jeopardize the bucket’s capacity as long as the bucket returns to the pool. Mend the hole. Even duct tape on either side of the hole can staunch the loss. It won’t be pretty but it would be effective.
But lastly…be patient. Empathy is never, ever, ever rushed. To care, to show empathy, to have genuine empathy….you must afford yourself TIME. There is likely a physics formula for time x space = empathy. If I want to care about things. If I need to care about OTHERS (which is vital for doing my job properly) I must give myself TIME and SPACE to refill the hollowness.