“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” ~ James Baldwin
“I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.” ~ Maya Angelou
“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.” ~ Meryl Streep
“The opposite of anger is not calmness, it’s empathy.” ~ Mehmet Oz
I’m an empath. I admit it. I’ve written posts here before about how difficult it can be to be a magnet for other people’s feelings and not know what to do with them. It’s exhausting. But recently I gained a different perspective. Being empathetic can also be extremely empowering.
Last fall I got an idea that my sister, Celeste and I should write a memoir about our father and the influence he had on our lives. It’s not a typical memoir enumerating the pain and suffering we endured, but rather how our father taught us to use compassion and empathy to help ourselves and others.
My initial thought was that it was going to be about how he used movies to teach us important lessons because stories are an important way to connect emotionally with another person’s point of view. Our book may still include some of that. However, I see now that the book has to include our memories of how Dad influenced people by using his empathy to spread love and compassion to help them heal. It was as if he was plugged into some deep well of emotion and information that helped him understand exactly how the people around him were being affected by the experiences they were having. But how to write that so our readers can understand?
After discussions with Celeste about what to include in the book, I came to this startling deeper understanding of my father. Not only was he an empath, but he was an extreme introvert. He kept his deepest feelings hidden most of the time, even from us. That’s where I learned it! For most of my life, I’ve kept my head down done my work and not shared my deepest thoughts and feelings. However when I broke my own rule, I was exposed, extremely vulnerable, and my ideas generated controversy. That happened to Dad too because he had ideas that went against common convention. When he shared his point of view, it often stirred up fierce debate.
These are extraordinary times. We can use new ideas and fierce debate about how to make the world a better place. And yet, I remember all those controversies, both mine and Dad’s and I ask myself, do I really want to draw so much attention to myself again? The reality is, in times like these, everyone needs to be sharing their creative ideas and their stories. That’s one of the best ways we learn and grow. We have to share our stories and listen as others tell theirs in return.
Over the years as I’ve written these blog posts, I’ve become more comfortable with being open and vulnerable. But it’s uncomfortable to share my mistakes. I’d love to be perfect. I’d also love to keep these posts intellectual. In fact, I was going to write an intellectual essay and post it today. But after years of work in theatre, teaching, and directing plays, I know the best way to help someone see another point of view is to touch their emotions. Then they are open to new ideas. We need the marriage of ideas and emotions to effect real change. So, I need to share my stories, and listen to those of other people. That’s where we discover that we’re not so different after all.
Admittedly, Celeste and I have so many deep emotions about our father, that we’re having a difficult time focusing on what to write about him. He was an extraordinary man, living an ordinary life. Yet the ripples of his influence keep reverberating. Things my father taught me come to mind often and help me through the situations I face. I’m grateful that he gave me such a fantastic head start in life.
There will be more things to share about this project later. But for today, that’s enough.
Welcome to all my new followers. Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. Have a lovely weekend.
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2019
Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a little bit like Outlander in that it’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, novel. Only Jenna joins consciousness with her three-times great-grandmother, Morgan, instead of traveling physically. She is able to come back at intervals and apply what she’s learned to her own life situations.
The Space Between Time is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. Stay tuned for news on the audiobook version Lucinda is working on. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.