One of our acquaintances just lost her Father to a long illness. Prior to his death she had become quite emotional: taking a leave of absence from her job, spending time away from her husband and kids to help out her parents, and when she was was with them, increasingly treating her husband and children poorly. She took out all of her frustration on them- unleashing a wrath of terror no matter what they did. She routinely berated them.

When I saw her Husband, he was surprised to learn that my Father was quite ill. Why was he surprised? Because I was still acting as a mainly rational person.

Because I wasn’t ranting or complaining or screaming, he assumed I lack empathy and I was not upset about how ill my Father is. He actually said:

“So I guess you’re not upset.”

For the record, just because someone is not an emotional wreck does not mean they are not upset. It does not mean they are not sad. It just means that they remain pragmatic through the course of events because being so emotionally invested where you can’t move one foot in front of the other really doesn’t do one any good.

My Father is ill. I do what I can to help out my Mother and Father. I do not berate my sister because she lives across the country. I don’t yell at my Husband that we don’t live closer. I don’t yell at my daughter for very tiny infractions. I don’t sit and cry every day and be nasty to people. I just ask my Mother how I can help and I help.

I like a good cry. I also love a good rant where I can yell at people and call them incompetent. However, when dealing with this illness, that is not the best play in the playbook unless I am dealing with the long term care insurance company. Sometimes you just have to get through the day to day. Pets have to be fed, bills need to be paid, regular life has to go on.

Just because someone is not constantly wringing their hands, wearing a hair shirt and moaning woe is me all the time doesn’t mean that they don’t feel…they just choose not to enunciate their feelings.

Like now. Someone asked me how I can continue to blog while the situation in the Ukraine is going on. They thought I didn’t care, that I lacked empathy… In truth I care very much. I feel very badly for people who are forced to leave their homeland, forced to engage in a war they didn’t want. Just because I am not writing about it or sitting and talking about it doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter to me. Just like COVID when people didn’t understand how I could just go on with my day and not give a body count tally…how COVID wasn’t the only thing on my mind.

People said I was cold and didn’t care about the human condition…

News flash: Just because you talk about something more doesn’t mean you feel more…It just means you talk about it more.

There is no prize for talking, thinking and obsessing about COVID and Ukraine and every other problem with the world every day, but I guess everyone has their hill. We all know what mine are but I will try to spread out my No Censorship, No Book Banning, No Addictive substances to solve problems spiels to every other week…

And if people want to think I’m cold, or emotionless, or lack empathy…so be it. I can’t tell others what to do or how to feel. But I can control what I do, which is to continue to be pragmatic about the situations in front of me, and treat everyone with as much respect as they deserve.

And just get out of bed each morning, put one foot in front of the other and just keep going.

93 thoughts on “Empathy: Or Lack thereof…

  1. I’m always irritated by the people who will say “how can you x while y is happening?” Distraction is good. If I spent all day every day thinking about the bad in the world I would likely have to check in to a psychiatric hospital. This is why I watch TV, write about TV, etc. It’s why I posted funny stuff while at the funeral home when my mom died. It doesn’t make me cold or not empathetic and it doesn’t make the others better than me

    Liked by 11 people

  2. I’m the same way. I don’t express a lot of things outwardly. It’s just not how I am. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel things deeply. I’m just not going on and on about it on every form of media available to me. My every thought doesn’t need to be expressed aloud.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Totally get that! I mean, I guess I do talk about everything…but I can’t just focus on one thing…I need to try to find positivity when I can

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  3. It was very validating to read your article. I guess I’m not the only one to hear “how can you go out with your camera when __________ is happening?” I’ve never understood that line of reasoning. I happen to find peace when I go out into nature. My camera is like an extension of my arm, so it goes where I go. It’s how I cope with whatever is going on around me. On the other hand, I have had people tell me that seeing my photographs and reading about my adventures has helped them take their mind off of ______________ in their lives. We all have ways of coping. Who’s to say which way is the right way or the wrong way?

    Liked by 4 people

  4. What good would it do to focus only on the negative? I feel so deeply sad about Ukraine. I do what I can (pray and donate money), and then I do other things. Regarding the situation with your dad, in a crisis or a difficult situation, the calm level-headed person is far more useful than someone who falls apart. Sometimes people can’t help falling apart, but that makes the case even more for others to stay strong. Lastly, we can’t control what others think of us, so why bother? You said it best, “I can only control what I do….”

    Liked by 4 people

  5. I found this blog interesting. First of all, how rude of that person to assume that you didn’t care about your father. The world doesn’t stop because people get sick. I personally think his wife’s behavior is bizarre. You cannot neglect your primary responsibilities no matter what. When my father was Ill before passing, I was devastated. But I didn’t leave my job or neglect my family. I did go to the hospital after work several days a week. Quite often my oldest son and I went together. Most people juggle their busy lives without pushing aside their immediate family. They continue to work, take care of their children and spouse and still care for aging parents without choosing one over the other. You have been doing just that. It shouldn’t be one over the other.

    Now that I am battling cancer, my local son has been incredible at rearranging his work schedule to accommodate my needs regarding my chemo treatments. But I would never expect him (or want him) to place my needs over the needs of his wife and children. That’s crazy. The last thing I’d want to be is a burden to my children. My out of town son took time off from work when I had surgery and he was wonderful as well as very helpful. But, I never asked him to take two weeks off. He did what he felt comfortable doing.. However, I wouldn’t expect or want either son to make a career out of caring for me. Yes, they love me dearly. They have proven that. But they both have jobs, and one is married with three kids. They have responsibilities elsewhere. And that should take precedence. They call multiple times a week and check on me, but for them to make me their primary focus at the Expense of their careers or children is ridiculous. (In my opinion.)

    From your blog I know you are organized, make lists, plan ahead, and are dedicated to your family. Therefore, it’s obvious to me that if your parents need your help, you would absolutely Make time for that. It’s also quite obvious that you are a caring person so of course you are deeply concerned about your father. However, you are also able to multi task. The man who thought you didn’t care about your dad was misguided and wrong!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was pretty blown away by his comment. I’ve seen others berate people for how they grieve and I don’t understand. I know someone who said a guy didn’t love his mother because he doesn’t visit the gravesite enough. I know someone else who cancelled all family celebrations for a year because someone had died. The kid still feels like they missed celebrating normal things and felt more resentful. We should be able to handle multiple things without letting too much fall through the cracks

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      1. Yes, exactly! We want life to continue on as normal as possible. My grandchildren had to see me lose my hair and look drastically different. I tried to act as normal as possible. Their lives shouldn’t have to change just because I was sick. And during the height of the pandemic I’d FaceTime with them and read stories using all the fun voices of the characters. Life goes on. I want them to have good memories. Not that when grandma got sick their dad neglected them. Life MUST go on. And yes. We need to handle multiple issues at a time. Teaching our children that lesson alone is extremely valuable!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Much like you, I process things in my own way and that could manifest differently depending on what the specific thing is. I don’t think there’s ever been a moment when I have fallen apart or turned so far inward as to behave in the way you describe in the post. I’ll toss in, because sociology you know, that grief type reactions are often learned and controlled culturally and socially. As to the judging…you can’t be a human anymore without being judged for everything you do. I am tired of people, I am tired of being told I have to live up to their expectations and values and rules. Clearly they have been judged and carry on the process full throttle. Only they can choose to fix themselves, and only I can choose to remove myself from them until/or if they do.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am totally with you. I feel like we’re all under a microscope…and I get that I do it too, and I’m trying not to…but sometimes people just make me so angry…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agreed. We all judge, but habitually over any issue as well as on a consistent basis- that has to be based on underlying factors that individual needs to deal with.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m glad you ended with a rant, it is good to open the window sometimes and scream “I’m mad as Hell and not going to take it anymore.” To the point at hand. He is rude, I’m sorry his wife cannot handle the situation and he feels her actions are appropriate and your response is inappropriate. Life happens, sometimes it is good and sometimes it is not. Everyone handles situations differently but that doesn’t grant them a license for bad behavior. Sorry, he has a wife why can’t handle bad things, I would simply stay away from them.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “Just because someone is not constantly wringing their hands, wearing a hair shirt and moaning woe is me all the time doesn’t mean that they don’t feel…they just choose not to enunciate their feelings.”

    Indeed. What we feel is our own business, as is the way we express it.

    This is how I expressed my feelings on the matter a while ago. If you find it to be a shameful piece of self-publicity please feel free to delete it. 🙂

    https://quercuscommunity.com/2021/07/22/no-justice-no-answers-just-a-haibun/

    Liked by 2 people

  9. It’s a shame that people label others based on what they view as inappropriate responses to emotional matters. We’re not robots, produced to do things the same. We have our own personalities, backgrounds, cultures and experiences that make us unique–including the way we handle our emotions. I tend to underreact more than I overreact and sometimes that may come off as cold. It’s just that I’m rarely very emotional about things. I may FEEL something strongly but not outwardly express it. We have to learn to be more accepting and tolerant that just because we handle something one way, doesn’t mean everyone should.

    And regardless of the crises in this world, it seems healthier to me to keep living. Not that you don’t feel empathy or anger…I definitely have felt a lot of this lately. But it won’t stop me from living and enjoying life. To keep doing what I always do. There’s not enough time afforded us on this earth to stop living because of the circumstances surrounding us. We need to live in spite of them. But that’s just my two cents.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I’ve read that people these days don’t think about things as much as they react with feelings. I, for one, am glad you and others think rationally and deal with people kindly. That’s so much nicer than being around emotional time bombs.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. People asked my husband how I was handling my mom’s death. He would say, “She’s a strong one, she’ll be okay.” In truth, it is bothering me A LOT. I wonder every day if she would still be alive had she been living with us instead of my sister. I wonder if I should have defied the covid restrictions and tried to get in to see her for myself. I wonder if we did the right thing by the “compassionate care” that was started. I cry in the shower and at various times when I hear Dean Martin or remember that I can’t call her and talk about the Giants and why baseball isn’t going to start on time. Does anybody else see this? No. Am I yelling at my family? No (well, perhaps silently at my sister although I probably will never speak to her again). Am I cold and callous?

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I’m kinda thinking that two plus years of covid-time changed the cadence of how we measure and react to events of import. Circumstances, big and small. Our emotional clock was rattled to the point of skewing what alarms, and distorting attempts at a timely, reasoned, and rational response. Little rang real, but the bell still toll.

    My wakeup call is to tap dance around the trespass of those years, and accept how the tempo change of ritual and requiem made it impossible for many to find rhythm…and will continue to do so, for many years to come.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s like we’ve lost resilience…scratch that…not exactly resilience, but our ability to make sense of things that are a part of everyday life…we broke down too easily. It’s not a good thing

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I sorta agree..but hey…three things… 1.a little empathy. 2. you might wanna rethink who you’re hangin’ with & 3. your prose style on this post was absolutely wonderful.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. It’s interesting the things people feel compelled to say about your blog, what you include or exclude? It’s as if you don’t have a single thought outside of what you post? That’s ludicrous! Ignore their emotional immaturity! Blog on…hugs, C

    Liked by 1 person

  14. “And just get out of bed each morning, put one foot in front of the other and just keep going.”, that takes more strength than most realize.

    What echos in my head is the British poster “keep calm and carry on”, trying to ignore those tongues that don’t recognize strength when they see it. 🤗

    Liked by 2 people

  15. An awesome post, LA. “I like a good cry. I also love a good rant where I can yell at people and call them incompetent.” You? Nah…😉 I love the way you framed this entire post. In fact, I will write here that the ability to hold our emotions, while still understanding we need to process them in a healthy way, is very positive for our own development and for everyone’s sanity. Just sayin…

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  16. Bravo 👏 (not sarcasm). I’m sympathetic to both countries in regards to that war. Some people ask how I can be sympathetic to the enemy. Because Russia isn’t the enemy, the Russian Government is. There are a shit load of people in opressed countries that have protested, defected or died trying. As for you not wearing your emotions on your sleeve. We all handle things differently, I sure as hell wouldn’t think you’d be cold, but it reminds me of my lack of outward emotion when my Dad died. I remember someone at work saying I looked pretty happy for such a loss, truth is I was happy because a decades old burden was lifted, but I was also sad. I just didn’t show it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I felt the same thing. Apparently the Russian Tea Room in nyc has seen a downturn in business. Now, it was originally owned by member of a Russian ballet troupe, I’m pretty sure it’s not owned by Russians now…so why? Cause of the name?

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  17. The way your acquaintance behaved is not OK. Lashing out at others in an attempt to assuage her pain will neither work, and it will cause pain to her family. If her husband genuinely believes her reaction is the only way to react, I wonder if he’s been gaslighted – either by her or by his previous upbringing.

    Like you, I feel emotion deeply. I am uninclined to share it with all & sundry, and tend to withdraw into myself. I don’t see why people believe they have a right to see proof of my emotional response to difficult circumstances.

    I’m not sure the problem is a lack of resilience, possibly more to do some variation on the meme: ‘if there’s no photographic evidence, it didn’t happen’. People don’t believe that you’re feeling anything unless they see you displaying it openly and vocally. It’s horridly voyeuristic.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Wow! I can’t believe he said that to you, but sadly that is the attitude of a lot of people. Like with the comment about Ukraine. My heart hurts for them as well, but how is me moping about it and dwelling on it going to help them?

    This hit home for me. I am grieving this week, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that by my posts. The lady I took care of for the past 4 years died on Saturday. I have lost a friend and a job and yes it hurts, but writing my stories helps me to smile and to cope. Doesn’t mean I haven’t cried. In fact I literally was wiping tears from my eyes as I wrote Monday’s post. Yes, we should never judge for we never know, we don’t see all and we can’t feel what the other person is feeling. We grieve differently and it should be OK!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Oh my goodness….if we obsessed about everything bad that is happening in our lives and world, we’d be too paralyzed to function. It’s called compartmentalization and is a survival technique. People deal with stress, sadness and disappointment in different ways. I believe the way we handle these things are dependent on our worldview of life. I can cry at the drop of a hat over something, but have also been called a “steel magnolia” for how I handle challenges. And then there’s day drinking………🤣

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  20. I swear, I live for the day when people stop telling others how they get to act and feel! Of course you can blog while there is a war in the Ukraine….there is always a war somewhere, and if we waited for world peace in order to live our lives, we’d never live them. It doesn’t mean we don’t care. It simply means we’re doing the best we can in difficult circumstances. Ditto for those who are grieving or dealing with family trauma. Some people shut down, others carry on….both care deeply and are just responding in the way that works best for them. And we don’t get to tell them how they should be doing it! I’m so sorry for your situation. But please, please, keep right on dealing with it in the way that works for you. And ignoring any idiot who tells you you’re wrong!!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hah. I don’t even play that game darlin’. I gave up a long time ago trying to behave in a way others would perceive appropriate. It’s kind of like a super power though. When a highly emotional person emails in at work, everyone assigns that email to me. 😂

        Liked by 1 person

  21. I think maybe your reaction to your father’s illness may possibly related to the fact that you’ve described yourself as an introvert. After reading this post (I will look at the comments later) I may be led to consider how my ex and I responded to the final lingering illnesses of our last remaining parent who did not live nearby at the time. One possibility is that his guilt for not spending more time with his mother may have led him to file for divorce when I made the decision to do that with mine. That’s my story and I’ll probably stick to it!

    Liked by 1 person

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