Empaths: We feel your pain. Here, have some more.

Empath is psycho-shorthand for ‘someone who is empathetic.’

Empaths can put themselves in another’s shoes and experience their emotions.

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You want an empath around when you need more than someone to pat you on the shoulder when you are miserable and say “Poor, pitiful you.” That is a sympathizer. They serve a purpose. When you wallow in your particular wretchedness, the sympathetic person will not get overly-involved. The sympathizer will just feel sorry for you.
Then there’s the role of an aloof. This detached person sees your gloom, and wonders how you got there. And possibly is glad he isn’t in there with you.
Unlike the jurist—who will critique, censure, and castigate you from the edge of the pit of despair.

 
The sympathizer will offer you a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes we need sympathy. And sometimes we need cool appraisal from the aloof, to give us a sense of perspective on our hurt. There could conceivably be times when we  need the jurist, who tells us exactly what we did wrong (if anything) that got us into the pit, and MAYBE even instructs us how to get out.

 
But the empath will mourn with you when you mourn. The empath’s cheeks will burn when you are humiliated, and the empath’s heart will beat faster when you are afraid.
The empath will climb right into the ooze next to you and sob along.

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I could always, from the time I learned to read, put myself into a character’s shoes. Shoes? No, I climbed into the character’s skin and walked around in it. If I were a more open child and had shared these tendencies with my parents, they might have been able to act as aloof, or even a jurists, and convince me that too much empathy is too much. By the time I was about seven the damage was complete. There was no going back.

 
That year, our family stood on the sidewalk in our little town, cheering as a parade went by. I think candy was thrown. (I wouldn’t have cheered as much otherwise.) When I heard jeers of some rascally-types up the street, I raised my eyes from the Bazooka Bubble Gum piece at my feet, and met those of a truck driver. He and his truck had somehow gotten caught up in the middle of the parade. All thoughts of that hard brick of pink adhesive wrapped in an incomprehensible comic disappeared. My heart and soul flew into the truck with the man. I was experiencing the humiliation from the jeering children. I was aching for the moment I could break free from the parade, park my truck on a private, tree-lined street, and salve my wounded spirit. The rest of the parade was spoiled for me. I was one with that miserable driver.

 
It wasn’t till decades later—I’m embarrassed to tell you how many—that I could call up that painfully vivid memory. And realize with a shock that the truck driver wasn’t humiliated or scarred or crushed in spirit. He was bored and had a route to finish and just wanted to get out of that treacle-slow speed of a small town parade.

 
And that is the problem with empaths. We might feel your pain. But some of us (I hope I am not the only -nth degree empath out there) will add more pain to what we think you are feeling. We might project, on you, our own perceptions of what we think your emotional state to be. We may assume you are reacting as we think we would. A seven-year-old should never suppose that she is simpatico with a middle-aged truck driver.

 
Us -nth degree empaths might be feeling your assumed pain long after you have moved on to a place of peace, contentment and even happiness. We may picture you in the Slough of Despond when you are actually only splashing your way through a mud puddle, regretting nothing but your dirty hem. We can be found weeping with you even while your joy is coming in the morning.

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The life of an empath is a tough one. Our emotions are constantly roiling around inside, looking for more tribulation and anguish to weep over. Sometimes we can be the most frustrating of friends.

 

 
But when you are in that pit, and the jurist has pronounced judgement and walked on, the aloof is peering over the edge wondering how you got there and how you’ll get out, and the shoulder of the sympathizer is too far to reach, wait for the splash. The empath has jumped in with you, and might even stay there after you’ve climbed out.

Version 3

H-E-DOUBLE-HOCKEY-STICKS ON WHEELS

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When I get in my vehicle I adjust my mirrors, buckle my seat belt, close the overhead garage door, and shift to reverse. Then I wad all my Christian grace into a ball and throw it in the back seat.
What weird force field is activated when a silver-haired, Jesus-loving granny turns the key in the ignition? How do I get sucked into the Dark Side so fully that my perspective changes from “Live and let live” to “Out of my way, jerks?”
Names come out of my mouth that, when I’m not on four wheels, I didn’t even know I knew. “Jerk” is an example. Do you think I use that term in my non-motorized life? It was one of the 2000+ naughty words my sons were forbidden to use.
But set me on the road and life becomes me-vs.-them. Because along with the latent anger, my eyes are open and I see the world with utmost clarity. The truth of “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you” is revealed in all its “Get that granny!” vendetta. I don’t see it from the passenger seat. But once that steering wheel is in my hands I regard every vehicle and construction site and pedestrian in my orbit with new understanding. Yes, their goal is truly to hinder my progress.
Is this a new phenomenon? Did this particularly dreadful manifestation of fallen nature erupt with the advent of motorized vehicles? If I didn’t have all that power flinging me down the road, insulated from the world by steel, aluminum and plastic, would I spend almost every mile on asphalt scolding and slandering that world?
Truthfully, I can’t see myself flicking a whip at a horse to get it to speed up. If I had been born in previous centuries, I’m convinced I would have been a most compassionate chariot/wagon/carriage driver.
And when I locomote on my own two feet? I am the most delightful of pedestrians. I hold doors for strangers, I scoot out of the way of on-comers even if it means promenading through a puddle or slogging in the gutter.
So why, when I am ensconced in the driver’s seat and all power is mine, am I (as some have hinted) a paranoid delusional curmudgeon with a salty vocabulary? Why (as some have hinted) could my unassuming silver SUV be named “Something Wicked This Way Comes?”
After pondering, I think I have the answer. It is depravity. Total and comprehensive and eerily supernatural.
No. I am not talking about MY depravity. I’m the one who waits for a dole (which means “a whole bunch”) of turtles to cross the road even if it means being late. I’m the one who holds the doors of a dollar store open for a swarm (meaning a whole bunch) of pierced and tattooed and black-clad youths. While wishing them a nice day and handing out Jujubes.
No, the depravity is contained in the VEHICLE ITSELF. Or more specifically, the STEERING WHEEL! How could I not see this before? A woman who is the essence of civility everywhere, including the passenger seat, but turns into Helen Wheels in the driver’s side has to be subject to potent forces outside herself.
Until I can work out an antidote to the evil currents emanating from that steering wheel, I’ll try to avoid contact with it. But I have to get out on the road sometime. You’ll recognize me. The one with flames shooting from her eyes muttering what—unfortunately—looks like the word “jerk.”

They also serve who only stand and save a seat for your sorry self

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Recently we attended a graduation. Not a cast-of-thousands ceremony with tickets more coveted than invites to Windsor Castle. Nope. Bible College commencement. Still, I was relieved when we arrived early ( say Whaaaaatt?) at the venue—a large church. Plenty of seating. Relief lasted until we saw the long line of cars turning into the parking lot.

“We have to save seats for the rest of the family!” I shouted over my shoulder to my husband, and sprinted for the building. An elderly man saw me coming and tapped along furiously ahead of me but I put on some speed and beat him, along with a little lady in a wheelchair and the pregnant couple with a toddler.

In the lobby, several clueless types stood around chatting, either going on faith that the best seats would wait for them, or because they already had their placeholder on duty.
I’m a self-appointed placeholder. Vivid mental images drive me to it. Ones involving Standing Room Only, anterooms with a fuzzy video feed, or balcony seats so high that George Jetson might buzz by and wave. So if no one else volunteers, I take it on myself to save seats. Sometimes I conscript my husband to help.

Prime seats chosen and the prospective number in our party tallied, my husband and I set to work spreading two humans to cover twelve chairs. We did the One-Bun-on-Two-Seats trick. That was four. My purse saved another spot, my makeup case was commissioned to reserve #6. Our respective programs saved seats Seven and Eight but that left four seats we couldn’t figure out how to reserve. Necessity is the mother of contortion. We leaned forward (uncomfortable in our seat-straddling posture) and draped arms over the seat backs in front of us. It was the perfect position to watch the methods of other placeholders.

Across the aisle from us a young lady tried vainly to make her size 2 sweater cover three chairs. She arranged and rearranged and twisted and finally, in an act of desperate self-sacrifice, yanked on the sleeves and extended their reach by a good seven inches. With brave tears she turned from the ruins of her cardigan and went in search of her people.

Requiring less martyrdom but more coordination is the Stand, Seek and Shoo method. This allows one to mark territory not by physical procurement, but by shooing away any and all approachers. One remains on location, scanning all three entrances. You’ve seen these people. They keep weight balanced on the balls of the feet and regularly sweep a searchlight gaze across the doors to watch for their latecomers. They flap vaguely menacing hands at anyone who casts a sideways glance at the unpeopled seats. When they spot incoming, you’ll see them call, wave, and sometimes whistle at their people, and you know you are watching the elite multi-taskers of placeholders.

The ones that scare me are the Sit and Scowl types. Most of them, I’m pretty sure, were born pre-Baby Boom. They sit smack dab in the middle of a section and glare at passers-by. In times past I’ve had the temerity to point questioningly at the seats surrounding these dour and forbidding folks. And scurry away with a clipped and authoritative “These seats are saved” ringing in my ears.

Our own pragmatic adaptation of various methods doesn’t really have a name. My husband is the more relaxed of us. I try to look serene and at ease, facing the front. I attempt to read the program I have spread open two seats to my left and one row ahead—it is difficult to look at ease when sprawled over multiple seats in two separate rows. I try to avoid anxiously cranking my head over my shoulder looking for the rest of our group because for pity’s sake people are giving us dirty looks. Here I employ the apologetic upward glance, at least 50% insincere because it is mixed with “Maybe if you’d gotten here earlier you, too, could be spilled over all these seats.”

Finally my husband, stretching so his muscles don’t seize up, says, “They’re here.”
We wave casual hands and smile graciously at their thanks and collect up our personal effects. Then we settle down as if this whole placeholder thing were nothing, absolutely no big deal. And inside a smug little portion of our brain is saying “If it wasn’t for me you’d be watching this entire ceremony on a twelve inch screen in the overflow room.”

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Laugh by any other name

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Know what word has the most synonyms in the English language?

Drunk. It has—and I’m not exaggerating—over two thousand words that mean the same thing.

Which might be fine if one is writing a novel about life as a bartender. When one writes a romantic suspense novel with limited references to inebriation but multiple scenes with laughter, one longs for even a fraction of the synonyms that can be substituted for tipsiness.

“Giggle” “chortle” “guffaw” and “snicker” have limited range. One giggles at a different set of circumstances than those which produce a hearty guffaw.

New synonyms are needed for the infinitive “to laugh,” in my humble opinion and I set to work creating some. A few are portmanteaus (word mash-ups), a few are onomatopoeia (words that sound like what they describe) and some are just to increase my word count. This is by no means an exhaustive list, or even a very good one. I am open to suggestions. Let’s just prime the chuckle pump with these and see what else might be generated.

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Amigle—laughing with a dear friend.

Harry and Sally spent the afternoon amigling over old times.

 

Bork—laughing triumphantlySONY DSC
Attila strode about the camp bragging and borking after rampaging Eastern Europe

 

 

 

Gagitate—laughing at an excruciating pun
Homer said, “The guy hogging the only seat during a dull speech is called. . . the chairman of the bored!”
“That just makes me gagitate,” Pandora responded.
SYNONYM—Groano

Genter—polite laugh
The Queen seldom engages in anything more rambunctious than a genter.
ARCHAIC—Gentitter

Grovelick– laughing at the boss’s bad jokes
“Oh, that’s a good one Mr. Pitt.  You’ve got a million of them!” Elaine grovelicked.

Guffake—laughing at inappropriate time and disguising it as a cough.
Horrified that she had laughed aloud at the death scene in Carmen, Irma quickly guffaked.

SONY DSCHoro—rolling eyes while laughing
“You’d think Fred would catch on by now,” Wilma told Betty. “Every time he tells that Abode Dick story I horo.

Mummer—laughing quietly so as not to be heard
The twins sat in the closet digging into the chocolate cake, mummering so they wouldn’t be heard.

Pee-heeing—laughing so hard one wets one’s pants SONY DSC
“Stop! Stop!” Molly gasped as McGee tickled her, “Or I’m going to pee-hee!

Shyfler—timid laugh
Henrietta blushed and shyflerred whenever Dash looked her way.

 

 

 

Sinisnicker—evil laugh
“I have you now, my pretty, and your little dog too,” the Wicked Witch said with a sinisnicker.                                                                                                                                  SYNONYMS—diaboliggle, mwuffle

Skittle—Nervous laugh
“Anybody here?” Lazlo called at a noise in the haunted house. But it was only a cat, and he skittled in relief.

Smock—skeptical laugh
Poppy couldn’t hold back a smock as Buck told her his bowling score.
SYNONYM—smuh

Snorkilate—a snort with a laugh
Everyone loved to watch old comedies with Amy Lou because she was sure to snorkilate sooner or later.

Sputnick—accidentally spitting while laughing.
“I was so embarrassed!” Genevieve moaned, “I sputnicked on the principal’s shoes!”

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Stiffit—self-conscious laugh
With a stiffit, Cromwell took the stage and began the celebrity roast of Henry VIII

 

 

Teasle—flirting giggle
Ambrosina had perfected her teasle and it never failed to get her a first date.

Waterhaw—laughing until one cries
After Henk fell into the pile of manure, Sparky waterhawed and didn’t stop till Henk dragged him in too.

Wimple—weak laugh
Mr. Peabody couldn’t manage more than a wimple when he saw the racing stripes Sherman painted on the WABAC machine.

Yukstuck—laughing uncontrollably
When the General watches The Three Stooges he starts to yukstuck and can’t stop.

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Prayer Worrier

 

SONY DSCI’ve got this friend. She is really great and when I meet great people I like to get my dirty laundry aired right away. Can’t hide it forever, I figure, and she might as well know sooner about my warts and all.
“I worry a lot,” I told her early in the friendship.
She, being the kindly type, smiled beneficently and kept being my friend.
But I knew immediately she wasn’t a worrier * and had barely an inkling of what worry felt like. It was not a shared shortcoming.

Something else about this friend. She hasn’t had one of those pain-free lives that one would think might result in a non-worrier.
No, she has known loss and heartache.
But worry was not woven into her DNA.
It is in mine.

Worry has twisted itself so intricately in the fiber of my being that if you tried to remove it I would unravel.

I don’t know if my grandparents were worriers. My mom was the “I knew someone who did stupid thing (We’ll call it A) and this bad thing (B) happened, so by gum, you aren’t going to do A which ensures you won’t fall victim to B” type of worrier. Her fears were grounded in historical precedent.

Daddy, on the other hand, lived in a world of “If it could happen, if my mind has imagined it, it will probably happen.”
If there was a thunderstorm he would come upstairs in the middle of the night to get us downstairs. Lightning just might strike us in our beds. He worried we would be scalded in the shower if the hot water heater went bat-poo crazy. He worried that knives in the dish drainer would invert themselves, sharp end up, and his children, passing the sink, would trip and fall on said knife.

When I was pregnant with #2, and #1 wasn’t walking yet, Dad watched me walk down the steps from our second floor apartment carrying #1 on the bump containing #2. He was so relieved to see me feel for each riser with my heel. Why? Because he’d been envisioning (in the greatest of detail) me missing a step and hurtling all three of us into the oblivion of the first floor.

Dad. Ah, that lovely man had taken his natural-born worry and honed it with the dedication of a craftsman.

So I come by it honestly.

I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t worry, especially about my loved ones.
But I also worried that the library would run out of books and our family would run out of money.
I worried that since my older sister bore 3 children, the world would be pushed to its population limits and I could only have one, to even the familial quota. I worried about wars and rumors of wars but also was concerned about how world finances would fare with no war-based economic boons. Facebook has given me new vistas of worry. Sometimes, in one day, I will have to decide whether I am more worried that the food in my fridge, the light bulbs in the sockets or the wicks in the candles will poison us the fastest. Don’t get me started on the anxiety about cryptic postings from friends like “I can’t go on” or ”So help me, he will never see another sunrise.” And the honey bees! You know about THAT potential tragedy, right?

Are you worried about me yet? Can you tell these aren’t the normal fears and concerns that are part of growing up and getting older?

I get all excited that cranes and herons and eagles have made a comeback. But then I worry. Is the food chain long enough to support all these big critters? I pat myself on the back when we have money saved up because I am shopping less. But then I worry. Who is supporting the economy? Who is buying stuff? And you know that people are living longer. Fabulous! Who is going to take care of them all?

Got a praise? I’ve got a worry for that.

I’m not certain many other people worry as frequently or with as much lunacy as I do.
That worries me.

By now are your biting your tongue, wanting to shout the verses at me that tell me to “be anxious in nothing?” Don’t you want to remind me that anxiety is a manifestation of doubt in God?

You’re probably right and if it makes you feel better, I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about my lack of faith and trust.

But I can’t really change. Worry is my crack, my twist, a birth defect. Like all weaknesses, God’s strength can be made perfect in it. When a worry comes to mind, it can drive me to my knees. I can be in deep and constant prayer for my family, friends, church, nation, creation. Maybe this is how God chose to make me turn even more to Him. My worry leads me to the Lord. And I can be reminded, when guilt about my worry-prone sin nature threatens to overwhelm me, that Christ died for the sin of anxiety too.

 

*This friend’s husband is a pilot. She never worried about him. Until the September 11 attacks. On his first flight, after air traffic was allowed to resume, she felt an odd sensation. “And I had to wonder,” she told me, “if that was what worry felt like?”

The Right to Bear Opinions

 

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If we set it to music it could be our alternate anthem:

I have a right to my opinion, it’s a part of me
Don’t question my op-in-i-on; we’ll agree to disagree.

Wars have been fought so we have the right to bear opinions.

But with such a great right comes equally great responsibility.
Sure, we may have the constitutional right to bear opinions. But opinions, misused, can be full of sound and fury, signifying the boorishness of the bearer. At best. Opinions become downright perilous when sprayed about indiscriminately, with little regard for the wounds they cause and the wreckage they leave behind.

Possibly those bearing opinions should pass some basic requirements before they can be counted as registered opinion bearers, to wit:

-Opinion bearer will have at least 70% accurate knowledge regarding the subject of each opinion, or refrain from voicing the opinion until knowledge is attained.

-A “cooling off” period will be required before the discharge of an explosive opinion.

-Opinion bearer will take responsibility for misuse of those opinions.

-A previous record of misusing opinions to the detriment of others or to the process of logical reasoning will result in delay of permit to bear a new and potentially more powerful opinion.

-Opinions will be aired for pleasure, recreation, debate, discussion or in self defense, and never intentionally, with malice of forethought, to cause harm to others and to the process of logical reasoning.

-Bearers of opinions agree that, although the right is guaranteed, an opinion is not required on every issue, matter, dogma, or bit of gossip.

-Assault weapon opinions will not be employed when BB gun opinions will suffice.

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Fellow Americans, we should bear our opinions with respect and caution and dignity.

But of course, that is just my opinion.

The Non-Elastic Clause

Non Elastic Clause

Here’s how it works:
We are, at birth, issued heart sections to fill with emotions.
Most sections are fairly elastic—the Puppy Love area, for example.
At age 13 it expands so far that it actually moves beyond the heart wall and into areas such as the voice box, (rendering it speechless when speaking to the Object of Affection), and the stomach, (startling dormant butterflies into violent action at the sight of the same Object of Affection).

But the Object of Affection eventually loses his/her luster and the Puppy Love section shrinks down to almost nothing till inflated by True Love.
The same is true of the ‘Need for Speed’ area predominant in teen boys-—it oozes past the heart and squeezes shut Common Sense and Self-Preservation areas of the brain, but by daddyhood has assumed manageable proportions.

Unfortunately the elastic clause isn’t binding on the Emotions for Parents Area (EPA).
A certain amount of heart space is delegated and we’re required to keep it filled at all times.
It has a non-elastic clause.
When we were infants, every nook and cranny of the Emotions for Parent Area is filled with Need. A bit older and we don’t Need parents for minute-to-minute survival, so some Need is replaced with Love.
Love ebbs and flows as Resentment, Desire for Approval, and Utter Humiliation jockey for position in the space allotted.
But the EPA retains its original volume requirements.

For many sad reasons, Hate, Blame, or Regret sometimes wriggle in. These make it difficult for Love to survive in the Emotions for Parents Area. (A sobering note: Whatever fills this area will  seep into and affect  Friend Love, True Love, Offspring Love, etc.)

In the normal course of events, by adulthood most of us find our EPA filled almost completely with Love, Respect and Concern, and as our parents age, Compassion and Anxiety find space.
What happens to those of us who had to say goodbye to parents? We think “If only I could have had them for a few more years, I’d be able to handle the loss better.”

Not true. The Emotions for Parents Area of your heart has a non-elastic clause, remember?
Parents could live to be 100 and there would be exactly the same amount of emotion to be lavished on them.
Those who have lost parents have a big heart part filled at first with Ache.
Then Affectionate Memories begin to replace some (but never all) of Ache, allowing room for Gratitude and Honor, all of which are highlighted by Love.
And the non-elastic clause means you will carry those emotions in full measure all of your days.