The opposite of empathy

Solipsistic. It means self absorbed. I heard this word several times over the past week. It’s not hoe it sounds. People didn’t call me “solipsistic” (thank goodness). All of the mentions were from the same book. Being the ever-learning person that I am, I looked up the definition.

And now I get the humor the author was trying to communicate. The person in her story had to look up the word solipsistic when she herself should be pictured next to the word in Webster’s. 

Wait. That’s not me. I AM writing a blog about myself… Does that make me solipsistic? Perhaps a little.

As hippie as it sounds, I’ve reflected on this word for the past week. Where did it come from? What is the origin? How is it used today?

Solipsism originated as a theory that a person doesn’t acknowledge anything exists outside of his/her own experiences. 

Gee. Sounds like a lot of people. Sounds like me sometimes. It’s very hard to be able to understand situations that you yourself have not experienced. We make life choices based on our own experiences. Our experiences define us. 
But that doesn’t mean we are exempt from acknowledging or at least trying to understand others’ situations. 

It’s empathy. Some consider empathy as “being ok with everything” and having loose morals because you “accept” others decisions or lifestyles. I think there’s a difference. I can have very strong differing opinions but still acknowledge and understand that someone reached her position in life through a series of decisions based on experiences. And I can understand that I may not understand, but that doesn’t devalue her existence.

I think today, it’s easy to hate what we don’t understand. Solipsism is rampant and it’s disguised as high morals and strong convictions, but really, all it is, is ignorance.

Empathy is hard. That’s probably why so many people don’t bother even trying. But I will. I’ll continue to try to be empathetic, because I definitely don’t want to be solipsistic.

Are you a good storyteller?

I learned about storytelling at a very young age. Or rather, I learned that I was a BAD storyteller at a very young age.

 My sister and I were total goofballs and ornery AF. We were always involved in some sort of shenanigan. We would trick my other sisters into doing something hilariously embarrassing and then tell the story. We knew our stories were hilarious… we just didn’t exactly deliver them that way.

Growing up, one of my most prominent memories from our family gatherings includes this level of storytelling. My sister and I would run up to one of our uncles, snickering about our latest prank. We laughed through every word. Then, something strange would happen. My uncle would just turn and walk away. Mid. Sentence. Dawn and I would look at each other for a second, baffled. Then we’d continue telling the story until one or both of us realized how silly we looked, telling each other a story about an event that included the both of us. 

We were insulted. We were confused. We just laughed it off. 

Thinking back about this phenomenon, I realize that it probably wasn’t that our uncles were rude or didn’t want to hear our story. It’s like when you’re about to hit your punchline and someone asks you to pass the ketchup. But it was probably because we did such a poor job with delivery. 

Kids aren’t really known to be great at telling stories. We drone on and on and on, with no real point. Most times I’m stuck in a conversation with a 13 year old, all I want to do is be OUT of that conversation. I get it.

Unlike most kids, I internatlized this inaudible feedback. Why would they walk away? They don’t like me? No. That’s not it. This story is annoying? No, this story is the bomb. Did I take to long to get to the punchline? Bingo! They never even got to hear the punchline. 

I started focusing on getting the story out faster, to beat them to the walk away. Talking really fast didn’t work, because then no one really understood me. So, I started using way less words to get to the point. I’d like to think this practice helped me become a better writer and speaker. Instead of giving the entire meadow report, I list off the most important, most interesting events. I got better and better at it. And, suffered through way fewer walk-aways.

Today, when I was “listening” to a 13 year old telling me about the trick shots he posts on Instagram: speed, length, distance, frequency, I walked away. As I left him staring at me in total confusion, I’d like to think that one day he’ll be a better writer for it.

Abuse punctuation for the right reasons

“It is my destiny to know people who abuse punctuation.”

I nearly spit out my coffee when I heard this line from “Hidden Bodies.” Caroline Kepnes sure has a way of developing a psychopathic murderer whose sense of humor aligns nearly perfectly with mine.

Joe Goldberg (said murderer from Hidden Bodies and YOU) was talking about his coworker and later landlord, who were so overly enthusiastic you could see the exclamation points flying out their mouths.

omg-exclamation-pointsNaturally, he’s extremely annoyed. I, too, am annoyed. Joe and I, we have a lot in common, less the whole vengeful stalker, killer bit. Joe and I also agree that it’s pretty difficult to hate someone who is that enthusiastic about nothing, about life.

I’m not the cheerleader type (shocking reveal, I know), and cheerleaders annoy me (equally shocking). But… sometimes you need that extra positivity on an otherwise mostly negative day.

I used to have a neighbor, I nicknamed him “Gipper” because he was always eagerly waving and shouting his obscenely friendly “Hi-diddly-hos!” It was almost surreal. I suspected he was some sort of serial killer (we still don’t know for certain). However, when he bounced around his yard with his 4-year-old daughter, I couldn’t help but smile at his ridiculous, annoyingly good parenting.

Over the years, I learned a thing or two from Gipper. Friendliness goes a long way and positivity doesn’t have to be forced… and it’s possible to use exclamation points for emotions other than anger.

Today, I welcome those who abuse punctuation. Five exclamation points in an email used to annoy me (no one is that excited about cookies). But now, it’s a little infectious.

Have a good week!!!!!

 

 

Grateful for all the annoying things

Siiiiiiiiiiiigggghhhhhhh. As I changed the roll of toilet paper. Like always, the new roll was 1/2 used and still stacked on top of the old cardboard roll. Why? Why can’t we change the roll? What’s so hard?

Ok, it’s a little hard, you have to compress the metal spring while also sliding the metal roll out of place and then somehow do the same thing with a roll of toilet paper covering the spring. I can do it. It’s annoying, yes. But I can do it. And so can every other woman I work with. I know this, because I’ve trained some of them to do so.

I walk out the bathroom door, picking up paper that had missed the trash can, reminding myself to be grateful that I have both the dexterity and the thumb/finger strength to change the roll. I guess not everyone has that. Everyone can, however, pick up an errant ball of paper. #eyeroll

Siiiiiiigggghhhhhhh. As I go to refill my water from the Culligan. Not a drop to spare…. again. I remove the empty jug and grab a new 25lb jug and awkwardly tip it upside down and onto the dispenser. No spilled water this time! Am I the only one who changes this? I change this thing AT LEAST once a week. 

After filling my bottle, I reminded myself that I should be grateful that I have the strength and coordination to lift the jug and turn it around to put on the dispenser. I should be grateful we have filtered water, remembering how horrible the tap water tasted before the arrival of the jug.

I’ve been listening to The Gratitude Diairies and I’m trying to take a tip or two from it. Gratitude has never been my strong suit. As little as my family had growing up and as much as my parents reminded we kids to be grateful, I still struggle with being annoyed about things that, frankly, I’m lucky to be annoyed by. If ya think about it.

When I sat back down at my desk, I felt a little less annoyed than I normally do when I have to do these chores. Maybe this gratitude thing is actually working.

The Villian becomes the Hero

I’ve recently branched out to reading more fiction. In particular, thrillers. Which, if you know me, you may not believe the previous sentence. I’m a weeny. I’ve been a weeny since I was 2 years old hiding under the bed of my neighbor’s dad because I was scared of him, for no apparent reason other than he was an adult male. 

Fast forward many years, and I’m finally getting the point where I can handle a bit of a thriller, under my conditions. No science fiction and no paranormal. That unknown shit really messes with me.

My first book: YOU by Caroline Kepnes. 

I’m Audible customer, so 99% of all the books I complete are audiobooks. Yes, I can read, but I can’t sit still long enough to make it through a whole chapter. Sad, but true. 

As I listened to YOU, I found myself identifying with the narrator/main character. He was real, he was honest, he was a cynic. I was annoyed when he was annoyed with certain other characters for being pretentious about books and beers and club soda. I was on his team.

When it occurred to me that this person is a sociopath and I probably shouldn’t be rooting for him, I wondered if there was something to that. 

I’m watching MadMen now too. Same sort of deal. Don Draper isn’t a villain but he’s not exactly the hero type. I find myself rooting for him. It doesn’t hurt that he’s charismatic and good looking. But when his secretary thinks that her one night stand with him was something more than that I think, “She knows him. She knew what she was getting into.”

This seems to be a relatively new story trend. We’re all familiar with hero’s journey: Hero is normal, hero finds flaw/problem, hero struggles with flaw, hero finds sidekick or mentor to help him deal with flaw, hero overcomes flaw. Hero becomes stronger than before. Maybe we’re bored with the hero’s journey, it’s predictable. It’s common. Even my 8 year old notices: “Mommy, the good guy always wins.”

This is the villain’s journey. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel after watching/reading a villain’s journey. Mostly, I feel confused, maybe worried, mad. Definitely not the feelings I get after a hero’s journey, renewed, relieved, resolved.

In a villain’s journey, the villain starts out with all the power and he declines through the story and oftentimes, ends up a pile of mush at the end. We are showed the villain’s back story so we can emphasize, maybe identify, with him, why he’s such a lunatic. (Read: Don Draper’s awful childhood and Maleficent’s stollen wings). Sometimes we think, “he’s doing awful things but for good reasons” (Read: Ray Donovan).

While it sometimes feels wrong, it’s fun to watch the villain story unfold. We want to know what horrible thing made them who they are. It’s less predictable. We’ve seen the hero’s story and we know it by heart. The Villain’s Story is mysterious and new to us. 

That’s all it is. This entire post basically justifies my identification with the sociopath in YOU, with the narcissist in Don Draper, the vigilante in Ray Donovan, and with the vengeful Maleficent.

We’re not evil for empathizing with a seemingly human response to evil. We’re all human. (Except Maleficent is a fairy… but you get the idea.)

There are no new ideas, only new perspectives

This morning I was going through my “idea file” for a good blog post. 

Starting a workout only on a Monday and other pointless rules

Have I written that? I scoured my blog but found nothing under key terms. Seems so familiar, I better move on.

The man who believes he knows everything learns nothing

Oh yes! That’s good. Wait… didn’t I write something like that recently? 

Then I thought something very discouraging: Am I reframing the same ideas and stories over and over? 

It’s like talking to my husband about the time we had a lemonade stand so we could pay our entry to the pool. “It was a slow day and we didn’t think we’d swing it, then the neighbor came over and gave us a $20 bill! That would pay for the whole neighborhood!”

Donnie stops me, “Yeah, I know this one.” My shoulders drop. “Oh. Ok. Good story though, right?” Him, “Yeah, it’s a good story.”

Is my blog getting to that point? Do I need to erase my “idea file” and start over? Is my brain getting to that point? Do I need to read more books? Or maybe different books? Am I reading the same books over and over??

What is even the point of this blog? A collection of stories and rants and observations. Is it useful, entertaining, or is it just a bucket filled with my mushy brain matter? 

Boy, that escalated quickly. While I was just wallowing in my own victimhood, I just thought a new blog post idea! That said, this post wasn’t a complete dumpster fire. 

What did I learn in the 20 minutes it took to bare my soul? 

1. Read a wider variety of books

2. There aren’t many real new ideas out there, only new ways of presenting them 

3. There’s nothing wrong with reframing if the story’s good

4. Simply putting pen to paper (or keystrokes to screen) can get ideas flowing.

5. The right people like my bucket of brains. 

Is “busy” the only good excuse?

I didn’t work on this speech this weekend. 

That’s ok! You have 3 kids, you must’ve been really busy.

I didn’t go grocery shopping this weekend.

That’s ok! You were busy.

I forgot about that deadline.

You just have so many things going on.

I haven’t blogged in a week or so and I have no excuse. Have I been busy? Not really. Do my 3 kids require attention from me 24/7? Not really. In fact, I had several free hours over the weekend that I filled with light reading, heavy reading, working out and roaming around Target.
I wouldn’t say I’m too busy to do anything. I just dont’ want to.

I don’t want work on that speech, I’d rather indulge in a movie on Koty, or play board games with my kids, or do a mix of light and heavy reading. I slacked off and “busy” is not my excuse.

Lazy? Yes.

Different priorities? Yes.

I spend the weekend taking in everything I possibly could, from the beautiful weather to eye rolls from my daughter’s beautiful big browns; from a tutorial on comedy writing to George Orwell’s 1984; from Mighty Ducks to Sister Act; from the home section to the freezer section, I took it all!

It was relaxing… and I was consumed with guilt. 

I didn’t get milk (or EGGS!). I didn’t practice my speech. I didn’t write on my blog. I didn’t finish anything I started.

So today when I replied, “No, I didn’t really get anything done this weekend,” and my coworker offers up a classic “you were probably so busy” excuse, I took it. Shamefully. 

“Yes. That was it. I was just so busy.”

Busy enjoying my life.