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The Cost of Empathy

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Most of the time, I feel my ability to empathize with others is a valuable trait. To be able to put myself in one’s situation and allow myself to feel as if I was going through whatever is going on has helped me help others. It, in many ways, is really a blessing. Empathy and sympathy are two different animals and not many realize that. To sympathize is simply to feel bad for someone and to empathize is to truly feel the sorrow, pain, anger, frustration, and so on yourself. Not everyone is able to empathize with others and when you’re able to use that ability to help someone and it’s successful, it’s an amazing feeling.

Sometimes though, it takes a lot out of you when you feel too much and often times, there’s not much you can do to get away from that. Sometimes seeing or hearing about bad things happening around the world will get to you. When there’s so much weighing on you, it can pull you into pits of despair. Sometimes that very thing we may call a blessing one day, well it can feel like a curse the next. It can be really hard to separate yourself from the pain that surrounds you, especially when you yourself have things going on.

When you’re struggling, some may even tell you it’s okay to take a step back from everyone else and focus on your own life and while you know on some level that they’re right, this overwhelming sense of guilt haunts you. “But they need me! What if I can help?” And doesn’t it sometimes help us when we’re able to help others? Yes, sometimes helping another can heal your own soul and what a gift that is. Sometimes though, it can be too much to handle. How though, do you convince yourself to actually put yourself first?

There is a great cost to one’s self when you empathize with others. We don’t always see it or wish to acknowledge it. Sometimes we feel that is why we’re here, to help others so that they’re not alone, so that we might do some good in this world, especially when there’s so much hate surrounding us. But to open yourself up and allowing other’s lives to touch your own and get to you, well it changes you. It can become depressing, keep you up at night, make it hard to eat or push you eat too much, cause crying fits you don’t always understand, and cause damage to your well-being and relationships. People may ask, “Why do you always put other’s needs ahead of your own?” “Why can’t you tell people no?”

Some find their ability to empathize a great strength, for it takes a lot to be able to do this. To make yourself vulnerable really does take courage not everyone possesses. Some though, they feel it is a weakness to make yourself a “slave” to others emotionally, if you will. Some feel that it makes you weak to be that vulnerable, to feel that much, and to allow it to drag you down. I feel, after really thinking about it these many years, that it is both, for me at least. I think it can make me strong, especially when it allows me to truly help another, to make things better for someone, even if just a little. I hate seeing people in pain, of any kind, especially those closest to me. If I can help ease their pain at all, I am glad to do it, most days. There are times when I feel it does hinder me though. There are times when I feel like it’s too much and that it’s taking its toll on me. Sometimes I do feel weakened by it.

I will admit that there are times when there is so much going on and my mind feels as if it’s going to come unhinged. And while there’s some feelings of guilt for “abandoning” people who need me, sometimes I admit it is best when I shut myself out from those around me so that I can focus on me for a moment, so I can think and sort things out. Sometimes I need a breather, some time to relax and let the stress levels come down. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever needed to walk away from everyone else for a little bit so that you could fix your own problems? Have you ever felt so dragged down by what everyone around you is going through that you feel like you’re about to lose control of yourself? What do you do when you feel these things? And how do you convince yourself that you’re not being a bad friend or relative? How do you convince yourself that it’s okay to look out for you before others sometimes?

Mostly, I do feel being, what some call an Empath, is a good thing. But yeah, it really can cost you. The trick is to find a healthy balance, but often times we don’t know how to achieve that. I think it’s a learning process, one we may never fully succeed at, but perhaps get better at as the years go by. Here’s to learning, growing, helping  one another, and yet not neglecting ourselves. May we get even a little bit better each day and finding ways to improve both our lives and those around us.

bipolar-disorder-mood

Riding high on a wave of intense mania

Energetic and ready to take on the world

That is until some little thing gets on my nerves

Now it feels like everything is going wrong

And I’m dwelling on every bad thing that’s ever happened

Don’t look at me wrong, I’ll likely snap at you

Though after I’m done ruining everyone’s day

I will feel horribly guilty and tear myself down

Feeling like the worst thing to ever happen to those I love

I’ve fallen into a pool of regret, guilt, and shame

Not seeing a way out of the sadness I’ve slipped into

Wishing for a life preserver so I can pull myself out

Up and down so often I feel dizzy and unsure of where I am

Why does it have to be like this?

I try writing, talking, praying, singing, walking, and more

Sometimes these things help tremendously

And I am so grateful for the support system in my life

Sometimes though, nothing seems to work

And I don’t see a way out or feel the love that’s there

I feel like a yo-yo and I just want to cut the strings

This journey has been rough and is likely to always be

But I know I am not on this path alone

What I go through touches more lives than just my own

My mood swings hurt more than just me

Over the years, I have driven many away

It’s hurt when relationships end and I feel like I have failed

Yet once again, people feel like they can’t deal with it anymore

I do have to say though, that in the most recent years

It’s gotten easier to deal with and as that’s happened

And the bonds formed have lasted, not so easy to break

I will say this now, hoping all will understand

Each of you that stands by me helps more than you know

You make it easier to get through each difficult day

You remind me that each phase will pass

You make me smile, see the beauty within

Your love, loyalty, and devotion is my greatest weapon

When great anger or sadness threaten to take me down

Your support wields within my hands

And like a blaze of fire, conquers it, even if only for a little while

Every day is a struggle, but you make it easier to fight

I lose some individual battles, but the war is far from over

Each victory over my inner demons is celebrated

Bi-polar threatens my happiness and my sanity

But I will not let it win, for I have too many reasons to keep going

Many of them are those of you that are by my side

Thank you for reading this lengthy post

Sort of poetry, sort of prose, more like a solo therapy session

Go from this knowing how very loved you are

And how grateful I am to have each of you by my side.

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There is a difference between being confident and being conceited. Many suffer from a low self-esteem, myself included. It is good to see the good within, to love yourself, and take pride in what you do. But there is a fine line between having a healthy sense of self worth and being arrogant.

Something else that troubles me sometimes is when people feel the need to tear others down to build themselves up. There isn’t a need to do this, not even when say businesses are in direct competition with one another. That is part of why I hate to watch political debates or ad campaigns. Even simple advertising for products we all buy put down the competitors. Why can’t people or companies simply put their best foot forward and let their work speak for itself?

Comparing your work to others to make a sale or win a vote seems to be a smart move,  but when doing so blatantly puts the others down, that honestly just takes away any interest I may have originally had in you or your product. Everyone has their own philosophy, but mine is, if you want my business, you will earn it by being hardworking, respectable, honest, and be able to show me the talent you possess WITHOUT putting down the talents of others.

 

Inner Beauty & the Beast

 

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Today’s topic is about being able to see beauty more in someone’s character than in their outward appearance. There is nothing wrong with admiring one’s outward beauty, but so many times, people are overlooked because they’re not as “fetching” as others. It’s more than that, often times, too. Some can be outright cruel to those they don’t find beautiful.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it’s true. This applies to both inner and outer beauty. What boggles my mind though is why it is seemingly more difficult to appreciate the inner beauties and strengths. As I mentioned before, there’s nothing wrong with admiring someone who is outwardly attractive to us, but shouldn’t we do much more to admire what lies within as well?

I have seen many memes over the years that say things along the lines of, “It doesn’t matter how pretty you are on the outside if you have an ugly heart.” How true those words really are! I have met many people that I find pleasing to look at, but not to talk to or to know. Just because one is lovely to look at doesn’t mean they are equally pleasing to befriend. And just because one is plain, average, or maybe ugly in our eyes doesn’t mean they’re ugly within either!!!! That old saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” should carry more weight.

Yet, first impressions do hold much sway over us and what are the first things we notice when we meet someone? We notice how they look and how they carry themselves. Oh but were I like Sherlock Holmes, able to detect so much from seeing so little and so quickly too! We’re all guilty of looking at someone and coming up with conclusions without really knowing someone, but often, we don’t know as much as we think we do. There is so much more to someone than what we see in a single encounter or even a few meetings.

Were we to delve more into one than how they dressed, their hair, whether they slouch or stand up straight, or even their mood that particular moment. Sometimes we get or give the worst and then depart with unpleasant thoughts about one another. We, as humans, are both simple and complex beings. Why are we so quick to judge? Why are we unable to see the beauty within someone simply because we don’t find them appealing to look at? When we have one bad experience, why does it leave such a bad taste in our mouths that we don’t want to give someone another chance? Maybe they just had a bad day and acted too rashly, but perhaps are really an amazing person. Haven’t we all taken our bad days out on someone?

There is so much beauty surrounding us and sure, I mean nature, but I also mean people. If we were to open our minds, expand our horizons, and be more willing to see the beauty where perhaps we once didn’t, what a grand place this might really be. That lady over there who is a little too heavy for your tastes might have the most beautiful voice you ever heard or maybe if you looked closer, you’d find her smile to be stunning. The guy you think is nothing more than a lazy hippie may actually be brilliant and have the softest heart you’ve ever encountered. The black girl you don’t want to notice because of her color may be seen as gorgeous if you’d see beyond your prejudice. The man who has been losing his hair and not dress so sharply might have the kindest laugh and sweetest demeanor. Can we not try to see more in what we see? Can we find the beauty within ones we normally might not at first glance? May we look again? Might we stop being the beasts we sometimes are and show the beauty too that we have to offer?

The Four Letter Word

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Today’s topic is what many from where I live call the four letter word. I live in Wisconsin and if you’re from here or even visited, you know that one thing we’re known for is cold winters. They do call the city where our football team plays, The Frozen Tundra. 😉 Some absolutely love winter, the cold, and snow. Some like to ski, snowboard, go sledding, ice skate, etc. Though, there are those of us who are not terribly fond of the white stuff. Shoveling, driving in it, and just looking at it after awhile gets old. 😉

Snow is something I have grown accustomed to, as I have lived with white winters my entire life. My personal opinion of the cursed stuff is that it looks beautiful on tree branches and hey, one must have it on Christmas Day. However, I grow very tired of looking at it fairly quickly. I don’t like the snow, ice, slush, and cold weather. I don’t like the darker days. Snow, blech! I often joke around saying that I was born in the wrong state. Some would say to me, ” Why don’t you move?” Well, it’s not so simple to pack up your life and just leave. When your family, friends, and all you’ve ever known is here, it is difficult to truly imagine living anywhere else. I am a Wisconsinite, through the rain, sleet, and snow.

I do think it can be fun for many too and wouldn’t begrudge anyone for enjoying it. Watching kids build snow forts, have snowball fights, make snow angels and snowmen, and just enjoy the wintry days is refreshing. I know too that there’s a place for everything. The earth needs its time to rest and rejuvenate, so then when spring comes, we’re ready for rebirth and renewal. We may complain about the snow and cold in the meantime though. 😉

Since I do live here and endure it every winter, I do try to make the best of it. I look out the window when snow is gently falling and find beauty in it. I like to watch the few creatures who brave our cold beauty frolic in the snow. I do look forward to taking my young daughter sledding and building our snow masterpieces. There’s fun to be had and beauty within it, if we take the time to see it. Even if snow isn’t your cup of tea and you prefer warmer weather, try to see snow’s place in the world around us and appreciate it for the good it brings.

family

I told myself today that I need to write more. I used to write a lot. Writing has been a form of expression and solace for me since fifth grade. Usually when I was at my lowest, if I turned to writing, I was able to start healing. Between writing and music, I have found a cheaper way to vent and mend than therapy. I am highly disappointed in myself for not turning to writing more in the recent past. I need to challenge my writing skills and need to bring more creativity into my life.

I asked my Facebook family to give me ideas today so that I may begin writing once again, as I felt a block when it came to what to write about. Also, what better way to find out what people would want to read about than to ask the very people you’re trying to reach out to. Two of my friends responded. One wants me to write about encouragement, faith, hope, love, and the like and the other wants me to write about family. I am going to do my best to write about both. Let’s see how this develops.

My experiences with family have been all over the board. Growing up, I saw most came from the stereotypical perfect family: Mom, Dad, a couple of kids, and maybe a pet or two. For me though, it was my mom and I for so long. Enter in a boyfriend now and then, but most of my childhood it was just us. I met my dad when I was 10. Then, I found out I have a step-mom and three younger siblings. At 13, nearly 14, I was put into foster care and learned about yet another family dynamic. I have come to learn that families come in all shapes and sizes. There isn’t a perfect type of family. I have also learned that no matter how happy a family may seem, there’s always struggles. You may see happy faces on the walls smiling at you, but there’s often sorrow, strife, hurt, and more behind those happy faces.

Family should be close knit, bound by blood first, but by love even more. Even when it is, it will face issues over the years. I have felt love and loathing within my family. I have known kindness and treachery. Sometimes the ones that hurt us the most are those we’re related to and sometimes the ones we’re closest to are our friends, who form yet another family dynamic. Not all families are bound by blood. When asked what a family is, I don’t have a concrete answer. I will tell you what I think a family should be though.

A family, whether bound by blood or not, should encourage one another. A family should lift its members up and not tear one another down. A family should have faith in one another, feeling in their souls the love and loyalty from one another. A family should not dictate who is worthy of love and instead if they see a member struggling or going down a path they ought not, reach out and try to help. Sometimes people can’t or simply don’t want to be helped and sometimes you need to distance yourself from another, but to outright turn your back on one without even trying to understand, without trying to be there just seems wrong to me. I have had family members turn their backs on me and on others simply because of the mistakes we made and deeming us unworthy of their love, help, and support. I think that is why it is hard for me to walk away from anyone, family or otherwise. I know how it feels to have people turn their backs on me and it hurts, so I try with all I have to be there for others. Families are not and should never be expected to be perfect. We all, as individuals and groups, fall and make mistakes. It should then be our desire, when one falls, is to help one another back up. I have, perhaps too grand, big ideas of what family should be, but I don’t believe any of it is unobtainable, not when people are committed to working together. No one should let any of the weight fall on one or a few members, but let it be upon us all.

How to survive family life may sound easy to some and extremely difficult to others. For while family should be a force that bands together, sadly, it’s often not. Sometimes we tear one another down and make life extremely difficult for ourselves and those around us. Some do stick together and make family look like something amazing. But having known some of these wonderful families, I see that they too need to work to make their relationships with one another work. Any relationship needs to be worked on. If ever we feel that we’re at a good place and stop, then it will begin to fall apart. We need to keep at it. Marriages, friendships, working relationships, family ties, and the like all require work, effort, time, respect, communication, and loyalty. For me, I have found that I survive my various family dynamics by knowing every individual is just that, an individual. Every one of them is different and I can’t treat each person the same. But, I do try to give each person in my life respect, loyalty, kindness, and love. I also try to communicate, to keep in touch, to let them know when there needs to be something worked on, and when I am very happy by how things are going as well. We face issues, but I try to face them head on and together. If we try to fight through our struggles alone, how can they be fixed? One sided effort fails, but when people come together, so much is possible.

Family isn’t perfect, life is far from it even more so. But, united we stand and divided we fall. My goal is to keep working on the bonds I have formed and to form even more. I plan to never stop working on my relationships, but also plan to get better at knowing when to walk away from something, knowing when to keep trying and when enough is enough. I am far from as wise as I can possibly be, but I feel I can let the wisdom I have gained in 38 years guide me and to help me learn more, about myself and those around me. I hope to grow my faith, both in God and in others. I hope to learn how to encourage others more and learn to accept it from others better as well. Family can show us so much, if we’re willing to see it and learn from one another. We all have our ugly sides, but together we can open our eyes to the beautiful ones as well.

All or Nothing

purple-butterfly

The screen goes black

How did it come to this?

When exactly did we get off track?

No more living in a state of ignorant bliss

 

Eyes wide open, senses on full alert

Wishing to dull the feelings within

To find a way to quiet all of the hurt

But it’s team floodgates for the win

 

One can’t pick and choose which emotions to feel

Wouldn’t it be grand to be able to feel only some things?

And to decide how quickly we can heal?

Why must it be for me all or nothing?

 

I’d like to quiet the anger, unrest, fear, & sorrow

Let only the joy, hopefulness, and love reign

What a happy place my mind would be on the morrow

If I could just let the ill feelings an illness feign

 

But that is not how it is meant to be for us

Every tear and laugh help our hearts be free

For though we may wish our minds never to fuss

I fear then that the beauty too would cease to be

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