Reader

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I’m not a reader.

Now let me explain.

I’m a damn good reader.  No disorders that I know of, comprehension through the roof, the ability to cold read, out loud, in public, strong as it gets.  I’ve been reading since I was a little over a year old, or so they said when I was growing up.

No, I’m just not a reader.

I grew up reading every day.  Prose, mostly, and that, contained in the sports section of the LA Times.  I never read comics, except for the papers on Sunday, and I was never encouraged to pick up a book during my childhood, except by command of teachers, and then, not until high school.  Along the way, I read some things, mostly by accident.  Some Peter Benchley… sharks fascinated me… and some pulp journalism style stuff you could find on the book rack at the grocery store while my mom stood in line to pay.  Besides that, the only two things I read like they meant something were Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, the World Book Encyclopedia, and the 1973 Baseball Encyclopedia.

But none of that is reading.

In the years that I should have been indulging my creative consciousness on everything from Swift to Burroughs and Dickens to Baum, I was memorizing batting averages, the etymology of 19th century English words, and the names the crew gave the mechanical shark in the movie Jaws.  I wasn’t reading, I was collecting… nonsense, mostly.  I read quickly.  I read to absorb, to obtain, and to satisfy curiosity, not for the love of the words themselves.

At least that’s the way reading was explained to me.  That it was a love affair with words, and with the stories that the words would unfold for me, if I would only let it be so.  As you might imagine, school was a nightmare for me.  I got by, barely.  Not by reading, but by listening.  I listened to every word the teachers said, and made copious notes.  Page after page of classroom notes, writing down every meaningless detail of these frustrated storytellers, never once looking inside the textbooks they ordered us to read.  Because of this, obviously, math was a killer.  English was hard because all the questions on tests were neatly tucked away inside the books I didn’t read.  History worked for me, because teachers of history fancy themselves “historians”, and would rather act out the full contents of the books themselves, than leave the interpretation of history to the transcribers of history.  I took notes, and answered the questions from them. 

That didn’t work out so well, in high school, or in college, after.

I gave reading one more shot in my 20s.

The girl I was seeing was a reader of book club selections, and I would read books over her shoulder, at night.  For a while, I became a reader like she was a reader.  Picking novels that sounded interesting based on my already-cultivated curiosities.  Bad sports stories, the occasional adventure, and spooky stuff.  Spooky stuff that would have caused childhood me to keep both hands and both feet inside the covers at night.  Blatty’s Exorcist.  King’s Stand.  A bunch of other crap I barely remember.

In this time, I realized that I read the way a cow eats, deliberately, and not in any hurry.  Not the way a predator hurriedly consumes its prey, but slowly, chewing on words and phrases, taking them all in, and then barfing them back up in the form of re-reading without actually finishing the book first.  It took me forever to read a book this way, but when I was done, I maybe knew the stories better than the authors.  

Then the girl became wife.  The wife stopped reading.  I stopped reading.

Because I’m not a reader.

At this point in this story, I’ll save you the exposition of the next 30-something years.  I’ll just tell you that, while I am not a reader, I am reading again.  I have to.  Something I discovered about the silence that only reading brings.  The silence that, I didn’t know until now, brings healing to a soul that fed on only noise, and a mind that, for most of a lifetime, knew only confusion and pain.  Words and stories that should bring healing, and a minimum of confusion and pain.  From Murakami to Bradbury, Goldman to Gibran.  I will read these, soon.

I’m not a reader, yet.

But I’m going to be.      

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

When an Empath has no Empathy

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I undergo profound changes every November. 

Cataclysmic, visions-of-a-personal-apocalypse life changes.  It’s happened three Novembers in a row now.  Sure, it’s only a blog challenge, but I’m generally blog-challenged, being a poet and not really a blogger at all.  So when November rolls around, it seems like I’m just not allowed to ignore all the seismic emotional upheaval that something of this creative magnitude rips open for 30 days straight.

See, here’s the thing, because you knew there’d be a thing, right?  The thing is, I’m kind of an empath.  Not the ‘I shake your hand and know where you’ve buried the bodies’ kind of empath.  Just the ‘I feel things deeper than most people’ kind. 

My feelings. 

Your feelings. 

Friends’ feelings. 

Strangers’ feelings.

Hell, I even feel your dog’s feelings.

Did you ever see the movie “Species”?  The original, where the government assembled a team of previous strangers with varied skill-sets to capture and/or kill the Escaped Sexy Female Alien Hybrid, on the loose and looking to mate?  Then you remember the soft-spoken empath, played by Academy Award™ winning actor Forest Whitaker.  This version of the B-movie empath wasn’t a psychic, or in touch with the spirit world, or whatever other way B-movies portray the empath.  This version could simply feel what others around him were feeling, and tell you what those feeling meant

I liked that interpretation. 

Because at the roots, it’s the closet I’ve ever come to being introduced to mine. 

And then there’s the downside. 

The thing is, I’m kind of an empath.  Not the ‘I shake your hand and know where you’ve buried the bodies’ kind of empath.  Just the ‘I feel things deeper than most people’ kind. 

My feelings. 

Your feelings. 

Friends’ feelings. 

Strangers’ feelings.

Hell, I even feel your dog’s feelings.

Especially my feelings.

Which in the past, I could ignore for my own sanity’s sake.  But last November, after writing a super-concentrated month’s-worth of feelings, I lost the ability to bury mine.  No more clearly-marked boxes for emotions.  No more handy compartments for feelings to go.  No more mindless default ways to ignore them.  They were, for the first time, all on the same great big plate like a 64-box of crayons melted together in a microwave oven, and it was a fucking mess. 

My fucking mess. 

And I had to choose my path before it killed me.

The title of this post is, “When an Empath has no Empathy”.  It comes from a random thought that popped into my empath head a couple of days ago, about someone from my past, equally gifted with the ability to ‘feel all the feels’ like I do.  A random thought that goes, “What if you were an empath with no empathy?  Wouldn’t that just make you a sociopath?” 

And after reading everything… okay, a few things on Reddit… my non-clinical, non-scientific answer is, “Yeah… I think it would.”

But is that how I want to live the rest of my life?  Just surviving like a spiritual grifter, living off the feelings of others instead of feeling all the feels and helping those who need whatever it is I can do with all the messed up feelings.

My feelings. 

Your feelings. 

Friends’ feelings. 

Strangers’ feelings.

Hell, I even feel your dog’s feelings.

Especially my feelings.

So this November, I was left with a choice.  Do I want to spend the rest of my life finding new ways to shut off all the feelings and face the consequences of knowing and not caring?  Or do I stay on the path, as I suppose was originally intended, and learn how to be who I am?  Feeling, and dealing with my choices.

Like I said, I undergo profound changes every November.

And I can’t wait until December.

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday