Several years ago, I owned a house in Humarock. It was this awesome, oceanfront home that also abutted the North River. For every big storm that was forecast, I would roll down the hurricane shutters on the first floor windows and get cozy in my upstairs bedroom to ride out the storm. Ultimately the waves would crash into the house and channel down both sides of my home and empty into the North River. It was exciting, surreal. It was also scary. I always feared losing my house to one rogue wave. The thrill and fear endured through enough storms, coupled with a desire to be closer to my kids in Hingham, motivated me to place my house on the market. Within the first 4 days, I received an offer. Not only was the offer for very close to list price, the buyers wanted me out in 3 weeks. I was not prepared for the swiftness of action, but I rose to the occasion. While busily packing and searching for a new house in Hull, I had the opportunity to meet the new owners of my Humarock home. I asked them what they planned to do with the house and what their sense of urgency was. The story that unfolded was truly endearing.
They were retired schoolteachers with three grown daughters. Years ago, they had owned a home in Humarock but had to sell it for reasons of economics to raise their family. As we sat down to talk, I could feel a warm, vibrant energy emanating from them. They explained with amusement, hands intertwined, that they had gone to BJ’s Wholesale to do their weekly shopping about a month before they purchased my home. When they got home and started unloading their groceries, the wife realized there were seven items they had neglected to get. So she sent her husband to their local grocery store to get the seven items. She gave him a stern warning. He was not to purchase any more lottery tickets. He had indulged in his weekly scratch ticket habit at BJ’s and lost $40. He was, she instructed, under no uncertain circumstances, to buy any more. Off he went to the grocery store, and not heeding his wife’s advice, purchased two more $20 scratch tickets. He pulled into his driveway, and not wanting to incur the wrath of his lovely bride, he sat in his car and scratched those tickets before going inside. His heart beat wildly when he finished scratching the second ticket. Could it be true? Could he trust his eyes? He pulled out his cell phone and called his daughter, who was also inside the home visiting. “Come meet me in the garage, but don’t tell your mother I’m home,” he instructed her. “Why,” she asked. “I need you to look at something,” was the only answer he would give. She complied and gave the scratch ticket a second look. Her dad had just won $10,000,000. Yep, you read that right. Ten. Million. Dollars.
Their first purchase with the initial installment of 20 annual payments was my house. They wanted to give their extended family a place to gather in the summers to be together at the beach. It was such a heartwarming story, and to know my home was going to two loving people with great energy, was all I needed to kick myself into gear, pack up my belongings and find that new house in Hull.
I have always been conscious of the energy of others. It perplexed me for years, why I would just naturally gravitate to some, feeling comfortable and engaging, and others would make the hair on my arms stand up. I always thought that I was different, but I never had a name for why I was so sensitive to other people’s energy. I am aware that I have experienced overly sensitive reactions and get extremely overwhelmed in crowded places. Remember that anxiety attack I had at the grocery store in a prior blog, “The Journey Fabulous, Clean Up in Aisle 4”? I have also been known to get overwhelmed in situations where I feel I have no control. I realize that I absorb other people’s emotions. Taking on anger or anxiety of others is exhausting, while being around peace and love allows my mind/body to flourish. I wondered why I often needed alone time to recharge my emotional batteries. It has been with much research over the last several months that I have discovered there is a name for what my ex-boyfriend had labeled my “all sorts of crazy.” Trust me, this wasn’t a term of endearment.
I am an empath. Yep, it’s a real thing.
Realizing I am an empath makes me understand a little better how to manage this new-found phenomenon.
In an attempt to deal with my curse of reading energy, I have forced myself to put up a protective barrier and ignore the strong, nagging feelings I sometimes get. Those feelings were meant to protect me, but when constantly assaulted with other people’s energy, I have adapted to block a lot of it out. So, I adopted the theory that people are inherently good until they prove me otherwise, regardless of the energy read I get on them. I ignore that initial intuition and open my arms and my heart to new friendships and relationships with gusto. As I look back with introspection, I’m coming to realize, this approach has not always served me.
When I was in college I liked this boy on campus. I had quite the crush. One night, he noticed me at a party and we started talking. He asked me back to his apartment. Hopefully, naively, stupidly, I went. When we got to his apartment, I noticed a picture of him and a girl. Making small talk, I asked him who she was. He said it was his girlfriend who went to a different college. I never knew he had a girlfriend. My moral compass kicked in and my gut told me it was time to go. He started kissing me again and I resisted. He bluntly stated, “If you’re not here to fuck, you can leave.” There was NO way I was there for that. I had held strongly, fiercely to my virginity for the first 18 years of my life. There was no way I would give it up to a guy that was stepping out on his girlfriend. I promptly left feeling completely deflated. I fully and utterly chastised myself on the long, dark walk back to campus. This was the first glimpse that my empath skills, when it came to members of the opposite sex, were going to challenge me for the next 35 years.
Then I met my first real love. As I mentioned in earlier blogs, he was the most gorgeous guy on campus. He was smart, funny, and athletic. He was ambitious. I fell hard for him. And he fell hard for me. He was also broken in some ways. He had had a difficult childhood. He didn’t have the awesome family life that I had experienced. I wanted to fix him. Give him normalcy and love. As a result, I overlooked the fact that he was emotionally distant. He couldn’t help it! I overlooked the fact that he had narcissist tendencies. I turned my head to some major differences between us and agreed to marry him, vowing ‘til death do us part. We had two beautiful children and life took over. I forgot about my emotional needs because I was so busy being a mom and working and volunteering. Don’t get me wrong, we had a strong relationship, a real love, for many of the 26 years we were together. But as the kids were getting older and they needed me less, I started to focus on what was missing in my life. Throughout the course of the marriage we lost the naïve love we once had. We lost the reaction of hugging and jumping up and down in each other’s arm, dancing in a circle, when good things happened. We just simply existed with each other. And I realized I wanted more. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to be cherished and adored.
As I’ve learned on this Journey to Fabulous, awareness is the first step to making changes in my life. It’s become glaringly obvious that it’s time to start employing my empath abilities, not tune out the gut warnings I get when I meet people. In two of my post-divorce relationships, I ignored signals that I spotted early on, because I so badly wanted my gut to be wrong. I so desperately wanted love and companionship. I rationalized to myself that no one’s perfect; people have flaws and loving someone means you learn to live with the flaws, warts and all. While that is a theoretically solid mindset, allowing a person in your life who mistreats you is not an imperfection anyone should ever live with. Engaging and remaining way too long in these two destructive, abusive relationships is a sign that I have under-valued myself. That I am not allowing me the self-care and self-love necessary to thrive as a healthy individual. Learning and understanding the traits of an empath has helped me to become aware of why I am the way I am.
I have spent countless hours researching and reading up on the subject of the traits of an empath. I have scoured over numerous articles, voraciously lapping up the information, becoming excited to recognize that I am not alone. I am not “all sorts of crazy.” I am not a freak.
I have discovered that empaths are often attracted to narcissists. Narcissists are individuals who are selfish, putting their own needs first. Motivated by their own self-interest and ego driven desires. Empaths put other people’s needs first and are motivated by the desire to fix others, to help them heal. What empaths and narcissists have in common is their high emotional intelligence. Narcissists are high in intellectual or cognitive empathy, they recognize and perceive how another person thinks and feels. Empaths are high in emotional or affective empathy, they emotionally respond to how another person thinks and feels.
They both have the unique ability to understand people’s motivations, emotional needs and inner desires. This intuitive attainment gives them the power to know where a person’s vulnerabilities and insecurities lie.
What differentiates empaths from narcissists is that while empaths use this information to try to help other people, narcissists use this knowledge for their personal gains. Empaths take on other people’s problems to find solutions. Narcissists manipulate and emotionally abuse people to further their own interests.
When I became aware of this information it was quite an eye-opening discovery. I have been beating myself up for some of the relationship mistakes of my past. I have been wondering why I keep becoming attracted to, and involved with narcissists. It was freeing to discover that that’s what empaths do. I become completely involved, taking on the problems of my significant others. Making my priority to help, to fix. In the past, I blamed myself for all the problems of my relationships. If I was only “more”; more giving, prettier, funnier, sexier, less emotionally needy. If only I was different, maybe then my relationships would be easier. Gleaning this new information, it empowered me to stop being so hard on myself. With knowledge comes power. As I learn to understand the nature of the empath, I can better understand how to manage this dis-ease. And I hope to be able to better navigate future relationships. I need to find the balance between this natural desire to give and fix, and have a healthy appreciation for my own personal and emotional needs.
I have a theory that people are either givers or they are takers. Givers give without expecting anything back. They do it because it makes them feel good. Maybe they give because they are empaths, like me. Or maybe they give because they are insecure and want people to like them. Others are givers because they are naturally generous and have the means to give. They are the ones who give freely. I have always been a giver. A giver of my time, of gifts, of money. My friends and all my past relationships would all support this claim.
Of course this means where there are givers, there are takers. Takers are the ones who expect the person with the means to grab the bill every time you get together. Takers are the envious, negative people who feel they deserve to receive. Takers are the ones who drain the energy out of my existence. I am learning to weed takers out of my life.
The more I unravel and examine my past, the more I am finding the parallels of my actions to the traits I exhibit as an empath. I cannot change the past, but I can learn how to exist, without unnecessary drama or hurt, in the future.
One of the things I truly love about myself is my compassion; my caring and generous nature. I make myself completely vulnerable, giving wholly of my heart. What I need to figure out is how can I keep these qualities and not get taken advantage of. How do I stay true to who I am and not ever get involved again with an abusive narcissist? How do I remain loyal to my good traits and not give my heart so generously to undeserving people?
I met someone in the past few months. Actually, he introduced himself to me with such an assertive, self-assured, confident manner that I was extremely flattered. It was refreshing. Sexy even. He, too, is a giver. In tune with his emotions, extremely affectionate. Full of life, embracing everything and everyone with vigor. I have been cautious. Perhaps one would say a bit resistant. We’re taking things slow. This Journey to Fabulous has taught me to learn and live by my own lessons. This time around, as I navigate the waters of a new relationship, I am maintaining my independence. I started knitting lessons with my friend, Kathy. Don’t judge me, I’m still young at heart! I find knitting to be highly therapeutic. In addition, I started a new band with an old friend. An acoustic trio. We’ll call ourselves Jax ‘n Andy. We hope to be ready to kick off in April. I have been focusing on making time for my girlfriends. I have been writing and have been contemplating a trip to Italy in September to attend another writer’s retreat. My life is full. Busy. And I still maintain the joie de vivre and spontaneity I have always had. Last week, after getting pummeled with two Nor’Easters and another one/two in the forecast, I booked a trip back to Costa Rica. My old stomping grounds, where the Journey to Fabulous all started. What a blast I am having! I’m happy to report that I’m……happy. Extremely happy. And boy does it feel good.