As the earth turns

SSGThis year has been… interesting. That’s the understatement of the decade.

See, the problem is that I am a person that feels deeply. There are many terms for the kind of person I am, depending on the field. You know, burden bearer, empath, things like that.

I am a scientist. Okay, was a scientist. But my mind still thinks like one. So, as some of you know, I am not given to esoteric, mumbo- jumbo explanations. If anything, I am an skeptic of sorts. But the fact is that I – indeed, feel deeply, even beyond what one would consider normal.

I am affected by the world. I am affected by people’s suffering. I connect with people I’ve never met. I feel for them.

David Sipress for The Daily Cartoon at The New Yorker. December 17th

I gave up watching the news when I was in my mid teens. Couldn’t take it any longer. This, however, didn’t make much of a difference. I still knew. Just like I still know.

But I it all started well before that. As a little girl, I would get up in the middle of the night to open the door of the cages where my mother kept her birds. Couldn’t stand the thought of keeping beautiful creatures that were meant to fly in a cage. That felt to me like the ultimate horrible thing. After a while, my mother gave up on buying more birds. She never said a word to me but I am sure she knew if was me behind the strange disappearances.

I refused to kill and dissect a frog in 6th grade. I made such a big rucus that that year was the last year the biology teacher attempted to do dissections at school. I did bring a frog to school as they asked me. But not only I got up, took the frog in my hands and I said that I refused to kill a creature but exhorted my classmates to the same! You can imagine the scene. I gave quite the speech. Everybody followed suit and there was no killing of frogs that day.

Then there was Med school and Physiology lab. They wanted me to bring a stray dog, put it under anesthesia and open it up while still alive. Yeah, that didn’t go well either. Again, another rucus. Again, I accomplished to get the Physiology department to take the killing of a dog out of the syllabus. Sadly,  I didn’t manage to say the life of one dog. I did get my professors to use only one dog for the whole class instead of one dog for every lab team, though. Needless to say, I refused to partake of that lab and cry the whole time it was happening.

Finding a project for my PhD was difficult. I had a few requirements but the one that was absolutely not up for discussion was no animal experimentation. It took me a while and I finally found the one for me.

There’s much suffering and pain in this world. I can feel it. It is more than I can bear, sometimes.

As it happens so many times, today* while on FB, a picture appeared on my feed. A picture from someone I have never met in person but whom I am convinced it is my long, lost twin from a parallel universe.

Hat tip to Cate from Infinite Sadness... or hope?. A quick search informed me that it is a quote from a cartoon by David Sipress but I haven't been able to find the original source of said cartoon

Hat tip to Cate from Infinite Sadness… or hope?. A quick search informed me that it is a quote from a cartoon by David Sipress but I haven’t been able to find the original source of said cartoon

I mentioned to her I was in the middle of writing this post and she referred me to this article, which brought me to some words that touched me deeply years ago when I first read the book:

I’m tired boss. Mostly I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I hear and feel in the world everyday. There’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head all the time.

John Coffey (like the drink, only not spelled the same) from Stephen King’s The Green Mile

It all makes sense. Everything in SSG’s universe is connected. I – of course, don’t have that kind of healing powers but I do hear and feel the pain. It drains me. Years ago, even to the point where I tried to take my own life because I couldn’t deal with it any longer.

These past three weeks have been particularly difficult to me. As it is also usual in my life, an event left me particularly vulnerable to pain. It is hard enough to stay happy on days when personal things are well. But when I am down right sad due to personal happenings, the pain of the world feels particularly vicious to me.

As I mentioned to Cate: “Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Colombia… I’m having such a hard time.” Too much pain. I am overwhelmed by it.

Sometimes, I am not capable of maintaining a balanced perspective. Sometimes, such pain brings the worst out in me. Quoting myself again from that FB conversation:

[During my years in med school] I cried myself to sleep every single night. It was also a time where I’ve experimented the worst feelings. It brought out the best in me but also the worst. I felt hate for the first time. I also felt murderous at times. I couldn’t understand how human beings could commit such atrocities.

I like feeling those awful feelings even less than I like being depressed.

Like I said, this year has been interesting. It has brought me great happiness but it has also brought me great pain. This year has had me questioning my sanity and my worth as a human being. It is hard for me when other human beings hurt. It is excruciatingly hard when some of that pain may be caused by me. Even if it is unintended, and only perceived as such by me. Pain is pain, no matter the cause, no matter the circumstances. Whether blame is assigned or not.

Paradoxically enough, from that pain, hope was born. A new life. A new direction. Two lives saved.

Go figure.

But I don’t understand life, the universe and everything. Why does it seem like for everything worth fighting for there should be sacrifices to be made and a great deal of pain involved? Or even worse, meaningless pain that is not conducive to anything worthy?

And still, as the earth turns, innocents die terrible deaths -or are scarred for life, by the hundreds of thousands all over the world.

So yeah, I know and I feel, but I am utterly unable to do anything about it.

What’s the point of that?


* This post is scheduled for a later date so it won’t be the actual “today”

© Summer Solstice Girl and A Canvas Of The Minds 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Summer Solstice Girl and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


35 thoughts on “As the earth turns

  1. i feel the same way about ‘feeling’. i do it way too much, way to intensely. i too am outraged by the atrocities man perpetrates on other living creatures, and was holding back tears and saying hurrah as i read how you saved the frogs and dogs. i myself never watch the news either for the same reasons you stated. i have enough to be depressed about already, without adding onto it what horrors people have done today. as Monk would say, these intense feelings are a blessing. a blessing and a curse. while we are devastated more so than others, we also love more than them. while we may have more ups and downs, each bit of life is lived to its fullest.

    • Oh, I have said the same thing to my therapist! Although, I have to admit that on occasion, I’ve called it only a curse. When it becomes unbearable.

      But you are absolutely right, we do love more and live to the fullest, when we can.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment! 🙂

  2. You are brave and convicted with your feelings and sensitivity. We can all have convictions, but not all share and try to make a change. When I was in high-school and frog disection came around, I just pretended that the smell of fermaldahide made me ill. So, no dissection for me. In nursing school, I bartered with my lab partners to do the dissection while I wrote the report. Needless to say, I just got by in those areas of both sections of A&P.

    I have grown leaps and bounds since then, and often share my convictions and opinions to the point that I am eating my foot on a daily basis. But the thought that you were able to stand up at such a vulnerable time as the teen years speaks volumes for your character. Bravo. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Wow. This is tour de force SSG – eloquent, heartfelt, honest, spot on, and so sad.

    I’ll never claim to feel as intensely or as pointedly as you do, yet I do share that susceptibility to being affected by the pain and horror we humans inflict on each other and on the creatures around us. The stories you relate from school are remarkable in their own right, but also serve to show how much there is to love about you and about that beautiful soul of yours.

    Unlikely as it is, I now possess even more respect for you after reading those stories.

    Even as I’ve had the same questions bombard me this year, I can assure you with every fiber of my being that your worth as a human is beyond significant. As one of those lives saved, I understand maybe more than anyone how utterly beautiful a human you are, SSG. Frankly, if everyone felt as you do, cared and loved as you do, and recognized the preciousness of life as you do, the world would be a truly wonderful place. There would be no meaningless suffering. But we – we can make that the reality. Even if only in a tiny corner of the world, we can make that real. And that’s powerfully significant.

    • Such a gentle soul you are! So caring and compassionate.

      Thank you for your kind words. it is true. I – we, can’t change the world but I – we, can certainly make a different in our little corner of the world.

      It’s easy to get discouraged, as you know so well. But we must keep trying. There is no other choice.

  4. Heh–I didn’t know that you went to med school. Me too, I’m sure you know. It’s a powerful time, both for good and evil. For those of use who feel deeply, it’s deafening. The first time I met my cadaver I was thrown into an emotional maelstrom–OK, she was pickled, but–she had once been a living, breathing, feeling person, and now she deserved a measure of respect that she was not going to get. I went streaming tears into the lab manager’s office–a Christian, he said he was–and poured my heart out. He shrugged and went back to his paperwork. I went back to the lab and bawled and explained to the old lady who had somehow ended up on my dissection table that I was terribly sorry to have to do these awful things to what was left of her, but that she was doing a great service and I would try to be as gentle as possible. It turned out to be OK but not really, as you can see. I also hated the “dog lab” and refused to do a number of other gruesome things.

    I have been thinking about the term “mental illness” and I think that I do not agree with that terminology any more. I will be addressing that in a post, either her or on my own blog, soon. Thank you for your post here, SSG. It obviously stimulated a lot of thought on my part.

    • OMG. Yes! I did the same thing. I took a moment of silence in recognition of the people they were at one point and I also said I was sorry for what I was about to do and thank them (mine specially but all of them) for what I (we) was (were) about to do. I also got into a few arguments with some of my classmates that semester for what I considered was disrespectful behaviour. Most of them understood but some of them didn’t. Oh, well.

      Sorry your lab manager was so heartless. And a Christian too! I’ve met so many caring, compassionate, charitable Christians in my life but really some of them (too many) are a disgrace to their religion. I was lucky mine was a very compassionate person and was very respectful toward me and my feelings.

      I cried so much the first time I had to inoculate my rabbits for my immunology experiments. And it was even worse when I had to bleed them for the first time. I also asked them for forgiveness.

      (and yes, I did know about you being also an MD). Looking forward to your post! 🙂

      • As for the disrespectful things some of the other students did, even though I’m sure it was a defense mechanism against their true feelings of grief and horror–those of us who were outraged staged a formal protest and got them censured. They had to write letters of apology. Bleeding rabbits! Oy! I thought etherizing rats was bad…the things we do in the name of the advancement of science…and if you are a sensitive soul, oh my! It hurts us as badly, if not worse than, the poor creatures…

        • Oh, that was brilliant!

          I didn’t have to bleed them to death. Just to collect enough blood to isolate the antibodies for the ELISA test I was developing. Problem was, I was crying so much, that I couldn’t see very well and I created a hematoma in the poor bunny ear. And as the vivarium tech explain to me, rabbits will lick or even chew on other rabbit’s ears if they are bleeding. So I cried even more because of my stupid clumsiness. That is why it was so important to me to find a PhD project that didn’t involved experimenting on animals. I ended up working with human endothelial cells in culture which was brilliant. Not only there was no hurting of animals, but it was considered “in vivo”. Double win! 🙂

  5. This is the number one reason that I continue to blog, even though I’m not very good at it and I often feel as if I have nothing to say. I have found SO MANY like-minded people such as yourself that I no longer feel as though I am some sort of aberration. Thanks for this post and I also think the term mental illness is just a very unfortunate choice of diagnosis for people such as ourselves.

    • Yes! Before I started blogging, I also thought I was some sort of a weirdo. And that is precisely why I stick around. Such a wonderful community we have here!

      Thank you for reading and for your kind comment.

      All the best to you!

  6. This is brilliant, and I’m so glad that those birds, the frogs and the dogs had you on their side. One person makes such an enormous difference, although I recognise the painful journey it becomes for you. And long lost twins? I think so. ❤

    • Thank you! I am glad for them too. And all the others I didn’t include in this post.
      Although sometimes it feels like an empty win, when you think about how many other still suffer and die.


  7. I adore John Coffey and the actor who sadly isn’t around us anymore (I seriously had to cry when I heard the news that he passed away). I just don’t get it why humans set the standard “sacrificing in order to gain something”. I will never ever understand this. It’s just not fair.

    YOU are wonderful and I’m so glad that I met you. 🙂 I feel your pain in feeling too much. I’m one who “feels” too much as well. I got it from my mom. Sometimes till the point that I feel sick from it or that I pick up energies that aren’t mine and this is beyond draining. I don’t watch the news. I don’t pay attention to politics. Some may find me ignorant for not doing so, but I cannot cope with the lies and subjectivity that I hear hidden in the words that are spoken out loud. Too many questions are twirling around in my head when I see a politician talk about new procedures, too many holes in their strategies to help the society to get better. And in the end, I can’t do a thing about it. In a way I understand why people do the things they do, but then I get confused because if I can see things more clearly why aren’t there more people who see the same? I have to start with myself and take little steps towards a better world in my own way. I may not change the entire world with my art, but I can at least reach out to people and who knows change the world just a little bit.

    Big XOXO

    • Yes! I don’t follow politics for the exact same reasons. It bothers me, though. I haven’t been able to come up with a solution. In a true democracy, the people should be able to change things. But of course, there aren’t any real democracies… Good grief, it is all so sad.

      Just yesterday, I was telling my good friend pretty much the same thing, ” If you and I can see things more clearly why aren’t there more people who see the same?” Well, not in your exact words but more or less the same. Nuts. Unfortunately, common sense is the least common of the senses 😦

      However, I WILL say this: Every time I open my fridge, your cupcake magnets make me smile. Every time I look at your kitties, I smile. So you did reach out to me and you do change my world a little bit, every day 🙂

      Big HUG to you!

  8. Everything you talk about in this post that outraged you also outrages me too……..wouldn’t killing a dog bother most of us? Anyway, even though I feel deeply, somehow I can compartmentalize when I have to and put horrible things out of my mind. My son feels the weight of the world on his shoulders, as you do…… are both very special people for caring so much about humanity.

    • Yeah, I think it would. But I shudder to think about the Natural Philosophers and their in vivo dissections. Horrible.

      My son is the same. He’s so much like me, that young man. I feel for him. And for your son. It is not an easy burden.

      Hugs to you and to your son! 🙂

  9. It helps somehow to know that I am not alone in trying to make sense of the overwhelming emotions that result from so much suffering in the world. Even in my self-induced isolation and almost obsessive search for “happier” news, I find that my mood is often a reflection of what I can only call the collective consciousness, for lack of a better term. I’m also skeptical of such esoteric explanations, but I simply cannot ignore the intense emotions that leave me questioning, “What’s the point of all of this?”
    Thank you for such a beautifully written post!

    • Exactly! Yeah, collective consciousness is a good term. Eventually we’ll come up but a better one, I guess. Thank you so much for reading and for your thoughtful comment.

      Big hug to you! 🙂

  10. Such a great post. I have been struggling with this lately. As an abuse survivor I have witnessed some of the horrors of the world and feel very “connected” to what’s happening in the world far and near. I limit my exposure to the darkness and consciously try to connect more to the positive…but still, like I heard from a respected professor “you can’t unknow what you know”. I sometimes find it hard to operate casually in the “normal” world because I just sit baffled at what others consider major concerns. Sometimes I just want to yell “don’t you know ________ is happening right now!?!?!” It’s a balancing act, one I am constantly needing to shift in.

    • Thank you., it is definitely a balancing act and I struggle so much to keep that balance! I have felt compelled to yell the same thing many a time.

      I’m so sorry to hear about your experience. Ah, the things our eyes have seen! Big HUG to you!

  11. This resonates so deeply with me. Wonderful and honest post Claudia.
    Admittedly not to the depths you have described, but I also am deeply feeling. I often say to people that it is good for everyone else, except me. I care, I worry, I contribute, I support, but I exhaust myself in the process (not physically, but emotionally and mentally) … “have I done enough” … “are they okay” … “should I be doing more” …
    As for world problems – completely agree – want to do so much, but feel so powerless to do so, and there begins the helplessness and hopelessness.
    Thank you for this 🙂

    • Hey! Sorry it took me so long to reply. Was walking on the dark side for a while but I’m doing much better now.

      Those questions? Yes! All the time. Helplessness and hopelessness, yes to that as well. Sigh. At least we have all of us here to cheer each other up and know that we are not alone in caring so much, right? I am sure all of us here are making a difference in our little corners of the world 🙂

  12. Thank you for sharing. I love that quote. I’ve avoided reading anything other than the “fun” columns in our newspapers here because I know if I read the detailed stories of what it’s actually like in Syria, I’ll become a useless wreck. Part of me is dreading going on my Branch House experience in just over two weeks, because I don’t know what people are going to say to me when I’m doing work in the parishes or in the food bank.

    • Oh, that is hard work. The stories are never easy ones. So much suffering in the world.

      Hope you find the strength you need to stay balanced so you can help others without losing ground yourself

      • Thanks. I can’t see that I’ll be left on my own with the people from the parish or the food bank or kids in the schools, as I’m very new to all of this and I’ve not got a current CRB clearance (or whatever it is they’re calling it these days), but the two Sisters who I’ll be living with are incredibly different personalities to me (one of them is a mother and a grandmother, in addition to being an ex-teacher, and will never let us forget this, the other is an ex-teacher who’s been with the Order for over 50 years, and they’re both very strong and determined women who scare the hell out of me). I’m sure I’ll be OK, but at the same time I can’t help being apprehensive.

  13. Thanks very much for this, there is so much written about how depression inhibits our ability to empathize, but so little about how lots of empathy can lead to depression.


    • Thank you. Like someone commented above, it truly is a difficult balancing act. I don’t know if my mental issues make me more empathetic or if being so empathetic is what makes me depressed (the old chicken and egg problem) but either way, it is hard to stay afloat.

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