Empathy, DNA Testing, and A New Year

December 31, 2019 at 11:34 PM — Here’s to things looking better in 2020. This year of 2019 ends not only a trying year but a whole decade, and it seems so much more is ending or transitioning in my life. It’s a bit strange to mark a meaningless moment astronomically as the end of one year and the beginning of a new one, to place so much significance on one passing piece of time, but it allows a chance to reflect back and look forward…to process the changes now in motion.

One of my renewed interests is the subject of empathy. I’ve been noticing memes and other things on the internet denoting the idea of becoming an Empath. I remember learning about this when I was younger, where being an Empath was akin to being a Telepath, that is to say it’s something of a hyped paranormal fiction. Becoming an Empath is an idea that is now being sold, but the descriptions don’t match with the meaning of empathy. Becoming an Empath is about reading body language and guessing or figuring out what someone is thinking or feeling, but that’s actually prejudice working. Empathy doesn’t involve figuring things out based on appearances. Take it from someone with a Master’s in writing for visual media, people aren’t acting out their lives for you like your favorite reality TV troll.

We live in a time when lots of people are trolling social media selling false ideas as true. We’re supposed to blame Russians, but often the trolls prove to be much closer to home. As a younger child in my large Catholic family, I often got trolled (or played the fool) by siblings, but we grew out of this, didn’t we? Maybe I just grew up and moved on, becoming estranged from them to varying degrees. My path was to study the humanities and debunk lots of myths and errant notions, and now it seems so many are getting trapped in these trolled ideas. Are they buying, selling, or part of a pyramid scheme?

So I’ve been reflecting back over my life this year, and there’s a bunch of moments that didn’t make sense before that are falling into place with recent revelations. The rumour of my mental health resurfaced—a ‘runs in the family’ moment—connecting back to a threat made long ago to spread lies about me. So moments of being shunned and being ostracized and losing some jobs and not getting into the Peace Corps come back at me in a new light. A narrative thread that only a writer could see and all others have apparently forgotten because they have linear memory.

So now the one who made the threat long ago is selling the idea of being an Empath, while also redemption seeking. None of this seems conscious. It’s an estrangement thing of a writer with long term narrative and eidetic memory traits versus someone with the typical linear memory traits (and then again I wonder if I am being played for a fool). It makes me feel strange; the very definition of estrangement. And I remember being told long ago to let them go—that my older family members would never ‘get’ me—forever trapped in trite tropes and yet still meaning well (while sometimes subconsciously wishing me ill mental health-wise). So I let them go and moved on, yet now I know that people who disconnect from family often die younger. Strangely, this brings me to DNA tests.

I visited Ireland this year as an homage to my recently deceased mother. This got me thinking of ancestry, so I did a DNA test and started looking at my genetics and genealogy. Other people in my family have done a good job with this (compared to other families I know). We have genealogy notes and family trees dating back 200 years on my mother’s side and over 300 years on my father’s side. One source indicates that an ancestor lived in house 63 in Predgrad, Slovenia in 1690. Talk about looking backwards. It’s nice to have a cultural history rather than ‘being white’ these days.

I’m building a family tree that so far has 150 people and 44 families. It’s a spark for a lot of stories, a lot of fictions based on dates and migrations. It’s a great way to learn human history and a great way to suffer lots of prejudices about the family which sprang me. I’m certainly happy to have a humanities background to sort it. The negative is that this brings me in touch with current family members who have never understood me. But some of them are Empaths, damn it, who know me better than I do! Not a whole lot to look forward to there.

So it’s a new year and more than most this is a year of transition. New work, new writing, wherever that takes me. I feel like I want to change this blogging place up a little and make it more of a writer’s journal than it has been lately. I may start adding dates to posts and having more than one date per post. I’ve also got a new site with more generic writing that is evolving slowly. All evolution seems so slow. I am enjoying the writing there, even though it feels a little forced and I don’t post as much as I feel I ought to.

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As I said in my last post, the new website is an attempt to get away from the I Me Mine all the time. For additional thoughts on the trend of becoming an empath, there’s a post there called ‘In Search of…A True Empath’. Check it out.

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