I have prepared the room
With Christmas lights
And everything else you hold sacred
Sometimes a gift is not all sunshine and flowers.
Sometimes I think I am going mad.
One of the gifts I was given as a result of my decision to reclaim my life after my suicide is one I loosely describe as "empathy." There are many definitions of empathy. There is simply not another word I can find that more adequately describes what I experience.
My awareness of empathy developed slowly after I returned from death. When around people, I felt differently, as if I could sense what they were going to say and do. I lived in a rented house at the time. My roommate was my best friend since junior high school. We had known each other for sixteen years. For years we had shared intimate secrets with each other. Yet, my sense of him changed after my return from death. I sensed things in him I never paid attention to before. He was shrouded in guilt and saw me as weak, because he knew I would never confront him or question him on any real level. He also envied me in certain ways, just as he saw me as weak in others. I could dedicate myself to a goal, while he wandered aimlessly from one position to the next. I began to speak to him in a different way, because I could feel what he was feeling and needed to address these things in the interest of strengthening our friendship. This eventually destroyed our friendship because he could not relate to this new dimension.
I became truly aware of this gift the first time I went out to a crowded club after my death experience. I thought I was getting sick and told the friend I was with that I needed to go outside to get some air. I was dizzy and confused. Crowds never bothered me before, but this time the impact of being in a room packed with people was overwhelming. I felt like I was listening to their thoughts and could sense their problems and desires. All kinds of emotions, from loneliness and boredom to joy, pain and remorse washed over me. When I got up from my seat at the bar, I collapsed on the floor. I could not handle what was happening. Since then I have learned to adjust my sensitivity to avoid such incidents. In the present day, people less familiar with me get confused when I seem to drift off and stare into space when out in public. I've come to refer to this as "tuning."
Three years later, on New Years Eve in Orlando, I was out at another club. The rush of emotion passed through me again, but this time I channelled it in a different way. I felt a rapture was over me. Smiling at my friends, I climbed to the top floor of the club and stood on a balcony overlooking the main dance floor. I spread my arms wide and shouted down at the crowd.
"I love you all."
I was completely sober during both of these events. Alcohol is useful for dulling the sensitivity. Sometimes I will drink more than my share just because I want my senses dulled. Often the gift is too much.
This empathic gift has arisen again in a new form. To me it seems to be connected, as if I am passing one test and moving on to the next. This time it is a conduit for nightmares.
I feel myself hovering over people. They seem as real as anyone I might run into in my waking life. They are all emotionally distraught. The most recent nightmare was the most vivid yet. I hovered over a man who had just murdered someone. He is most concerned as to how he will hide the body and get away before his deed is discovered. He has hacked up the body and put the pieces in a series of large, black, plastic trash bags. He is on the verge of panic and a complete emotional breakdown. Just as he is about to collapse into despair, we trade places. I am now the murderer and he is hovering above me. Seeing this as an opportunity, he whisks himself away and disappears, quite literally leaving me holding the bag.
Now I am the one faced with panic and terror. I can feel the emotion of the situation. There is a dead person, hacked to pieces and filling trash bags, and I killed him. There is no doubt in my mind, I can remember stabbing him to death and cutting up the body. The emotions of a killer fill me and I do not know what to do. There is a knock on the door. I am about to be discovered and there is no escape. Extreme nausea washes over me, but I cannot throw up. I can only stare at the victim of my deed and hope the knock on the door does not continue.
I can feel all the emotions of this murderer. I could understand and validate them. It has been the same in other dreams, all involving very disturbed people in the midst of disturbing deeds. Prostitutes, junkies, thieves, rapists and murderers have all appeared to me and I have become them. I have felt what they feel, directly through the conduit of the dream. What is more disturbing than the feelings of desperation, despair, pain and regret is that when I wake up I can understand their motivations. They feel as if they are victims of circumstance. They do not want to continue to do wrong. They want to be forgiven and want to be given another chance to do right, whether it is right by others or by themselves. These are not people who take joy in their actions or celebrate their deeds.
Helping the righteous is easy. That is not the message.
"This will be the hardest thing you ever do."
And thus I become able to empathize with people I would normally despise. The disregarded and the outcast, who have done things that for most are impossible to forgive. They have come to me and I have become them. Only forgiveness can stop the nightmares. The shrouds of anger and hatred must be shed, like skins of a snake seeking its inner self. Yet, does the snake survive without its skin? Does it matter? Does it become more once it leaves itself exposed? These are some of the questions I have been waiting for.