Relationships and Empathy

I am not one who easily sympathizes—I am much better at empathizing.  I think this week has been great in empathy development, though I suspect life might be a little easier if I sympathized well.

There are some things in life that you know are good when you have them.  My amazing girlfriends in Lynchburg are at the top of the list.  From my Freshman year through graduation and post-graduation life, I had some of the most precious people in my life and I had the privilege of calling them FRIENDS.  Not the superficial acquaintances, but true friends that will laugh with you, cry with you, participate in random and ridiculous shenanigans with you, and barbecue on Easter with you.  We were young, single (my, how that has changed over the past 18 months—2 weddings last summer, one this fall, and… 😉 …ahem…Monte…ahem), barely making ends meet, but together through the good and bad times.  It’s easy to stick close to someone when times are good, but when times are bad, you find out who your true friends are.  These girls are legitimately some of the best people you could EVER have as friends and the deserve a serious shoutout:

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                                                                           (the aforementioned Easter Barbecue)

God never left us without His presence or each other.  I suppose that has been the toughest part of being away from every one of my precious friends—no one has really gone through what we’ve gone through together.  That shared experience is unique to our friendships.  It seems I’ve entered everyone else’s world here, and mine is of negligible importance because it’s foreign.  That makes it hard to really get out and get involved—I sort of feel like I show up, there’s small talk, and then I come home.  This is not at ALL how I imagined my life.  I want to be clear that I am extremely grateful for where I am now, and for everyone I have crossed paths with in NY.  It’s just a very different world here.  The draw isn’t so much for young people, as employment in Olean is really at a premium, and I am beyond thankful to God for preparing me for work at the Olean YMCA and (I repeat) for every single one of you I’ve worked with and met!  I have had experiences I prayed for in college, and the ability to apply information I stored in my long-term memory years ago is being recalled on a daily basis.  I find it interesting that I could give no thought to a subject for months or years, and suddenly it just flows out of my mouth like I talk about it every day.  Yesterday, I was conversing with my uncle regarding nutrition—he has a basic knowledge, but that is about all—and exercise, and before I knew it, I was talking about energy systems, physiology, when the best timing is for carb intake, why it’s the best timing, recovery nutrition, BCAAs, protein absorption, and so on.

There is a part in the human heart that desires relationship—put simply, being alone sucks.  Yes, I know, if an effort is not put forth on anyone’s part, not a single thing will change.  I just don’t want to overstep my professional boundaries.  Just about anyone I’ve met is through the Y, even people from church, as odd as that sounds–it’s been sort of a common ground, and I’m not sure if that’s a good sign or not.  I am absolutely thankful for solid teaching because I’ve needed it when the circumstances of life seem to temporarily fly in the face of absolute truth, and nothing except for the Word and people of God are there to remind me of it.   I have to say, though, that the superficiality (I am not saying that they are fake in any sort of way, just surface-level) of even these relationships has become beyond frustrating.  To show up and worship, along with being taught in the Word, is GREAT—I just miss being in true community.  Of all places for this to happen, I’d think that would be one of them, but often I just feel like I show up, and that’s it.  I can’t be the only person who is experiencing this.  I do understand that many people my age are getting married, starting families, and are very busy with all that entails.  I get it.  I just am struggling to find the worth in getting into my car, driving 25 minutes, showing up for worship and teaching (which I can do and hear in the comfort of my own home) and minimal, superficial interactions just doesn’t seem worth the gas money.  I never really understood what it was like to come in from the outside until now.  This morning, I decided that it just was not worthwhile.  Probably a bad decision, I know, but through it I’ve been able to take a step back and process instead of just going through the motions.  If you’ve never “gone through the motions” it is a terribly empty kind of experience.  I have done it, and know that I do not want to go through the motions in anything.  You are living life without feeling alive, without passion, without vigor, without anything.  I don’t know that God looks kindly upon religion, which may be simply going through the motions without the right heart, and may not be the same thing, but could be—“This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me…” Empty ritualism does not bring closeness to God, and I suppose that is where I am right now in simply showing up to life and doing the right things with the wrong, or no, motivation; it seems that this what my “relationship” with God has become as of late.  I didn’t get up and go to church this morning, but for today, it might have been for the better.  I sometimes don’t know where to even begin reading my Bible, so I just kind of flip it open and start reading, and came across the above passage before I even started.  I thought “Well, this isn’t really applicable.  I was looking for something a little more profound and practical.” That goes to show what I know.   Twenty minutes later, I was searching for the very passage I had read and ignored.  God knows what we need; we just need to have the desire to seek Him and the heart to respond humbly. “The humble shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.”-Isaiah 29:19

Back to the relationship thing, I still have to say that I hate feeling like I simply show up and am a body, but that is all.  As much as I try to empathize and be sympathetic, I do not sympathize well.  I have a training client who has problems in her vertebrae and spinal musculature through her upper back and neck.  I knew she was hurting, and just wasn’t sure how I could be of help and continue with strength training.  This week, I have had the chance to practically develop empathy.  I’m not entirely sure what is going on in the musculature between my scapulae through the base of my skull, but it does not feel good.  Wednesday I woke up unable to turn my head, and that was the least of my troubles for the day.  I was filling in to teach a class for a coworker, and I quickly discovered what I could not do: anything pressing overhead, heavy rows (light were okay), lateral and front raises, and planks.  This led to some in-the-moment troubleshooting, and immediate empathy, so I know that when this issue arises again in my client, for sure which movements to stay away from.  The biggest part in handling it is not focusing on the limitations, but on the abilities.  With all of that being said, I am an experiential learner.  God knows this about me—He knows how He wired me and where my weaknesses lie—and is developing empathy for me.  It will be of benefit as my life dreams unfold, just a tough development to experience.  I’m not sure the path my life will take; I know my passions and desires, and that God will work this all for good.  I know my heart is more compassionate and empathetic toward others as a result of the past few years. He does not waste our experiences.

Here’s to a new week, and some new insight.

“This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope.
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I hope in Him!”
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
Let him sit alone and keep silent, because God has laid it on him…for the Lord will not cast off forever.
Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies…
Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord;
let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven.”
-Lamentations 3:21-28, 31-32, 40-41

Bonus shoutout to my beloved family from Perry: I grew up in a small town in which everyone knew each other.  My best friend and I went to church and school together from 4th-9th grade, and were still in church together through graduation.  Our youth group was beyond blessed with each other, our families, and AWESOME leaders who would have done anything for us.  They moved to Tennessee soon after I left for college, and even drove from Sweet Water, TN to Knoxville to watch my team against the University of Tennessee.  I forget if that was one of the years we got smoked and run-ruled, or actually gave UT a run for their money…ah, memories.  We had the craziest little youth group–we also had a history of some serious shenanigans.  Here is one instance: shaving cream war.  My brother is the one in the foreground reacting to more shaving cream being applied to his face.  I am in the back in the grey sweatshirt with shaving cream all over my hood, and my childhood best friend, Joelle, is right next to me. 🙂 Our youth leaders are the only adults on the photo, and I’m pretty sure they had as much fun as we did ALL the time.

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