I am thinking of the inescapable presence of pain. Causing it, feeling it, and not knowing what do with it. I am thinking of my nana and my dad and my sister and my friend’s mom and even the ant that I crushed weeks ago when it was simply inching its way across the dining room table.
I exist, therefore I am… a cause. I cause things to happen, people to feel things, pain being one of them. I hurt others, no matter what I do. Even as I breathe, I am pushing another person out of the universe, like I did all those years ago in the backseat of the car when his body went underneath the wheels. Will it always come back to that? Is that when I realized that by being alive, I am choosing myself over others? I am cutting them loose, watching them fall off the mountain because the rope could not hold up both of us, and we would both die if I didn’t do it.
I feel pain, most of which isn’t mine. I am surrounded by family, friends, strangers, nature, and even objects that hold in memories like a capsule. All of it is alive, teeming with an energy. The energy is not necessarily either happy or sad, but there is a longing, always a longing. I suppose that’s what keeps us alive, though. Our wants and needs, goals and desires. However large or small. A glass of water or a job promotion. Everything alive feels something because they want or need something.
But all I feel when I go on the back porch is the sound of hooves barreling toward and away from me. The inertia of my existence overwhelms me, envelopes me in a paralytic fear. I cannot stop being. And by being, I am a cause and effect. Even after I’m dead, my decomposing body will affect the soil around me, while the memory of me will spur an old friend to write a journal entry.
This is when I dream of the white room, the one I feared for so long as a child. Never wanting to be alone, always fearing that I would wake up in blank space. Forgotten, nonexistent. Now I crave the stillness, the peace and quiet of white on white nothingness, removed of stimuli. I wouldn’t have to feel anything or cause anyone else pain or joy or anything else. I would not be a cause or an effect. I would just be, free to let the chaos in my mind unravel as it tends to do when I am finally… finally alone.
I cry the hardest not when I’m sad, but when I feel too much. I am an empath. I feel what others are feeling without meaning to, picking up their sadness or anger and carrying it as my own. Then I retreat into isolation, brimming over with emotions, trying to purge that which is not my own. Maybe the overstimulation and my inability to handle it led to my diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. Maybe it did not. I am in recovery, so what does it matter?
I take my meds. I can function well enough. I am a contributing member of society with friends, family, and a budding career. But the waves keep coming, gaining in height and speed until the riptide pulls me under. Until I am sobbing again, crying over a pain that is not mine, and I don’t know where it came from this time. Sometimes I can tell I am feeling sad for my dad or my sisters, but today it is merely a perception or suspicion of this unsettling feeling that the world is full of sad, small people. And I am no different. I am small. I am sad. So then why do I have it in my mind that I must be the one to pull the sadness out of every person I meet like I am a cure?
I am a source of pain as much as I am a receiver of it. I am running in this race just like everyone else, and I tell myself that it is not my responsibility to attempt to fix everyone I come into contact with. And yet… a man smiles at me, and by either delusion or some heightened sense of empathy, I see the little boy inside him. I see the small child who just wanted to be loved and accepted, and I can do nothing but smile. It is not my place to picks his wounds until they may or may not heal. I am not some ethereal creature sent to earth to heal everyone around me. I am the girl who pushed her little sister down. I am the girl who called you an asshole in 10th grade. I am the girl who crashed your car.
And no matter how much I have changed, how much kinder I hope I’ve become, how much I grow and learn to respond to people with love, I will always if unintentionally, be the cause of pain for countless people I come into contact with. So I think of the white room. I go inside, and I shut the door. It is silent as I float in blank space. I am free, if only for a moment, as I close my eyes and dream of complete and utter isolation. I cannot hurt anyone here. I cannot feel anyone else’s pain or sadness or anger or vague longing. I feel nothing, and that is peace.
August Pfizenmayer is the founder of Survival is a Talent. She is a freelance writer, blogger, and student. She studies creative writing, specializing in poetry and creative nonfiction. She loves reading, sweets, and warm weather. You can connect with her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.