I have heart like a sponge, with easily accessible heartstrings. It doesn't take much to squeeze it, or tug at it, and it absorbs emotions (even, or particularly, those of others) quickly. I have a shield, comprising distancing and diversion techniques and a carefully developed skepticism (a sense of humour helps too). But really, when caught unawares, I'm a sucker for hard-luck stories and the many and varied tragedies that take place in this most reprehensible world. The ill-fortune of a total stranger can (and has) cast a shadow on my entire day.
You may (reasonably) think I am exaggerating. I am not. I have a rather terrible capacity for empathy, that, when allowed full rein, has kept me up nights. I am an idealist; I want the world to be full of sunshine and rainbows and Julie Andrews in Sound of Music. My natural inclination is to think that the world is full of good-natured folks like me, that it is a dazzling, wondrous place of opportunity, where issues like racism, sexism, dire poverty and war are things of a distant past. When the world belies this (as it does often), I first deny it as long as possible, then grudgingly accept it. Much pain has been felt at the contrast between what 'ought' to be and what is. Gradually, my unfailing optimism and belief in humanity have been reduced to something like wary neutrality; I give people and situations the benefit of doubt, but I keep in mind the possibility of both positive and negative outcomes.
Is this a good thing? I think so. I think I still have a positive outlook. I do not believe that matters (or people) are hopeless or unchangeable. I may believe that things are difficult to change, but I don't believe it's impossible. I also think that it is important to be realistic, to try to gain an idea of how things 'really are' if you want to change things. Change-makers may be idealists and visionaries, but they have to have their feet planted firmly on the ground to move things. It is of no use to pretend that the world is progressing, and happy if and when it is not. You can ignore what you do not wish to see, but that will not make it go away. I do not believe in 'focusing only on the positives' - I believe it gives you a false picture of reality. It makes you complacent, and it makes you believe that there is no need for change - or that there are enough people working towards change (in my opinion, there are never enough). That said, I do not believe in focusing solely on the negatives either, and if you are powerless against a situation, perhaps it is better to push it of your mind and focus on more positive things. I don't believe in cynicism - it is rarely of much use, and saying that you think things will never change, or that someone who is working towards change is accomplishing nothing (or worse, is a hypocrite), is the perfect excuse to sit back and do nothing. Besides, it is never 'nothing'. If you positively affect the life of one person, it may be nothing in the context of the billions who live in this world, but it is certainly something to that person. Besides, what if that person grows up to change millions of lives? Improbable, but possible. In which case you would have created the most wonderful ripple effect.
I'm not sure what I was aiming at with this blog post. I started somewhere and I ended somewhere. I may even have gotten a little preachy. Forgive me any insufferable moralizing, and if this is directionless, remember that I am a somewhat directionless young person too, and look kindly upon me, I beg of you. As to my Glass Slipper story, if anyone was following it, I'm sorry for the long gap and this unrelated post (although if you're following this blog you must be used to long gaps and rambling posts). I haven't forgotten about it, and I do know what happens in it, but I've started the next chapter numerous times and only managed to get somewhere today. I am a little lost, and a little scared, so this will take time. Beginnings are always easy and smooth for me - I love doing them. Most of the time I have endings too, but the middle is quite a challenge. I have never before made a serious attempt to tackle the middles though, and I am now. So I ask, kind readers, for patience (and that you not forget the existence of my little story by the time I manage to continue it).