“Empathy is really the opposite of spiritual meanness. It’s the capacity to understand that every war is both won and lost. And that someone else’s pain is as meaningful as your own.” Barbara Kingsolver
It appears I’m allergic to something so my torso and arms have been itching like crazy lately. After a very full weekend, I was exhausted last night and felt like my skin was on fire so I reluctantly made the decision to take a dose of Benadryl. Such a decision is not taken lightly in our home because we have a son with medical needs so “being ready” is our modus operandi. Benadryl has the same effect on me as general anesthesia so taking it is essentially choosing to remove myself from everything that unfolds in the following 4-6 hours. Just count me out. I will be useless, guaranteed.
While my body was exhausted at 10:30 pm, my mind was still going strong. But within 15 minutes of taking the Benadryl, I was completely unconscious. Apparently I slept through a pretty significant storm while comatose. I also slept through my 5-yr-old who tried to wake me up because he was afraid of the storm. Around 3:30 am I woke to the sound of slow, careful footsteps in my bedroom. I was groggy and struggling to get my bearings. Then it hit me. My eyes were open, but I saw NOTHING. It was pitch black. It was darker than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. Then the panic set in. I was rational enough to consider the option that the power was out, but it was so absolutely black, I was genuinely concerned that I’d lost my sight during my drug-induced coma. As my mind oscillated between hysteria and common sense, I rolled over and fumbled for my phone on the night stand. I hesitated for a few seconds while I prayed, “Lord, please let me see.” I pushed the button on my phone and it immediately lit up the corner of my bedroom. “I can see! It’s a miracle! Thank you, Lord, I can see!”
It turns out the storm knocked out the power. I slept through it all, even the child sleeping in our bed and my husband reporting the outage from his phone. The footsteps I’d heard were him carrying our son back to his bed as the Benadryl wore off.
While I can laugh when telling the story now, the truth is in those moments while I thought my sight was gone, I was truly terrified. It doesn’t matter what circumstances I was under (half asleep, drugged, etc.), the emotions I experienced were genuine and relevant; therefore, so was the immense appreciation and relief I felt when I discovered I was fine. This experience highlighted the importance of empathy for me. As fleeting as the whole situation was, I still experienced real fear which gave me a glimpse of what someone else is going through. And, perhaps most importantly, I have a renewed sense of gratitude that I do have full use of all of my senses and my limbs. I wholeheartedly believe these little “close calls” serve a purpose in reminding us to stop taking things for granted.