Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Burnout and compassion fatigue destroys one’s capacity for empathy.
Once fully vaccinated (two Moderna shots 28 days apart) and working for the public health department as a Community Response Representative, I, like the weather, became sunnier and happier. Also, my behaviors are now more normal. I’m quite certain that the elevation of my mood got an assist via the absence of Trump from my daily news digest. Nevertheless, I hadn’t recognized until the pandemic roared across the Indian sub-continent, killing thousands, that not only my depression but also my ability to empathize were gone as well.
I never wanted to be that person who could be satisfied if her or his own tiny corner of the universe was okay, so the heck with everyone else. I paid attention to the news; I contributed to relief efforts; I volunteered, petitioned, and protested. I even adopted a Cambodian orphan when I learned that she was likely to soon be sold to a brothel.
But these days, I’m content to tire myself out on my job so that I barely make it to bed after nine p.m. I treat myself to expensive ice cream and even drive thirty minutes out of my way to get an authentic English scone and cream to reward myself for—I’m not sure what for—surviving when so many have not?
Like Alice, I’ve lost my “muchiness,” and I need to get it back.