"I feel it all, I feel it all
The wings are wide, the wings are wide
Wild card inside, wild card inside."
- I Feel It All, by Feist
The above lyrics run through my head often: I feel it all, I feel it all. It seems to me sometimes that another person's pain can be partially transferred to me, as though I'm given the privilege and burden of carrying it so that they won't have to do it alone. That's what is meant by human connection and empathy, isn't it?
The other week, a woman I know returned from a visit to see her family in another country. These visits are always some form of horrific; her family is, after all, the ones who sold her into sexual slavery as a teenager in order to have drug money, but this time was worse. This time, she was raped by two men a relative let into her room for that exact purpose. (Likely, it was a beyond sick bargain for something). When she returned, we sat down outside and talked. She would begin to tremble, and I would put my arms around her shoulders. She pulled down her clothes and showed me the deep purple bruises. She described what happened. I wanted to put my head in my hands and weep. I wanted to howl with grief and rage. I wanted to break something, or preferably someone: I wanted to find those men, mace them, and beat the shit out of them. Instead, all I could do was lean my head against her shoulders as she shook and shook.
Later, I was in the kitchen about to leave when she came up to me, shaking her head slowly.
She said, "I really don't feel well." Then she fainted.
I caught her, the two of us sinking slowly to the floor. Another friend rushed in and closed the kitchen door as I held her head in my lap. She came to fairly quickly and we supported her to a nearby room with a futon. We covered her in blankets and had her drink juice. She was so traumatized by recent events, she had barely eaten in days.
I kept crying all the rest of that afternoon, the rape and all my friend was going through playing like a horror film in my head. The next day I was helping lead a team, and I received a call as I was rushing to get over to Casa Gabriel which frustrated the planner, organizer part of me. This time, alone at home, I did scream: all the emotions of frustration and everything else coming out in force. When I arrived at Casa G, the director could see something was wrong. Feeling like a fool, I couldn't help crying. It had been a week full of difficult encounters. He prayed with me, thoughtfully, and I pressed my emotions downwards, focusing on work.
I think the event with my friend effected me so strongly for a number of reasons. One, because I've known her for over two years. I've also known that when things are particularly difficult, she's self-harmed and even attempted to take her life. Two, because everything she shared with me was so tangible: her bruises, her fainting in my arms; the razor-sharp reality of it all, cutting into me. Three, because all women have an innate fear of being raped. It's a panic-inducing terror, this fear of an event which happens to so many and costs so much. Few men can truly understand. I cried for my friend's pain, imagining the lasting imprint of such an inhumane event. The outrage of it. I feel it ...
She is doing better now, thankfully. For me, the residues of anger still linger. If it is between grief and anger, grief comes out first for me, a torrent clearly visible, while anger is the storm brooding just over the horizon. But I was not the one who suffered. Pain by proxy is real yet heals quicker. My friend is the one who felt it all and will continue to feel it for ages to come. So pray for her, please. Pray for all those who have suffered as she has. There is grace and healing and mercy and beauty from scars, if only we can let it in. If only we can get through the grief and anger and feel it all once more.