Sometimes I think that I suffer from too much empathy. In Sue Monk Kidd's novel The Secret Life of Bees, one of the characters feels others' sorrows and tragedies as if they were her own, and, if you look at it one way, dies from it. Kidd painted her positively, but it was clear: this woman was simple-minded and sweet, and by that, we mean lovably stupid. She wadded up her pain, in the form of newspapers, and put them in a stone wall.
I, too, overpempathize. Watch a sad movie with me. See me react to the deaths of people I barely knew.
When I ran across this series of essays by my creative writing professor, Dr. Ann Bauer, I – I'm not sure what to say. It derailed my weekend. I read a few of the comments on her latest Salon piece, and the reactions ranged from sympathy ("I cannot imagine how hard it must be to tell this story") to "croak the bastard at once" to accusing Ann of being a bad mother ("How often has anyone been nice to him lately? You think his mother would want someone to be nice to him?") On Tuesday night I'll sit across from this woman, knowing now what nightmare she goes home to, what no-win decisions she's had to make while being my professor, the reasons for the circles under her eyes.
It'd be nice to have a stone wall to shove this into.
EDIT: Turns out I am pretty simple-minded. A little Googling would have brought up this page, which clearly shows an Ann Bauer who is NOT my professor. Oh, well.