I know there are not a lot of people like me. My daughter is like me. There are other people out there I know. But I am not the norm. Health issues/ PTSD/ abuse, all aside, I do not fit in. I never have. My heart breaks over things most people don’t even notice. I think about those heartbreaking moments for long times after. I know when most people scroll through devastation on facebook and the media they gasp or cover their mouth or feel feelings. I see a starving child and I will think about that starving child for years. My heart hurts deeply and profoundly for many things. I know there are others like me because they are out building wells in impoverished countries and creating funds to deliver food and supplies to starving nations. I just have never run across someone in person, in my daily life that is like me. I feel like an alien. I always kind of have.
I volunteered at a primate sanctuary many years ago. They had mostly capuchin monkeys. The owner of the facility said that while many were rescued from the circus or the zoo for mistreatment, some were taken in as pets, and some were used in movies. Every person that bought one of these monkeys realized soon after that monkeys were not pets. These animals deserved to be in the wild. But they could not be released. Most of their teeth were removed for the convenience of their owners. They did not want to be bit. On my first day she told me not to get too close to their enclosures because they would lure me in and then rip my hair out. I didn’t believe her. The expert! One tiny monkey reached his hand out. I could not resist. I put my hand in his while he reached his other hand out and ripped a chunk or hair out leaving my head bleeding. He then ran around holding my hair like it was a great prize to show off. Everyone of his friends agreed. He had pulled off a great trick! These monkeys had been horribly abused for profit. Humans wanting money. That is all it came down to. They were taken from their natural habitat so that humans could make money off of them. Because other humans wanted to pay money to see them! If no one paid money to see them, then there would be no profit. But who doesn’t love to take their kids to the zoo and the circus. Right. I don’t. Everyone else does.
The owner built elaborate enclosures for these monkeys. She made tunnels and bridges. She gave them the best life she could. She had many acres and each monkey had a friend, or many friends, and constant activities and food.
I learned after a very short period of time that I was to abide by the rules as it was not only for my own protection but out of respect for the monkeys.
There was one monkey that was different. I asked permission if I could touch him because he just called out to me. I was told he had bone cancer and was dying. I immediately fell in love with him. I went out to the sanctuary as often as I could to see him. I would sit and hold his hand for hours. I put my other hand on his back and prayed every prayer I could muster to help ease his pain. His teeth were removed as well so he was fed mush. The owner made sure each of the animals there was fed a perfect diet regardless of their teeth loss or other disabilities. She had the love of animals that I have. Her entire life is dedicated to saving these monkeys. The one with bone cancer. I still remember him. I am still sad for him even though he has long since passed away.
I also volunteered at a horse sanctuary. Some of the horses were confiscated from starving situations. Some had been tested on at some point. Some were just retired. They were there to never be ridden, just to graze for the rest of their lives. I went out and bathed the ones that had wounds and health issues. I applied poultices. And washed wounds. My heart still remembers each of them.
I then volunteered doing wild life rehab. Feeding baby squirrels and baby birds that had been injured, until they were rehabilitated and could be set free. I still remember each animal that we helped. My heart still hurts for the ones that we could not save.
I don’t know why the switch happened but after my daughter started kindergarten I started volunteering at nursing homes. Well, I do know why, my grandparents were there and they passed away, and I couldn’t leave the ones I had met behind. But I stopped volunteering with animals and started volunteering with humans. For 8 years I did that. I sat with those who had no one to sit with. I held their hands. I listened to their stories. I felt their pain and loneliness. I have not forgotten one of them. I remember each person that I visited with and their stories and their names.
I know there are many people who have helping professions. I know there are many people who volunteer with the homeless, animal activists, child advocates. I know there are countless people out there doing thankless jobs because their heart has led them to. I know I am not the only one in the world who has done volunteer work with animals and the elderly. I just often wonder if the hearts of those who do hurt as deeply as mine. Probably so. I’ve never had anyone to ask. But I lay in bed at night sometimes and wonder if other people’s hearts hurt like mine did. If I knew they did, maybe I wouldn’t feel so much like an alien.
I think about the wren that I held and buried while its mate cried in the tree above me as I sobbed and wonder, would someone else have felt the same? Would they still think of the wren like I do?
I think about the little kittens that were poisoned by a horrid man. The kittens that I held next to my heart as each of them passed away. I think about how I buried each of them and wonder, would anyone else still cry when thinking about those kittens 11 years later like I do?
I think about the little girl who told me that her stepfather raped her. She told me this at least 15 years ago. Her story has stayed with me. My heart still feels pain for her. I didn’t even know her but she opened up to me and told me her story. Would that story still cause another person pain like it does me 15 years later?
I think about the cat I held in my arms as it died when I was only 8 or so years old. I remember how he was suffering. I remember his pain. Do other people remember the suffering of a cat from 40 years ago?
My heart just does not feel like it belongs in this world. If I find a tree frog that has died I feel sorrow that I didn’t find him soon enough to let him out of the house. Who does that!!!!!! If I see a squirrel get hit by a car my entire week is ruined. Who feels that!!! So scrolling through facebook…I can’t do that. Watching the news. I can’t do that. I cannot bear the agony of a starving child. I cannot bear the agony of a bombing and seeing the victims. It is not because I do not want to be informed. It is not because I don’t want to know the truth. It is because I feel it so deeply and profoundly that I can barely breathe.
Watching my own child suffer with an illness for the last 4 years has nearly killed me. My heart has broken so many times that it feels unmendable.
So today, I still feel like an alien. I look at people’s feet pictures on the beach and their children walking across stages for graduation and disney world and I just pray that all of those people realize how precious their lives are. How fortunate they are to have the abilities they have. How blessed they are to have their health and their child’s health. I don’t konw if they appreciate their lives or not. I am not here to judge one way or the other. I know there is suffering. I know the parents who have sick children or dying children or who have children victims of these terrible crimes, I know their hearts hurt. I wonder if they feel like aliens too.
I simply feel like my heart was not made for this world. That is what mostly makes me feel like an alien. I feel so strongly for everything. Most days I wish I didnt. Today, I am glad I am not like the rest of the robots of the world and that I have the capability to love the site of a simple butterfly. If a heart can feel hurt, it has the exact capacity to feel love. My heart loves intensely and immensely. If that makes me an alien, then so be it.