Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

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©Katherine Dunn.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Empathy doesn't mean you have to like someone to try to understand their feelings


I don't know. I am an optimist and I believe everything is a teaching moment in some way. I use this thought with my animals too, creating little interactive lessons when I'm doing basic chores. 

I think more than anything, I'm just...excited to move on. But I think it might also be a let down because when January 1 rolls in, we are still in this mess of the pandemic. The optimist in me knows it is fluid and it is going to get better, in time. But I have no real words of wisdom, except to always look at sad, bad, good or not so good times as a way to learn something, even if it is a tiny thing. So I guess we all have to do that for ourselves. 

I already know that I love my life, that it took time to build what I have in this life, that I am grateful, that I work hard to maintain what I have...I think all those feelings are intensified because of this year, and because of my work with the elders. Someday, I might be alone in a nursing home. I hope not but I could. A young volunteer will come in and tell me about her farm animals. And the inside of me will think about my animals. It can happen in a breath, to lose what you have. So my love of life, the farm, my art and writing, story telling, my animals, my husband, have all been intensified this year. 

To say, "Happy New Year' this year seems trite. 

My wish for you is health and the hope that your life gets out of neutral. 

My wish for the country is that we wake up and realize we need to learn, or relearn, or practice, active listening. And not listening to another person just so you can answer them, or defend your position, but that we all practice listening so we can begin to understand why that person feels or acts in a way that is different than what we like or believe. That is empathy. Being empathetic does not mean you have to like someone, or be their friend, it means you try to walk in their shoes and think, "Oh, I understand why you feel this way." That is what I tried to practice all year, and the past four of constant barage of noise. I failed a lot. But I'm going to keep trying. Social media is not the place to heal the divide. People need to to partake quietly in active listening, one person at a time. It is a skill to be practiced , we aren't born with it–it takes constant practice, for a lifetime. And it is hard work. Our heads-or mine anyway-is often zooming around thinking of how I want to answer, or it reminds me of something else and I want to bring it up...so it is a challenge. But imagine if we all got better at really listening and trying to understand why a person has the feelings they do-what happened in their life that gave them those feelings?