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So, I'm an empath. That means I feel other people's emotions as if they were my own. It's similar to how it works for Deanna Troi from Star Trek: TNG. I'm used to it by now. I first started noticing it as a distinct, specific sensory input separate from other ones back in my teens, and it really became clear after I began spending a lot of time interacting with people in online communities, where I could see nothing else about them but plain text.

Just like with anything else that I can see that other people can't, such as any of the -isms that apply to me, it's a matter of having enough individual separate experiences that you can begin observing an overall pattern and see how they're internally consistent with each other and how they fit together. The people who can't see it or haven't seen enough to see the pattern, in this case skeptics with their skepticism, which is an -ism too: will mostly pick apart the details of individual experiences as if they are completely separate and isolated from all the other ones and then insist that nothing is there.

But this post isn't an argument for the skeptics. I just think I should start trying to write some of it down in an organized way. I'm a scientist. I've made a lot of firsthand observations. I should do something with them. I've done my time picking them apart individually to see if they could possibly have alternate explanations, and have come to the conclusion that Occam's Razor eventually must apply.

So to start, I feel all of the incoming emotions as if they were my own. My brain will by default try to come up with a plausible reason for why I might feel what I feel, and I used to spend hours, sometimes days, spinning my mental wheels in pointless circles over emotions that weren't even mine. Like, I feel anger? Well, here's something going on in life that I could plausibly be angry about, so let's just be angry about it now. :p (I must have been real fun in my 20s.) Eventually I figured out how to tell the difference between emotions that are actually mine and emotions that are from somewhere else. Although sometimes I'll go too far in the opposite direction and end up externalizing all of my own emotions too. Emotions are subtle things.

Getting to how it works. I think of things in terms of an emotionscape, which is like a landscape in the physical world but in its own distinct space. In it there are emotions radiating from people, impressions from certain places, etc. Most things coming at me look like waves. Distances in the emotionscape don't directly correspond to distances in the physical world; how "close" someone is depends on two things: how strong the emotion is, and with how much attention they're thinking of me at the time that they're feeling the emotion. It isn't necessarily an emotion about me, just that it's there while they're thinking about me. They don't have to be anywhere near me physically for me to feel what they feel.

So, random emotion wave comes in. By default, I have no idea who it's from or what it's about.

If I have any outside context, I'll be able to infer what the emotion is about. This is pretty straightforward if I'm actively interacting with someone at the time, or I just sent them an email, or I've destroyed their base in a PvP game while they were clearly online. How accurate my inferences are depends on how much context I have.

If it's from someone I know well, I'll know who it's from. Everyone has a unique signature (or sometimes set of signatures), and if we've interacted with each other often enough, I'll learn to recognize theirs, even if we aren't actively interacting with each other at the time that the wave comes in.

If I know someone really well and about everything going on in their lives, I assume I would be able to infer what the emotions are about with extremely high accuracy, and it would start looking like I can read their minds. So far I've not found someone I can reliably test this on, because the problem with emotions is that nobody likes to confirm what they feel out loud for me. Sometimes I can figure it out by asking enough roundabout questions, but not usually.

Most people don't seem to have any idea that the emotionscape exists. They radiate all of their emotions all of the time, as if no one else can see it. They do seem to instinctively know how to cloak, if they get any hint that someone else might be looking, but they generally don't, and it seems to all happen subconsciously rather than consciously. In general, I try to respect people's privacy wherever possible, and not act on any info that I'm seeing that wasn't intended to be presented outside of themselves; I wait for them to say something out loud first and give me something to respond to. The only time I'll say something first is if I can see it might turn into a problem down the road if it remains unaddressed.

And finally, there are wavelengths. How well I can see anything depends on how close we are to the same wavelength. I've only ever known one person who was on the exact same wavelength as me. Whenever we were right next to each other, we were automatically one continuous whole, by default. Not two parts of a greater whole, not parts of each other, but one mind with two brains. It was awesome and I still sometimes miss him, and now I keep looking for someone I can do that with again.
09 March 2015 @ 10:22 pm
Sixteen years ago, 1999, my grasp on reality shattered into thousands of tiny fragments. For all practical purposes, I might as well have died.

What shattered everything? It all started with a single little white lie, planted back in 1991, about something that had to do with someone else before I was even in their picture. Little lies that are allowed to stand have a tendency to grow, to spawn new lies to cover the first one and then more of them to cover those, until it becomes a huge tangled mess of lies that reach into every other thing. When I was finally told about the first, original lie, it was too late to salvage anything. It didn't kill me instantly. It took several months for all of the ramifications and consequences to work themselves out, with me all the while clinging to what I thought I knew before, until there finally came a tipping point. I still remember what it sounded like, the tinkling sound from deep within as my mind disintegrated right in front of me.

It wasn't until about four years later that I was able to move again and think about getting back up. It turned out to be for the best in the extreme long run. I had to pick up and re-assemble all the pieces from scratch and rebuild a whole new paradigm, which is much stronger and more stable than what was there before.

And now I find myself facing the whole thing again. Because a couple months ago, and then reaffirmed a week ago, I was told something that is hugely inconsistent with what I think I see and know. Which is true, what I see myself or what I'm being told? A big piece of my current understanding of how the universe works depends on the answer. Do I have to tear it all down and start rebuilding it yet again?

Well, I've been kicking the crap out of my own paradigm for nearly two months now, and ... it's not falling down. I attack it harder, because even though my own mind is at stake and I'm kind of terrified of another shattering, in the end I'd rather have a foundation that is true and real. I rationalize everything away with all sorts of alternate possible explanations for what I think I see and know - and it just keeps coming back up completely unchanged, standing there strong as ever.

So, either I've gone completely insane, or what I'm being told is wrong.
03 March 2015 @ 09:25 am
Well, it's been fun for the last week and a half or so, but I think at this point I'm done with the whole thing. I found two people that are most likely both going to end up in the friends category, had some interesting conversations with a bunch of other people, and had a lot of fun with the questions (I answered just over 1000 before getting bored). I also fended off a bunch of others that I had no interest in, which is not unlike what happens in real life on a semi-regular basis, only more of them in a shorter period of time, and was one of the reasons I didn't really want to sign up to a dating site. Writing three really cranky notes at the bottom of my profile cut down on a lot of that, fortunately. I'm ready to deactivate my profile at this point, but still need to be able to see some of the messages for a little while longer before I do that. And then I'm going to see if I can get back to where I was before, when I was happy while single.

Mostly, the whole thing just reminded me of why I don't bother trying to date. What I'm looking for is highly specific, and I'll know it when I see it, and I almost never do. If I don't see it, nothing else about them is going to matter and there's no point even trying, because the last couple times I attempted more casual short-term dating ... well, one of them wanted to marry me after a month and took it as a challenge that I wasn't interested, and then the other ... I guess he more or less stomped off in a huff. So I just don't date at all to avoid all that. If I do see it, a whole lot of the more mundane things about them also won't matter, because then those just become details that we could work out if they're a problem (and if they were interested enough in me to want to try).

So what am I looking for? Someone who can form a two-way empathic connection with me. If there's potential, they'll look warm. I've seen maybe half a dozen such people in my entire life though, and then they have to also be compatible with the more mundane things about who they are (i.e. have some interests in common, not be already married or otherwise legally unavailable, etc.), and then they also have to like me back. I'm pretty sure this is just not going to happen for me, ever.
26 February 2015 @ 10:38 am
Another question from OKCupid:

Are you more likely to hold a grudge or forgive someone?

  • Hold a grudge

  • Forgive

What I do isn't really holding a grudge per se, so much as, some things just need to be explicitly worked out before I'm able and willing to forgive and move on. If the thing is just hanging there between us, I'm not necessarily going to be mad, I just want it to be fixed first.

Some more extended thoughts about that: I like reaching closure on as many things as possible, as early as possible, when issues are small and much less painful. They don't go away if you ignore them, they just get bigger and more painful.

How do things get worked out? Well, a good starting point is to apologize for all the parts where you're in the wrong. The real point of an apology is to let the other person know that you know where you were wrong, acknowledge that it was wrong, and imply that you're not going to do it that way again, now that you know.

Unfortunately, not many people seem to understand how this works. Some people will not only not acknowledge that they were in the wrong, they'll go on to make it even MORE wrong as a way to justify to themselves that the original wrong wasn't actually wrong and the person they've wronged is the one that's in the wrong. (These type of people seem to flock to PvP MMOs. :p) Then there are people who will say "sorry" and then do the same thing again, and then say "sorry" again expecting that that will fix everything the same as it did the first time, and wonder why it has stopped being good enough after a while. (One of my ex's was like that; that was one of the reasons he's now an ex.)

I like the questions aspect of OKCupid a lot. They're like a shortcut around having to do a ton of dates to find stuff out about people over a long period of time. I'm also constitutionally incapable of not answering a question that has been posed to me if I know what the answer is, which means I can get sucked into answering these things for hours at a time. Eventually the novelty will wear off, I'm sure, but in the meantime, it's fun to go over to other people's profiles and answer all the same questions they've answered, just to see how high I can drive up the enemy rating.

As for how it's going on the dating front, now that it's been a week: well, I was getting about 40 visitors a day for a while, but it seems to have died down to the mid-20s. I neither know nor care who any of them are; I put myself on invisible browse almost immediately just because I don't want to have to wade through all that, nor do I want *more* messages from random people because I've browsed through their profiles. If they're serious, they can send a message.

I get about half a dozen messages from new people per day. Most of them I just delete without even looking, because they're from nowhere near me, or they've clearly not read my profile. I really don't understand why anyone with a 70%+ enemy rating would even try. Messages that are worth responding to: maybe one or two per day, which is doable.

There's two possible prospects that are actually worth pursuing in more detail at the moment. One's in Pensacola, one's in Mobile. Which kind of gets to the other reason I didn't really want to sign up for a dating site: at some point I might have to actually reject people, and I hate that part.
23 February 2015 @ 02:24 pm
In the first year or so after I turned 31, a whole lot of things about life, the universe, and everything started coming together for me and making sense. That was when I first figured out that I was trans, and when I suddenly found myself on the opposite side of nearly every argument I'd ever had in my teens and early 20s. It was a time filled with epiphanies, when the burden of feeling old in my late 20s lifted, and I felt like a spring chicken.

That was ten years ago. Then, yesterday I ran across the following question on OKCupid:

Which of the following types of intelligence do you most value?

  • Logical / Mathematical

  • Social / Interpersonal

  • Visual / Spatial / Artistic

I remember this argument, too. Ten years ago I would've gone with Logical / Mathematical without hesitation. Ten years ago, five years ago, maybe as recently as a year ago, I remember disagreeing with someone who said to me that Social / Interpersonal was more important because of how it applies to everything. I remember how limited my own thinking was at the time, to the ability to socialize at social occasions. I remember asking if they could be more specific about what they meant, and they couldn't be. It was something they understood by their own firsthand experiences, that I hadn't had myself yet. Such is the way of wisdom (as I know it).

Then I ran a community of 300ish people in a MMORTS for nearly 2.5 of the 3 years that I played. Then I tried to date someone who has nearly zero ability to initiate social interactions of any kind, and ran straight into my own limitations on that front (the ability to initiate things), hard. Both of these challenged and stretched me in inconceivable ways, that are impossible to explain afterward without giving all the context. Among other things, and this was a separate minor epiphany that came up along the way: there are whole categories of things that I may find to be completely impossible to do for my own sake, but if I have to do them out of love for someone else who depends on my doing them, I will be able to move mountains.

Anyway, so my response on OKCupid was:
Logical/mathematical and social/interpersonal are both important to me, but the older I get, the more I find that social/interpersonal starts edging out. It's not just about how well you can do at a party, it applies to everything related to doing anything with other people.

So here I am again, at the opposite side of yet another argument.

I wonder what my 40s are going to be like. I feel like a summer chicken.
Mood: contemplativecontemplative
21 February 2015 @ 10:03 pm
From me to a random guy on OKCupid tonight:

I know who I am and where I'm going, and I know what I want. I'm looking for a particular type of gaming nerd, because really I don't see how any kind of lifelong relationship is going to work if we don't have that in common, and I'm looking for a specific type of connection in addition that. I have no expectations that I'm going to find what I'm looking for on here, but figured I'd give it a try at a friend's suggestion. It's gotta be a better chance than continuing to wait around for the right person to randomly show up offline.

I gotta say, so far this whole dating site venture has been entertaining. I signed up on Thursday evening in a moment of loneliness weakness, made a crappy profile, and started getting messages from people all over the place. On Friday morning I made some cranky edits to it to get them to go away. Then on Friday evening I edited it again into the current, friendly and approachable version that it is now.

So it's now Saturday evening. Highlights so far:
a) a guy who wanted me to help him cheat on his wife, and approached me because he doesn't mind gender fluidity.
b) a couple who were looking for a third for casual sex.
c) a guy who wanted to know what FTM means. We had a longwinded respectful conversation about it, he was happy to have learned something new, and then we segued into national politics for a while (we turn out to agree with each other politically). The above quote came from this conversation, while I was trying to explain why I'm not interested in him non-platonically.
d) a guy that I might actually meet up with tomorrow, if he finishes tinkering with his robot and writes back in time. I approached him because he was a computer geek and looked kind of cute. We'll see if this goes anywhere.

I guess that's not bad for two days in. There really aren't enough other nerds on the site though - the vast majority of the local guys on it are rednecks. I also signed up for a geek-specific dating site, but then found out after I was done that it's basically unusable without spending money. Meanwhile, I'm going to see if I can start attending some of the local cons that I've been ignoring up to now. Biggest nerd gatherings ever, so probably better chances there than anywhere else.

Why all the sudden interest in dating, when I hadn't been doing much of that for the last decade? Well, I thought I had found someone I wanted. We dated for a couple weeks, and then he decided he didn't want me. :( I guess partly I'm trying to get myself to move on, and partly I really would like to have someone in my life again, now that I almost did.
18 January 2015 @ 01:59 pm
In 2011 when I first moved down here, I started a small yellow plastic pot of compost. Nearly every single veggie scrap I've generated since moving here has gone into that pot. It's 2015 and that pot is now almost full. Because I've started making a big batch of food almost every weekend, I'm generating veggie scraps even faster, and so I need to start using the compost in the pot.

In late 2012 when I moved apartments, I started a 20 gallon fishtank. At the moment it has 4 cherry barbs, 5 neon tetras, and a zebra loach. It now generates a bucket full of nitrate-rich water every month.

I think that means I'm finally ready to give container gardening another go.

The plan: one tomato plant, one zucchini plant, one yellow squash plant. Three big pots with plant stakes. I already have the plant stakes, but will need to buy the pots, some soil, and the actual plants. The compost I have will get divided up between the three big pots, and future fertilizer shouldn't be a problem due to all the fishtank water. The weather should be warm enough to get things started at the beginning of March.

After that, the biggest thing to worry about is sunlight. I have both a patio and balcony that both face east, but they are heavily shaded. I'm kind of hoping that I can use the space just past the patio along the outside wall. That area gets sunlight for around 6 hours per day. If I'm really bold, I'll just put the plants in the middle of the lawn between buildings and hope no one complains....
17 January 2015 @ 09:41 pm
So, an update on the personal finances front...

It turns out that if I cut out all restaurants, stop buying yoga classes, cancel the massage subscription, stop going to the chiropractor every month, and stop doing random fun stuff with friends... I will probably make it.

Last month I had to dip into long-term savings to cover the credit card bill. That was terrifying. This month (January), I finally cleared out my paypal account, and have been covering random fun stuff with friends with a small stash of cash that I've had for a while and never needed to use before. I'm also going to start spending my Amazon points like water on non-food necessities (shampoo, soap, etc.). Christmas was entirely covered with those (airfare, present for the kids; my sister covered everything else).

Fortunately, the "balance out" parts of what I said in September are finally starting to take effect, and I can cover everything (even a massive electric bill because it's been really cold) out of my regular income-outgo account without having to do that again - even without the paypal money (though that would've taken it down to about $3 to spare). February is looking like it'll have more of a cushion, especially since I've cut back how much I contribute to retirement and haven't accounted for that yet. Assuming I stay super-frugal, hopefully it'll get better from there.

It's like I'm trying to make a super tight turn with a large vehicle, and I'll only just make it by inches.
I suddenly have a pressing need to remember what it was like to do all the dating type things the first time around, back when I was 17, and I'm pretty sure I wrote it all down because I kept extremely detailed journals back then. And now I can't find them in any of the obvious boxes.

On the bright side, this might finally be the motivation I need to get around to unpacking some of the less daily life things.
27 September 2014 @ 08:27 pm
Pretty much since I was a kid, I knew that my life had a purpose. I didn't know what that purpose was, only that I had one. A path, if you will, that the Prophets had laid out for me. There were times when I would be compelled to go in a certain direction, or away from another direction, for no reason that I could see. And any time I had to make some sort of life-changing decision, I could query the Prophets about which way was wrong and which was right.

When I went to visit my aunt in Hong Kong in 2010, I fulfilled my purpose. I was in the right place at the right time for whatever it was I needed to do. I still don't know what the purpose was. But by querying, the Prophets tell me that I did what I was supposed to and didn't fail.

Since then, my life has had no further purpose. I am free to do whatever I want. This sounds like it would be great, all those choices that I can make all by myself and all. But: now I can't query the Prophets about life-changing decisions, which way is right, which way is wrong. I'm on my own.

It's not all it's cracked up to be.