Day 38 of “40 Days to Give”
There is something like déjà vu which allows you to enter into the experience of another person as though it were actually happening to you. I don’t know if it has a name, but I can remember feeling it when I was little. Perhaps what I want to describe is a physical sensation of empathy. Maybe you’ve felt that when you saw another person wounded. I think of stories of sympathetic pregnancy symptoms—morning sickness or weight gain–in expectant dads.
I grew up in a household that was big on privacy. Mom really believed in giving children their own space. When I was thirteen I remember telling Mom that a friend had felt violated because her mom had read her diary. Mom said, “It will be a cold day when I need to read a diary to know what’s going on in my child’s life.” Her keen powers of observation were bolstered by her intuition and her lifelong study of hearts. That, plus the eyes in the back of her head.
Questions of separateness and the privacy of experiencing one’s own body melt a bit in the case of twins. I am not a twin, but I am 18 months younger than my sister, which means we have many of the emotional dynamics of twins, according to Kevin Leman and other psychologists who study the impact of birth order on personality.
So when I watch the twin babies laughing and enjoying each other, I think I sense in their eyes a knowing. It looks to me as if they know what the other is feeling, and you can almost pinpoint the moment when they start to know! Their eyes widen as if to say, “I’m looking at you!”
I can recall a half-dozen moments in my childhood of trying to sense what it was like to be another person. I would gaze at some aspect of his or her physical appearance and wonder what it was like to have thick, dark, straight, shiny hair (as opposed to my fine, blond curls). I can remember wondering if other people could feel the curve of a toe curled in repose. How does it feel to have a big round tummy always resting on your lap? These questions were more than rhetorical to me. On reflection, I think I was teaching myself that we are separate persons bound by bodies, but whose spirits can touch all the same. This is a backdrop for kissing my kidney goodbye.
I don’t think I will automatically know my sister any better once part of me becomes part of her. I just wonder what it will be like. There is so much beauty and mystery to everyday life!
My friend, Vicky Thorn from Project Rachel first introduced me to the scientific phenomenon of microchimerism, whereby infants and mothers exchange cells which live within their respective bodies throughout the life span. It’s a thought I’ll say a bit more about tomorrow. I also want to be sure to tell you about Lance and donating his son Scotty’s heart.
Stay tuned too for, “You’re a part of me, I’m a part of you.”