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While watching a football game last weekend, my phone rang. The caller ID indicated that it was a friend from my college days. I had not visited with him in several years and was surprised that he called. Answering the call, I sensed from his voice that he was depressed; experiencing low energy. After greeting him with as much positive energy as possible, I asked him how things were in his world? After a long sigh and stammering, as he told me that he hated his job.

My friend shared that his relationship with his wife and adult children was at the breaking point, and he was in an emotional cycle of anxiety, shame, and depression. I could feel his stress over the phone, as he droned on about feeling stuck in his job; I realized that emotional paralysis had gripped his soul. He was miserable and made sure that I shared his pain. As an empath, I have learned that I must maintain boundaries between my emotions and those that belong to others. I was not interested in joining him as he wallowed in a toxic pool of pain.

His story reminded me of the days when I was a farmer. I raised hogs and learned many lessons regarding human nature. With these memories, I told him a story that I thought he might relate to in his life. I had a pen of forty-pound feeder pigs that had made a complete mess of their pen with manure, bodily fluids, and spilled feed. The conditions had to change. So, I cleaned the next pen with the power washer, filled the feeder with a mixture of freshly ground corn, soybean meal, and minerals. The water was clean and pure; the straw bedding was fresh and inviting to a pig.

I opened the gate from the messy pen and the freshly cleaned pen entrance and tried to move the pigs. They would go right up the line of manure in the old pen and refuse to leave. I would try to push them, but they kept resisting and running back into the messy pen. Finally, I had to physically pull a dozen pigs into the clean pen before others followed. Then it dawned on me that this was just like a human who is caught in a toxic or violent environment and was too fearful of leaving. That the “manure” they were used to and knew; felt safer than taking the risk to go to a new environment. Was this why an abused spouse will return to their abuser? Was this why someone working in a toxic work environment is too fearful of leaving?

As I asked my friend these questions, he becomes reticent and finally told me that was how he felt in his current situation. He was too afraid to even look for another job. This fact was poisoning his relationships with the toxic energy that entrapped him. I give him time to think about what he had just told me about his environment. After a pause, he told me that it was time for him to pick up his shovel, turn on the power washer, and clean out his pen. I could feel his pain and longing for relief. He had some hard work ahead of him if he was to make changes towards healing his soul.

As I disconnected the call and returned to the football game, I remembered that one could learn a great deal from a pig. Life is a journey of valleys and mountain tops that must be traveled. Never give up on yourself; you are worth it!

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