Thursday, March 13, 2008

Where the Mind Is Without Fear

Do you remember the poem? We had to recite it during the morning assembly at school. Always thought it was a lot of pompous rubbish.

But you know, people like me, we go through life with a lot of fears. I don't know about you but all my life so far has been about battling my insecurities. V and I fight because I'm insecure. Not, as I mostly argue, because I'm tired. And I do understand this in other people. Maybe I refuse to sympathise, but trust me, I can and do empathise.

This post, before we get side tracked, is not so much about V, though. It's about loneliness and giving up. And fighting your way out to the other side. It's about loneliness cutting so deep that it becomes a physical pain.

Maybe you know what I'm talking about. The person I'm writing this post for, she certainly does. And it hurts me to be so far away, because she's breaking her heart over the distance and the whys of a failed relationship. I couldn't answer her questions but I could be there next to her and show her that she's not alone. Because you know, she's not alone at all. There are so many of us who have watched our lives fall apart because of decisions somebody else took on our behalf, and most of us get back on track. A few, like I, have been lucky enough to find what they were looking for elsewhere. Not what they thought they wanted, but something else which was just what they needed.

This girl, she's fought her battles for a long time now. She's been fighting for years just to have the right to make her own decisions. She has a strong sense of responsibility, you see, so she finds it hard to walk away even from the people who hurt her. Now she's tired. She's too far away from home, too far from me, too far from where she wants to be. The irony here is that she's the one I've always gathered my own strength from. When I went through my own crises, she was too inexperienced to help me out in my particular trials. But it helped me to know that this one friend of mine never judged me, would always be there when I needed her in the middle of the night and would fight my battles for me no matter where the right of it lay. It takes strength to do this, you know, and strength is what defines her.

So when a fighter like her withdraws into herself, what do you do? How can I help? Emails are too vague, phone calls too expensive and anyway, too much remains unsaid.

I've been trying to draw on my own experience. Yes, it hurt to step out of the house, and it hurt to give anybody else the chance to cheer me up -- since the person I wanted to do this was not available -- but working very hard, immersing myself in books, movies, window-shopping helped. The books and movies reminded me of my own loss and made me cry, but the crying would tire me out and send me to sleep. Better than a sleepless night staring at the walls. I didn't want to read self-help stuff or inspirational stuff. Instead, I went back to stories I'd read as a kid. I started out turning pages without really reading them but eventually the old magic sucked me in. I re-read the Anne of Green Gable series and my collection of Louisa May Alcotts. Cried buckets through Rilla of Ingleside (about Anne's youngest daughter and if you haven't read it you should!) and Jo's Boys, but they helped me move on.

Because we all have to move on, that's how it goes. My philosophy is that one should always get something positive out of a relationship. That does not mean dwelling constantly on how great it was, but to ensure that the great stuff that it did to you is retained. So take the extra trouble to put on a little make up, a dab of perfume (not deo). Walk tall, confident that you were adored, that somebody thought you were worth so much. Take pride in being able to make another human being feel that way. Take pride in having made him happy. When the heartache starts, remind yourself that the last thing your lover ever wanted was to see you so low. In short, force yourself to be the person they loved, to see yourself through their eyes. From there it's a short walk out of depression.

I realise what I'm saying might sound pretty stupid. After all, if you're trying to get over somebody, perhaps reminding yourself of what you shared may not be the best way to do it. But I think it depends more on what you remind yourself of. After I broke up with Beq I tried to be the fun, irreverent person he saw me to be. A person I'm not, really, but being that Sue was fun, and I'm glad I carried something away from the years we spent together. Our special language hardly survives, our in-jokes have been forgotten, but the love of dance, of live music, of poetry and of Calcutta streets remain. This way, four years on, I think Beq'n'Sue was a great thing to happen to me. I didn't think this when we parted, but I do now. And I think it's equally great that it ended when it did, because it paved the way for V.

Life, you know, can change any second. You don't know what the next ten minutes will bring. I'm a great believer in balance. I think if I've paid in tears, surely there will come along something good to make up. My son is a case in point. His timing was so bad, it nearly permanently soured my marriage as well as my relationship with V's parents. But the love he gives me keeps me going, trudging past the daily problems. I did pay in tears and continue to do so. But I also receive a certain amount of love and happiness, enough to make it worth my while to keep trying.

This I would not have had, had I given up. Aborted the pregnancy because the timing was wrong. Walked out on Vicky because I'd had enough of his lack of focus. Slit my wrists because I wanted to.

There's always a choice, isn't there? You can do what you feel like doing; or you can force yourself to do what you know you will be proud of ten years later. Maybe this relationship will eventually work out, maybe it never will. Either way I think this girl should carry on with her life. Carry on growing into a person it's a privilege to know. Carry on developing her career, working out her family relationships. Finding new friends and finding new things and people to fall in love with. This way, should her love ever come her way again, she will be a richer person and will have more to give than ever before. And if it doesn't, she won't have lost anything waiting for it to come back. And knowing her as I do, I'll be greatly surprised if somebody else doesn't come along to fill up the hole left behind by her lover. Because to know my friend is to love her, I promise you that.

So, because she reads this blog, I just want her to know that she'll win this fight. Because the fight is not about making the relationship work. The fight is about her being strong enough to see the breakup in context with the rest of her life. She's young and has so much ahead of her. Good and bad. She has stories to tell my grandchildren, stories which only she can tell, now. Now is not the time to give up.

18 comments:

Puranjoy said...

I wish your friend all the best. The only way to get over stuff like that is to get over it.
And no, nobody else can help. She'll just wake up one fine day and find that she is not sad any more. Hope that day comes soon.

dipali said...

Having a friend like you will make a difference. All the best to your friend.

Tithi said...

While I can only pray that your friend feels these words and moves ahead with her life, you put to words so much I have been thinking over the last few days. Yes, dear, we can do whatever we feel like this moment yet there are things we do that will surely make us and the people around us (who really matter) feel proud of us some 10-15 years later. And yes, the theory of balance definitely works. Oh, and I had gone back to my Anne books around the time I was saying goodbye to my teens. Haven't read Rilla, but will surely do now that you recommend it! Hugs--to you and Bhablet.

shub said...

Lovely post, Sue. I'm sure it'll help your friend see the light.

Suki said...

:) .

But don't you think "forcing yourself to do what you'll be proud of ten years later" simply means calling on the better parts of you and gathering the strength to make you happy, rather than doing something that is not you?
It's the same thing in essence, but I'm sorta at loggerheads with the idea of not being oneself.

I know I'm supposed to be on a blogging break, but thought fodder is an exception :P. Especially because I'm taking the break to read Freud.

Sparx said...

What a great post... you're a good friend and a considered thinker...

Sue said...

You guys -- Thanks for the wishes. She's doing ok, just gets a little low now and then.

The TAAMommy said...

So well said Sue, enjoyed reading this post a lot and took a lot from it as well, thank you

Beq said...

Bleeding effing heart yous are, and an absolute darling.

Saya said...

happened to come here while following all these online shower links..
I love Anne series.. and Little women series.. and there have been may a time when i have turned to these books when i felt depressed.. it helped me so much.. read this post where you have written the same thing.. and i sat up straighter and typed this comment out :-)

Sue said...

Saya -- Nice to find a fellow fan. They are marvellous books and I don't care hwo old-fashioned or regressive they may seem now. The reassurance they evoke is as relevant now as they ever have been, na?

Saya said...

Hi.. I am the same Saya who commented earlier. Whenever i am searching for answers and groping in the dark... i read all these blogs.. and i always find something in yours..
I am going thru exactly what your friend was..:( "She has a strong sense of responsibility, you see, so she finds it hard to walk away even from the people who hurt her. " is applicable to me. Please tell me shez doing great..

Sue said...

Saya -- She's doing rather well, actually. She has found somebody else and he makes her very happy. She continues to make me proud.

Saya said...

Hope I will too :( thought right now my world seems like it is falling apart :(

Sue said...

Saya -- You'll be OK. Worlds fall apart to make way for new experiences. Some may even be good experiences. Give it a chance.

Saya said...

Thank you Sue.

Saya said...

Every time i read this post.. i feel a tiny bit better.
going to link this up..
thank you for writing this post Sue.

Sue said...

Saya -- You're welcome.