A large amount of time makes you an observer of life. It gives you the ability to be the interested observer, to sermonise and waggle fingers at the world. It feels much like the world is putting up a show and you have the time to sit and watch it peacefully. It also affords us a lot of time to examine the many holes in the fabric of our lives. It also makes you realise that the people around you have uncanny ability to harm themselves quite substantially and more than quite willingly.
Take for example, this lady I know. When she was in her early 20’s, she wasn’t treated very nicely by life, circumstances and her much-too-rich siblings. Now, thirty years later, when she talks about her life then, her voice stills shakes with unfinished anger and shadows the many many tears she’s shed. She counts every penny she has and will cheerfully bear sickness, just to save the few rupees it will cost. She keeps people at a distance so they can’t hurt her. The result: Thirty years later, she is bitter, discontent with her life and is always angry. She keeps to herself and her prayers, doesn’t meet anyone and generally likes the life of a hermit. The last time I met her, she told me about how life is a struggle and will always be one.
2 months later today, I woke up still thinking of that conversation. Sure, some people have spectacular lives, untouched by disease death or poverty. But for the most part, nearly all of us have gone through or are going through our many shares of the blacking factory experience. And refuse to let go of it.
Another interesting lady I know spends every single minute of her life cleaning. She spent most her life taking care of her ill parents and working on her PhD. When both passed on, she suddenly has nothing to do. So she cleans. Everyday before breakfast and after dinner for three hours, she cleans. If there is a flat surface in the house, it is cleaned everyday. She has a live- in maid who she then cleans after. She has arthritis, osteoporosis and asthma triggered by the ammonia fumes. She has no time to call her family, meet company or enough sleep. The aches in her body have her in tears but she will not see a doctor because he might prescribe physiotherapy that she doesn’t have time for. Basically, she has stopping living for the sake of a clean house. WHY? Why oh why would someone willingly do this to themselves? Who give a rat’s backside if the house is sparkling clean?
A very dear friend of mine here hates Bombayites on principle. For a long time, she was seeing this boy who then dumped her for better prospects, more money and a better figure. Since then, the mere mention of her Bombay life makes her breath steam.
It’s so amazing that it happens so much. Life is hard enough as it is. Why would you willingly put yourself through strain which doesn’t necessarily work out for you in the end? My husband calls it the suffering artist syndrome. I call it the useless martyr condition.
Of course, it’s easy for me to just say things like this. I still get mad as hell for not being to work here. I have to consciously not be bitter or smack their faces when people grumble about work. But it’s easier now.
There was a time when I held on to my grief and anger for so many years. I nurtured it and watched it grow until I became a thoroughly cynical person. Like Gupta Rajan in The Terminal said, “As long as I keep my floor clean, keep my head down, they have no reason to deport me, they have no reason to notice a man like me.” I hid my scars well though. For all practical purposes, I was a cheerful, boisterous person. But I expected people to disappoint and they, very regularly, did. Once I realised that the hurt I’d been carrying around was choking me and forcing me to drown was when I knew I needed help.
Now, getting help and taking help are two very different things. I steadily resisted until I disgusted the people around me. Then an old friend sent me the Post Secret book. and I began to see how people saw me. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I did let go. Felt weird in the beginning, unfamiliar and raw but eventually it gets easier. Much like finally letting go of a thorny tree you’ve been tied to.
Why is it so difficult for people to let go? What weird chemical balance forces them to hold on to their worries? Is it because they’ve carried it for so long that they can no longer function without it? Or has it become so ingrained that it has become a part of the psyche? Is it symptomatic of another perhaps larger problem? Or do they just like being a prisoner of their feelings? And why does the reverse never happen? Don’t people want to hold on to the happiness in their life, instead if the hardships and the evil? Seems so logical but why is it so difficult to do?
John Assaraf had it right. Freeing oneself is just a choice. A difficult choice but it’s a choice.