The first week of June spells pre-monsoon showers in Mumbai. The only time I actually like the rain here, coming as it does on the heels of a scorching summer. This year will be different.
It has now been a year, since my break-up. This wasn’t the first or even the last of my relationship endings. Not even the only time I’ve been in love. But since we shared a life together, were engaged and (at least in my head) planning to spend the rest of our years together, it constitutes a milestone. Like everything else in that relationship, the ending was a grey area too, stretched out ambiguously over several incidents, tears, compromises, stand-offs and decisions. But the end of summer is where I peg it as the ending in my own head.
I have always loved summer but it had been a rough one, all things considered. So shedding my patterns, I decided to keep my heart open to the joy of monsoon. That’s a metaphor, of course, for a relationship that I had invested a lot in, that was dying.
Mostly I think I’ve succeeded. The people that I expected support from, did not provide it. Instead I found myself dealing with an ugly beast. Let’s call it the ‘I can’t handle the fact that you have problems and so can’t focus on mine right now’. But mercifully, it wasn’t really surprising in most cases, only inconvenient. Instead, I found new beginnings in a lot of places. No comfort for my tears but a lot of promising new smiles.
It is an odd feeling, actually. On one hand, I am grateful, I am, for this new life that I now have. This includes a new (now former) workplace, two new professional milestones, a lot of new good friends, plenty of new books and writing. It’s a fresh life, a new me. On the other hand, at moments like these that remind me of the past, I cannot help but feel it as acutely as if it were yesterday. The past and my present, both very real but such disconnected, diverse worlds and I’m holding them inside of me.
I don’t yet know how I feel about him. My new life has shown me a way out of anger, the lightness of being able to set those burdens down. Minus anger, I’m left with immense sadness that includes the truth of my love. The anger was nothing more than a cover over the love, a hope-filled protection from the utter humiliation of that love & commitment not being reciprocated. I know, at some level, that this is better, healthier for me even if it is harder. The tough part is actually not dealing with my own anger. It’s dealing with everyone else’s reactions.
People in my life seem to feel a lot of anger on my behalf, like they’re trying to make up for my lack of anger. They believe that this is my weakness, my inability to be angry with him and they compensate, as a way of showing their caring. Yet others respond with shock.
I have always found my strength, my dignity and my peace in the truth. So I have not done the usual thing and hidden my past. I don’t rant (not too much at least) about it or specifically bring it up. But an important relationship that almost culminated in marriage but ended right before it did, is an undeniable part of my life, even if I refuse to be defined solely by it. And this is where I find myself burdened with the weight of other people’s reactions. For a year, I’ve struggled through a world that believes my life is over because my engagement is. I feel pain, this is true. I’m devastated and still working through the trust issues and fear of commitment that such an incident causes. But I really do not believe that my life is over.
If you were to shake me awake in my sleep and demand to know what my life was about, where it was going and what I dreamed of, I would have an answer. I would tell you about the books I have yet to write and have published. I would list out all the people I’ve yet to speak to, the crowds I have to address, the stages I’m yet to perform on. I’d think of the charcoal painting lessons I still need to take and the music that I’ve promised I’ll get back to. I will dream of the easel I’ll own some day and the great oils on canvas that will come from it. I am yet to see 40. I have to experience building and running my own company. And underneath all of that, yes, I am also starting to remember dreams of love and companionship. Is that not a life filled with promise and hope? How can it be over? I’ve barely gotten started. If I got run over today, I would die with grave regret over the incompleteness of my existence. No, I’m not ready for my life to be over yet.
Last year, at this time, I slept fitfully, if at all. My bedroom window faces east so I have to keep the windows shut tight all day. Opening the window in the morning is always a surprise. On my better days, it feels like opening a present. I can never quite tell what lies beyond the window, especially during these times of the year when the seasons change. I started playing a game with myself. If I opened the window to bright sunshine, there would still be burns to be endured. I would need to shut my eyes tight and live through the stifling heat, wait patiently till the wounds had fermented and cooled. But if, just if the skies were grey, there would be hope over the horizon, the universe holding out a helping hand in the form of a friend calling or maybe a nice new book or some other titbit of pleasure to make me smile. As we went deeper and deeper into June, the overcast skies got to be more frequent. And by the time it was September, I was entrenched (and drenched) in new hope with a new job, a set of friends, new clothes and writing. Everything to get me through an occasional sunny day.
It was a lovely winter. So good that it carried me through 2013’s summer. Even the anniversary of my proposal, where, ironically, he was out campaigning for a cause that he had let down, by his treatment of me. Yes, I survived even that anger, that extreme betrayal and hurt. So thank God summer’s coming to a close.
Now I find myself on the brink of another monsoon. My life is not over, not by a long shot. I think I’m going to keep a lid on anger but also keep it close. It’s a handy tool for survival in an unsupportive environment. It’s what makes me shake my fist at the punch that knocked me down and swear “By God, I will be up again.” As June is my witness, I’m still alive and very much kicking. Welcome monsoon, come water my garden.