I am saying goodbye to two people this week. It hurts so much my eyelids are blurring into my cheekbones. Luckily Adi is in town and close at hand with a hug. And Reema is back. I am so grateful for life’s big mercies.
Truly, these are mercies. Not a solution but mercy.
I have been considering vulnerability recently. Holding the thought in my head, examining my own experiences of it, watching how I behave with it and how it sits in my psyche. I have not enjoyed vulnerability, haven’t welcomed it. I’ve treated it like it’s weakness, like it must be covered or hidden or toughened in some way. If I’ve treated my vulnerability this way, I have probably been cruel on the vulnerability of other people. But I’ll think about that in a bit. First, me.
A curious thing happened. For a change, I didn’t respond with rage or force. I didn’t hurtle into working harder, talking faster (which are my ways of aggressively running away from problems). I stayed. And I said, “I’m hurting.”
Immediately, I received a phone call. And then tweets. They were all gentle, solicitous, asking if I was okay. I didn’t use my default deflection tactics. But I said,
“No, I’m not. I don’t want to talk about it. Is that okay?”
When I put the phone down, one of the two people I was saying goodbye to, fumbled, perhaps seeing some clarity through the things weighing down on her. She said,
“I’ll write you a mail. You can choose to read it or delete it.”
I opened my mouth but before I could even say a word I saw her flinch. And I realized she just couldn’t see or hear me. There was too much clouding her judgement. Anything I said or did would only be distorted by the voices in her head.
I told her I would not delete a mail from her without reading. But that this whole thing, us, was just becoming one more thing weighing in on her. “Deal with what you have to deal with,” I said, “and just cut out the me part of your life.” I don’t know if she understands what I mean by that but I really don’t want this ending between us to become one more reason she feels victimised by the world.
I know what that feels like. I have reacted to most things, notably to disappointment, with blind pain. I’ve raged I’M HURTING HURTING HURTING HURTING so much I can’t hear or see people around me who love me, offering support or hurting too. I’ve been there. It’s delicious and heady, that burning, that pain.
Perhaps she will resurrect from that place. But I fear I do not have it in me to take people back. I don’t. It doesn’t come from vengeful anger. But I can’t bear to let people back in once they’ve broken me by putting barriers of self-obsession, delusion, disrespect or betrayal between us. Yes, it’s probably true that I hold people up to very high standards. But it’s not judgement that comes between us; it’s the walls. Weakness brings up the walls. Walls hurt. I guess I don’t like boundaries either.
Someone else who discarded me last year is trying to come back into my life. I don’t want him to. It hurt so much when he left as if I meant nothing at all. I’ve built my life back into a place that feels complete without him. There’s no room for him in it now. And any room he makes will drill a hole in a nicely created life and what if he decides to cut loose again? I’m tired of walking around with gaping holes created by people who leave on whim. One hole, one time per person is all I am willing to give the world.
I felt a lot better after I went for a walk in the beach. Sad, very sad, but not weighed down anymore. Maybe it’s this generation, maybe it’s this city, maybe it’s us. Our lives are too burdened by fears and pain collapsing in on us that we lose sight of the things and the people that matter. I cannot judge anyone for that and punishing the people I love for getting lost – is neither love nor fruitful. Perhaps vulnerability doesn’t make me weak. It makes it possible for me to see human nature as just what it is; not the universe conspiring to wound me. Acknowledging my vulnerability makes me acknowledge it other people too. And it makes it possible to accept it and move ahead without being ripped apart by the ties of pain.
Maybe goodbyes are safety valves for this very reason. Once I accepted that there’s nothing else to do but say goodbye, something odd happened. I’m awash in a very strange sense of relief. A big part of my life just opened up again. Who knows what or who will sit in it next?
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