Life is like a game of chess. We are constantly trying to outwit nature as we make our killer moves. We have such grandiose plans of “making it big”, “living with purpose”, “doing something useful”, “giving back to society” or whatever plan we come up with. We are so desperate to make a life based on our conditioning, our definitions, social mores, cultures and what not, to give our lives meaning.
But when you really really sit down to think of it, life is nothing but the dots that connect one human being to another and everything that transpires in the lifetime of that connection and the journey of that dot from one to another.
I realised all this because of something unexpected that happened. Just a week ago, well almost, my youngest maternal aunt contracted dengue. She collapsed at the General Practitioner’s clinic, my uncle rushed her to the hospital and we all rushed as family to provide the necessary support. We gave our time, physical help, moral support, food, kept watch over her and prayed. During the course of this episode in my life I saw something unfold. It was like a story being woven out of the cocoon of a life that had taken ill. As a niece, sister, husband, daughter or son, I saw how all these varied and multiple relationships take on a different hue when something sudden, unexpected and disturbing and drastic happens to our loved ones. We are shaken to the core. Life as we know it stops for a heartbeat, a heartbeat that’s longer than a lifetime. Between one inhale and exhale our lives come to a standstill. We pray for health, we think of life without that loved one, we face fear of regret and are afraid to confront the truth of our lives and holding on by a tenuous thread. Yet when the Earth is firm beneath our feet, we live life without a care in the world about the people we care about. They’re there, we’re there, and everything in life will continue forever. It’s like wearing stilletoes for 25 years believing that varicose veins will never compel us to discard them heels. Hah!
What do we go through when news of some imminent danger hits our emotional antennae?
For the son who is tens of thousands of miles away, there is worry, there is hope, there is prayer, there is a certain detachment(perhaps) as it’s the sheer distance that makes danger seem not so profound or fatal. “Everything will be fine” is perhaps the underlying mantra.
For the husband, he’s worried about how life will continue. Who will feed, clean, take care of all the nitty gritties? “Will everything be fine” is his underlying query.
For the daughter away on work in another city, the sheer paranoia perhaps mixed with hours, days, weeks, months and years of piling on the stress of her slightly dysfunctional life and the hidden guilt (my assumption here of course) creates a tsunami of emotions that unleashes itself in the form of heart wrenching sobs when she sees her mother.”God I want everything to be fine” is her underlying hope. Relief, guilt, fear, anger, hope – it’s like a Molotov cocktail, fiery and dangerous.
For the sisters, there’s genuine worry and fear and offering of prayer that all will be well.”Hope everything will be fine” is their underlying emotion.
For the niece, it’s about pushing away fear and taking charge of a situation and somehow trying to bring about normalcy and control – burying worry and fear deep where no one can see. “It will be fine” is her underlying belief.
We take our lives and of those around us so much for granted that the mere whiff of an aberration – illness, a sudden accident, a death, moving away from a city, a fight leading to permanent “blocking” out of the person, “unfriending” on FB, ending of a relationship /marriage, bankruptcy, natural disaster – anything, just about anything related to those we know and love puts our lives in complete disarray.
I remember when I was moving from Bombay to Bangalore 15 years ago, I felt my heart would leap out of my chest with pain and fear as I had no idea what I was heading towards, and I knew what I was leaving behind. My friends, familiarity, a way of life. Many of those friends and colleagues I no longer keep in touch with. I have moved on as have they am sure. Many of those people I thought would be my besties for life had milestones in life – marriage, babies, promotions, new property investments, cars, new colleagues, new friends – that old friends like me weren’t on the radar. After all out of sight is out of mind. I tried in my own limited way to keep in touch and somehow keep the intensity of friendship alive. Today it’s dead. While I say I don’t care about those who don’t care about me, it still hurts. Why? Because a bond that was sacred to me and which I took for granted that it’d be alive and well and kicking, could not withstand a wee bit of geography playing spoilsport. Therefore the rest is history.
It’s frightening to feel the ground slip from under your feet when a loved one who was there like a rock suddenly seems frail and mortal. The possibility of leading a life without that pillar suddenly hits you in the solar plexus. Panic sets in and all hell breaks loose. In that instant when one’s entire life flashes by and when you sink your head in regret, shame, fear, guilt and helplessness, you resolve to make it good, all you need is one more chance. Please.
And then your loved one is home. You can exhale. The ground beneath your feet isn’t as slippery as before. Life is pink and rosy and you can make your plans once again. Your pride, ego and “life is hunky dory” belief snaps into place. It’s yesterday once more. Time to take things for granted once again, until the next time. Human nature is funny isn’t it? And oh so foolish!