The Rich Vegetarian

An Examined Life

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Time stitches all wounds with loving hands

“Untitled”

When the heart
Is cut or cracked or broken
Do not clutch it
Let the wound lie open
Let the wind
From the good old sea blow in
To bathe the wound with salt

Let a stray dog lick it
Let a bird lean in the hole and sing
A simple song like a tiny bell
And let it ring
Let it go. Let it out.
Let it all unravel.
Let it free and it can be
A path on which to travel.

— Michael Leunig

A colleague lost his young cousin in a road accident. The boy was 19. He was at a friend’s home that evening, presumably intending to spend the night there. Around 2am or so (as my colleague told me), he woke up and left the house quietly without informing anyone. He got into his car and started driving towards home. The car crashed into a tree, and he died within minutes of the accident. He was a few minutes away from home.

So near, yet so far.

Most of us figure out a way (consciously or  not) to deal with trauma. Probably it is the body’s mechanism of keeping itself alive. If we were to internalize every emotion, happy or not, that crossed our path, we would be unable to survive too long. Life would be intensely turbulent and discordant.

Distancing oneself from the actual incident helps. So I did just that, as I have been doing a lot these days.

But I couldn’t help thinking about the boy’s mother. No, I don’t think that this would be any easier on the father at all. (How could it ever be so? A father’s heart can be soft in all the right places too, just like a mother’s. My father exemplifies this for me.)

I imagined the pain she’d be living with… an open wound, like a mouth ulcer. Sometimes pain is so overwhelmingly intense that death (or unconsciousness) feels like a relief. But what if that was not a choice at all? The only alternative (not even an alternative, really – well, unless one considered suicide) is to live with this immense pain, day in and day out, every moment threatening to snuff out the very life force energy without actually doing so. It hurts so bad, my heart… It is a huge sensation, very physical and real and visceral. Oh, how do I get rid of this pain? It is killing me but just not yet. So I have to live, feeling this pain in every pore, every fiber of my being… Without being able to do a thing about it.

Words are utterly useless at this point.

But there is something that I can say, with complete sincerity and conviction, and that is: Everything changes. Not a single thing remains constant in this manifest universe. The pain that seems to sear our insides also changes. It is simply part of the process, the paradigm. Knowing the principle may provide some relief.

Alone

The last three weeks have been instructive in many ways.

Last month, the husband announced that he had work travel planned this month. He’d be gone for a little over three weeks to India. Fun. For him, I mean.

I was fairly okay with this plan. I didn’t wonder – Oh, what am I going to do, all by myself, for such a long period? I knew that I wouldn’t really have a problem filling my days, and happily so too. It has been that way for me all the while. I greatly enjoy solitude, as I have come to understand about myself over the last twenty-something days.

But it has been a revelation, even to me, as to how much I enjoy time spent by myself.

A dear friend asked me, frankly curious – What do you do all the time? Or something along those lines. I had a tough time coming up with a good answer, so I gave a vague response. Ahh, you know… I read. I cook. I am cooking daily, you know? Then I just chill, haha. You know? Attempting to give the guilty smile/conspiratory look.

Well, I don’t think of myself as an introvert, but these days I guard my alone time fiercely. I pull it close to myself like a warm woolen shawl.

I remember a conversation with a friend about loneliness. People tend to think that alone = lonely. Of course, I disagree. I don’t deny the value of social connections and interactions. But really, it is important to know how to stay/be on your own, and remain joyful and fulfilled. I think the ultimate truth that most of us regularly push to the dark recesses of our mind is that alone-ness is a reality. Sometimes, we end up living many years of our life without any friends/family/children around. Sometimes, it becomes the story of our entire life. Everyone dies alone. Sometimes, death comes in a flash, and we face it solo without the comforting company of a loved one or a friendly face.

Surrounding oneself with people, things, projects, etc. feels very safe and comforting. It feels like a buffer against the sentence of loneliness. Oh, I have my children around, my spouse is here, I will always have my pet with me.

Of course, none of this is true. And I think each one of us knows it.

The lovely skill lies in living a joyful and splendorous life while remaining fully aware of this reality.