The Rich Vegetarian

An Examined Life

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Tag: truth

Most Burdensome of All

I have a friend who keeps his car stocked with water, fruit and snacks, so he can hand them out to homeless people on his way to work. One day, he gave a bottle of water to a homeless man. The guy looked at him askance, as if asking, c’mon, this is all you can give me? He took the water and walked away.

As he related the incident, my friend laughed. “You cannot expect gratitude even from a homeless man.”

My friend is a wise and compassionate guy, and I like to think he was half-joking when he said what he did.

It is truly burdensome to believe that you (or I) did a good deed, performed an act of kindness. There is a kind of oppressive weight to the idea and thought of it. In fact, I find it highly patronizing.

Service is a pure (perhaps the purest) form of self-expression. Millions of people perform acts of service on a daily basis without likely even being aware of it. They act on a whim, in a moment of complete spontaneity, responding to a need from someone somewhere. It takes an instant, the act is done, and everyone is off to their respective places.

It leaves everyone free: giver, receiver, bystanders.

I cringe a little when I hear well-meaning parents and teachers encouraging kids to think about “others,” “do something for others,” and so on.

So long as you think that you are doing something for others, you are going to be bound to the act, harbor a sense of expectation, even anticipate gratitude. I’d really like to walk away from it, be free of the typical trappings that come with “doing a good deed.”

Perhaps this comes across as fake modesty but it’s a little more than that.

It stems from a simple desire for freedom. To be released from expectation (of gratitude or whatever), to be free of the burdensome notion “I am helping another,” to be free of this terribly grand picture of self.

Playing Solo

If it isn’t obvious already (from the previous posts), I am by myself these days, a lot.

The husband is currently traveling for work. I have no children or pets, plus my social life is virtually non-existent, so this means that I spend a good chunk of time in my own company (apart from the time I spend at work with my delightful colleagues). I have also begun to go out for dinner, to movies, on hikes, etc. as a solo person.

All of this is new to me.

I hope this isn’t coming across as pathetic. Indian women are so geared to be in a relationship with someone (parents, husband, children) that this might feel like a rather unconventional picture. Actually, I don’t think it is that unconventional. The truth is that there are many girls like me in other cities, here and in India, living on their own, possibly liking it too.

I have been married for 13+ years, and we, my husband and I, have rarely been apart. However, starting last year, things have been somewhat different. He travels for 3-4 weeks at a stretch, and I am left to my own devices. As I recently discovered, I have quite the fondness for solo time; some days I wonder if I am turning into a semi-recluse of sorts?

But it isn’t always easy-breezy.

There are some evenings when I am at a loss. Something within tells me, ok, now read a book. But I just finished reading a book some time ago. What about watching a film? Okay… not feeling like it. Go out for a walk? Surf the Internet?

There is an urge within to keep moving, one activity to another, stay busy. Keep going, don’t stop until it’s bedtime.

“Keep yourself occupied, so you don’t have time for unnecessary thoughts.” This is some ancient wisdom that I have heard repeated again and again, ad nauseam. Let me be the first one to call BS on this bit of wisdom.

You can run yourself down in this tremendously silly attempt to be busy and occupied. However, your mind is smarter than that. Sure, your body will be exhausted, and you will drop dead/asleep on your feet. But the litany in your mind isn’t going to shut down, if that’s what you are trying to achieve. It is a better idea to be still, sit silent, think about what you are thinking.

“Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.” — Susan Ertz

Sometimes, I wonder if life is preparing me for solitude/loneliness in the future. I am certainly getting good practice these days.

This situation can go forward in multiple ways. Like countless others (women and men) who face up to their alone situation, accept it completely, stop searching for things and people and activities to fill their “isolation.” Or spend the time and energies searching. Or remain somewhere in between.

Some days, I feel dejected, as I think about empty promises of friendship, none delivered. I feel angry at my bravado, thinking that I could be independent and free, on my own. I feel pride/resignation, as I contemplate my own mind that has consistently refused to buy into popular rhythms and patterns.

And then I think, you just chose all of it, baby.