Sometimes you are the better half, and then you are the whole pie, and then you feel like you are missing THE better half, but the missing is all-sweet, nothing sad or bitter about any of it, and parting/meeting is a bit like waves rushing to the shore, then pulling away. We meet in silence and we meet in celebration, we inch ever so close, even closer… and yet we are universes apart. Love is never complete because there are two halves to the pie. And yet it feels that I am the dreamer who dreamed him up. And he is pure camphor, leaving no traces behind. And it is I who dreamed him up, swallowed him whole, and all his traces are in me alone.
Watching this episode of #blackAF, I was floored by the hip coolness of this family. Everyone is witty and smart (except Dad), and they all look stylish and beautiful, including the three little boys. And I had that whisper of a thought… Ohh, I wish I was cool and hip and gorgeous like that.
I have heard Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s commentary on the Patanjali Yoga Sutras many times, and one of the terms he uses to explain Asteya (one of the Yamas) is “non-stealing.” Gurudev isn’t one for long, detailed explanations but you can chew on his words for a while… maybe even years. I wondered, what does “non-stealing” mean? Does it include non-covetousness?
I have a sweet friend who’s blessed with a lovely head of hair. Sometimes I would look at that crowning glory, sighing: I wish I had that hair. Then I started to think, am I “stealing?” A lot has been written about cultural appropriation, and the various ways in which the West has stolen from and profited off indigenous peoples and cultures. I understand the idea but I didn’t connect with the passion behind it. Today, as I watched #blackAF, I started to see things clearer.
As we admire something that belongs to another, it is imperative that we keep a watch within. Do we want that thing for ourselves? Are we happy admiring its beauty from a distance, or do we want to make it our own? When does that love turn into lust, and at what point do we seek to possess it? (And that’s how #blackAF made me better understand Asteya and cultural appropriation.)
The lockdown is s-l-o-w-l-y lifting, and I have been feeling strangely untethered. I have a tenuous grip on most matters practical/realistic, and Corona has released me (somewhat) from all/any pretenses of being a “responsible adult,” thinking about the future, et al. I wasn’t much of a planner to begin with, and presently I feel absolved of whatever responsibility I may have taken on (out of guilt, or anything else) to make a plan, think ahead, figure out the future, etc.
I dreamed of a slow life where my schedule was entirely my own, and I wouldn’t be answerable to anyone ― not a boss, a manager, or a supervisor. Well, be careful what you wish for because you rarely know what it entails in its entirety. I’d say, don’t wish for a thing, and you will have no one to blame. Or be prepared for a fullness of experience that will include some (or many) uncomfortable, awkward parts. I enjoyed silence and blank spaces, and now I have them aplenty. And some evenings, they turn vaguely terrifying, ungrounding. And I am happy/relieved that there are only a few hours to go before bed.
For some of us, the lockdown has made lives busier, fuller. For some others, it has magnified the emptiness that peeks out amid events and activities. In pre-Corona times, we had figured out ways to deal with these blank spaces, and now we cannot avoid them any more. Some of us love this lockdown life where you can spend the day wearing comfortable clothing, avoid traffic and long commutes, potter around the house. Some of us would love to go back to pre-Corona times, when life was busy and there were things to do, people to meet, hugs and kisses to share.
I wonder if all that we can take from this surreal phase is that we can only meet Life wherever it chooses to meet us, and we can only meet it EXACTLY as we are. There is no real prep, or any level of action readiness to be better at any of this.
“There is no means of testing which decision is better, because there is no basis for comparison. We live everything as it comes, without warning, like an actor going on cold. And what can life be worth if the first rehearsal for life is life itself? That is why life is always like a sketch. No, “sketch” is not quite a word, because a sketch is an outline of something, the groundwork for a picture, whereas the sketch that is our life is a sketch for nothing, an outline with no picture.”
I have often heard one of two things about myself. That I am brave, and that I am lucky.
Brave, because I have chosen to defy norms and conventions that society typically sets out for women. Lucky, because I have privilege to defy these norms.
(I think that “lucky” negates “brave,” no?)
The first one (“brave”) makes me feel rather sheepish because I don’t think of myself a brave person. A brave person, I think, is someone who is fully aware of obstacles, and is also fully aware of the fear and anxiety within. Yet they choose to do what they do, or what they cannot but do. I wonder if these brave individuals would ever call themselves “brave.” This willingness (or “I cannot but do this”) to face fear in a seemingly hopeless, choice-less manner is what I call “bravery.” You can ask: If there is no choice involved (“I cannot but do this”), why is this person brave? Exactly. They aren’t calling themselves brave; you are. They are simply doing their thing.
I don’t see myself as brave because I DO NOT see any obstacles, ergo, I feel no fear and/or anxiety. People say I am brave because I chose not to have children. (But I didn’t! I just didn’t choose to have children.) People call me brave for defying the societal notion of women as childbearing individuals. (But I didn’t defy anything! Not a single person tried enforcing any such conventions on me. Not my parents, or my parents-in-law, or any one else.) People call me brave for talking about my experiences with street harassment. (But I don’t feel harassed any more, and I have little to no trauma attached to those incidents any more.) People call me brave for speaking about the time I lost touch with myself, floundering in self-hate and misery for months. (But it’s precisely because I regained love and joy that I spoke about it.)
I remember reading about pioneer LGBTQ activists, and marveling at their courage and resilience. Then I wondered, is there even a choice? We do what we do because we are moved to do so in a way that is specific and unique to us. It isn’t a choice, it is utter choicelessness.
Often times I have felt so wedded (or welded) to the moment that I have felt choiceless too. I cannot but go forth in that direction… whether it leads me to my future husband, or a job that makes me feel utterly shitty about myself, or a relationship that is equal parts exciting and disempowering. We look at the outcome to decide: Was that a good/wise/smart move? Ahhh, we will never know. Or perhaps it simply doesn’t matter.