I don’t know how yesterday passed. By which I don’t mean that I didn’t live it. There were days that occurred like this during the lockdowns, many such days. I struggled to hitch time onto pegs like schedules, duties, behaviours and conversations. And the struggle would exhaust and depress me into even more days where the struggle intensified, like so many credit card overdue payments spiralling me into a whirlpool of debt. Debt.
In my worst times, I was hit with the life raft which was the realisation that I had lived so many lives in a few years, maybe I was due some rest days? I was an inexperienced caregiver to adults who were unable to cope with their anxieties & pressures. At the same time I was crushed under the weight that falls on any adolescent girl anywhere in the world – of other girls’ microaggressions, of boys’ predations, of society’s moral policing. I was galvanised into action by other people’s orders, their lashing out, their demands, their accusations. I had the energy to. From there I ran right into a demented adulthood with ambition. If I had been a man, I’d have grappled with the linear pressure to stay on one path. But as a woman, I became the rope in a tug-of-war between a brutally competitive corporate world and rigid social roles. Abuse, violence, trolling, threats, failures, ostracisation – all the residues that collected from each new identity I ran to, accumulated inside me. I don’t remember when I started living double, triple, multiple lives but I did. IdeaSmith/Ramya was just the one I was able to shape into a story. But it has been exhausting. And in the leeching away of all things life that the pandemic has been (or has it just pruned us down to our basics?), I found myself realising there was a debt owed somewhere. To me, a me I hadn’t even had time to discover. Who am I without my trauma reactions, my baubles of achievement, my crutches of relationships?
I woke up two nights ago, not knowing why I was awake. No sound had disturbed me, it wasn’t time to wake up. I became aware of a heat flush moving up and down my body, like naughty kids locked inside a house, unable to express their hyper energy any other way. I was drenched in sweat. And then I was sick. I lurched back to bed, very surprised. I hadn’t eaten anything unusual, I wasn’t feeling acidic. For all purposes, I was really normal. Except I was awake at 3 in the morning and sick for no good reason. And without realising it, I was asleep again.
Yesterday, I remember breakfast. And then another meal at an odd hour. And a follow up meal/snack (?) an hour later. Half-remembered feelings that I realised belatedly were from the show I’m watching. Some excitement from the book I’m reading. Someone asking me if I wasn’t well. I don’t remember what I said. Hot. Cold. Itchy. Lethargic.
I now experience such a day, having survived a pandemic. And a lot of other things, including the knowledge of other people going through terrifying experiences that have never touched me. Maybe this was an allergic reaction to something. Maybe it was something I ate. Maybe it’s perimenopause. Maybe the planetary movements orchestrate strange phenomena. Does it matter why? When you’re dealing with something difficult, you don’t waste time wondering why; you focus on getting through it. And maybe that’s not as angsty as it sounds. Discomfort is difficult to deal with and it doesn’t have to be evil or happen for some diabolical reason. Trying to figure out why is just time and energy wasted that could be devoted to getting through it or at least, acclimatizing.
Having slept through most of the day, I find myself awake though not humming with unbridled energy. It feels like umm, 11AM on a usual day (my clock says it’s 2:30AM). So I sit with the world as it is. It’s a bit of the smooth egg brain feeling I had post COVID last year. I found the guilt of incomplete tasks slip away. And I didn’t struggle to hold on to it. Why run to grip things that hurt you? That’s what trying to force-fit life (and indeed days like these are life as much as the routine ones) into normals is.
As I sit with the brief emptiness in the air, old resentments and memories rush in. It is night-time after all and this is when our inner demons come out to play. But, taking courage from saying bye-bye to guilt, I say the same to these traumas. It’s not exactly erasing the misdemeanours of other people. It’s wiping them from my psyche. In the metaphysical state that helps me best navigate my mind, I find the idea of everything being a lesson, comforting. And at this time, I find it’s up to me to decide when to put my lesson books away. Is the lesson over? I don’t know and that’s okay. But for now, enough.
And these situations with other people that carry lessons for me, must carry learning for them too, albeit different ones. But I don’t have to be bound to their learning schedules anymore than I should take over learning their lessons for them. The most jarring aspect of facing down my bullies and abusers for me, has always been the discovery that they are scareder, much more fearful than I have ever been, even in the depths of the abuse they’ve wrecked on me. It’s really hard to watch people face their monstrous behaviour. And maybe that’s why at this point, many of us go back to our abusers, we try to ‘make it okay’ and we do this by betraying ourselves, by taking on their burdens. But these are their lessons to learn and it feels like just as great a betrayal of humanity to rescue them from their lessons as their abuse of us has been. This is a lot of big words but it makes perfect sense to me, in a much more primal sense than words & the mind can shape.
So, as I do the mundane tasks that I haven’t gotten to, during the day, I find myself musing silently. Let your lessons come back to you. As I sweep two days of dust from floors, I find my own resentments prying loose. I wash the dishes and alongside, let go of anger and my demand that life treat me exactly the way I think it treats other people. And as I put away the cleaning implements, I find myself whisper. It is safe for you to learn. This is for me and this is for other people too. You cannot detach one from the other.
There is nothing safe about a concrete wall. All it represents is an angry barrier that is surmountable, that is breachable. A weapon is a constant reminder of fear and mistrust. But safety, that is something that can only come into existence within you. I must feel safe for it to be safe. And it’s not a feeling other people can create inside me (or I can create in someone else). I allow this feeling to take space in me. I let it happen. It is safe. I am safety.
It’s nice that life gives me these spaces to learn, to let my lessons breathe. Goodnight, world.