2017 has been a fantastic year. It has also been quite mystifying. Let’s rewind to a conversation that I had on Jan 1 with my dear friend as I was bidding goodbye to him. I had had a memorable reunion with my group of friends. My wife and child had been unable to join me since we had other family visiting our place. As my friend and I hugged, he noticed that I was feeling downbeat. It had been three years since I had met the guys and the thought of another wait was making me feel heavier than my weight suggested. He said to me, “I know you are feeling low. But remember that your family is waiting to receive you back home.”
In response, I smiled and said, “This may sound simplistic, even a little sappy. But that’s a different part of the heart!” Almost a year has passed by. And I still think of that line that I uttered. What I didn’t realize on that day was that this whirlwind of emotions was not a standalone entity; rather, it was an usher to a deeper whirlpool that was sucking me in. Being a single child was something that I had dismissed as a mere fact of life. Now it was starting to be a sentiment. So, I gave it its rightful space in my mind, not pretending to be oblivious to its existence. By letting it simmer for a while, I began to formulate some thoughts around it. After all, I had to learn to let thoughts float as opposed to letting them sink me.
The first stream of thoughts that I experienced was in a pool of wistfulness. My friends are a wonderful set of people- warm, funny and generous. But as distances, familial priorities, work commitments all vie for space, it is unreasonable, futile even, on my part to dwell on times when distances were manageable and the feeling of being an integral part of a friend’s life was a definite charge for me to lead my own life. The feeling that every dear friend is just a call or a whatsapp message away is a reassuring one. But as they say, sometimes what is near might seem quite afar. When my 49-year-old Aunt passed away without much warning, my friends rallied around me beautifully. It is lovely to have someone chosen by you, not related by blood, be a core part of your life. It is yet another thing to be a part of someone else’s life. And with their constantly evolving set of priorities and responsibilities, I see it almost as my own duty to be gracefully accepting of being more on the periphery of a loved one’s expanded circle. But as a result, that “part of the heart” feels emptier, yet paradoxically heavier.
The parallel torrent of emotions that floods my mind is around the passing away of my Aunt in October 2016. A well-wisher in whom I confided recently about the spate of these new feelings asked me to think in a more focused manner about the death of my Aunt and its effects on me. I think about my Aunt a lot but not in this context. Following my well-wisher’s advice, I introspected a little more and realized that even though I had never quite taken my Aunt for granted, her presence in my life had been more akin to the sky than a rainbow. It was so constant, so predictable, so unassuming that I hadn’t fully appreciated its value while it lasted. The heavens had come crashing down last October and had pierced through yet another “part of the heart.” But the fact that my Aunt had been a motherly figure, a sister, a friend all rolled into one meant that her absence was now going to make me swim alone in the sea of memories and the oceanic legacy that she has left behind.
Alas, there is a nuanced yet discernible difference between feeling ‘alone’ and feeling ‘lonely.’ I tell myself that to experience fleeting, disquieting thoughts might be okay as long as I learn to deal with them. Acceptance and empathy are trustworthy lifeguards. And above all, I tell myself that the very reason I am able to stay afloat is due to the buoyancy gifted by my loved ones.