My regrets, be it losing loved ones prematurely or missing something narrowly in academia, seem to be one of two kinds. They are either completely uncontrollable or they seem to be mostly in my hands. But I slot disappointments in neither of these two categories – I seem to associate the word mostly with expectations. Of expectations missed by trusted ones…wittingly.
‘Wittingly’, because I have heard it from at least a few different people that I give my family and my family of friends a long rope. I would like to believe that I put in sincere efforts in order for people to feel loved, cared for and secure. I try to channel my father in this respect – he may not always remember people’s birthdays or anniversaries. But his approach to every relationship is completely customized. He would focus on the other person’s likes, needs, desires and leave no stone unturned in ensuring that they feel the warmth and security afforded by his affection. In conversation, he would effortlessly slip in things about the other person’s childhood or remember something from a few decades prior that rarely found a place in anyone else’s memory cells. Yet by sharing the scent of a memory, he would envelop the person in a fleeting, intangible yet wondrous mist of nostalgia. If you were ever the recipient of that affection, you would know how special and privileged that feeling was.
To be regarded as a chip off the old block is an abiding desire of mine. But I know that my own foundation has been rickety, not rock solid until recently. Let’s examine the cracks in the chip.
I did have expectations of reciprocity.
I did want to feel that I was relevant.
I refused to accept that as a person’s circle expanded, that I may be pushed to the periphery.
I was proud…strike that…I was arrogant about the fact that I had painstakingly walked the extra miles out of my own volition.
Let me pause. And let the wiser, more mature part of my brain take over.
So yes, I do have expectations of reciprocity. But that is okay because I am aware of, respect and even cherish different forms of expression, even the tacit ones. I’d rather expect reasonable reciprocity rather than try to act selfless and be resentful.
I have a need to feel relevant. But I know that it is a vibe. It is either there or it is not. Relevance can be on shaky ground when people’s interests evolve over time. But when the foundation of a relationship is genuine respect and regard (even if unstated) for the other person, their evolving areas of interest become automatically relevant to oneself. Even when there is an innate lack of curiosity, to have some focus on and acknowledgement of the other’s persons likes is a surefire way of completing your half of the relevance piece. If the other half of the piece is empty, the dissonance is bound to be pronounced.
Yes, I refuse to accept a place in the periphery but I know that I am unaccepting of only those changes where I don’t see the beautiful yet ineffable core of a person anymore. When that core is visible, the periphery seems a splendid vantage point to view the other person’s new world from. When the core is invisible, the sight of the other person can get frustratingly hazy.
And finally, yes, I have a healthy dose of arrogance about my convictions. But over time, I believe that a small acknowledgement of extra miles that I put in is what makes me put in those huge extra steps. As some wise old soul said, acknowledgement is the first decisive step in the path of empathy.
For better or for worse, I have, in the recent past, distanced myself emotionally from the ones that have disappointed me. As allusive as this write-up may be, it is a lament resulting from long ropes that got so lengthy that the other person is no longer visible to the naked eye. As direct but courteous requests for continued relevance fell on deaf ears, I have had to mute my own internal wails that were, beyond a point, deafening. For now, Mr. Disappointment is being kept at bay. But not before I came face-to-face with him. Love him or hate him, you can’t ignore the fact that he is a fantastic teacher!