She was anxious to tell her story and I continued my emotional and intellectual availability. I sensed at some deep level that her story might be my story, and perhaps yours as well. She read my articles on ManipalBlog, she said, and it exuded a warmth and understanding that put her at ease. “I knew I could call you,” she asserted, “because you are as human as I am.”
Recently, her life had been a series of crises. “I was beginning to think I knew Ramesh personally,” she wryly laughed, “because anything that could go wrong went wrong.” Her boyfriend had decided he was tired of the conflict, she related, and had “made tracks and not looked back”. Her academic life was also in jeopardy, she confessed, and if she reported sick one more day, she might not be allowed to write the exams. “It’s sheer bad luck,” she contended, “I am just a girl who loves too much and is always taken advantage of.”
However, it helped just to talk. “Let me catch my breath, sir,” she sighed, “you don’t know half of the story yet.” It transpired that her emotional pain was compounded by physical pain and her heartbeat seemed to have accelerated. “The doctor did not quite call me a hypochondriac,” she revealed, “He put me on tranquilizers to calm my nerves, but tablets cannot heal a broken heart. The last time my heart beat like that was when I lost my dad five years ago.”
I identified fully with my new friend’s distress. Like many men and women who have traversed what the meta-physicists described as the “dark night of the soul”, I was also reluctant to accept responsibility for the chaos erupting in my life. After all, it is always easier to blame our insecurities, anxieties and powerlessness on external forces such as the capriciousness of fate or the fickleness of our significant others. This attitude grants us permission to continue our charade as hapless victims and garner a modicum of sympathy. Perhaps this is part of the healing process, for almost without exception, this is our response as we tearfully witness the rituals and buttresses that invested our lives with a semblance of stability and meaning being slowly eroded.
However, as I gently advised my student, sitting on the “pity pot for too long only aggravates the situation”. One has to survive despite the pain, and the universe invariably supplies one with the strength to endure the day until one can genuinely enjoy it. One morning when I woke up the agony had magically disappeared.
I will confess that rebuilding my life after that unsuccessful romantic tryst was not easy. My self-esteem had taken a terrible beating and a reaffirmation of self-love and worth proved essential. Fortunately, at the time, however, I was quietly and courageously evolving to the consciousness that I did not need other people to constantly confirm my existence, just to enhance it. The fact that I had incarnated on this earthly plane affirmed my right to be here.
“There is no me without you,” or “I can’t live if living is without you,” is part of our love-lore steeped in mendacity and irrationality. I know from harsh experience, though, that when one is immersed in hurt, such a myth seems valid, even comforting in a crazy kind of way. As one battle-scarred brother once declared, there are no shortcuts through the anguish and one seeks consolation in “strange and diverse places”.
Sometimes, all we need is someone to listen without judgement or artifice. Over time, I have met some attentive and compassionate listeners and was glad to extend the same privilege to my student in pain. I know instinctively that one day, soon I pray, she will be writing a happy chapter in her life.
The story remains ever old, ever new – time is the great healer. From our endings always emerge new beginnings, and the wisdom and strength gained through suffering is not a poet’s idle whim. It is a vibrant reality that allows the hero or heroine in us to come to the fore.