A couple of weeks ago, a friend said to me that they had been struggling to be themselves for many months. It has stuck with me because, in more than one way, it has also been the battle I’ve been waging in my own life. I have had to change many things, but the fight to stay centred to my core has been very real and very alone. I don’t want to make this a sweeping statement about our collective humanity because it is becoming increasingly clear to me that I can only tell my story and that’s all I should do.
The night we landed in San Francisco, I saw a shooting star on our way to the hotel. In the following week, I had a shooting star engraved on my bracelet as a reminder of the magic of the universe that we sometimes come to witness in time. Now, I wear an amulet given to me by BB that has its origins in a Goddess from ancient Mesopotamia and ancient Morocco. From time to time, I forget that I used to live a life in which I could willingly take a piece of magic from the sky and place it on my wrist. When I am not consumed I marvel that when I wanted safety, I called upon an ancient Goddess and if she was good enough for women during all these centuries, she is good enough for me.
The first time I heard about the phrase ‘suspension of disbelief’ I was in a writing class somewhere. Or I hope to God, I was. I can’t say really. Memory is the story we tell ourselves about our lives. Wikipedia describes it as ‘the intentional avoidance of critical thinking or logic in examining something unreal or impossible in reality, such as a work of speculative fiction, in order to believe it for the sake of enjoyment.‘ However, when I met BB, I clearly remember seeing it play out in real life. He believed every reassurance I offered, every hope I placed in the palm of his metaphorical hand, and each hope and reassurance came to pass. I was, for lack of a better adjective, stunned. At that point, my faith was fragile, a gossamer curtain startled by a light breeze. I only believed in what I saw with my own two eyes and my own magic eluded me. But I saw BB taking all my small fires, flinging them to the sky, and dazzling the nights. I had never seen someone believe in me so completely. Not even my Maker did so. I’ve always thought that BB’s courage was his suspension of disbelief, and it is a quality I have tried very hard to imbibe in my own life. Years later, how to wholly shed my disbelief is something I am yet to fully learn. I fail all the time like I am wont to. So, in this year, while I have battled very hard to hold on to myself, I have had a lot of internal work to do. I can’t say that I haven’t changed or that I can now suspend my disbelief, but I haven’t stopped trying.
Yet the sky is bluish green and I am reminded of the glues that keep our societies together and the constant war of our wills against the world. Sometimes, when I recount my life incidents or events in conversations with people I’ve newly met, I am always awed and surprised by how rich a life I have had the opportunity to lead. Yes, I have my fair share of regrets and unrealised dreams and there is the proverbial river of sorrow that meanders around the act of existence. But the truth also is that it has been a life well-provided for and well-lived. That in itself is a reassurance. I won’t use the word accomplishment because I no longer subscribe to the viewpoint that life is a race and we all have to achieve the same milestones on our way to death. Our lives are meant to be lived fully, and it is time we suspend the notion that we must mirror each others’ existence and meet generation-approved milestones to feel accomplished.
For many weeks, I found myself needing a lot of reassurance and I wasn’t sure who could provide me some. Earlier, I used to get a lot of reassurance from BB. He used to be the calm to my storm. Now, I am learning to reassure myself after all that has happened. I try to be my own anchor. It is hard, of course, but not for lack of trying. At the start of the pandemic, I used to write that we needed someone to tell us everything was going to be okay. Over this last year, it has become difficult to say so and fully mean it. Uncertainty, they say, is the reason why our brains are in a state of alarm. I concur. The voices in my head are not perfect, but I make a conscious effort to tell myself I will be okay. Do I base this on hope or faith? I have neither and maybe that’s what makes it easy. My belief is not amorphous, it just is. There is no other way to say it.
This reminds me that I didn’t finish the meditation course I was taking. It was like the medicine prescribed by the doctor. I left them after I started feeling better. The biggest takeaway from my meditation course was that we have turned ourselves into a society that cannot relax naturally. If you think about it, that’s pretty horrifying. Relaxation is a natural bodily process and we have collectively made it harder for ourselves to perform a natural function. That clinched it for me. I believe we are not here to alter how nature works. We are here to savour and preserve what is provided to us.
One of my friends sent me a link to a podcast in which Mary Oliver was a guest. If you’ve read her writing, you will know she is the protector of our delicate feelings and a chronicler of the world’s beauty in verse. She puts tiny white flowers in the messy braid of our sorrows. In her podcast, she advised writers not to write on the computer. So I jotted down this post by hand in my jade notebook with a pencil I bought on a rainy day in New York. I wrote a few lines as and when I could, and yes, I made tiny little notes on the WordPress app, too. Through it all, I kept thinking of the abuse Mary Oliver faced at the hands of her father and yet, she became the tenderest writer our generation has known. I wonder how that happens. How can one take violence and turn it into a thing of softness and beauty? I wonder how much courage that requires. How much grace?
I think about that night in San Francisco a lot these days. I play it over and over in my head. I had never seen a shooting star before in my life. It was cold, I remember. Much colder than I can usually withstand. In the hotel room, there was a lamp on the table across the bed. I had fallen asleep without switching it off because I was dead tired. The yellow light pierced my eyelids and I finally pulled myself out to switch it off. The next morning when I woke up, the sunlight was a suffused purple melting into the sky.