For the longest time, I held unwavering perceptions of people. They were bound within the confines of the labels anointed – Mom, Dad, Teacher, Elder Sister, or just plain “Adult”. In my head, the parents could do no wrong; they were secure and unblemished on their pedestal where I had placed them. Similar expectations were laid on the other adults in my life. The formula was simple: Adults have the answers. Adults are the solutions.
The term human never really applied to them, until it applied to me. Until there was a world beyond black and white. Until there was a tricky middle ground of subjectivity at the edge of which I was precariously balanced. That is when I started to extend the liberty of making mistakes to myself and my peers. After all, it is probably the most natural thing in the world.
And finally, came a day when I extended the same courtesy to my parents (and the other adults, but obviously the key are my parents). I took them off the pedestal and gave them the freedom to be, and in the process took a weight off my shoulders of trying to view the world as per the lenses I believed I was expected to see.
In that moment, I looked at the person beyond the label and tried to catch a glimpse of their journey and their pains, of their unfulfilled dreams and their doubts. It taught me to forgive, for all the times I felt they should have done something different with me. It also taught me the meaning of unconditional love, of taking in the load of good along with the pinch of “bad”.
The view up from the ground was assuring to say the least, but now at eye level where I have allowed blemishes to touch them, the perspective is now pure and beautiful and familiar.
I used to avoid confrontations – a situation has to become the most precarious jenga formation before I started pondering if I should do anything about it. I would just steadfastly examine the shape of my toenails if the other person is around. I became a flight risk.
But of course, I became a part of the evolutionary cycle and I have started looking at people in the face to start difficult conversations. The elephant in the room becomes smaller and smaller before vanishing completely.
Which really makes me wonder, how many rooms are running out of space for elephants just because of the choice of remaining passive and just brushing the dirt under the carpet lest feathers are ruffled the other way. In families, in groups of friends, in colleagues…. There are always times when the tension is as thick as cheese. But we all bite our tongues, give smiles ranging from constipated to maniacal (depending on how well we can act) and continue talking about the weather. Isn’t it strange how gossip is always welcome as long as it doesn’t concern us? Why is it so uncomfortable talking about topics that touch a sensitive chord?
Why did I make the change? Probably because it helps me sleep better. Why fret over things and how they may unfold when you can take it in your hands? I admit, I have put people at a loss of words because they weren’t expecting me to bring it up? Especially the older generation who are so used to not being questioned! I admit, that makes it a little fun… I am one of those who doesn’t respect elders just because. (C’mon! You can’t get away with age all the time)
And other times… I like being a devil’s advocate. Dialogue is never bad… and with well-timed silences, have lead to masterpiece discussions that have opened my eyes about people and relationships more than anything!
Written for Stream of Consciousness Saturday – an interesting prompt of “book title”. The Elephant Vanishes written by Haruki Murakami is a book of short stories – Highly recommend reading “Sleep” which appeared in the New Yorker. Mind-blowing!
I am thinking of a delicate piece of glass – intrinsic and complex in its design; absolutely beautiful with the rainbow of colours glowing under the sliver of sunlight. I would be so scared to get close and touch it initially. I would want to admire it from a distance. Perhaps… I can reach a point where the glass is so inviting that I muster the courage to take a closer look and even begin holding it.
From trembling fears to a confident grasp, I become more comfortable in picking it up and carrying it with me. I might even try to guard it from prying fingers and jealous eyes before I calm down and let it be free, clean and safe in its own zone.
I don’t want to risk becoming too callous with it though. While I may have overcome my initial apprehension of handling it, I don’t want to get carried away and juggle it with other delicate items on the mantelpiece… Lest it crash and break into a thousand glittering pieces just because I was too careless and neglected to pay close attention. I want to preserve and respect its unique beauty and worth. That way, the glass lasts forever with me without losing its sheen and significance.
And then I look at what I have scribbled above and replace the “glass” with “relationships”… it kind of tells me the same thing about how I should handle them. If only I did well to remember this … the world will be a great place to live!
I love a routine that keeps changing – an oxymoron, yes. There is certain stuff I need to do in a particular sequence and then there are things where I regularly shake things up. Food, exercise, music and books, the set-up of my room, places and faces around are just some examples.
I think I have mentioned I love running. But I tire of the treadmill. So I hunted for other options for a change of pace and path. Now there is a running track close to my place that I have been haunting for two years now. To empty my mind, I unknowingly started making observations and filed them to memory during my runs.
And I saw the beauty routine brings. I remember faces and the company they keep. I have been an unintended witness to the transitions that they have been through. A lady who used to get a stroller for her baby now holds her hand as they walk together. Those tiny feet used to be encased in booties and now carry an exuberant talkative munchkin. I have seen the woman become a little soft around the edges and smile secretly at the antics of her daughter. She is restrained when an older lady accompanies her – perhaps her mother-in-law?
I also see a man with a big handlebar mustache who has been a regular around the track. He has changed too! About two years back, he was morbidly obese and could only walk a few steps before stopping. And now his strides are brisk, considerable pounds lighter. The only thing not changed is his set determined expression. He does not look up and nod at people unless he is at rounding a corner. He is one hundred percent focused on his walk.
Then there is a set of cute grandparents. Walking stick in each hand, a grocery bag strung over one shoulder at times – they stick to one round. No more. No less. There is a group of people they frequently run into. Grandpa is the one with the booming voice and Grandma has a gentle hum to her laugh. They look so sorted! And they always smile at me whenever I happen to pass by, calling out a “saavkash beta” (Take care child!) when I trip – which happens a lot!
Who knew I was a closeted stalker people-watcher?? Makes me wonder what guest appearances I may have made for other people, slipping in and out with no set days. What they might have seen on my face over the last two years?
Tell me a story about your observations. About those strangers who are so familiar for a few moments.
Whoever said “what goes around, comes around” is a big fat liar. And I am a bigger fatter fool to actually believe in it and live by that philosophy.
Some days go swimmingly with smiles and laughs and good spirits being exchanged. You like the people around you, there is some great bonding and then splat and bam! There is that one mango which decides to ruin it for everyone and the ideal first target is the girl who is nice. That’s me – the girl and not the mango. The mango is a reference to those people who I wish I could beat to a pulp instead of having to smile at.
I am not a door mat – that might be pushing it, but I am someone who needs to learn how to say no more frequently than I actually do. I like being nice to people even though my over-active imagination loves to take a spin in the woods and commit some brutal assassinations (I am great with killing scenarios if you need help). But yes, I am all talk. When it comes down to action I am a curled-up fluffy mouse who will probably try to accommodate your request even if it means trouble for myself.
Yes, that is the word I was searching for. I am accommodating and nice and it isn’t always nice. There have been countless incidents in the past ten years where I am fully aware that I am being taken for a ride or “exploited”. And I go along. I spend hours and days getting work done for other people while they enjoy and go shopping! I realize it but swallow those lumps building on my throat and keep doing. There are good reasons for it too at times – the recent one (and the same one that led to this rant) had a third guy who really needed help. It was just too bad the person actually responsible for him decided to sleep and let me do it – because he knows I will. Can I get any sadder than this?
And the rare moments I take off my halo and snap at them, they have the cheek to pass comments on how I should be more helpful – “jokingly” of course. A hundred “yes” lie forgotten against that one resounding “no”. The other nice people ask me to calm down and let it go. And I do… Because I cannot do anything else now. Can I?
So where is the justice? How can so many people free-ride and get away with so little trouble while idiots like me are left picking up their shit and running out of soap?
No more Miss Nice Girl. Time to smarten up, smirk and say no. Even though I know this conviction is going to last only for the next 18 minutes. But hey! Last time it lasted for 11 minutes so there is marked improvement!
Apologies for this haphazard write… Had to vent it out. Which end do you fall on? Or are you one of those lucky balanced ones?