Missing from my world was that voice I had not heard in a while. In the chaos of the last five years, I did not notice that it had gone missing. Since it is not given to raising itself above others it can’t be heard unless you keep an ear open for it. In the past five years, I had forgotten to do that.
It was only when I finally ran out of things to say to everyone and had no more energy left to hear anything from anyone that I could hear clearly, in the quiet, what I had been missing all the while. In its gentle assertiveness was a kindness that I’ve almost always spared for others but I seldom spare any for myself.
As the season of discontent gnawed its way through the foggy mornings and swept itself over into a scorching summer, the words I have always valued – trust, love, honesty and many others – withered away. They were mere representations of what I was to have felt and known, but I could no longer connect to.
In this collapse of the inner language took root the detachment with the outer. I could say and know what a word or a feeling meant, but felt no connection to it with respect to another. Considering that the same used to see me charging at various windmills earlier, this newfound inertness was not comfortable.
It defined me. That was me. With that no longer there, then what is me?
By now discomfort was a constant companion. I wanted to run, but there was no point in running if I had to return to the battlefield again. By now honor, bravery, courage were things that meant little. I wanted out, but where and what was out?
There was no magic wand to wave, to fix a problem internal was not something that anything external could manage to do. I tried different routines in an attempt to let habit make up for a lack of an innate knowledge.
Then that too failed. I could convince myself to be anything for two weeks and be the exact opposite in the subsequent weeks. There was as much connection to any of these states of being as there was to a handrail. It helps you get to places in a predictable manner. And it does only that.
Meanwhile, the restlessness took on dimensions that were alarming. I wondered if I were to be stripped of everything – body, soul and whatnot – what you would possibly find at the core would be this constantly buzzing, trembling lump that would never settle down.
It did not escape my mind that none of this, incidentally, was new. These were known things I had grown used to over thirty-years, so why the undue alarm? The answer was not difficult: trust is tough to gain and easy to lose – it becomes a lot more unforgiving when you don’t trust yourself any longer.
I wondered, why was it that a year ago, when circumstances were considerably tougher, I was on a much more even keel? There was unrest, there were problems, but I was not disheartened then. I was more accepting, there was no turning my back on everything. I had no answers.
Even if I had any, I would not trust them one bit. For all you know, I would just be telling myself things that I wanted to know and hear. Lacking an inner language, it is only logical that things should happen that way.
Since my ability to participate or be involved much in anything personal took a nosedive, withdrawal came automatically. I probably did not know much at that point, but still knew that one thing I could not willingly do was to live a lie. I heard questions, but I had no answers.
I really did not have much to say and I don’t think it was anyone’s fault.
It was eerily quiet and it is not the kind of quiet you can imagine. If I was not scared enough already, this made it even worse. It felt much like an endless tightrope walk.
In the middle of all of this I did not realize initially that I was hearing the voice again. In fact, when it first became clear to me, I was more than a bit bothered. Seriously, you can’t have a two-sided conversation where there is only one person involved. We don’t do things like that, do we?
Thankfully, it was all rather mundane. There was no significant attempt at trying to solve life’s rubric cube. After the token mention of disappointments, the repetitiveness started to wear me out. It was a case of shut up or get out and with the withdrawal, it was easy to get out here too.
I don’t remember why the question ‘what do you want to do’ was asked in one of those conversations. What I do remember is that I could not give an answer that did not depend on a relative measure of worth and value as its cornerstone. Oh, well.
We started with the basics. Let us at least not try and endlessly make the same loop of errors again. No more conversations about the whys and wherefores. Just stop, if I cared enough.
‘What do you want to do’ can be the easiest or the toughest question to answer. It comes bundled with a mix of your own expectations and the expectations of others.
For me it is harder because of a lifelong addiction to guilt – for everything and anything – which is an absurd way of finding my own importance and place in life. Every day is now an experience of unravelling another layer into which this addiction has taken hold.
It alters my perspective, skews my value system and puts me permanently in a state of trying to make up for the flaws and unfairness of a million things in the world. It is like a blank cheque, you can put any number to it and I’ll still honour it out of my own account.
Tallied into neat columns, I could easily point out what is yours and what is that of others we were dealing with, but what is mine was a column I almost had little to put into. As a con artist, this is a spectacular achievement, as a human being, this is horrific disaster.
Logic is as perfect or as flawed as you want to make it. At this point I have little idea which of the two does my interpretation fall into. I don’t know if I will ever know that for sure. But for now I am trying to form sentences again and not lean on other’s meaning as I do that.
In all of this I’ve wondered – if what I really am is something that is wholly different from what you’ve portrayed yourself to everyone around you? After a minute’s worth of pondering I find myself giving up the answer. There is no real answer to that. We all see what we want or what we are conditioned to see.
As I have aged, being in constant conflict with surroundings or the world is something that I’ve grown increasingly tired of. Once the anger-enjoyment-obnoxious cycle wears out, all that I want and seek is to be able to live most days without the soul scraping along barbed wires on all sides.
And that is simply not possible unless I start doing things I really want to do, than what I think I should be doing as a reflection of the expectations of others or as a byproduct of the lifelong addiction to guilt.
And that is a long long journey of learning wherein I still do not know what the alphabets are. Someday, hopefully, I will learn that language, put together words, sentences and write a more realistic story which I can be at peace with.