It is quite a long journey when you travel from a place within you where everything is clear, definite and absolutely right, to descend into craziness of a kind where guilt and regret are your constant companions in a seemingly endless journey, to eventually reach a point where you start feeling somewhat OK with yourself and the world around you. That is my story. It is not exactly new, as I have written about the same recently, albeit coloured in the usual flowery language. I am writing this, kind of non-flowery version, as a promise I have made to myself that I’ll try my best to keep it simple the best I can.
I have always been someone who has been curious about the inner workings of the self. But, as an adolescent (quite a troubled one at that), much of my curiosity was projected outward, with a great deal of interest in attempting to figure out how another person worked. Looking back, after so many years now, it probably should have been a big loud red warning sign. I guess the running had become a mainstay of who I was by then. Unfortunately, there support system did not manage to catch any of this and being a rebellious, troublesome child, any such aspect of my behaviour would have been eclipsed by the trouble I was creating otherwise.
Time and circumstances did give me a second chance that few people get in life. I moved to a new city, made new friends, got time to examine my problems and I was fairly convinced that I had dealt with them all and was quite sorted out by then. But even as early as that, there was an underlying theme of ill-defined boundaries to my close relationships. Vague boundaries set vague expectations that are not absolute. And since they are so ill-defined, it always allows for an escape hatch should you want to get really close, yet keep a distance.
It was a theme that would become the common thread that would sew together the fabric of all my close relationships for a long time to come. Through all of this I was very certain of my own self, as the loyal, ever-present, self-sacrificing close friend who would always be there for you. By then, life was a dance that moved only to a music that played in my own mind and yet there was an ever present aftertaste of being misunderstood, let down and disappointed by the same close ones all the time. And I would be the last one to say it was not exciting.
Everyone needs validation and appreciation. It will be strange for anyone to say they don’t need either or both of those. But when those two things are grabbed at, than given freely; when it is indirect or coaxed or cajoled out of someone, it becomes one of the unhealthiest kind of relationships that can ever exist. Over time, one way or the other, almost all of my close relationships became exactly just that. But, unknowingly, there was also a certain high that comes with living life that way, always on the edge.
A post-factum analysis could make the very zen-like case that since things are never defined so clearly you only have, for certain, what you share with that person at that time. But, I know better that there was little zen in my life at that point and the only realistic case was the most harmful form of self-protection, which is to wall everyone off from really touching you where you are really emotionally vulnerable. All that deception went on for close to ten-years and life was, through those years, a trail of broken relationships. None of which, of course, was my fault. Well, maybe a bit of it was, but I had my justifications ready, but most of it was not and it suited me well to think that way.
It was not to say that all of this was entirely of my own making. But the fact is that when you operate from such a point of view, you will seek out people who will play the other half well or people who will enable you to play your part well. The narrative that takes hold in your mind also takes hold of the relationships around you and manages to hide that fact from you. You always manage to find people who won’t show up when it matters, people who always let you down when it matters and somehow, even after the best of your intentions, everything becomes a mess in the end, all the while ignoring how it was you yourself who pushed matters to that end.
To not torture that point anymore, it is enough to say that things came to head in 2009. To be fair, there were other ‘to a head’ points before, but none of them had as profound an impact on me and people who were around me as the 2009 episode did. Looking back, it is easy to see it as a classic meltdown. I had left my regular job then and was trying to set up a business on my own. In terms of timing, it was perfect. As time away from the regular working environment means you get a lot of time to stew within yourself. The storm that was already precipitating was provided the catalyst it really didn’t need. The inevitable happened.
The meltdown was horrific. It was triggered by a single disappointment, but it carried within it an entire lifetime’s worth of disappointments I’d buried away and told myself that it did not exist anymore. The interesting part was that I had pushed circumstances to the point where the disappointment was going to be inevitable. It is never good to play both sides in any game and when it is your own life you’re talking about, it is a terrible thing to do. In the fury that ensued I set out to destroy every relationship that I held close and at least for a short period of time I did succeed.
There are numerous interpretations possible of what I did and why I did it all. Maybe all of them would explain what happened, maybe some would. The common thread, though, was that I was a terrible human being at that point in my life, harming, instead of caring, deeply for the same people that I claimed to have cared so much about. The bag of contradictions that I was carrying finally split at the seams and the picture of me that I saw in the mirror was someone I had never seen before in my life. The only certain thing was that it could not have been anyone else. It was me and it represented pretty much every single thing that I disliked in others.
Thankfully, I have always had this innate sense to survive, every time, even when it felt like there was nothing to survive for. When you hate the sight of yourself as much as I did at that time, you need find every ounce of willingness to keep going within you. I had only two options before me at that time. It was either to go deeper into this really unpleasant truth called me, or I could go deeper into the delusional narrative I had built up about myself.
Even then, I was not willing to give up my delusions easily. Initially, I told myself I’m going to look at the other self just to make a point that everyone else is terribly wrong and I will prove it. I was doing it as a favour to everyone, to even show how generous I am to accommodate their crazy theories. Strangely, the more I worked with it, the less sense what I said and what I actually did made. Eventually, the realization dawned that even as unpalatable as the truth looked, I had little desire to go willingly even further down the path of delusion. The only thing I was left with by then, my pride, would not allow that.
In a sense, I was saved by my own vanity. Whatever it was, I am grateful for that.
It has been a slow long crawl back from that point. I wish the story from that point is one of spring, bright colours, sunshine and a perfect picture of joy. To put it very simply, it was a major struggle, often with no end in sight. It was not uncommon to believe that you’d made a tiny bit of progress, taking one step forward, to discover five other problems, which meant you took one forward and took five backward. The work required is not easy and it often demands you to explore areas of your own psyche and memories that are unpleasant.
The turnaround, though, came in the most unpredictable manner. 2013 was one of the hardest years of my life as I poured in everything I had into work and personal life. And yet, at the end of it all, I had nothing to show for either aspect and it was a disaster par compare. The turnaround happened in the little fact that I managed to survive a massive double whammy of disappointments and I did not disintegrate into bits as I was given to doing previously. It was a tough period, but I could, thankfully, look beyond the disappointments and take, a tiny step a time, forward.
Life did not become a picture of serene perfection after that. I can call it best a work in progress, but one where the artist is finally someone who has finally found a sense of happiness within him and his flawed self. Even now there are disappointments and moments of rage. But I don’t feel overwhelmed by it all, nor do I feel that is all there is to my life. I guess, for most people who have managed to read all the way through the 1640 words to this point probably may feel a bit underwhelmed by that revelation, but that’s honestly all there is to it.
But the real reason why I am writing this here is for the odd visitor who may chance upon this and can identify themselves with what’s written here. Long ago, I used to write on another site, more like a coded message in a bottle, hoping that someone would pick up on what I was going on about. This time, there is no code. It is written as simply as I can afford to do without taking liberties with the lives of the people who have gone through all of this with me. For that lone stranger in despair who is reading this, what I’ll say is, do not give up and keep going. If someone, who has wronged pretty much every person who they care for, can make it out of that darkness, there is still a lot of hope left for everyone.
If you want it badly enough and are willing to keep going at it, one day, the tide will turn. The ocean will finally open its arms to you and let you in on your rickety little boat that you think will take you under any moment.
And then you will get to see the sea. The sea and the land.
And then the land from the sea.
It is a whole new beautiful world out there.