I enjoyed reading what I wrote a whole year ago on the same topic. While my views may not have changed much since then, and I may still oscillate between being a clear-eyed pragmatist to a die-hard romantic, I know that I understand myself better now. I understand people better. I definitely understand the opposite gender better.
I now understand that among my weaknesses is that I care too much. I invest myself – my time, energy and emotions in the people in my life. I pay attention to minute details. I hold on to memories and people tightly. It may sound funny or it may sound sweet depending on who you are, but all of this comes with a consequent problem – I haven’t been able to swallow the natural crests and troughs of relationships with people gracefully. I have been close to people in the past, and I am close to people now. But people have gone cold on me. I found out that this wasn’t because of anything that I did. Or it wasn’t because I wronged them. They just didn’t need me anymore for their happiness. They moved on. Slowly but surely, and without any formal notice.
This is still a fear stashed at the back of my mind. Would the people I love move on to happy new lives without me? Would they stop needing me? Would I get replaced in their lives? Would they tell me or just move away without explanation?
It’s more than likely of course, that this will happen. Even though this makes me vulnerable to get hurt again, I wouldn’t change myself. Because those people who move away or will move away wanted something shallow with me, which wasn’t, and still isn’t what I set myself up for. Only those people who need me in their lives would have me in theirs, as long as they need me.
Loving someone – anyone, is challenging. The more the relationship deepens, the veneer of perfection wears away, and we discover more of the flaws – both in others and in ourselves. This makes it risky. It scares people. It makes people vulnerable to being hurt. And deserted. And wronged. They may be taken for granted. People treat those closest to them shabbily in sharp contrast to their politeness and niceness with rank outsiders who don’t mean anything to them. As such, people chronically trade such challenging, deep relations for these easy shallow ones’. I on the other hand, would sacrifice many of these shallow relationships for a chance to establish such deep ones’, even if much fewer in number.
“Solitude is fine but you need someone to tell that solitude is fine.” ( de Balzac)
A crowded room with friends and acquaintances. There is a good chance that one could be more lonely here than when alone. And lonely is not the same as being alone.
The difference, as I look at it, is trust.
There are always people around us, whether we move to a new place or whether we are with the same set of people and in the same place all our lives.
But trust makes all the difference. Leaving aside the small talk, the pleasantries, sports, weather, and politics, do you trust the people around you – do you trust anyone around you – to open up, to talk freely and frankly?
Opening up is giving a piece of yourself to someone. It is making yourself vulnerable to potential negative reactions, to exploitation, negative judgement, anger or annoyance, to estrangement and alienation. It has risks.
Do you trust someone to keep your honor in society and privacy intact? To give you their honest and sincere advice? To maintain a deserved confidentiality? To not judge you negatively no matter what you share? To push you in the good and discourage you from the bad? To not snap and break ties, no matter what you share with them?
Is this trust mutual?
Look around you, and build trust with people. You would naturally grow to trust some more than others. Loneliness goes away as you start trusting and mutually sharing with others. And being there for each other.
But stay on guard – even the strongest and deepest of trusts can and have been broken, and hearts have been devastated.
Human beings were made to be fallible. We falter and fall.
Complete and comprehensive, unbreakable trust can only be in God – only God is perfect, infallible and absolutely trustworthy. He is close to you, closer to you than your jugular vein. Develop a relationship with Him – directly with Him. Bring Him into your life, be honest with Him and open up to Him. Pray to Him. Ask Him for guidance. Trust Him to make a path for you, to bring peace into your life, to be there for you, in times of happiness and difficulty. To have a known or unknown reason and benefit in any situation He puts you in, when you trust Him. that He is looking out for you.
But before you begin to trust anyone, there is something that you need to work on.
An additional candle was unlit, and another year blew away from my life. I was lucky to have another birthday. A couple of thoughts were swirling in my head since then.
First, the charm that there was in remembering people and their birthdays isn’t the same anymore. When I was small, I used to wait excitedly for mail – for one particular mail – on my birthday. It was an annual birthday greeting card from a cousin. The one year when I was most anxious for it, I waited the entire day but it never came. I was dejected. “Did she forget? Did she not care anymore? Maybe we’re all too grown up for this now?”
These questions do not come up now, and there is no anticipation and elation about others remembering to wish on a birthday, because they would be notified about it through Facebook, Google and the like without effort. I was wished by around a hundred and twenty people this way. I was certainly happy and appreciative of the wishes even if most of them were triggered by online notifications. I realize that as much as I would like to be the closest one to every other person I know, it does not and cannot happen. It would be silly to expect the same intimacy from everyone. In any case, it would be foolhardy to consider birthday wishes as a measure of that closeness, and more so to expect someone like the random person I met at a party the day before, to remember my birthday without automatic reminders.
I received phone or audio calls to wish me at three different mid-nights, over six different time-zones and over two days. My family members were among the first to wish me this time, without needing online reminders. I was especially touched by a friend’s gesture to phone me even while traveling internationally, from a foreign airport.
I would be upset if the people I meet on my birthday forgot to wish me before we part ways, and so, as in previous years, I did not take that risk. It is scary to consider consider the possibility of them not remembering or not caring about it. I reminded them myself without waiting to see if they would need it. I was pleased of course, when my fears were unfounded with a younger friend who had actually planned a surprise party later that day.
The second thing I couldn’t help but notice was how much my friends’ circle had changed over the past year. At both parties I had this time – there was not a single person from the past birthday bashes I had. I had grown increasingly involved with the MSA on campus; I had close relationships with the people on it, and they formed the bulk of my friends now – some closer than others.
However, most of my peers were out of college and had moved on with their lives with only a couple of them taking graduate classes. Most others in the MSA were simply too young for me to relate to closely, except for a few in their senior year and an older friend who still had time to finish. This had pushed me more and more towards a bunch of fellow graduate Muslim students in other departments that I was not always close with, even though I had known them for long. Slowly but surely, we grew closer and formed a very well-knit group that got together multiple times a week. I felt loved and wanted here. I was coddled and pampered; I was allowed to be silly and talkative – perhaps by a combination of being immature and younger than the rest of the group by some margin. We were now like family, and I thanked God for having these people in my life.
The day ended on a slightly sour note when a childhood friend now in the Philippines failed to wish me; I couldn’t reach him either. This was the first time in about eleven years that we hadn’t spoken on this day.
Time flew by between my birthdays sooner than I realized, and brought changes greater than I noticed along the way. Time is slipping away now and there is obviously little anyone can do about it than to make the best use of it. I wonder how my circle of friends changes by next year. But if there is a lesson I have learned, it is to value, thank and care for the people I have in my life.
Desi (“They-see”; Indian/Pakistani origin ) marriages are a complicated thing, but the process is about to be more streamlined than ever. Now you know which path you are headed towards if you can find your place in the flow chart below.