Recently someone remembered me as that person with a strong aversion to people I have changed my mind about. It had obviously irked said person enough to remember me as someone who inexplicably rejects and moves on from people without so much as a thought.
I was taken aback when I heard this. The thing is, the description is not entirely inaccurate, but it isn’t completely true either. And even though better sense has prevailed, I haven’t been able to shake off the judgement. Perhaps it bothered me, and continues to bother me to some extent, because I realise fully why it might seem that way to onlookers who take the convenient position of watching my life from a distance and who get this sort of second-hand information passed on by other onlookers.
From the outside, if does really seem like I run through friendship like seasonal wardrobe changes, I’m sure. I have built and broken far too many friendships in the three decades I’ve lived, with most of the action in this department being concentrated in the last decade. And here’s the thing, I’m finally in a place where I am at peace with that. After years of longing for forever friendship, I’m more in acceptance of the idea that for some of us, that is not a realistic goal. And the more I accept the very transient nature of relationships in my life, the routine coming and going of people, the gradual building of some friendships and the natural fading away of others, the more it seems to make sense, and the less angst it causes me.
So in that sense, it is a bit like wardrobe changes with seasonal spring cleaning and doing away with that which no longer fits or interests me, while keeping some ever-green favourites that will never go out of style, and having that stash of items in the periphery towards which I have temporary difficult feelings, but that I hang on to for nostalgia’s sake or in eternal hope that we will fit again. Someday.
This no longer feels like a bad way to live. It works for me. However, there’s no denying that the uneasiness of this judgement bites me. And nothing makes it bite harder than a visit to Goa, because the judgement was based on the state of my relationships in the time before I left Goa.
I moved cities, yes, but much before that happened I had moved on from many people in my life here. But today, over a delightful few hours spent with C — fellow freelance writer and dear friend from Panjim — I realised that every time the uneasiness about being judged for this surfaces, I give away a little bit of my power. I dim a little bit of the light that is my lived experience and my agency — both which shined bright in guiding me through these choices.
Every time that I am affected by how easily I have been branded, I am weighed down by that opinion that is quite honestly only a half-truth. But most of all, hanging out with C and having the delightful time that we did made me realise that every time that I feel bad about this judgement and I wallow about being misunderstood for walking away from some relationships, I undermine all those relationships that I have allowed to remain. I lose track of those that I actively chose to nurture and grow. I fade out the light and love of those that I continue to keep thriving in my life, even 700 kilometres away.
Meeting C who I have such a soft spot for, had me overjoyed and so content. And I realised its a friendship that has had none of the typical markers. We barely hung out, we’ve met a handful of times in real life, but we’ve connected over so much more. And every time that we meet, we seem to have so much to talk about. It’s one of the few connections that has endure even after I moved on, and she is one of the handful of people I feel like connecting when I come back. We’re frequently sharing things of mutual interest over email, catching each other up briefly on where life and work is, sharing writing contacts and passing assignments on to each other. And I always feel a genuine warmth without the song and dance of it.
Most times I tell myself I don’t care what people think, but today, I acknowledged that the reason being judged in this instance bothered me is because it hurt to be judged and misunderstood. I have not done a very good job of dealing with that hurt. And so every time it surfaces, it takes me right back to that half-truth, misinformed judgement. It takes me back and it makes me focus on the lack. The lack of empathy, the lack of understanding, the lack of people in my life at that time, and the lack of my ability to deal with it then. But that was then, and I have come a long way since. But in choosing to focus on the then, I discount the abundance of all these little connections that I have now. Many of which have flourished in the time after I moved away. I discount all the relationships that stirred over a few commonalities that only bloomed as time passed, and I discovered friendship beyond the limited definition I had back then. I think of people like C, and a couple other “work friends” who I am in touch with virtually, and how despite how little we hung out when I lived here, are always quick to jump at any opportunity I present for us to catch up. I am overwhelmed at how my relationship with D and K has turned into so much more than mere friendship. I think about B and R who keep checking in on me to see if I’ve had enough of Bangalore and if I’m returning any time soon. There’s R and S and J who are some of my fondest friends from Goa, and how our relationship has gone so far beyond the time we spent together here. And there is A who I know I can always turn to and lean on, in times of need. I think of P in Finland (Hi, P!) and how we catch up over infrequent but frantic bouts of messages about things we feel deeply about. And all I feel is a sense of abundance.
So, I came away wondering why it takes so little to shrink that sense of settledness and abundance I know I carry within me. What is it about hurt that makes everything that’s otherwise solid, so fragile? And what do I need to do to make it go away?
Two years ago: Day 306: Diwali 2016