The Worst Lesson of 2017

Everyday / Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017
Note: The below is not an attempt to malign anyone. It is not about casting anyone in a bad light. I continue to have the deepest affection for DR and that won’t change. This is a simple reflection on what was a traumatic and distressing experience this year and my attempt to derive sense where there is none. I am always grateful to the people who come into my life – good, bad or ugly – they have all been incredible teachers, lending me a hand in understanding this complicated simple mess we call life. There has been no one person who has been only good or only bad or only ugly. No. Each of us carries shades of all colors – we are human, but that word is often used to excuse any act of shame, fear, guilt or anger. No. That is not all that it is to be human. To be human is to be also kind, compassionate, generous, and loving. And in one moment, we can be all of the above.

Many times, many many times, I have wondered how people stay in abusive relationships. I used to think that I would never be in any such relationship, and I haven’t in the way you think – the Universe has been kind. But we also allow others to trample over our self – inflict emotional pain – and that is abuse as well. Why do we do this? Why did I allow this? I am lost, searching for an answer. This below is a chronicle of my follies, pain, and regret – of an indescribable connection of friendship lost forever to the mishaps of ego.

Stage 1 : The stage of wondrous discoveries
Stage 2 : The name-calling and the abuse begins
Stage 3 : The glorious comeback
Stage 4 : The abrupt, anger-filled end

Stage 1

The stage of wondrous discoveries

When I met DR online last year in February, I was entering a new phase in life – I had quit my corporate job and working full-time on Trippin Traveller. I guess she found me or my blog through a common friend, Vishy. DR had emerged from an ugly end to a long marriage and was looking for maybe a friend or two or just someone to while away the sudden loneliness that must creep in when what was is no longer is. I don’t know what it is – but our thoughts connected in a beautiful synchrony, the words flew, and we struck up the beginning of an incredible connection forged on a mutual love for the Universe and books. I had never been able to connect on such a level of conversations with anyone before.

We loved our flowers, DR and I

I was so taken away by the beauty of the friendship that I ignored the warning signs. The first was from DR herself who told me even before we were friends that she had always thrown off people, driven away people, given up on them in the past. I ignored those words because I believe that we all do things in the past that shame us, but the past exists only to remind us of the opportunity to create newer presents.

During this stage when we were getting to know each other, DR vacillated sometimes in her moods, her possessiveness, anxieties, and insecurities. I contributed to some of them because I thought I spotted in the initial wild swings of behavior in her a certain resemblance to a person I knew and parted with on very bad terms in Bosch. Between the fights though, DR was a wonderful friend who filled a certain space left vacant by my soul friend Birdy.

Maybe, I was there in her life to fill up the space left vacant between her past romantic love and the next one. Either way, we were great friends when we were great, and the worst when we weren’t.

Stage 2

The name-calling and the abuse begins

I have always believed that our strongest relationships come only when we have a deep sense of understanding of our self. If you go looking for others to fill holes in your heart, you will only end up with a patched heart that will tear. But if you look at your heart as a vast, wide ocean, receptive to love in all its forms, then we develop relationships that will grow outside of mere need fulfillment. That was what I wanted to share with DR. Except that, DR wasn’t ready to receive it. And I was not wise enough to resist giving such advice. I made the mistake of telling DR that she would abandon any friend if she found the next supply in her need-fulfilment pattern of relationships. Meaning a man for another marriage.

By this time, about August last year, DR had found love all over again, and it must have been a beautiful experience for a person who had suffered much until then. An experience I tainted with those “brutally honest” words of mine. I was called a moron. I was labeled ordinary. “You are nothing, SM. Very ordinary.” Why did I not protest then? And then I was blocked. I didn’t even know you can block people on FB until DR blocked me. The weapons that DR used were always the same – blocking on social media, complete shutting down of communication and the silent treatment.

We tried to patch up again and again. But it wasn’t to be. I was blocked another time and ghosted all over again. DR would disappear in December in a flurry of anger.

Stage 3

The glorious comeback

In March this year, DR came back with a flourish.

There were beautiful words from her – words of remorse, regret, and promises like broken stars of light. I believed them. I forgave her. I hoped she had forgiven me for my mistakes. We started to speak again – on email. Being in Bangalore and Chennai, we wouldn’t have met much anyway. And I don’t speak on the phone, as you all know. This time, this friendship would stay, I thought. I believed in all the promises and forgot the patterns of the past. Or at least, I tried to forget.

But no. When we met for the first time in May after the comeback, there was to be a shadow that would ultimately turn into a destructive tornado. SA, her boyfriend, who I hadn’t even spoken with at that time, stalked and harassed me on the phone and social media. 95 calls and 2 days later, blinded by insecurity and jealousy, he would ask DR to choose either him or this friendship. What an awful odd triangle I was in, I felt!

DR succumbed. I felt for her. What an awful situation to be in! I was told to accept a reduced form of “No e-mail, occasional What’s App, and certainly no meeting” as the new friendship to meet the possessive boyfriend’s demands. I didn’t accept that. Would never have.

DR left at my refusal and anger. And here was the ugliest lesson for me. It was easy to forgive SA – a mindless act from a person who doesn’t seem to have any remorse isn’t worth harboring resentment over. But it was DR’s actions that broke me as a human being. It’s from the people you trust not to hurt you that you receive the deepest cuts. Cliche or not. But true.

Stage 4

The abrupt, anger-filled end

For the third time, in July, despite all the promises, DR blocks me on all forms of communication. It was back to shutting down. Withdrawing. Silent treatment. Blocking.

“Why does she have to block me? Why hate me so much?” I cried to my friend Birdy.
“She hates herself, not you,” she replied, saddened by the loss of such a precious connection.

“How can a person promise such beauty and show me the carcasses of cruelty in just a few days?”
“Maybe, it was there all along, all the signs, and you refused to see those. I don’t doubt that she cared for you, but I doubt the depth of that care if she could have just walked away like this,” Birdy answered.

Question after question haunts me still. And then, I think, “Maybe, I should not have reacted otherwise. I should have accepted the limited friendship. I shouldn’t have got angry. Said harsh words.”

My friend listened patiently.

“But do you think that is an equal friendship? It’s important that SHE forgives YOU just as you forgave her, isn’t it?”

This was a postcard gifted to DR the last I ever saw her. Strangely, it was returned to me, hiding between books lent to her -having never been taken out. We don’t meet some demons in our self, do we?

That’s when it struck me. This is what always happens. Has always happened to me. I chastise myself for others’ actions. I blame myself. “Maybe, if I hadn’t said this. Maybe, if I hadn’t done that.” The cycle is vicious. You start to doubt yourself. And when doubts are always hanging around the curves of your mind, it’s a conflagration of your self.

I am a person with very low self-esteem. Despite all that you see outwardly, I am at heart a badly wounded person who has grown a web of cynicism in life. I think I deserve the way people treat me. I must have done something to deserve this treatment! In this case, I chastised myself for sending DR’s gifts back. “What a petty action, Smitha!” I thought. “I should have accepted her “small ways” of staying in touch instead of feeling insulted that she choose to let go of a friend to cater to the whims of others.” The thoughts are endless. I am trapped in anger and resentment that I allowed this to happen again. Why did I trust DR again? Why? Why did I give in to a person who called herself a “pseudo-intellectual,” “valueless coward,” and a “one-person dog?” These are my Whys. Why did I listen to my intuition and believe that a soulfriend-like connection would carry us through instead of the obvious mauling that happened? My intuition failed me.

And that’s when I think: Was I the proud apostle of compassion? The fake preacher of kindness? Thinking I am being kind by repeatedly forgiving someone? Did I thirst so deeply for beautiful words that I blinded myself to the actions? And why was I allowing myself to be treated thus? Blocked. Shamed. Discarded. Again.Three times. This was DR’s pattern. She had repeatedly shown that she would retreat to what was safe, but I had refused to heed the signs.

Many faces we have. Many faces we can’t accept.

Is this what it means by not giving up on anyone? But in doing so, have I given up on myself? Have I thought that this miserable self only deserves this? Am I the fraud? Who am I? Sometimes, when I meditate, I feel this lump of anger between my ribs. I feel it in my bones. It is hard to forgive DR now. Very hard. I see that anger when I log on to Goodreads, and I see DR’s comment on Vishy’s reviews. I close the page, feeling nauseous, and then I think – But I want to tell Vishy that this is a good review. I should not close my words to another just because the words are closed here. I go back and comment. But I know that that courage is temporary.

I know that at times I least expect it, I will look for DR Duplicates in others. I will doubt 10 times the motives of another. I will shiver when they promise never to give up on me. I haven’t closed my self to other people. No. Maybe, this was the connection of a lifetime – even now, there is no one I can talk with quite the way I could with DR – but there is more than connections to cement a friendship. Trust. Loyalty. Commitment. And Respect. These are the words we need to promise to each other.

It doesn’t matter how many crazy, mind-blowing conversations you have if you are not able to place trust, respect, commitment, and loyalty in the same room. Acceptance is a very tiny room.  And there is one other important value – R – Remorse. I know now that DR doesn’t have that remorse – her life was patterned around throwing off people. She warned me. And why did I not listen? Who did I meet? Who did I know? And who am I?

As the year draws to a close, it saddens me that this is what I am left with. Questions. I draw a long sweeping curve over the arch of the sky, and wish DR can draw the rest. That we could talk about Sylvia Plath and peer at vain flowers and rippled sunsets. But I know that is a dream. A dream that ended as a nightmare even before it began. So, I choke the words back, and then I realize that – even now, when I am happy and in a beautiful phase of life – I realize that for me to be genuine in my understanding of compassion, I have to forgive DR. And that I have to learn how.


Lessons of 2017:

  • Don’t trust the nice words that people show you. Look at the actions. DR could write poetry in her e-mails but practiced MMA in her actions.
  • Don’t ignore the red flags. Fickleness, possessiveness, giving the silent treatment, withdrawal, shutting down, being uncommunicative and indulging in petty mechanisms of blocking – these are all signs of toxic behavior. Heed the signs. Guide the person you love to treat you better. Allow them to guide you to behave better too. Don’t allow yourself to be treated thus no matter how much you love that person.
  • I don’t have it in me to be as compassionate as I would like to be. Forgiving is harder than forgetting.
  • I resent being cast aside – my ego still speaks larger and louder than my heart. I hate the ignominy of being blocked.
  • I degrade myself to any extent to keep the people I love.
  • When I believe in people, I haunt my mind by repeatedly wondering ‘ How can he/she do this?’ Fact? People WILL hurt you, especially if you have been vulnerable in telling them what hurts you the most. I was too naive, despite my cynicism, to believe that DR would knowingly inflict pain on me. But she did. She hurt me exactly where she knew it would hurt me the most.
  • I can’t believe that anyone would hate me as much as DR does. Vain ego I have.

Remember, all this is just my perspective, my side. I do not doubt that it must have been difficult for DR. I can’t imagine what she must have gone through. I have the most ruthless soulfriend who won’t gloss over my faults.

“You were no angel too. You must have hurt her just as badly with your words and that action of sending her gifts back,” Birdy says.

I nod. But I believe that we must always end anything on a good note and with warmth and gratitude. Life is always one step away from Death. In this case, the last words from DR I will carry are these SMSes: I clearly do not want any contact with you. I am blocking you here as well. Please do not contact me again. Good bye.

Birdy urges me not to remember those words. “Remember instead all the times she showed you her love and care.” I try. And then like a brat, I whine. “Why should I when she treats me like some scum to be blocked?”

Foolish, egoistic SM! It’s easy to love the lovable, but DR is showing me what it takes to love the unlovable. I learn from her that I am a sum of all flaws. I learn from her that I am a big pile of ego, anger, and pride. I learn from her that I am foolish and continue to allow my anger to do stupid things I regret later. I learn from her that I get what I deserve. I learn that what I am is unforgivable. I learn that I can be quite blinded by both light and darkness.

One Last Note
But here’s the rub. I hope that if I die tomorrow, people will remember me as an ‘ordinary’ human being – one who was flawed, impatient, sarcastic, moody, prone to anger, but maybe, kind and caring as well? If you, my reader, can think that of me, I will be at peace. Think kindly of SM when the world is done, the stars are dusted, and the night is drawn. Think kindly, please.

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