In every important decision in our lives we are confronted by the unchanging reality that all we really have is ourselves. Looking back, one finds that age makes us less and less reliant on others – at every wrung on the ladder – we are forced to face life alone.
The transition from childhood to adulthood is so seamless, that we would fail to identify it were it not for the many landmark choices we were left to make in solitude.
From the time a parent, dares to let go of the bicycle and let their child cycle away from them – to either fall or ride away in joy – our childhood is marked by moments of letting go.
For the parent who refuses to let go; stands in the way of the necessary business of growing up – we grow up because of the people who let go of us and not because of those who hold on.
Having said this, I find that desertion is as much a necessary part of maturing that it becomes inevitable for us to be deserted by those we love along the journey of life. Think of the dedicated teacher who sees a group of toddlers from their first year in school, watches them bud to awkward gangling kids on the verge of adolescence; then has to desert them in the examination room and let them write their Grade 7 exams without him/her.
Looking back, that was a defining moment – a first major exam, all those people loving you and cheering you on but none of them sitting by your side and helping you to figure it out – you’re on your own – sink or swim. There are just some things you have to do on your own…things no one can do for you – like going into labour or figuring out who to spend the rest of your life with.
How did we then, get the idea in our heads that we needed another to complete us?
When we have been alone through the major and crucial times in our lives, when we’ve failed or succeeded on our own; when we’ve triumphed or failed without them? How do we come to so cling to another that we wish to disappear, merge and vanish into them strip our selves of anything that would distinguish us from them and seek to be one with them?
Where do we get the audacity, to expect that there is one who will forever stay when our lives are a template of people walking away – to love us from afar, to care about us from a distance and when necessary to desert us and let us fend for ourselves.
A woman burnt herself beyond recognition two weeks ago, she wanted to die but she didn’t. Instead she is scarred, marred by the experience and the cheating husband she wanted to kill herself for will no doubt, never want to see her nor reconcile with her. And the reality is probably – no man will want her, want to look at her disfigured face and love her.
The woman said she was tormented by her husband’s continuous affairs, humiliated by his blatant infidelity and heartbroken beyond words; so she poured paraffin all over her body and torched herself.
But are our lives so deeply entangled in others that in their absence – the only other option is that we kill or mutilate ourselves?
A close scrutiny will reveal a catalogue of people who’ve walked in to our lives just to walk out again, people who’ve befriended us and then withdrawn their friendship – people who’ve given us their approval and then taken it away; people who’ve earned our trust but then betrayed us, and many whom we’ve loved, given our hearts to only to have those hearts broken and that love unrequited.
So what reasonable expectation do we have that – one person will stay when so many have walked away? None.
People will come into our lives and people will walk out again. But our happiness must never be hinged on another – for it is a most unfair imposition and grossly unreasonable to anticipate that other people exist to make you happy, to make you fulfilled or to ‘take care of you’ by providing for your needs.
And how arrogant to make the assumption that loving someone obligates them to love you as well or that your love for someone will shield them from life and its harsh realities. Much as they love their children; I have yet to meet a parent whose love could shield their child from heart break, tragedy or betrayal.
A parent, a sibling, a relative or a friend is as powerless to shield us from pain as the father who watches helplessly as his child flounders to keep the bicycle steady and must fall several times before he gets the hang of it.
So in the final analysis, those who lost their parents at a very tender age will suffer as much heartache as those whose parents still walk among the living – because life has a way of getting you on your own and hitting you with everything it’s got.
We must decide we will be happy – we will live regardless of who chooses to stay with us and who chooses to leave us. We can neither compel people to love and appreciate us nor can they compel us to give our affection if we’re not inclined to do so.
So what do we do with our lives stretching ahead of us – well we live and let others live. And if we feel inclined to – we give, we share and we comfort those on the receiving end of life’s inevitable calamities.