CoVid lockdowns are relaxing, but positive cases continue to climb up mercilessly, especially in Bangalore. One is quite careful to avoid going out as much as possible, and a lot of us are self-isolating at home. This act of self-care and social responsibility is not a noble act or anything like that, but just common sense and self preservation that is playing out. We all should be doing that, but we also see in the media and in real life that not everyone is holding up the social etiquette that is demanded in these times. Half the people on the streets are wearing their masks below their nose, many wear the mask but pull it off when they need to sneeze or cough, or worse still, if they feel like they need to clear their throat and let fly a glob of their snot on to the street somewhere. We see people wandering around without much of social distancing, and milling around.
A lot of people are getting really angry and quite agitated with all these happening around them and feeling the powerlessness and helplessness that goes with that. There is much anger and frustration building up amongst those bearing for themselves the burdens of safety and hygiene. It is exacerbated in these trying situations, but even under ordinary circumstances, we see that anger and frustration that we experience with the world around us staying with us much of the time. It might be from things we notice in the workplace, on the streets, in government offices, in social circumstances - pretty much anywhere, really. Given the power differentials and how we as a culture, find it hard to speak truth to power, there is just so much that is being bottled up.
Where does all that anger go?
The only place that all this bottled-up negativity and pain finds some expression - at home, and often, the expression of this rage is at the cost of the most vulnerable people at home, be it children, the elderly, the people without independent economic means, the dependent partner and the such. For far too long, well-intentioned elders would advice the suffering partner and the children, “This poor creature is out in the world facing all sorts of harshness, and if we can help them get some relief, then so be it!” Children are shushed and told to behave lest anger finds a soft target in them. Food given great attention to, lest plates and food go flying in fits of anger.
We are told to accept bad behaviour as just “angry behaviour,” and sometimes, in perverse ways, we are coached to accept such behaviour and violence as even a show of love.
Should love be making space, cushioning and holding all this anger brought into its space from outside? Is being a punching bag love’s labour?
The answer is a clear and emphatic No. Love is not a dumping ground for anger, and any attempts to paint it so, needs to be called out for the toxicity that it is.
As written for The New Indian Express
One of the biggest fears people have is of dying alone. People often enter into relationships with little else as a motivation to be in a relationship other than the idea of not being alone when old, sick and certainly when dying. Of course, there is no guarantee that such company will be there at the time of sickness and death, but the hope of such company is enough for people to take the long leap into relationships even without love and all the other things that one typically looks for, and in any case, as any cynic will tell you, the tragic truth is that in any relationship, chances are that one of the partners will just not get to enjoy that companionship at death, having to outlive the others.
The life of the survivor in any relationship, especially one that had much love in it, is something quite different than one expects. Grief is a painful thing to live with. It makes itself felt in a million ways, many of them totally unexpected, and yet, all of them correct and valid at that time. There is no wrong way to grieve.
Love lost to death hits us in unexpected ways and at unexpected times. You might just be driving a car to work, park just as always in your usual spot, and something might just crush you back into that dark abyss of grief as if it were just yesterday that you lost your love to grief. You might be laughing with someone, even flirting, trying to make something happen and you might find yourself back in grief. There is no telling quite how or when grief finds itself back in the moment, back in your reality.
The idea of "moving on" is not about being done with grief or forgetting about the person lost as much as it is about making space in your life for yourself and maybe some new people in it that can bring you different and wholly new meaning in how you relate and even love. For many, acts of love itself can be a gateway into grief that has been denied, and being in a moment of great tenderness and love can bring forth a geyser of grief where one might find oneself weeping and sobbing for what was lost.
Grief is a theme that many people in relationships visit with their beloved, often as expressed wishes to be the first to go. Sometimes, people even fight over it in that tender way, wanting the right to die before their partner. Yet, in love, one might also find oneself wanting to outlive the beloved, just to spare the pain of the bereavement to their beloved believing oneself to be hardier to that pain.
We may choose to ignore loss and grief, leaving it to the vagaries of fate, or we can choose to engage with it, talking about it with tenderness and affection, even making plans for it. To love fully is to love in death as well.
As written for The New Indian Express
Ajanta, Mahesh and other InnerSight counsellors and guest contributors are happy to share their thoughts here.