Lessons in Life
I acknowledge I’ve got a long way to go with the lessons that I’ve identified so far as important ones to learn. I’m on the journey, and there will be many stumbles, trips, and backtracks along the way. But whilst I’m face down in the dirt, picking myself up for the next few steps, I recognise how far I have come. And I’m proud of myself.
There is so little in this world that I have control over, so many possibilities I can’t anticipate, and only a few years ago this thought would have caused me great distress. Not because I felt a great need to be in control or know the future, but because when things did happen, I thought I was involved, that my actions led to some particular outcome. Cause and effect. Fairly predictable for a nerdy science-loving kid, perhaps. But I’ve found that it’s not always the case in a chaotic world, particularly one involving people. People are capricious, and emotional responses to people more so. People can come and go at any time, and the instinct is to allow their presence to dictate how we feel. Of course, we have a choice, it’s just hard to remember that sometimes.
I still haven’t mastered the art of detachment. I find myself, like any good addict, growing attached not necessarily to people but to the cloud of emotions that builds around them. Certain people draw emotions out of me in a way that I love but that I’m not entirely sure I’m comfortable with. Over time different experiences with people contribute new and nuanced emotions to the picture. Sometimes it takes years, but some people build a more rich and complex cloud in six months than I would ever accumulate with another person. And some clouds shimmer far more brightly than other. Spending time with the most brightly shining and most intense people is addictive, of course, and it’s easy to become attached, not so much to the person, but to the range of emotions that are produced when we spend time together. I’m proud of myself for acknowledging that this leads to fear of loss, and for risking that loss anyway. For spending time with people I am inspired by, who stir incredible emotions, who contribute to amazing experiences. For recognising that people are temporary, and not expecting anything from them.
I have a long way to go though.
I still get attached, and I still hate it when those shining clouds disperse, when the brightest of them withdraw. People leave, they stop being available, they choose other things, other experiences. No matter how many times you check in and remind yourself that the connection is ephemeral, that it is precious now because it could break at any moment, it is still truly rubbish when it does. Losing somebody that had helped build a particularly beautiful cloud of emotions, full of detail and depth, so intense it was almost tangible, is particularly miserable. But it helps to remember that sometimes things are not your choice, that they aren’t necessarily explicable, that they often aren’t even anything to do with you. It helps to remember that losing someone doesn’t mean you have to retain the immediate misery forever. It helps to remember that you can choose not to analyse, to dwell, to question.
Of course the ideal situation would be to recognise that earlier, to bid farewell to someone leaving with that same sense of detachment, to obviate the crushing despair and accept their absence before it happens. As I mentioned, I’m a long way from ideal. But I know where I want to get to, and although I like to see progress it’s not always necessary. Sometimes it’s enough to know where you’re headed, and know that you’re trying.