Sunday, March 22, 2020

Something to be Proud of

Two days back, I heard from my ex-husband, whom I had not seen or heard from for 20 years. This corona pandemic is changing a lot of things! Hearing from him initially had no effect on me. But something he wrote brought back memories of the days and months following his announcement of wanting a divorce and eventually the divorce itself a few months later. 

I am a fearless woman, I'd like to believe. I was never afraid to be alone in the night, like some of my friends were. Supernatural stuff had no sway over me. I wasn't even scared of dying really, though I almost did every year.

I was, though, afraid of hopelessness, of despair. I would see it now and then and quickly fight it off. Every year, I fought my illness with a courage I can't understand now. I would not give up hope even  when the doctors looked at me with a certain type of knowledge that I didn't have, knowledge of how hopeless my condition really was. I could handle even that. I always held on to hope. It was in my control to have hope and I exerted that control fully.

So, when I came face to face with fear for the first time in March of 2000 (when I first heard that my husband a divorce just weeks after I had relocated to a foreign country) , it brought me to my knees. I did not recognize it, and I did not recognize my reaction to it. It took me years to understand that what I felt was fear. I was afraid of everything- the new country, new job, poverty, loneliness, unresolved questions, people, colleagues, but mostly of this pitiable person that I had become. And I felt total despair. I couldn't summon hope anymore.

It is so important to label one's emotions, because labeling something is the first step towards fighting it or enjoying it. So here are some more labels for what I felt in that moment, those weeks, those months and perhaps years.

I felt overwhelmed and helpless. I did not know anything. I did not know how to find a house to live in, how to manage my money, how to find a school for Atreya, how to take care of him, how to take care of myself, how to be effective at my work, how to smile, how to be happy. It was all too much.

I felt ashamed. I had no dignity left. I was abandoned like I was damaged goods, and while I did not really believe it and had some sense of outrage, I felt a reflection of that on me. I would catch myself at times truly hating myself.

I felt lonely. There was no shoulder I could cry on. There never was, but then I had fewer reasons to want to cry. Now suddenly, all I wanted to do was cry, and there was no one to say it will be okay one day.

I felt impotent, useless. I could not get anything to work. I would stay up late at nights trying to complete proposals with next to no information or training. I would meet customers without knowing what they really needed. I didn't know how to be excellent at what I was doing, and it was devastating for a perfectionist like me.

I felt dark. There was no joy in anything I did. I was trapped in this dark dark room with no way of getting out. And I had a child who needed me to be happy. It felt darker when I could not even smile for his sake.

I was lost and I could not find my way back. I just went on doing what had to be done without any direction or foresight. I was a machine, and a very ineffective one at that.

I felt poor. For the first time in my life, there wasn't enough money to live a decent life. I lived in a house that was falling apart, using furniture that had lived its life.  It was ugly and impersonal. And I was running out of money every month. Hand to mouth- first time!

When I look back, I wonder how I came out of this and made a life for myself and found a way to be happy again. I wonder why I never gave up the fight, never said- this is too much, I can't do it anymore, somebody help me please!

Bravo Puja, you would say! Well not really. I am not proud of the tenacity that kept me going in those years. How can I be proud of a trait that came not from a place of strength, but from lack of self worth? I did what I did because I did not think I deserved to be taken care of, to be helped, or to be supported by anyone. I did not believe I was important enough for anyone to make adjustments in their lives for my sake. I stuck on because I felt there was no one in this whole wide world who would share my burden happily, because you know what, I just wasn't worth it. So it was my burden to carry alone and carry it alone I did.

None of these are good reasons to be proud of, even though the outcome of my actions were good. I did reclaim my dignity, control and direction eventually and light entered my life once again.

Today I examined my feelings deeply, to see if things have changed after all these years.

Do I believe I am worth getting inconvenienced for, worth taking care of, worth helping, worth offering a shoulder to cry on, worth someone's time, worth loving? A timid YES to all.

Am I any weaker because I have this net under me in case I crash and burn? A resounding NO.

Any act of courage that I do at this stage in life, under these circumstances, will be something to be proud of! 


  1. Identify with so many things you say here. Single mum to 10 yr old. The universe conspired to bring me to your blog today- I was looking for a translation of mere hamnafas, mere hamnawa, and stumbled upon your other writings Your words have given me much needed hope today- thank you!

    1. Thank you soul searcher. I write to heal myself, and if it helps anyone else, it is such a bonus and delight. May you find your way and for the right reasons!