Casablanca, Morocco- There are two proverbs that COVID-19 quarantine has evoked in my memory: “Out of sight, out of mind” and “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.” In fact, they have always bewildered me; how is one to feel when far from their siblings, friends, and beloved ones?
The lockdown has made me realize that it’s all about who is “distant” or “out of your sight”. Some, whether they are near or far, wherever they are, your heart always yearns for them, because they already reside in it. However, others you encounter day and night, but you feel so leaden and dead on the inside. Your eyes hardly meet; and when they do, you feel your stomach shriveling to the approximate size of a walnut. Each passing day estranges you from each other more and more, though, once upon a happier time, you both were (or at least that’s what you think) so unbelievably passionate that you could not keep hands-off.
This makes me wonder: What does “distant” mean? And how close are those who are just a few inches far from each other but their days seem to go by in a complete blur – not a single genuine warm look, not even a sweet true word?
Each day of the quarantine, thoughts keep rushing to our minds; thoughts that, maybe for the first time in years, have managed to bring us to a standstill, compelling us to analyze, evaluate and reconsider all that has been going on in our lives. They keep eating us from inside. We do our best to shun them, to distract ourselves by indulging in daydreaming or working and working, hoping against hope that the hard work would eventually help us erode the rock of pain locked away inside us. But we just end up crawling back to bed at night bone-tired from exhaustion, hyperventilating, flushing and sweating like a drunkard, silently mourning another day that is gone for good. We desperately try to keep that rational voice inside our heads murmuring: “It’s fine, you’ll get over it.” But the Hawaiian drums in the ears and the relentless hammering wane it down and we soon fall into a deep sleep out of which we come without the slightest memory of any dreams or even nightmares we might have had.
Many thoughts and questions have been recently haunting me myself, racing in mind seeking an answer, earnestly longing for deeper perspicacity, thereby leading to an epiphany that has suddenly dawned on me. I have discerned that throughout my life I have been too mindful, too considerate, too giving, too selfless, even too hilariously kind, which I do not entirely regret, but I have come to realize that this is not how things are supposed to go. Life should be a “give and take” – just as there is a yin and a yang, a day and a night, a sun and a moon- that is how balance can be stricken.
When we keep abundantly and obtusely giving of our time, heart and energy, glossing over the cracks and fooling ourselves that “everything is on track” while they are the exact polar opposite; when we think that the heartache will pass just by slipping off in a darkened room trying not to collapse into a fit of hysterical sobs; when we turn a deaf ear to that inner voice that keeps howling and roaring ferociously deep down inside; when we spend excruciating hours roaming from a place to another despondently holding to the illusion that keeping ourselves busy will do the magic trick, then we are just unequivocally lying to ourselves! Sooner or later, it will be crystal clear to the most short-sighted that underneath that octane glamour, there is a heart bleeding and a soul suffocating. We keep deluding ourselves and those surrounding us, masking our afflictions and insecurities with toughness, whereas if anybody happens to scratch the surface they will see that we are just a marshmallow. But why is that? Why do we choose to live the ironically beautiful lie that things are fine and that we have it all under control, and we keep shying away from the truth that nothing is actually fine?
We just do not want to see the giant elephant in the room; perhaps because we do not have the guts to see the ugly truth; we are not brave enough to get out of our comfort zone. Perhaps we are too fragile, too vulnerable to unchain ourselves from the tyranny of society with all its often selfish norms and beliefs and unleash our minds, hearts, and souls so that we can behold the clear picture. No wonder we soon turn into morose zombies who are listless, spiritless, depressed, round-the-clock exhausted with an ongoing weird unbearable feeling of bereavement. What makes it even more painful is that we keep denying the force behind all that and, unfortunately, remain stuck in a limbo.
Lately, whenever I check my Facebook or Instagram account, I notice how nostalgic people have become. They post old pictures, remember friends they have not heard from for ages, share congrats, condolences, wishes, prayers, and thoughts, trying to tear a moment of pleasure through the iron gates of the lockdown. All these often make me reminisce about my childhood when I used to live the moment with no remorse for the past, no worries about the future. The clutch of fear could barely grip me. I would laugh away the hour and think only about the great things I would do. I thought those days would never end; I thought I would live the life I choose, fight all my battles, and never lose a war – plenty of friends, plenty of merry times. But now, sitting on my couch, it has stricken me how my social circle has been dwindling day in day out. Well, there is a reason behind that. Some of my dear ones have unwillingly left me forever (from dust and to dust we shall return.) Others, just like me, have been unable to step off the hamster wheel, racing against time to cover endless checklists and wrapping up the day with this sour feeling that they have not actually achieved much. A few others …. well, these are the ones I have turned my back to, as their company brought me nothing but pain and misery. And there are those who, for some reason, have chosen to ghost me and give me the cold shoulder, which often has had a toll on me and made me in the throes of the worst of all times. Believe it or not, these are the ones I owe the most because they have given me life lessons that have shaken my whole existence and reshaped my entire vision. Because of them, I have schooled myself to bear the far worse and handle my loss while lifting up my head.
They have taught me …
That nobody is flawless, that there is no alpha person, that seeking perfection will yield nothing but a colossal waste of time;
That no one is the pivot around which the world revolves;
That the road of change, no matter how tough, thorny or mysterious it seems to be, is worth-taking;
That nobody but myself can help me side-step the mess;
That the ticking biological clock should no more bother me, as long as I fit within my own skin;
That tears are not a sign of weakness; rather, they are divine healing drops that help us give vent to all the toxic anger, the harshness and the acrimony;
That pain should not be anesthetized; instead, I should look it in the eyes, dare it and enjoy with every fiber of my being its agonizing electrocuting anguish while it is being swept away;
That closing a chapter once and for all is nothing but a step towards a brand new beginning – a new life that, no matter what ordeals it may unfold, should be lived and loved with all its graces and predicaments;
That the future does not have to be all rosy; there will come a time when I may feel my whole world crumbling again right before my eyes, but the choice is always there, and the choice should be to move on.
I’ve learned to ….
Be a giver, but not a people pleaser,
Be a true lover, but not a stumbling chaser,
Be a dreamer, but not an illusion seller.
I am no preacher; I am no guru, but my words may mean something to you.