Everything Passes / Arathi Devandran

It is the last month of what has been a strangely difficult year.

I remember another difficult year in my life. It was 2012 and it felt like the end of a lifetime, a pivotal chapter, a year of loss after loss. I lost who I had then naively thought to be the love of my life. I lost a lot of weight. I lost my confidence in my abilities. I spent the year crying, crying, lying to myself endlessly, crying, bleeding salt, over and over. 

I think about that year often as the year of loss, but I am now wondering whether it was the year that I gained, too. I gained friends – friendships that would carry me through the next decade of my life. I gained god, a god who looked and felt different to the ones I thought I had known since I was a child. Through friends and god, I gained a pure love that I never thought capable of receiving. It was the year I gained a clean slate – as if the universe knew that I had to wipe it all off so that I could prepare myself for the next chapter. I gained an ending so that I could then, start beginning, again. 

I would often ask myself over and over, what I had done to deserve that year, because it was a difficult year and my heart still aches for my 21 year old self.  I look at pictures of myself from that year and I want to cradle that young woman in my arms and remind her that life is a long while, and that all experiences carry the weight of life in them, and that like everything, literally, everything, it too shall pass.

And so the year after it passed, and so did many years after. 

The year is 2021 and it is the first of December. A whole year is slowly grinding to a halt. Just like in 2012, I am in a different country with a different man. This time, things are different. I am deeply fulfilled with the man in a way I had only dreamt of. I had a vision of this time and place and the vision came to fruition. 

But the year has been long and hard. I don’t know how much of it has been made harder because of me. How much of it was a state of impermanence and confusion that I had to put myself through, as if I was a child in the womb of this Mother Life, and she was pushing me out and the brightness and the sounds of the world were so strange and different from the dark cocoon I had been sheltered in, in the years past. 

I don’t know. But it has been a difficult year. 

I am different now too. Softer, so much softer in some ways. Harder, so much harder in others. I cry more easily, as if for all the years I bit back my tears in an effort to be strong, I now release, in this newfound state of softness. I anger less quickly about bigger things, and fret more for smaller things. I sense fear, I roll it around my tongue and in my mind, and it is so dark and obliterating and then I stare at it and stare at it, and take deep breathes and slowly, the fear recedes. 

I am reminded of a scene in Dune where Paul has just realised what he must do to bring the Fremen and the other Great Houses together. He must taste the Water of Life and look into the place inside, the dark place, the place that no Bene Gesserit ever dares to, that no Reverend Mother approaches. The scene struck me so vividly when I read it, resting in my consciousness and making itself known today, just a few moments before I started writing this. 

My husband called me out to snorkel a little while ago. The snorkeling buoy is not very far but it does require me to swim a little, and I have to submerge myself in the sea and swim, and the moment I started putting my head in the water, even with my knees on the sand bed and my husband holding me, I am surrounded by deep, deep cold and my heart starts to pound and tears fill my eyes and I can’t hear and I sit up. 

I cannot do it, I say. My voice is wavering and I am swallowing my tears. I cannot do this now, I am too scared. The admission hurts, because this year, I have faced this emotion so often, this feeling of being so scared, of what, of who, of different forms of the enemy, one who lives loudly in my head, who makes it hard for me to do simple things sometimes, like reply to texts, or deal with personalities.

This year was long and hard because the battle was being fought in my mind. The battle of making sure I can be soft, without being weak. That I can be me, without conforming to the inanities that society sometimes demands from the best of us. S told me recently that I am obsessed with success. Maybe the opposite is true – maybe I am obsessed with failure and how it can break me. But can I be broken, if I am soft, if I am malleable, if I can be melted, and hardened, and reformed, to take on new shapes, to bear the different seasons, to be soft and long-lasting (oh how I hate the word resilient) without being cruel? 

That has been the test of this year. After a lifetime of what I think as hardship but in most instances was just life, I feel entitled to easiness. As if it is a gift this universe owes me. I ask myself, but who am I to have this arrogance? And if this arrogance is giving me the gift of fear, the fear of everything and nothing, then maybe it no longer serves me, this story. 

So what does? 

Why am I so terrified of water? Why am I so terrified of pain? Why do I wrestle with discomfort so?

I think of the sting of failure, and the fear of pain as my sinuses continue to throb. Even now, my ears hurt slightly, and I wonder if my body just doesn’t understand this thing, the great sea, and this dislike that I feel for myself, for my inability, my incompetence, is merely a natural occurrence, like how some people are tall and short and slim and fair, and I am just not someone who is comfortable in water. 

Why do I not give myself credit for all aspects of my truth? That I scale mountains but cry at the thought of submerging my head in the water? That I can feed and nourish myself, make things with my own bare hands? That through it all, I continue to write, honestly and truthfully, feeding this long gestated dream of making worlds with my words?

This reminds me so much of the past. The lessons repeat themselves till we learn. 

A told me the other day to dig deep. There is more at work here, she said.

Look into the abyss that the Reverend Mother shies away from. 

Maybe I am crying about dunking my head in the sea, because my tears are a form of release, of all the other types of fear that I carry in this body. The fear isn’t the fear of the water. It is the fear of living an inconsequential life. The fear of not being good enough. The fear that death will come by, and this soul will meet the darkness, and that will be all there is to it. 

But who knows what lies next? Who can tell? No one. 

I do recognise a simple truth, that I wish to grow.

It’s just that sometimes, I forget that growth doesn’t always look the way I envision it to be.

So what if I cannot snorkel. I can survive a one hour boxing class, and remember punching combinations that I have never encountered before. There are different successes. Not all can be mine. And that is okay. 

I hold the scared young woman in my arms and tell her she is so deeply loved. So what if she has fears? They too will crumble and become lesser versions of themselves in time. Everything passes, as will this young woman’s journey.

Love and be loved. After the season of work, will come the season of harvest. Let that be what this next year portends.

Arathi Devandran curates personal experiences, snapshots of the world and the stories people are willing to share with her through prose and poetry www.miffalicious.com

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