I have a friend whose mom is suffering from breast cancer. I was quite shocked to hear the news and very saddened too. She seemed like such a calm, happy, and strong person.
My friend has been in the middle of moving to Bangalore city. Not because she has a job there but because she wants to. She’s planning to work out of one of those co-working spaces that a person rents per month or whatever. I guess she had that move mapped out and was quite excited about it. Then her mother’s health started roller coastering and she came to Bombay to spend time with her. Her mother is not out of the woods yet and it promises will be a slow fight.
In the middle of all this seriousness and despite her mom’s poor health, my friend decided to move to Bangalore anyways. It was a bit disturbing. Then she wrote a blog post about how she felt no regret about any of the things that had happened to her or any of the things she had done. She mentions, as case in point, that her mother was ailing in Mumbai, and she should have been with her mother and not this far away from her. She wrote further that some friends had been urging her to be with her mom because if something happened to her mom, she would regret it. And my friend wrote: And that for a fact, I know, I won’t.
For some reason, she put the link to that post as a Facebook update, thereby revealing her callousness to a larger audience. Obviously, people had things to say, and she responded to those things with ill-suppressed irritation, trying to justify it all. She then wrote a separate post on her blog, where she wrote about how even good intentions could feel toxic. (?!)
It does not matter how she justifies her thinking–to hear a child say that they would not regret not spending time with his or her parents during a life-threatening illness that’s probably cutting their life short is, according to me, damn unfeeling.
Maybe she was just writing to feel her thoughts out, but I found her words to be so cold. Like something had managed to cauterize that section of her mind where love and emotions were manufactured.
But it’s not about love or emotions really, is it? Sometimes, we are so into our own lives and so excited about the course we have charted for the short-term that we will not allow an obstacle to block our path, will not give in to a situation that is going to make us veer in a different direction. We don’t want to water down our ambition. We will not allow anything to interfere with our joy, especially it that something involves struggle. We do not want to put our lives on the back burner and extend ourselves to help someone else cope or give them a period of our lives in service. We do not want to take that trouble or allow it to break us down and reshape us. We want our life to go just as planned, especially if we are at the prime of success or are doing very well or are doing fun things. We are obstinate about it as though it were our right.
And yes, it is our right. To lead our lives in ways that maximise our satisfaction and sense of sufficiency is our right. And yes, we do have a right to pursue it like it were a lover we are besotted with. But somewhere in this pumped up, ambitious, high octane drive to live our best lives, we have to insert wisdom and kindness.
I find that most people are allergic to wisdom. Because Intelligence says, you have a right to live your life on your terms. Ambition says you can make it big, have a million followers on social media, become a star. Motivation says be happy now and stay away from toxicity and all will be fine. But Wisdom, oh that morose speaker of deep, uncomfortable truths, the advocate of adjustments and compromises for love, the deflater of happy pink bubbles, the demolisher of castles, that comparatively quiet mellow little thing that is surprisingly the most powerful of the lot on account of all the things it knows and is right about.
When wisdom enters the room everyone else sobers up. But sometimes, the rest have been binge drinking and are high and worked up from too much talking. They hear wisdom’s footfalls and together they rise as one and block it from entering the room. Mutiny. Of the stupidest kind.
I don’t even know whether my friend’s resistance to sacrifice and a loving response is lack of wisdom, obstinacy, self-centeredness, compassion fatigue, or some internal emotional issue. Whatever it is, in the face of a mother struggling with cancer, it is cold.