In the past few weeks, my mind has been consumed by thoughts that can only be classified as morbid. Close on the heels of reading “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanidhi and subsequently hearing of the loss of a cousin at a young age, I was driven by a need to distill my thoughts for my children onto paper. A legacy of sorts to satisfy my ego and console myself that I will matter perpetually.
The thought came at random times. What would you tell your children if you had only one shot to tell them all that you want to? Will you linger on the superficial? Will you deep dive into philosophy as best you understand? Will you focus on success as it pertains to the material world? Will you narrow it down to what makes for a happy life? What then is happiness? Will you dwell on the spiritual? Will you urge them to hold on to relationships at any cost?
All of these thoughts are open-ended, lending themselves to interpretations based on my mood at the moment. Then, I sat down and wrote. The words flew, the thoughts assembled themselves in some order. My fingers hovered mid-air as I started to write about love. Romantic love. What did I know about it? What could I tell my children about something that crept up on me as my hair greyed and the love handles generously hung off my torso?
I wrote as though I was an instrument, the thoughts channeled from elsewhere. Finishing up at a neat four pages, I saved the document and felt satisfied.
I couldn’t let go of the one spot where I paused.
I let my mind meander back in time to when I was in middle school and high school. I went back to haunt my college days. I traveled back in time to when I was a new adult living the good life. It struck me that love was a misnomer in the context in which I was looking at it. A word associated with the dizzying highs of first love. It then occurred to me that the times in which I grew up, friendship and love were freely interchangeable. In the fuzzy lines of friendship between grown men and women, there were moments stolen. The linked hands as we walked, the hugs masked by friendship, the over-long phone conversations, the weekend group getaways, the late night dinners and long walks along tree lined residential roads.
In a society that valued compliance to norms, to familial expectations, many of these first loves were dimmed, extinguished and put aside to pragmatism. The grief muted by distance and time. Is it better then to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?
The pause perhaps was significant. One that allowed me to process feelings that had no names, to dwell on boundaries that were razor thin and to reflect on how that would impact what I wanted for my children.