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Use this forced isolation to think. Think about purpose, joy, happiness. Think about why you feel the way you do. Allow yourself to feel, be. Allow yourself to exist.
I’ve had the tendency to be reflective for as far as I can remember. Many have accused me of being a masochist almost- who also abuses the luxury of having a heart broken almost in a pattern- albeit not frequently repeated. I’ve tended to isolate myself often, with pretense as my strongest alibi, where if you didn’t know what was happening, and I didn’t give you access or permission to know, you wouldn’t find out what it was.
Grief is private, but often it reaches levels where sharing it is the only alternative. And yet, one stalls onself from sharing exactly what we feel.
As women, we are often at the receiving end of jibes from men, and women, in our lives who accuse us of ‘feeling too much’, ‘taking everything too seriously’, ‘oh, why must you always be so unhappy’, ‘inject some life into yourself’, again and again. If you are a single woman, 34- you feel all of this, of course, because you are lonely, of course, and because you aren’t married. Of course.
But what does grief mean? Why is it important for us to let ourselves feel it and deal with it just as we can?
Grief isn’t bereavement alone. Each kind of grief is different, and needs to be respected as that, and yet, its sanctity, depth and pain, does not reduce. And to feel grief, to let it flow, to let it consume you, is not a weakness. It is a strength. A strength that toxic masculinity snaps away from men at tender ages, and a strength that women are vilified for, again and again, labelling it to be our greatest weakness.
As someone who internalizes grief and seldom talks about it, I do feel asking for help is probably the most courageous thing one can do. And before that, is to accept that one is grieving.
We often look at travails of others, recognize our privileges, and tend to hide our grief behind the recognition of how much better our lives are. But that still doesn’t reduce or take away the pain we feel, the sting that we live with everyday. While privileges must be recognized, grief cannot be compared. As can any reaction to it. We need to empathise with ourselves, forgive ourselves for feeling what we do, be a little kinder, and then proceed to help ourselves.
A lot of this seems and sounds academic, but is much harder done than said. I struggle each day, and fail each day.
What does this have to do with isolation?
For me isolation is also silence. Sometimes that silence is comforting, but sometimes it sends one into spirals of solitude. Solitude is welcome, must be claimed, reclaimed again and again, and yet, the effort that is needed to reach out, must be made. As dichotomous as it may sound.
We are vulnerable, recognizing that and then even for small talk, reaching out to someone, making sure they aren’t struggling with a grief of their own, is just as important. Sometimes, what you think you may do for yourself, reaching out through a veil, may just do wonders for someone who receives that one text- making them feel less alone. So at a time of quarantines, lockdowns, forced isolations, where it is easy for us to reinforce feelings of less value, and isolation – we could make someone else, feel a bit less lonely.
It has been a struggle for me as well, to do most of these things. I used to love films, music, writing, poetry, reading, talking, going out, eating- I do neither now- maybe just read and write since these aren’t boisterous, visible, articulate activities. But even doing them, sometimes re-reading a book, feels like a friendly wave that one has missed.
Do that. Try. Push yourself to read the book you’ve wanted to, to experience the new. While I too will try and get back to sounds and music I once enjoyed- maybe just a minute at a time. I will try to try. Try and do a video call with a long lost friend. Where you needn’t bare your heart, but you and they feel a little less alone.
And use this forced isolation to think. Think about purpose, joy, happiness. Think about why you feel the way you do. Allow yourself to feel, be. Allow yourself to exist. Allow yourself to say no. It isn’t a race to maintain that waistline, or finish those books, or master the next recipe. It isn’t a race to stay at your fittest (unless you want to), to finish all those books as fast you can. It is time for you to be you, the way you choose to be. It is a time for you to do what you want. It is a time for you to ask for, and step up and help. Help in more ways than one. Help those who have nothing. Help those who look like they have everything.
It is a time to be kind.
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Saumya Baijal, is a writer in both English and Hindi. Her stories, poems and articles
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