Being Alone Is A Stage of Being; Loneliness Is A State Of Mind

I noticed, there was an utmost calm and serenity in the atmosphere, while I was flipping through the newspaper and having my morning tea. Suddenly, an article caught my attention. The headline of the article written in bold was “YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THIS WORLD.” The article was about something that I had figured at the time I lost my wife in a road accident. The car was hit by a truck and she failed to survive the distance between the accident spot and the hospital.

I was subjected to an ordeal after her demise. I dreaded sleeping. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw red. Her clothes overflowed with blood, her face bruised and busted, her eyes open in shock and horror, her entire embodiment reduced to a speck of dust. That morning, we had an argument before we left for our respective offices over something that was exceedingly inconsequential and insignificant. Neither of us was ready to shred our egos and take the initiative to start conversing.

This incident had taken place about ten years ago and it was a living nightmare. The good thing about a nightmare is that it loses its existence when you’re awake. There are things which are much more excruciating and distressing than a nightmare. It’s called Reality. The hardest part is accepting the facts and the truth and making peace with it. I didn’t go to the office for months. There were many days when I didn’t answer the doorbell or pick up my phone because I wanted to be away from people. People who are happy in their cocoons, living the perfect life they think it is. I was almost jealous of them because, despite their difficulties and tribulations, they had the support of someone who loved and cared deeply for them. I had lost that one person.

I remember during college, I was in a relationship with a girl. We dated for about three years. I thought we would get married and make kids and live happily ever after. Living happily ever after is only a thought. It is a fabrication. It is concoction because no one ever tells the story beyond after.

It was the last semester and my girlfriend broke up with me because she wanted to prepare for management and she somehow, believed after getting all those good grades in engineering with my help, I would hamper her preparation now. I tried to stop her but she wouldn’t budge. I had a constant aching that resonated in my chest and it followed me all day long no matter where I went. I felt used and useless at the same time. There was a feeling of emptiness that would stay and linger around me not allowing me to let go and open up. Even when I was surrounded by people, I felt hollow. There was blank that wouldn’t get filled. It felt as if the balloon of joy had been deflated. Nothing would invoke interest or curiosity in me. The crushing sound that evokes when the dried and dead leaves of a tree come under our feet, somehow, reminds us of the fact that things that have fallen don’t get a chance to stand up again, instead, new things take their place. I felt the same. I had been knocked out cold not by an adversary but by an ally. I had started to feel lonely and the number of people around me didn’t affect me. There was tremendous pressure on me and the inability and the insufficiency of not being able to communicate things hovering inside my head failed me as an individual. I had been pushed to a shell and coming out of it was impassable for I lacked the strength and the yearning.

I and my wife, we never had kids by choice. A number of arguments, a number of fact-finding exercises, years of deliberations and pondering, led to this rather audacious decision. She wasn’t ready to compromise on her career and I too wanted to experiment and excel in mine.

I realized that staying aloof and cut off from everyone would only help my pain to flourish and thrive. I resumed office, I started to communicate with my friends and family and I joined a group where people who had lost someone they deeply loved, came and shared their stories. I listened eagerly to their stories and it made me realize that I am not the only one who had lost someone. There were people who had lost their sons and daughters, there are people who had lost their wives and husbands and the list goes on endlessly.

One day, the leader of the group told a story of a ‘bird on the branch’. A tired bird was resting on a branch for support. It enjoyed the view from the branch and the safety it offered from dangerous animals. Just as it had become used to that branch and the support and safety that it offered, a strong wind started blowing and the branch started swaying back and forth, with such great intensity, that it seemed that it was going to break.

But the bird was not in the least worried for it knew two important truths. One was that even without the branch it was able to fly and thus remain safe through the power of its own two wings. The second is that there are many other branches upon which it can temporarily rest.

This story clearly depicts that in a lifetime we form many relationships and each of those relationships is temporary. They all are in a state of change and can disappear at any time. While I had every right to deny the death of my wife and get angry at myself and God, I bargained with him, tried to cut a deal with him to no use. The overwhelming melancholy captured me in a state of depression but in the final stage of bereavement and grief, I had to accept that she is gone and when I accepted that truth and made peace with it, I stopped feeling sad.

I still miss her but I don’t feel lonely. I feel alone but there are many things that I do to keep myself happy. When I had that breakup, I was a little immature and I didn’t know how to react and hence, in a way, I subjugated myself to suffering. This, however, in no way meant that because I had a heartbreak I was better prepared to react to the demise of my wife. It is extremely difficult to come out of that spiral that doesn’t stop, it keeps going round and round, it captures you and keeps you entangled and inflicts you with agony and distress.

You can be alone and happy but you can never be lonely and happy.

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Girish Dutt Shukla

Author of Maroon in a sky of blue

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