In the Hindu tradition, there are four stages to life.
One of learning how to be a citizen, one of householding, where one works and contributes to their community. Then comes retired life in which one starts to withdraw from the world. There then comes a state of renunciation, where one abandons all worldly possessions and spends all their time in spiritual practice.
These stages seem a reasonable way to conduct a life, and honour the flow of nature.
Time and energy are invested in our young, that they may grow into people capable of nourishing and sustaining the world around them as socialised adults. Over time, their power to give reduces, until there is only the self left to give. Even this, will wither in time. This is true of all living things.
Over time, my desire to give, as a householder, has waned. Now I desire retirement and renunciation. My ability to give is leaving me.
It’s time for us to part. We’ve both changed and I don’t think we can be together anymore. When we first met, you were huge, radiant, so full of promise. I still remember the words you said to me; It didn’t matter that you said them to so many others.
’If you work hard, be kind, and look after others, then life will be good. I will look after you.’
For quite a while, you did and everything was good. I worked hard in our younger days in the hope that all that I learned could be used to for you. So much of it was for you. I even tried to bring some new knowledge into the world, since I thought you’d rather like that. It sounded like you did, but actions speak louder than words, and I could always feel your gaze drifting to that one in the corner with the sharp suit and a tongue to match, who often told you he’d like to chop you up and sell bits of you back to yourself.
I suppose that should have been a red flag.
Why stick around when that’s what you want?
I suppose, I thought I could change you.
I used to think lovers who thought they could change their partner were insane. Perhaps I’m insane myself. I tried to put everything into you once again. Played by your rules and respected your boundaries. You didn’t do the same. This, I can’t forgive. You decided that what I wanted simply didn’t matter, despite our promises.
It’s become all about you. Not about us.
You told me who I could and could not see. I went along with it, after all, your friends told me you were under a lot of stress. That it would only be a few weeks and would really help you. Fine, I suppose we all need to compromise once in a while. Then it started getting really strange. You started talking about amputating bits of yourself and casting them aside. It looked like you already tried, with the many self-inflicted cuts and grazes I saw you with one night.
You said to me: ’My limbs would grow back,’ and that ’they weren’t essential.’ Remember that? Maybe I should have left then, or at least tried to get you some help. Plenty of people make it through such dark thoughts.
Your friends told me that all of this talk of breaking yourself apart was necessary, that you weren’t safe without doing this and would build back better. Ultimately, you hadn’t fallen in on yourself yet. In sickness and in health, after all. I could ignore it for a while. I have my friends too, and while they didn’t all agree on how to deal with you, many of them told me to be patient. Others told me I was being hysterical.
Can never really know what to do, can you? One of the tragedies of our shared life is that the people we both know don’t really want to tell the truth. It’s too much responsibility.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Summer came and things calmed down. We could think about a future together, years, decades ahead. You told me you learned from your mistakes. When I asked someone wise about that, he wasn’t so sure.
Winter followed and then you obsessed over yourself again. You muttered the same phrases over and over. Kept asking me where I was going, and what I was doing. You asked me to treat our children as vermin. To stab and suffocate them for you – for your own protection, you said.
Why, did you keep picking at your scars and scabs, over and over and over again?
Your friends told me that this time, it was my fault. They pointed at me, and called me selfish. Evil. That I ought to get over myself. If I did as I was told, you’d be back to who you once were. How could I be to blame? All I ever did was love you.
Finally came the needles. How often did we lament those we lost along the way to addiction, putting things they had no idea about into themselves in the hope they might escape reality for a few moments? How tragic it was that they resorted to the syringe, the bottle, the pills, the pipe, just to be OK? Why did you think you would escape their fate? Why so many needles into yourself and into your friends too? Why our children?
After all we talked about, why try to drag me into it? Misery needing company?
You told me, if I loved you, I’d take the needle. For a moment there, you had me. I needed you that much. Now, you’ve decided you don’t want anything to do with those who don’t shoot up, I suppose we’re done. We never were a two-way street, were we?
I see you now in the cold light of day, and I don’t know you anymore. You were once strong and kept your promises. You helped me and I helped you. You listened to those who had hard truths to tell and learned from them.
Now, you are withered, starved and addicted. So many pieces of you that once shone are missing. Lost forever. The light has gone from your eyes. You look only for control over others, and use your friends in your games. You hate those who aren’t obsessed by the things you are, the needle, the fear, the self-destruction. You do not know love anymore.
You move towards those who wish you ill more than those who love you. I will not watch you decline a moment longer.
I cannot be here.
Raminder Mulla is a scientist by trade and training. He is also interested in philosophy and creative expression. More of his work can be found on his website.
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