On the last day of August this year, I made an entry in my digital diary. I saw a little boy, no more than three years old, walking with his mother who was leading him by the hand. What struck me was this: the child didn’t look where he was going, he was engrossed with a plastic toy he held in his free hand. In my diary, I engaged my memory, wondered if I’d ever been as trusting as the little boy. Memory is a tricky, unreliable thing.
Two days ago, I got on an okada on my way home, and in the space of four minutes, which the ride to my estate took, I could have died, crushed to death by a lorry. The okada man didn’t quite know how to steer his motorcycle, he was learning the ropes with my bones and organs and dreams in the passenger seat, my life wrapped around the handlebars like twine. Though, when I look back on Fate’s alternative forgone in that moment, what makes me shudder is the possibility I might have survived, my question from months ago was answered:
Was I ever as trusting as that little boy?
Yes. And I still am.
I trust because I cannot otherwise do. We all do. I mean, think of all the times and ways you put your life in other people’s hands –restaurateurs, pilots, bus drivers, okada men, friends, secret keepers –and take them on implied promises that they are who they say they are and they would hold on to your life, not like it is theirs, but like a precious burden unasked for and, many times, unacknowledged. In these transactions there are no warranties.
Two days ago, I came to acknowledge that I am a trusting person. I trust even though I should know better. I take people on their word and, unless I feel their lies in my bones or they play out before my eyes, I trust they are who they say they are. It’s ironic then that I like to think of myself as distrustful. I suppose I remember myself as I want to be.
Luckily for me, I remember others as they happen to me. I’ve been fortunate to have new and reinvigorated friendships this dreary year. I’m still surprised I made it this far into the end of the year. Many times, I was certain I would not. I’m grateful for my family and friends who stretched out their hands while I was battered by my demons, drawn out of my comforts and certainties. Too many times this year, I thought I had nothing else to lose. Now, I want to concentrate on the falsehood of that thought and all the people in my life who are my proof.
2016, for all its tribulations, had its lessons, chief of which was: If you tell people you’re a brick wall, they’ll believe you.
All these years coming, I had taken it upon myself to be strong for others, to be the backbone for the people I care about, to the effect that I became more an idea than flesh and blood. I was complicit in making myself remote to empathy, and when all the posture was gone from my knees and I could feel the harvest of pain inside of me like needles in my lungs, a rock in my chest, I suppose most of the people in my life didn’t know what to make of me. And so I found myself alone in ways I didn’t know I could be.
I’ve had to let go of people I love this year. Not just because I’m upset with them, but because there’s no space for the mechanics of the relationships I had with them in this life I’m holding onto now with an Ave Maria. I take responsibility for making like the only emotion I was capable of was anger. They take responsibility for putting their little comforts before my need for human warmth in my darkest hour. This isn’t a “fuck you.” It’s an “Au revoir. All the best wishes.”
I’m still learning to reclaim my vulnerability, to allow it, to expand it. I’m still learning where to draw lines in the sand. I’m not particularly hopeful for the coming year, but I’ve made plans and I suppose they mean something.
I plan to be happier, even if it kills me. I plan to say NO a lot. I plan to follow the water in my spirit. I plan to explore myself. I plan to be more vocal and passionate about my vision for the world (and to practice what I preach): more tolerance, more empathy, equality and justice for all, regardless of race, gender (or the absence of it), sexuality, religion etc. I plan to allow myself love and the possibility of heartbreak. I plan to be more proactive managing my mental health. I plan to stress less and live more. I plan to be less angry. I plan to drive more carefully. I plan not to kill myself.
More daring, I plan to put my life in the hands of others and trust that they are who they say they are.
I don’t know for certain I’d see 2017, but like that little boy being led by his mother, I’ll just concentrate on all that I have, how fortunate I am to have had what I’ve lost. I’ll put one foot in front of the other and let the days lead.
I know who I am and I have now. Between now and the unforeseeable future are possibilities. That’s at once a frightening and exciting prospect, but then so am I.