If only that were possible, eh? I’ve been thinking (*insert witty retort here*) and came across certain thoughts that have been (perhaps) lurking at the back of my subconscious for a long time, but only arranged themselves into a coherent sequence today.
The first one is pretty simple. I don’t know if others feel this (they probably do, but no one’s said it to me before), but recently I’ve been wondering why it is that I seem to meet the wrong people in the right place, at the right time or the right people in the wrong place at the wrong time … and every other permutation of that idea, except the perfect one. If I could twiddle some knobs and just exchange a meeting here, an experience there, a month here, a moment there, I might come up with a less tumultuous life. But, with my flawed perspective, it would probably be one with terrible repercussions.
The other, larger and more disturbing issue that then arose from the above is as follows:
I know that I get a lot from the people around me. In the sense that I learn from them on a constant basis. There’s not a single conversation or experience I have that doesn’t leave me with a sense of either having added to my knowledge, or refining my perspective or just re-affirming something I had an opinion on.
But have I been doing this selfishly? I find that more often than not, I’m the one initiating, probably because I’m the one seeking out new information. But it’s not the same as when other people seek out stuff, because in my case I’m involving other human beings. That means when I take, they’re giving.
The question then is: do they want to give? Or am I forcing them to do so by expecting it from them? Sometimes I seek out a smile from a friend, but what if she’s had a bad day and doesn’t want to give it? Other times I simply want to voice my thoughts to clarify the jumbled mess they’re in, but since I’ve chosen an intelligent being instead of, say a brick wall, then I’m expecting a response and ergo I’m asking for a willing ear – what if the ear isn’t really willing?
I write ridiculously long mails to my brother for example: exploring ideas, rambling, asking questions … and the reason I send the finished product to him rather than save it in my journal is because I want (sometimes need) him to respond. But what if he’s busy? Or he’s heard it a dozen times before and wishes he could save his previous answers to copy and paste them into his reply?
I know give-and-take is the magic phrase in all human relationships from a simple exchange of greetings to that of more complex, multi-layered, undefinable emotions. However, there’s always a clause that says “give more than you take”. In Islam for example, it’s recommended to reply with an extended salaam to a shorter one – give more than you receive.
Which is why I’ve been wondering (worrying, fretting and being disappointed) about the fact that I don’t think I give back to those I take from. When I walk away from another person, as many times as I can count back, I’m the one with the advantage. I’m the one going away with more than I came with. I can’t see anything that they’re taking away from the same place.
Sometimes, I’ll share something I know or something I’ve come across. Sometimes I’ll teach something that I learnt from someone else and for a brief moment be a link in the passing on of a knowledge. But I don’t really want to be an impersonal provider of information. Take away the data and there doesn’t seem to be much I have to give. As a person and as a human being, I fall short of my own standards by more than I like to admit.
I know people who make my life better without saying a single word. Just bring aware that they’re around and that I have the honour of knowing them is enough to make me feel this world is a safer, better place.
I know people who light up my week with just a smile and when I’m down and they’re not around, simply the memory of their smile makes me smile.
I know people who challenge me to re-think the way I am and the way I want to be. Who force to me answer the difficult questions I’m trying to avoid and to confront my fears when I’d rather hide away in a corner – and sometimes they do this without even verbally asking the questions!
I know people who give me hope that traits like honesty, integrity, nobility, elegance and humanity do still exist in this world.
And these are all people that I take these things from. I suck in their energy like a black hole, absorbing it, soaking in it and then assimilating it into my own energy, that I don’t seem to share back with them in return. Maybe it’s because they have so much of their own, that they have no need for mine.
And that’s sad. Because it means at the end of my life, I will leave indebted to all the people I know and there will be no way to pay off that loan.
Especially if, as I suspect, it’s not a loan as much as an enforced demand on my part.
I wish I could find something to give, I’d be shovelling it out in spade-fuls, just to get rid of this sense of burden.
“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”
-Madeleine L’Engle, writer (1918- )