There Are No Rules

I haven’t blogged in two months.  That’s 8 weeks. 60 days.

It’s not because I haven’t had anything to say.  Rather, the only things I had to say – many as they might be – were repetitive.   I guess I haven’t had a time in my life when the same thoughts played out over and over like a broken record.  It gets well…redundant, I suppose.

Silence is supposed to allow one to reflect on inner matters and outer truths.  I don’t know how much of that has happened.  I have tried to understand some things about human nature – especially my own.  Perhaps I might blog about my theories on that in a few days.  For now however, two things seem to stand out for me.  Two things that people have often said, either directly to me or indirectly through opinions I have read, are ‘rules’ or ‘norms’ in life. 

While I don’t claim that these rules are not true or that they don’t generally play out, I do think we have to leave some leeway for the uniqueness of each individual and each circumstance.  Until you have lived a person’s life, stood in their shoes, felt with their heart and seen through their eyes, you cannot presume that you know how they will react to any situation.  Human nature has certain general trends no doubt, but even these apply differently to every individual.

And so this is what I believe at this point in time:

a) Promises are made to be broken.

Remember how when you watch a cheesy movie, there’s always that point when a hero will tell the heroine "Trust me…" and even though the entire world might be collapsing into rubble, the camera has enough time to pause for a crucial second or two for us to take in the Hesitation-Intense Look-Give In sequence? And remember how we all groan and wince at how unreasonably it is?

Well, maybe watching too many movies means that we do that in real life too.  We might not trust people so fast and perhaps never in a case when death ‘n destruction is a mere millisecond away, but we do trust too easily.  Probably because human nature has an innate need to focus on other people, to have faith in their goodness, to believe that they would care and respect enough about our feelings to put us first, to look out for us and to do all that is in their power not to hurt us.

In wanting this, we put others on pedestals and forget that essentially we are all flawed and perhaps the greatest flaw 99.9% of us carry within our selves is that of selfishness.  We make claims to care and love, to be loyal and available, to cherish and sacrifice…but when the moment of choice comes, the majority of us will choose ourselves over the very people we dedicate ourselves to.

Isn’t that why we are told that more often than not, the people who hurt us most are those we love the most? It’s not just because we have allowed ourselves to become vulnerable to them, trusted our most sensitive feelings with them – it’s also because in return we demand more of them than we do of others.  We expect them to be more considerate of us than we do others.  And is it fair to ask that when at the end of the day, they are as human as all of our other acquaintances? 

We’re usually willing to either turn a blind eye to their flaws or forgive them because of the imbalance in our good opinion of them.   We believe that we can trust in their affections and their preference for us over billions of other humans beings.  And nothing – I believe – provides a foundation for any kind of relationship so much as trust. 

You can only truly care about someone if you believe that they are honest and true.  If you feel that you can take their word for granted and that when they say they will do something or be somewhere, they prove their reliability by doing it or being there.  Trust gives way to Respect which are two key ingredients in any bond of affection – parental, filial, platonic or romantic.

However, just because you care about someone, doesn’t make them super-human or beyond reproach.  They will make the same mistakes that others do. And that means that every time they make you a promise, you have to be ready for it to be broken.  i don’t mean to say you should live in perpetual distrust or suspicion, just that you should never ignore or dismiss that possibility. 

It would I think save a lot of people a lot of hurt and betrayal if they could just remember that unless you are dealing with an angel or Divinity, people will break promises. 

As House M.D. says:  "Everybody Lies."

b) Time doesn’t always heal.

Having said the above. Let me add another observation:  We forget anyway.

I don’t know if it’s that instinct or desire to bond with others or whether it’s part of our human foolishness, but we are reckless and unwary.  Inevitably, we forget the dictates of reason, common sense and intellect.   We need only a gentle nudge sometimes, a rough shove at others but we all – despite knowing full well, having read a gadzillion articles and watched enough movies on the matter – fall into the trap of thinking "This person is different".

I’m not writing to say you shouldn’t do this; I’ve said enough above and I don’t think any amount of explaining or giving advice on the matter will change the situation.  People will continue to make the mistake, as they have for centuries past.  And only a rare few will ever learn the lesson without actually going through a situation like that for themselves.

However, once you have been hurt and once you do wake up and stop looking at the world through rose-coloured lenses then the last thing you need people to tell you is "Time heals".  I know it’s sage advice and I know for a majority it’s probably true, but I also know that even in regard to one individual, it can sometimes be true and sometimes be false.  

Every hurt is different.  Every person who hurts you is different.  How you feel about the different people who hurt you differently is also different.  You can find yourself forgiving one lie and not another – even though they are told by the same person.  Sometimes the hurt fades, sometimes it is healed, sometimes you let it go.

And sometimes…sometimes you can’t find the bottom of it to begin to fill it up.  Sometimes you can’t grasp it completely so that you should be able to let go of it.  Sometimes the hurt is so big and so deep and so vast that you are lost in it and can’t even comprehend it’s full extent or reason.  When you seek one boundary to understand it, the other shore disappears and when you try to contain it with a Reason, it simply overflows into confusion and befuddlement.

Minutes pass, and then days do and finally months as well.  And you begin to understand that soon a year will pass, and maybe two or then more.  And yet, the pain and hurt don’t seem to begin to either make sense or to become shallow.  Rather they become like elusive shadows…as long as you can distract yourself with the daily routine of life, of safe, predictable events they slink into the background, but the moment you allow yourself a few seconds of peace, of rest, they jump out like a nightmarish surprise party that was lying in wait only for you to unlock the door and let them in.  And every time they attack you, they seem to grow slightly darker and gain more substance, they don’t seem to be saying goodbye and leaving, but rather unpacking and settling in.

And you begin to wonder whether this is what life will be like.  A constant cat-and-mouse chase to keep the hurtful memories at bay, of being a stranger to your own past and your own mind, of being kicked out of what should have been the sanctuary of your inner subconscious and instead having to stand out in the cold extremities of your conscious.

But I guess this is the way of the world, the rule of cause-and-effect.  If you allow yourself to forget (a) above, you will be forced to learn (b).  I don’t think life becomes un-live-able when this happens, but it does become more…real?  I’m not sure if that’s the right word, but it will do. 

For my own part, I always thought ‘real’ meant challenging, difficult and not always sweetness, but I liked that thought over the easy happy-ever-after version storybooks give.  Most stories show you a few challenges, or a big obstacle but once those are overcome the heroes are alluded to live a life of happiness – the fruit of their labours.  I always thought it would be nice to have a version where the challenges were spread out, where every day and every challenge was met with dedicated effort.   Where the fruit was an annual harvest rather than a once-in-a-lifetime one.

Life seemed in that case less like a path to be journeyed down and more like a staircase that you climbed up step by step to higher heights. 

Now, I think I’ll add one more definition to ‘real’ and that’s ‘sad’.  Real life is actually quite sad.  Sometimes you have to look back and see people who were climbing with you and then gave up and refused to continue upwards no matter how much you offered encouragement or an arm.  Other times, the people you thought enjoyed your company and support as much as you did theirs will abandon you and either run ahead or simply turn down a side route and leave you alone.

I’m not sure if this should count as a (c) or not, but in the end, I can only say I hope I never have and never will make a promise I can’t keep because I don’t want to ever hurt another person with that kind of pain.  I don’t have the courage to trust that Time would heal them, nor the inclination to be the cause of such a feeling while it lasts (even if it does fade). 

I can only think that it would be wise to always remember why you made it before you consider breaking it.  If the Why is not strong enough to give you the impetus to keep it, then you should never have made it in the first place…

Perhaps the silliest thing is that as I end this totally random post (having neither thought it out or edited it as I usually do my other posts), despite all my observations on good sense and rationality, there is a little voice deep inside that whispers almost inaudibly that surely, if you have been cautious in who you give your trust to, surely if that person has proven their reliability more than once…then surely, they must be true to their nature and somehow, some day keep the promises they made? How will they live with themselves if they don’t?  And if they don’t…then what is there left to have faith in regarding this world and its inhabitants?  Regarding your own judgment of character?  And if you can’t trust your self, then who can you ever trust again?

I don’t know if it’s a reasonable voice or an unreasonable one.  I just know it’s a voice that has so far refused to be quelled.  It is the voice that reminds me that no matter what happens, I have made promises as well and I must be true to my word – always.  Or I will be no different.

S’laams,
bint Ali.

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