Waking Life

The summer’s end is near. Soon enough we’ll be layering scarves, lacing boots and lighting fires, and the deep, languid warmth of August will be a distant, albeit enjoyable, memory. The imminence of fall enveloped me last week  with a cool, sweeping breeze blowing over the beach at dusk. Dusk - it's my favorite time of day when the descent of the sun seems to muffle discontent and shrouds the city in a lush, glimmering light. If in the hours of midnight are a true reflection of self, then dusk is escapism at its best, both indulgent and compassionate.

The past several weeks have been an emotional pause. With no schedule or professional obligations other than a few freelance pieces, I've rested. Reflected. Dreamed. I've had the luxury of deconstructing my experiences of the past year - an exercise both humiliating and forgiving -  and putting them into the framework of transformation rather than failure. After all, essential to every metamorphosis are dreams, be they delusions or fantasy,and a waking life with the potential to transcend.

Of course, only now do I see the fantasy I created after my divorce for the delusion it was. Not only was it wanton and romantic - as all the best fantasies are - but it was restorative, a salve that healed the sleepless nights, the sobbing in the shower, the dulled edges of my mind, and the other gazillion heart-shattering and ego-decimating daily reminders of leaving one's husband and "forever".  This illusory existence convinced me I would soon find my intellectual, sensual (and baggage-free) equivalent who would not only feed me bites of dark chocolate from his lips and read me his poetry while I lay my head in his lap, but also wrap me in a blanket of unexplored intimacy. Along with this implausibility, my financial worries would dissipate, my six year old's tantrums would cease, and I'd regularly - and flawlessly - balance in Tittibhasana.  Wanton and romantic, for sure. No wonder I like dusk so much.

I spent too many months of the last year vacillating between this fantasy and my reality. And if the best part of dreaming a delicious dream is that moment before waking, I was on a continuous loop of the moment after waking - the stomach-sinking consciousness, the glare of lights too bright, truth too transparent, a dawn without the fantasy too perplexing. Because why, I asked myself, did I leave if the reasons why I left weren't to be found? Why the risk for such a meager gain? To an observer, perhaps I appeared fully functional, but emotionally I was acquiescing to the cyclical grief and misery of my illuminated delusions. Over and over, I acquiesced. Until I didn't. Until I accepted that acquiescing - or anything akin to it - is simply not something I do.

Let me give you a recent example of my burgeoning pledge of non-acquiescence. I was on a date last week (I have coined this summer "the summer of the 1st date"). There was laughter and a sense of companionship that isn't always present after a couple of meetings. Initially there was attraction, too, but as the evening progressed it became apparent that while we shared many similar life experiences, we didn't share the belief that the political is personal and all of the inherent trappings of that paradigm. He thought my passion was sexy and attractive if a bit bemusing; I thought his indifference numbing and a bit stifling.  Ultimately, citing the need for more passion and activism in a potential partner, I ended our short association. My point: a year ago, a man's attention and desire to spend time in my company might have been enough to see what I wanted to see, to shove down the apprehension that tickled the back of my neck. Hell, I'm not sure a year ago I even knew to demand those qualities let alone recognize their absence enough to explain why I can't proceed in a relationship without them. But I did, and I can't. Non-acquiescence, no?

If this summer has given me anything, it has been time to regain sure footing. To stop floating in fantasy and own the future that awaits me. Where the theme of my recent life has been delusion and survival, it will now be revival - one where I'm recommitting to humanity as my faith and justice as my religion. One where instead of settling in desperation for crumbs from others, I will teach people how to treat me. In this life, after all, only we can teach another how to love us.

In the words of Joseph Campbell, “we must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”


This post is cross-posted to Lara's blog, Notions of Identity.

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