Entrances and exits.

The two little lads were inseparable. Saagar and Rohan. They cycled together all evening after school and kicked a ball about for hours. They had dinner at each other’s houses. They created snowmen and played with snowballs together. They even shared a bath every now and then. Luckily, they lived right next to each other and their parents were friends.

At Ulster Hospital in East Belfast, the staff accommodation is a set of six flats. Rohan‘s family lived in the one just below us. His mum, Shruti, was the best grower of indoor plants. A gentle, sweet lady. She was also a doctor but at that time, was not working. Over time our families became close friends and continued to visit each other even after we moved to London and they moved to the north of England. If you ask me to name my oldest friends in the UK, Shruti’s name would be on top.

Eventually Shruti started working in Psychiatry and seemed to enjoy it, even though the exams were a struggle as they are for many of us, when they must fit somewhere in between work, kids, husbands, homes, pets, friends, sleep and homesickness.

When Saagar was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, I needed to speak with her. I needed her. I asked her by text what time would suit. She said she’s call me after work and she did.

“Hi Shruti. Thanks so much for calling.”

‘No problem. I am driving so we may get cut off. I’ll call you back if that happens.’

As soon as I started speaking it got cut off and she called back and the same thing happened again. And again. And then she didn’t call back.

When Saagar died, she came to see us the very next day with her husband, utterly shocked.

A month later I needed to connect with her again. She said she’d call me back after work. She called while driving. She had to pick someone up from somewhere or drop someone off somewhere. She was on the move. On – Off – On – Off : our phones connected and then rudely disconnected mid-sentence and stayed disconnected for seven years.

Two days back a message arrived from Shruti on Whatsapp saying, “Please join us and bless the couple.” Rohan gets married soon. A nice little electronic invitation to the reception was posted underneath the message. The invitation wasn’t for anyone in particular. It had no names on it. I can’t be entirely sure it was for us.

I am happy for the family and for Rohan. Wishing them all possible happiness, I RSVP’d with apologies for being unable to attend. There’s nothing here and let’s not pretend there is. I felt sad for a little while at this loss of a valued friendship, but not for long. This is an opportunity to let go. Yet again. If there is one thing I want to be skilled at, it is to keep letting go, remembering what the Bard of Avon said – ‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances …’ I get it.

I would like to live

like a river flows

carried by the surprise

of its own unfolding.”                                    

John O’Donahue

To you, with love. xxx

Sixth Christmas with your empty chair

Now more salt, less pepper in my hair.

That I’ve been breathing all this time

Still makes no sense, no reason, no rhyme.

Your cat makes all the other felines quake

His sweet name, given by you, is still Milkshake.

The Christmas markets we visited at the Southbank

The doughy sweets we gorged and the German beer we drank.

Those candle stalls and hand-knit shops, I believe are still there

But a visit, I cannot bear.

Ice skating at Somerset house with friends

Merry shopping here and there, for odds and ends.

Cocktails at ‘All bar One’ after work at Waterloo

What I would give to have another one, with you.

Beating the hell out of every one at Ping-pong.

Not many of your moves, slow or wrong.

The years trundle in and roll out like a stream,

I watch and wonder how they could be both,

A nightmare and a dream.  

Standing back, I watch and see.

Trying not to judge. Just be.

There are but three things to know,

To love, to learn and to let go.

To love, to learn and to let go.

Day 765

Happiness. That’s what it’s all about – greetings, festivals, blessings, wishes, prayers, careers, relationships, food, fame, fortune, birthdays, weddings, everything. Directly or indirectly it is the subject of countless books and films. Most stories and encounters navigate through all odds steering their way towards happy endings. Many spiritual and religious programs promise lasting happiness. ‘Happily ever after’… is the stuff fairy tales are made of.

At this point in my story, my relationship with happiness is elusive. Intellectually it seems unfortunate because I have everything a girl could want and more, but my heart physically aches. The dagger that struck 25 months ago is still wedged in there. Every now and then it twitches and twists, radiating shooting pains. I sit with it, observe it, experience it and honour it. I look at it with love and as love. I live and breathe through it. I absorb it and carry on as ‘normal’. It is a part of me.

Could this very dagger be the route to access true happiness? Is this wishful thinking? A fantasy? Or is it really possible? If happiness arises from within and that is exactly where the pain is, there must be a relationship between the two. May be there is tonnes of happiness there, waiting for me to unlock it and ‘let go’ of the things that make me sad. May be it’s all up to me. May be it is do-able and I am just not doing it. May be it’s time.

I don’t know.

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Day 500

In Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars
of light,

are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,
the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over

the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
nameless now.

Every year
everything
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss

whose other side
is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.

To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:

to love what is mortal;

to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.