Is this true? Can we plug a hole in our heart with work, new duties, adjusting to a new place and probably a new job, gaining new colleagues and new friends?
If you have lost a love, the ancient counsel was, go to a seashore or the mountains. Let nature take care of your grief. Today the options are more – and more varied. You can take a discount flight to the Mediterranean or Caribbeans. Recently I took a cruise to San Juan and Saint Kitts and could see the point of a change of air. Thousands flock there for a bracing change when there is a nip in the air.
You don’t have to be a person of leisure to do that. Now that much of the world is working online, you could probably attend to network collapse or client discontent from a table in the sand or the deck chair on a cruise ship.
Devarajan, an Indian American techie who lives near me, shared his pain that his wife, Sova, left him and started living with an Armenian colleague who worked on the next desk. He knew neither how to share the news with his family and friends in India nor how to face the ignominy of talking politely with his marauding colleague. “I went for a long trip in Italy, which was distracting. But, sadly, not distracting enough. I would be eating pasta roadside and would suddenly feel lonely and dejected. It was worse when I returned to my hotel at night.” He returned a week early to go back, miserably, to his accustomed desk.
Siobhan, an Irish redhead I meet often at the local library, told me of her equally humiliating experience of being practically abandoned on the church steps in New York, three days before a meticulously planned wedding to be followed by a lavish reception. She couldn’t bear to continue in the city and hurriedly took a job in Washington. “I like the relative isolation. None of the old friends, old associations. I live among strangers and, for months, carefully keep them as strangers. I had to adjust to an unfamiliar city while coping with an untried job. The stress gave me some relief in the initial months, but in two months I felt my depression returning. I cope as best as I can.”
Both avoided relations and friends and tried to fill their life with endless errands. It brought little solace beyond some distraction. We don’t always get what we want. Rather, with rare exceptions, what we want we don’t get. I wanted to study literature or philosophy, I spent years studying economics. I wanted to be a jurist or journalist, I ended up an executive and diplomat. Not unlike what happened to many friends.
I suspect many don’t realize the frustration of their desires because they never clearly articulate their desires, even to themselves. If you haven’t given a thought to what you want, you don’t notice that you aren’t moving anywhere close to it. It is truest when it comes to our heart’s desires. A vast number of people start relationships with people near at hand, someone who works with them, lives near them, knows their friends or relations. No wonder the relationships don’t always work out well.
What do we do then?
If you don’t want to turn your face away from life – as some do and turn pathetically to a cult or religion, or worse, a specious swami or bogus guru – but find meaning and pleasure in life itself, you have to find something that does not depend on anybody else or any outside event.
Professor Kowalski, a friend, tells me, “It takes a bit of doing. You have to think hard and settle on something that you truly enjoy. Is it music? Is it gardening? Is it cooking new things? Do more of it, learn more about it, fill your life with what gives you genuine and abundant pleasure. Whether it is writing poetry or playing the guitar, it can be your own source of peace and happiness. Nobody can snatch it away.”
The pain will always be with us. Heartaches will come our way, repeatedly. Relatives will prove insincere, friends will let us down, children will disappoint us. But nobody will be able to take away our joy in sketching a tree or singing a song. And that joy will last and grow, no matter whatever else goes wrong in our life. I may not be able to cure the world’s sorrow, but I can create my happiness. That is what we can live for.