By any measure, I have led a privileged life to date, not marred by the extremities of human suffering. And yet, Gentle Reader, I have not led a sheltered life. I was listing the other day, and I realised that I have dealt with, in no particular order: untimely death of loved ones, poisonous family estrangement, domestic violence and assault, homesickness, loved ones afflicted by cancer and various other serious ailments requiring major surgeries, separation from loved ones, workplace bullying, workplace stress, unemployment, financial and job insecurity, religious conversion and consequent emotional upheaval, mental instability and illness. I have, at the age of 41, led what may be called a full life. Nor do I foresee negative and unpleasant things receding from my life. On the contrary, I predict increasing loneliness for myself, more and perhaps longer periods of financial instability (job market for emerging academics, plunges dagger in heart), continued incidents of illness and disease. And that is not even considering anything disastrous – that is just thinking about the “normal” and “natural” course of life. Life is not a bed of roses after all, never was, never meant to be, for no one. Or as Farsi speakers say, only the first hundred years are difficult.
And yet. So far I have to say, without invoking the evil eye, I have been able to face down these trials and troubles in a fairly -cheerful? not quite the right word, how about stalwart? manner. With equanimity. Without getting all Britney Spears or Selena Gomez about it, I would say I have not been “brought down” by this crap. My friends often remark on my “grounded” demeanour. Certain words, phrases, places, images, music throughout the day might spark in me heartache and sorrow, but the feelings move through me, and they do not remain. I cuddle and joke with my kids. Life feels good. Joy is real.
But then something small happens. For example, today the library which held two books that I needed, without which I feel the whole course of my studies will grind to a halt, was closed for maintenance, and the relocation place had no access to the books, and no indication when the books would be available.
I felt as if something in my mind broke. The cold winter air froze my soul and shattered it. I composed a supremely bitchy email to library services, each line of which could be sung out loud as an opera aria by Pavarotti, arms flung out. The high point of the e-mail was the rhetorical question, positively Shakespearean: “What is the point of a university library where the books are not accessible?”
I pressed send powerfully, with no hesitation, like Prince Hamlet wielding a sword at treacherous Laertes. Slowly, the healing process began. In a couple of hours, I felt alright again. The sun was shining.