“Love is messy,” says Ellie Chu in the movie “The Half of It”. It’s true. I wish I could continue with the line of thought I was in in the last post, but I feel worn down today, my head filled with other sensations, hurts, beautiful moments, insights. I haven’t talked to my Ammama in two days; I need to call her because she misses Thatha. She’s known Thatha her entire life and she married him at 16, for better and for worse. While there was so much wrong with the way it happened, they loved each other throughout the years, and theirs was a simple, enduring, steadfast love. It was an affection that required no words to reassure the other person that it was true, or maybe it grew into that by the time I was old enough to notice. Today, it is the 48th day of mourning, a day my Amma and Ammama observed through prayer, meditation, and the cooking of sweets to offer the gods. My Ammama felt the auspiciousness of it also being the day of the full moon, and she said a flower dropped from Thatha’s picture just as she finished praying. My Amma grieves in a way that is invisible to me, but my thangachi can see it. In comparison, I am loud and very “heart-on-my-sleeve” and it is a need for me to express what I think and feel. It is hard for me to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself; I am wired for sharing. Humans are all wired for sharing, but we have different ways of coping. My Ma, My Amma, her way of coping is silent. Still bright-faced and full of love, enthusiasm, and energy, her presence fills every room, her voice softening the air. But she is more tired now. The fire in her is more gentle now; she is less interested in debates, uninterested in accepting an invitation to any sort of argument. In a bubble of silent tranquility, she sits, unmoved by the nonsense that gets stirred up in another imperfect, struggling, resilient, beautiful, family.
We are all affected, even though I would like to pretend otherwise. It is harder to pretend to yourself when you are in quarantine, left with your thoughts, left to face yourself. Sometimes, I wish I could vacation in my Ma’s head, as Meg Cabot would say. It seems nice there; she feels what I feel, but she is so much wiser. She is less explosive than I am; she possesses greater self-restraint, self-knowledge, is more strategic with her time and energy.
She is much better at loving people than I am. But I am lucky that my family teaches me how to love better, every day. My thangachi teaches me to forgive; she tells me to accept that people are flawed. She lives the idea of “giving people room for imperfection” (quotation inspired by Craig B.). My Appa lets me in on the secret that honesty is loving, that honesty is precious, that honesty keeps relationships from dying. He would rather I argue than to decide that there is no point in having a conversation.
I can be self-righteous, and while it takes a lot to anger me, the results of my anger can be horrible for me to reflect on. I have come to appreciate myself over the years, but it is much harder to accept myself, to face my flaws, to both work on bettering them and to make peace with the inevitable imperfection. I wish I could get through life without causing any discomfort to anyone, ever. But it doesn’t work that way, or at least, it is hard to be brave and honest while making sure everyone is okay with it, if not happy with it. I am sensitive, and sappy, and can be open and thoughtful to a fault. I love who I am, and I have trouble with who I am, and it turns out I have a long way to go when it comes to learning how to love. Love is messy. Love is messing up again and again and forgiving and starting over, because the other person is worth it (assuming this is a healthy, imperfect relationship and not an abusive one). Love is recognizing someone else’s fragility, but also their potential. Love is accepting where someone is today while having hope for their growth, and the growth that they’re interested in, not necessarily the growth we think is best. Love is surrendering the responsibility of someone else’s growth while having the integrity and strength to walk beside them, especially in their dark moments, when you might not even recognize them. Love is asking a lot out of me, and you know, sometimes it seems like I cannot rise up to meet it, and sometimes it feels out of reach. I feel cynical about love sometimes, but I will not stay cynical, because I want to be brave with my life. Again and again, hurt after hurt, I have to be brave enough to hear what God is telling me, what my inner voice is telling me. Hurt after hurt, I must be willing to get up and love again, to love anyway, to love in spite of, to love through, to love because, to love. I have been loved with all my flaws, and I will love the ones I have been given with all their flaws. Boundaries are necessary, and the extent can vary depending on what the relationship is like, and maybe sometimes distance is best. But love can love anyway.
“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”– Maya Angelou
Today, thinking of my Thatha, who always loved me anyway, I pray that God humbles my heart. Help me see my own flawed ways and let it empower me to pour kindness into myself and kindness into others. Help me, God; thank you for today, yesterday, and every day.