The Right to Grieve — And That Means Being Sad [en]

[fr] Avez-vous remarqué comme personne ne veut qu'on soit triste? La tristesse est néanmoins une émotion nécessaire, celle qui nous permet d'accepter une perte, d'en faire le deuil, et de pouvoir continuer à avancer à travers et au-delà de la peine.

Have you noticed how nobody wants you to be sad? Tell people around you that you’re sad, and immediately they’ll want to cheer you up.

Sadness is not bad. Sadness is necessary. It is through being sad that we are able to accept our losses and move on. That is what grieving is.

Our friends don’t want us to feel sad, because they don’t want us to suffer. But refusing to be sad and to grieve brings along a lot of suffering — certainly more, in the long run, than the pain of sadness.

Sadness is not depression. Unprocessed grief can lead to depression, though.

Sadness is the feeling of loss.

A person who is experiencing loss needs the courage to feel sad, and in a world which wants to shove sad under the carpet at the first opportunity, that can be far from easy.

What is valued is staying strong in the face of loss, grief, catastrophe. Not collapsing. Not showing how much pain we’re in.

But what we need when we’re sad and in pain, most of the time, is support so we can dare to feel all this. A safe place to be heard, recognised, and not judged. Love and acceptance that does not desperately want to save us from our emotions, but on the contrary, regard them as part of ourselves and our journey through life.

To grieve and to move on from all the various losses in our lives, all the nevermores, we need to be able to be sad. It is a good thing.

Similar Posts:

India, Women, Men [en]

[fr] Quelques réflexions sur l'Inde, les hommes, les femmes. Même si la situation est clairement différente d'ici, il est tout à fait possible de voyager en Inde en tant que femme sans que ce soit l'enfer.

I lived in India for nearly a year, and upon my subsequent visits there have tacked on another 7 months in the country over the last 13 years.

Traveler Candace shares her notes on travelling alone as a woman in India. Her article, a reaction to this very dark picture of Indian men written by an exchange student (do also read the counter-piece), made me want to share my experience as a woman in India too. And also because since the highly publicised 2012 rape in Delhi, people ask me: is it really that bad? what is it really like?

Well, honestly, I haven’t had any particularly bad experiences in India. Sure, people stare more in India. And when it’s men or teenage boys, it can be a bit unsettling. But look around — women and children stare too. We’re staring material. People are often genuinely curious about foreigners. Get over it.

I had one guy I didn’t know e-mail me for a “sex date”. A fellow traveller leaning in a little too close on a bus (I swapped places with my male companion). A furtive breast grope at a crowded new year’s party. A friend of mine had somebody mumble “are you interested in a fuck?” while she was hanging out in front of a shop — she had to make him repeat it three times before she understood, I think the guy was more mortified than she was. In one of the hotels I stayed at, the manager came to chat with me during dinner a little too often for my comfort. But maybe he was just honestly curious (I really don’t know).

Let’s put this in context, though: like most women, I get unwanted attention in the West too. See #shoutingback. So this is not limited to India. Now, true, despite all the kamasutra and tantra idealisations, India is more sexually repressed than Switzerland. And more male-dominated. And it’s big. So yes, there are creepy guys, and there are definitely issues that need to be addressed. And there is risk, too. The Delhi rape didn’t just come out of nowhere. Years ago I read Bitter Chocolate, a book on child sexual abuse in India, which is quite chilling.

All this doesn’t mean that each woman’s trip to India will necessarily turn into a horror story. It’s quite possible to spend time in India without feeling like a sexual object at every turn of street. Being “sensible” is a part of it, just like it is in the West.

I’m careful how I dress, knowing that as a white woman I’m likely to start off with higher “sex capital”, so in doubt I might dress a little more conservatively than my Indian peers. I use the ladies’ compartment in the Delhi metro, the ladies’ side of the bus when there is one, the ladies’ queue — specially if I’m unaccompanied. I don’t feel like I’m driven by fear: one part is “do as Romans do”, and the other is that it just makes things more relaxed and avoids potentially annoying situations.

In her article, Candace points out one piece of “advice” that was given out to students going to India: “don’t smile at people”. I spent most of my time in India glaring at people, to be honest. A few years ago, I realized I spent most of my time in Switzerland glaring at people. I started smiling more to people I didn’t know, and trying to approach strangers in a more friendly mode rather than defensive. It changes things.

Sure, a smile is an invitation to some kind of interaction. If you have huge boundary issues you might prefer to lock yourself up in a scowl to prevent anybody from approaching. Interaction can indeed lead to unwanted attention, but it can also lead to friendly interaction. My life in India was (and is) filled with friendly men, and yes, having friends is something that will increase your safety — and your feeling of safety. For example, I travelled all the way to Chennai in sleeper class with my friend Shinde, something I would not have done on my own.

So, here’s a quick selection of some Indian men I met along the way.

Shinde and his wife Nisha, whom I stay with when I go back to Pune:

20040201_eating_out8_2

Madhav, who helped me find hotels to stay at when I kicked myself out of my pay-guest place, and remained a close friend for many years:

20040201_tennis13_2

Mithun and his family, who helped me out when I arrived in India, hosted me and helped me find a flat so many years ago:

Pune 125 me and Mithun's family

The “Delhi Boys” plus my host Sunesh’s family in Kerala:

Goodbye Family Pics Karivellur 14.jpg

Satisha, one of the helpful staff at Hillview Farms:

People of Hillview Farms 42.jpg

Thanks to Claude for sharing the article that got me started on The Life Nomadic.

Similar Posts:

Drifting People [en]

[fr] On ne peut pas être ami avec tout le monde, ne serait-ce que pour des questions d'agenda. Je crois que j'ai accepté cette limite, et aussi que l'amitié va et vient la plupart du temps, et que les gens invités dans ma vie ne resteront pas forcément pour toujours.

I like people. I meet a lot of them. I connect easily and make friends. I have lots of people in my life, and not just “business contacts” kept at arm’s length.

At some point these last months, I started reflecting on the fact that I want to count as friends more people than I can cope with, from a purely “calendar” point of view. It’s very frustrating.

Four years ago I wrote a post titled “Too Many People“. I’m not at this level of crisis, at all, though the seeds of this year’s realization were undoubtedly sown sometime then.

I think I’ve accepted that people will drift in and out of my life. I’ve accepted that I cannot pursue every friendship worth pursuing, and that when friends drift out of my life, it is not just my responsibility.

You see, for some reason, I tend to look at things as if I was in charge of maintaining the relationship. But there are always two of us, and when there has been no contact in a year, it is also because the other person has not made a move either.

I’m not thinking of any of my friendships in particular, here. It’s more that I think I’ve accepted something about the somewhat transient nature of friendships and relationships, and the practical limits which mean one can’t be friends with everyone one wants to, and feel more at peace with it.

Similar Posts:

Be Your Own Best Friend [en]

Many years ago I understood it was important that I treat myself as my own best friend. I’ve been trying to put that in practice ever since.

One of the ongoing issues in my life has been that even though I am a strong, dependable person for others, I would fail at being somebody that I could depend on.

I would let myself down a lot. I would resolve to do things, and watch my resolve disappear in a puff of smoke as soon as it was time to use it. I would let the dishes pile up, the flat get messy, and the fridge go empty. I would allow myself to stay up way past a reasonable bedtime, knowing I would pay for it later. In short, I’ve always had trouble taking good care of myself.

The strange thing was that I would have no problem doing those things for other people. I didn’t mind doing the dishes for a friend if I ate at their place. I would clean up my flat if I had guests coming. If I told a friend I would do something for them, I would show up — and do it.

So, the skill was there. And one day — I remember the scene clearly — it clicked. I realized that if I looked at the pile of dishes in the sink not as yet another thing I had to deal with, but as a favour to a good friend, it became much easier to do them.

Of course, it’s not magic. It doesn’t work all the time. There are long stretches of time where I completely forget to treat myself like a good friend.

But all in all, I’m getting much better at it. It’s helped me take charge of my life, rather than letting my life happen to me.

It’s cliché, but living one’s life for others is not sustainable. As adults, we are our primary — and really only — carer. Even surrounded by healthy relationships, friends, spouses, family, we are alone in life as we are alone before death. We are the only 100% stable being in our universe.

So, when things start getting a little out of hand in my life, like they regularly do, I try to remember: as I can and want to care for others, I can care for myself, take myself by the hand and do what needs to be done.

It actually boils down to a question of simple decision — and action — even when it’s not easy.

Your life belongs to you, and you are its sole gardener. Nobody else will do it for you.

Be your own best friend. Don’t let yourself down anymore.

Similar Posts:

Defriending, Keeping Connections Sustainable and Maybe Superficial [en]

Yesterday I read Laurent Haug‘s post Defriendization is the future of social networks. (Laurent organizes the Lift conference, next month in Geneva — are you going? Here’s why you should.) I’m not sure I’m with Laurent about defriending. I guess I’m more of an advocate of being lazy about friending. That’s why I have 200+ people waiting in friend request purgatory on Facebook.

It is true, however, that with an online social network, you keep on dragging your past connections with you unless you defriend. In offline life, connections loosen with time, you stop seeing people, stop calling, stop writing, lose track of where they live… and connect again on Facebook. We have two movements here:

  • the fact that people tend to drift out of each other’s lives, and online social networks do not really have a way to reflect that
  • the fact that in a way, we like “collecting” our contacts, even if they’re not active anymore, as a way of making present or tangible some part of our past lives.

Sometimes, reconnecting with people who have drifted out of your life can be a great thing. I think that’s because in many cases, there is no real reason (like conflict, for example) for having drifted apart. It’s more a combination of circumstances and the absence of a strong incentive to not let the relationship dissolve.

I think that one of the obsessions with defriending has to do with having excessively high expectations about what one owes one’s connections. One of my keys to social media survival is “you can’t read everything”, which as far as relationships go translates to “you can’t have an active relationship with all your connections”.

It sucks, I know. I do believe that there is a psychological limit to the number of people we can handle in our lives (cf. Dunbar’s number). I also believe that social media, in a way, allows us to cheat with this — but it’s only cheating. It makes it easier to keep loose ties alive, and reactivate old relationships, but it doesn’t fundamentally change how many people in our lives we can really care about on a regular basis.

If you try to keep your online social network connections as meaningful as “regular friendships”, you can only fail.

I think this is part of the explanation of what I’d like to call “social media burnout” and that we’re seeing popping up all over the place. The links I’ve collected in relation to this theme are of high-profile social media people, but this happens to “normal” people too. They go wild about Facebook for a few months or a year, and then drop it all because they got sucked into it too much. Now, the people I’ve linked to above are not doing the “all-or-nothing” thing, and they might very well not be properly burned out, but they have in common that at some point, they have realised that their social media “life” was not sustainable as is. This happens outside social media too — but I think there is something specific to social media here, in the way that it dramatically lowers the energy necessary to establish and maintain connections.

Though one must never forget that the people at the end of our social media connections are real people, we must also acknowledge that it does not automatically entitle them to a deep, meaningful relationship with us. It’s OK to keep things superficial. It’s necessary, or your brain will fry.

Coming back to Laurent’s article, he points to three links that I would like to comment upon, in my typical rambly and disjointed blogging style ;-). I initially wrote a huge long post, and then decided to chop it up. Keep reading (after the lunch break):

Similar Posts: