Saturday, 3 February 2018

A philosophical (not at all funny and maybe a little heavy) one.

A woman that I knew socially in Doha, and who subsequently moved to Dubai, has lost her older daughter in some freaky tragic accident details of which seem to be changing depending  on who tells me the story. 

For a few days after I got told the news, I kept hoping it was not her, that it was a mistake. As if someone could make something like that up. 

(Saying that, people do make some crazy shit up. Once, a long time ago, someone told me my high school boyfriend had died in a submarine accident. Since one other of my exes was already dead, I started to worry it had something to do with me, and imagining all sorts of things about myself, when fortunately, a cousin of the ex contacted me and explained it was a made-up story. Thank goodness. I am not a witch after all.

Or, as if, even if it had happened, but to some other, unknown to me 13-year old child, it would make it okay.

Because, when it happens to someone you know, it is so much sadder but also so much scarier, so much more real, so much easier to imagine happening to yourself. 

The woman whose child died is someone I knew for a few years but only on a very superficial level. We would run into each other at Starbucks in Villagio, and whenever we would chat, our conversation would almost always revolve around either her maid, or her looks and skincare secrets, as she, without doubt, always looked amazing. With her hair shiny and thick, and her skin glowing, she would be your perfect adviser on anything beauty related-from flax seeds to botox and fillers. 

Bizarrely, the first thing I thought of when I heard the terrible news, was just how different her outlook on life must be now. One irreversible moment, one terrible accident-and your whole life is blown up into tiny fragments, impossible to re-assemble, completely shuttered. 

A Catholic friend of mine back in England, many years ago blamed god for almost killing her in a car crash. ‘God punished me for complaining too much about my life’, she said. ‘He probably thought “”Fine! You want to complain? I will give you something real to complain about!”” She believed her life was in fact, pretty perfect and she deserved that accident as a punishment for not appreciating it enough. 

Bollocks, of course, IMHO. In her defence, she was on a lot of dope when she said that. 

I am, however, familiar with that awful feeling you get when something tragic happens to someone you know; who, just like you, had a normal life, similar to yours, with same age children, and just like you worried about things like her looks, or how fat or old she was getting, or whether her maid was misbehaving…and then something unspeakable, unbearable happens..Do you not then think shit, I should really be a better parent? I should appreciate them more, spend more time with them, try and protect them the best I can from freaky accidents-how?!- force-feed them more vegetables; and, at the very least, not roll my eyes and mutter FFS!!! when they shout ‘Mummy!!!’ for the 100's time in five minutes?

The night I got the horrible news about that poor woman’s daughter, I came home from a dinner out with friends and sneaked into my girls’ bedrooms while they were asleep- just to glance at them, make sure they were okay and give them a kiss.  I even felt guilty for having been out and not putting them to bed myself.  (And that never happens)

One of my favourite Russian poets, Marina Tsvetayeva wrote striking words begging people to love her, “for I will pass away”.  Please, she said, for all that I am, for being way too tender and way too proud, for yes and no, for the play and for the truth, for the ease with which I forgive…. Please, love me, for I will die.

Blackmailing me with future remorse used to be my grandmother’s favourite psychological trick. 'Wait till I die!' She would say if I didn’t listen to her- 'You will see then! You will appreciate me and my advice. And you will feel bad about this!' Oh, come on, I used to say to her, that just not fair. I adored my grandmother, but sometimes she annoyed me, and I guess what is important to remember is that life is full of those moments- not ideal and not perfect, when we forget to appreciate each other, forget to be kinder or more attentive, or run out of patience.

Just imagine how different our relationships with each other would be if we constantly remembered that at any moment, any of us might disappear. And so, when something scary or sad happens somewhere near us, we freak out for a few days. We make a mental promise to ourselves to pay more attention to those who matter the most, we try our best, we focus on every minute, trying to cherish it…but then, time passes and we slowly get back to living like we always do, promising to play that game later, being too lazy to sing another bedtime song, arguing with parents and partners, not spending enough time with people we care about. 

What I am saying is…I don’t know what I was trying to say. I was just very sad to hear about that friend’s child. I still hope it was not her. And I hope that, despite my laziness at times, and my lack of attention and my selfishness…I still remember to let the people I care about know that they matter.