Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Mayday, Mayday, Mayday

I think most of us know what the above phrase stands for. …. It is an emergency code word used internationally as a distress signal in case of a life threatening emergency. It is derived from the French word m’aider meaning help me.
As an airline employee and someone who has grown up seeing action movies , I am well conversant with the code for help. However I had never ever experienced a distress call till yesterday.
No my plane was not in any kind of distress, and nor was I marooned on an island with nothing but a radio. The Mayday call came from one of my colleagues at work. He is a senior pilot and has been a captain for around 8 years. He has flown 747-200, 300 and 400 and is now a captain on the Airbus.
Let’s call him Tom. I was telling Tom about my experience at the Vipassna meditation centre and how my life had changed since I made happiness a habit. How happiness is a daily choice and a skill to be learnt and practiced daily. I was telling him about my brush with depression and the soul searching leading to choosing happiness and the new me. Oblivious to his expression I kept rambling about how good it feels when you make a decision to be happy. As I was regaling him with my story, I suddenly saw a look of sheer helplessness on his face. He looked completely lost and starry eyed. I asked him if he was OK, to which he replied…Not Really!!!
I did not need to do much probing as he came out with a distress call for help. He had been going through a very trying 20 months. His wife had decided to leave him for someone else and had asked him to move out. He has three children and is completely and utterly devastated. He is still in love with his wife and would do anything to have her back in his life. Heartbroken and helpless, he does not know what to do and who to ask for help. It was as if the flood gates had been opened and the dam had burst. Tom is crying for help , but does not know where or how to go about it.
For all the physical strength of a man, he is yet much weaker emotionally. Tom has been married for 18 years and cannot imagine life without his wife. For him , life as he had planned and visualized, is over. He has never ever grieved so much in life as he is now. According to him, this is worse than the death of his parents and the death of his God father to whom he was extremely close. He sees no respite from the pain and he feels completely helpless. Actually seeing his wife walking with another man is like a dagger through his heart. He starts to visualize her being intimate with this person and it brings out the devil in him. He is driven to madness and wants almost to kill him, but obviously better sense prevails and he bites his tongue and lets it be.
We all go through the pain of heart break at some point in our life. I think, that in our hearts and minds we see our future with that special someone and the non culmination of that future wreaks havoc on our system. We are unable to accept the reality of a future without that partner and the world seems a dark and lonely place.
Someone once told me that it takes about half the time you spent with the person to get over that person. So in Tom’s case it would take him 9 years to get over his wife. I surely hope not!!
It’s rather easy for people to give advice and say things like, “hey bro move on, one cannot dwell on the past and ruminate. No amount of worrying and thinking will ever change the situation. By your wishing it so, she just won’t walk right back into your life.” I said exactly the same things to him. I can say those because it was not me hurting at this time.
I remember telling my friend once , how it was easy to bandage a physical hurt, pop pain killers to get rid of the pain, but there was nothing over the counter that could be purchased for the pain of heart break. It is one of the most painful things one has to endure completely on their own. No one , absolutely no one can understand what the person is going through. I remember, when it was me, I would look for any ray of hope that anyone could offer. I would look for messages in the books, messages in unflushed ciggarette butts! Tarot cards, fortune tellers, weekly and yearly forecasts, anything that would give me some kind of hope and an answer that I was looking for. I think these are just crutches that help us tide over and eventually acceptance sets in and then begins the healing. Before that we are so much in denial that the fact of our lover walking away does not even register, leave alone the acceptance.
In Tom’s case he needs to figure out, why is he so devastated? Why does he need her so much? Why can’t he let her go? Is it really love? Very often we confuse love with habitual dependency. The death of a future that we had created in our minds. The pain of separation /divorce is actually rated higher than death of a close family member, the only exception being the death of a spouse.
Yes he is under extreme stress and in extreme pain, but can he allow this to take such a huge toll on his life? When I met him, he was in tears and had no solution or a way forward. All he wants, is for her to walk right back into his arms and into his life.
It is said, that sadness shared is sadness halved and happiness shared is happiness doubled. Sharing both, sadness and happiness is what makes us human. I am so glad he shared his pain with me, but I can’t offer him a quick fix pill to make the pain go away. He has to really decide to make the pain a non priority. He has to learn to appreciate the good times and be grateful for those and let her go. What is the point of ruminating and thinking of what one should have could have done and feeling guilty. Holding oneself responsible for the current situation just adds to the helplessness and despondency. I think in a situation where one person decides to leave, it helps to focus on all that was not right in the relationship. Instead of crying and wanting the person back, one should do whatever it takes to heal from the pain and get on with life. The pain just does not go away, you have to drive it away, just as you would the demons and ghosts.
Don’t they say, “if you love someone, let them go, If they come back they are yours, if not they never were.” So , my advice, let her go. She will fight her own demons someday. Right now it’s your MayDay call, so take all the help you can get.