Sunday, November 23, 2014

The burden of living life, and staying sane

The biblical stance towards life, "... be fruitful and multiply", does not a one-size-fits-all make. It did stay in his head growing up though, together with several other equally archaic instructions for life from he holy book, merely as a decision that could be postponed until adulthood. In its Spanish translation, the verse actually says "grow" instead of "be fruitful". One had to grow up before considering leaving its least praiseworthy of legacies behind. To grow up, mature, and only then multiply. Adulthood eventually arrived, taking  him completely by surprise.

In chronologically ordered events, should people even consider number two before number one even takes root? What is a lifetime of rebellion towards social conventions imposed by obsolete norms, if the fear of dealing with its consequences shatters our ideology? Should you give up on your individual way of thinking as soon as the going gets rough? Does sticking to your ideals build character, or make you a stubborn chap, unable to adapt to the ever-changing reality of life?

Too many questions, too few answers. There are only opinions as guide, based merely on the empirical evidence that a single person's lifetime provides; too little to lean on. These thoughts crowded his head at the most inopportune of times. They punched his mind with anger whenever he got distracted. Only drinking helped him focus, the same way it aided others to decompress.

Carrying such deep concerns like a heavy piece of luggage, I went to North Carolina in search of nothingness. I rented a room in a sleepy middle class neighborhood in Knightdale and prayed the host was not in the mood for conversation. But we all know that praying doesn't work.

My host Cate is a lonely sixty-something with a sick, old dog named "Merle". Merle barked at me the moment she smelled my arrival. I had had nothing to eat and drink in my trip, which forced me to engage in conversation with her after accepting her offer for a Scotch. Two old souls have more in common one can imagine at first sight. Very quickly she felt comfortable sharing details of her life possibly ignored by many around her.

She married thrice, having two daughters from her first marriage. The kids were a natural consequence of their union, never been discussed by the couple. They simply figured that if they kept doing what they were doing, they'd end up with a couple of them. Once day, sixteen years later, she confessed she didn't love him anymore. She also told him she never really wanted to be married.

Her two subsequent marriages produced no children of hers, but only step daughters. She loved them all almost the same way she loved her own. Still hosts them when they choose to visit, and has several pictures of all spending holidays together. I felt very normal. It WAS very normal. It's just a bit more complex than our preconceived concept of family.

The bottle of scotch kept filling our souls at the same rate it became emptier. She asked about guilt. "What about it?" - said I. "I have spent a lot of time wondering what it's good for; and walked a big portion of my life under its burden."

Her eyes crystalized for a moment. She seemed about to tell me about her wrongdoings. I spoke before her, asking her if he ever found out. She shook her head quickly and vigorously. "No!", she said. "I never had the courage to tell him".

We kept drinking in silence for what seemed like an eternity. But it wasn't uncomfortable. She had partially confessed to a complete stranger, liberating a bit of her burden. Maybe that's what scotch is good for. And strangers.

We tend to think of friends and family as the pillar of our existence. I would argue that sometimes, what we need is a stranger that we will never see again to unload some of our most useless luggage. And some days, that's all we need.

Well... that, and some scotch.