By Maithilee Sagara
Illustrated by Debasmita Das
It has been many days since the lockdown and many more since I touched someone.
In the beginning of the lockdown there was some comfort in knowing that everyone in the world was in it together. No room for FOMO and its resulting anxiety, since everyone was online, and accessible. But soon, there were too many Insta lives and Zoom conferences for you to miss out on. Even in the pandemic, the ex-lover I touched just days ago, exercised their pre-pandemic apathy instead of care, and became inaccessible.
“Make the most of the pandemic,” “write that novel you wanted to,” “pick up that instrument,” “learn a new language!” Even in a pandemic, the world wants you to prove your worth with things you produce. People who never entered their kitchen were now chefs sharing their family recipes. Others picked up instruments they had given up on and turned into musicians–and I was in the same spot again. The world seemed to have moved on as I stood still, trying to muster the energy to leave my bed and move past the memories of lost love.
I spent the first 35 days of solitude in self-loathing, denying myself meals or activities that usually help me fight the depression. Judged myself for grieving over a love that was not reciprocated. Pitied myself for not being visible to that ex-lover even during a pandemic. After 35 wholesome days of hatred, I was tired. I wanted to love, and I was the only one in the apartment to be loved.
So, I began with cooking a simple meal and regular showers. Treated myself to some music, and planned movie dates. Read passages from books I loved, out loud. I made videos of myself dancing, singing and even just rambling, some of which went up on social media and some just for the joy of it. It was a strange feeling because even though I had cooked or cleaned in the past, it was always for others—often romantic partners. Oh no, was I finally…on trend? Was this what my therapist meant by practising acceptance of all types of self?
In all of 24 years that I spent fearing loneliness, I never had the chance to explore being alone for so long. I have cried about not being loved in the way I wanted to be without knowing what I meant by it. Schooled to rely on external validation, I mistook praise for love, and anything else to be less than, or worse, the opposite of love. It becomes exhausting, after a point, to constantly navigate through someone else’s mind, so as to not be rejected because anything, even the smallest of disagreements, seemed like a rejection of my entire being. Being loved felt like being picked from a lineup as a child, to play a game you don’t know the rules to. It is exciting until the person that picked you is so lost in the game that they forget why we were playing in the first place – for fun. The game becomes about score keeping, and you pay for the slightest of misses. Instead of fun, the game becomes a fog of anxiety. And somehow, the person who picked you is off the court, screaming at you for messing up from the benches. More anxiety.
The last few days I learned some ways of loving myself. I haven’t aced self-care or self-love, but I have made friends with myself during this lockdown. For years, I sought acceptance from others but in isolation, I was forced to seek self-acceptance.
Self-love or care don’t erase the desire to be loved by someone else–nothing beats being picked to play in a team– or make you immune to grief and disappointment, but with self-acceptance, it becomes easier to go through all of it as you change from being your own opponent, to your cheerleader. Being on my own has built me some muscles which I think will make playing fun.
Maithilee Sagara, loves binging, be it food, movies, series or anime. (Especially anime). One day she hopes to decode love and write the ultimate guide to it. But most days she just settles for a good nap.