Swings Within Life
Fifteen years ago, I was in my early twenties. My ideas about life and existence were so sound, clear and stable that I wondered about the direction of the remainder of my life. I felt as if I had the answers for all questions, walked through all the paths and reached every destination that should be reached. I was full of love, empathy and good faith. As a constructive and result-oriented person, focusing on the moment, enjoying the path as much as reaching the end of that path was not theoretical rubbish but an internalized existence for me.
When I faced great tragedies, lost a loved one in death or witnessed unbelievable injustice, I reacted, got angry, felt helpless and rebelled. Fortunately, it was a temporary response because I was only angry with that specific event or person, not my whole life, God or destiny. I never generalized things. When something bad happened, I did not expect it to continue as such.
Then slowly, I changed without realizing the change. I realized it later on. I am sure people around me realized it before I did because we grew apart and they left me. I also left some of them and found new friends on my path. This new “me” did not care about love and empathy: She focused on power and determination. Yes, I began to act impulsively, swept away all obstacles on my path and got rid of friends who contributed nothing to my life. I was a mother now! My single friends, whom I used to brainstorm and share opinions with on life and such, could not get accustomed to this new “me.”
I had a baby; I had a career, and then the second baby arrived. I also had a cat and a dog, a busy professional life, business trips, additional weight—30 kilos—after two births. I was married to my closest friend; we used to shoot the breeze and like each other’s company. After the birth of our babies, we found that we did not speak a word, yet napped on the sofa at the end of exhausting days.
We tried to fix things a few times. We bought good wines and cheese to enjoy on our balcony. I began reading again. We bought a piano for our home, and after a long time, I started playing. Instead of working at the office for long hours, I tried to turn off my computer at 5 o’clock. Unfortunately, as mentioned, we tried to fix things a few times, but our relationship did not survive.
We came up with lots of theories about how we could be successful in our marriage. To remember our earlier relationship, we watched old videos, looked at photos and met with old friends. I am not joking; we began to look for the very things we had lost.
Then, I found something. I remembered how I perceived life when I was in my twenties. I saw how much I changed. Yes, evolution means progress; it never changes you for the worse, although, you can lose ground. I thought if I fully digested my point of view based on love, peace and empathy, I would not lose ground, and nothing would destabilize me.
As a youngster I was programmed to love and forgive those who willingly harmed me and not to feel hostile toward anyone. Like Christ pleading mercy for a Nazarene, I thought devoting myself to others was a good thing. Early in my childhood, I was told to be a “good person.” Yes, being a good person was something like that: never antagonistic toward anyone, shared instead of being selfish and always full of love. These were things that parents taught their children. Moreover, I was also raised with a great love for Atatürk [founder of the Republic of Turkey], just like many of my peers. Each year on November 10, we honor the memory of Atatürk. I used to cry for him, and if enemies were to attack our country [Turkey], I was ready to die if needed. Yes, this was what we were taught.
Then I realized that I should take care of myself as much as I cared for others. I used to give my seat to others in public buses. As soon as I got into the bus, I looked for people to whom I could give my seat. If I drove to school, I would drive slowly by the bus stops to see if anyone needed a ride. Not just sometimes, always…without differentiating the people—women, men, the young and the old—without thinking if these people could be thieves or murderers. If anyone I offered a ride harmed me, I thought I would be a martyr for the sake of being a good person. I am not exaggerating!
I was not a fool, and I was not a romantic person. I do not remember what I used to tell people about such attitudes. What I see now is that when we were small we were told to be warmhearted. Perhaps, this was how they were also taught. In time, some became bad people, but I was not like them. I was the best and the smartest student in my class; I should have been the best person in the world!” Ha, what an ambition!
All these things held a lot of meaning and seriousness for me. I used to believe in being a good person. Even if everyone in the world was wrong and I was the only right one, I should have been loyal to all the things I believed to be right, even if I knew this would not change the world. These were the selected rights. There were also some unselected rights, like the ones coming from my inner self. My instincts would say nothing about what is right, but if they perceived something wrong, they would warn me loudly. The liars, the betrayers and the malevolent people would make me sick.
I used to believe our choices might change in time, yet our essence would not. For example, I never gave up loving animals. What a victory! After making a lot of effort, I realized I had only two main characteristics: I love animals and enjoy helping people. Kemalism [Ataturk’s principles for Turkey], being a hippy and a fondness for spiritual rubbish were totally my choices because I found these things reasonable at the time. Reasonable? What is that? Our reasons for making certain choices may change, so how can we look for stable reasonable things? For example, when you are an idealist as a university student, you may be willing to die for your country. Then when you become a mother, you will betray the secrets of the government if your child is in danger. Let’s not get into being a mother right now. You forget all your principles when you have your own children. As I said before, I love animals but if an animal hurts my child, I will kill it without any hesitation. Being a mother is a strange thing; you don’t make choices; you just act spontaneously as the person you are at your core.
While I was struggling to find out who I was at my core, what happened to me and how I wanted to be, I suddenly realized one thing: I was just going with the flow, swinging one way and then another. When I was in my twenties, I took the pendulum to the max and mounted it on a love axis then released it. Again, I was thrown into the air and found myself in a dilemma between home and work. Then, I reached a turning point and stagnated for a while. Now again, I am swinging towards another direction.
This pendulum metaphor is a fine one, but I am not swinging back to my twenties. My direction has changed into a new direction. Now the line between the good and the bad is not as sharp for me. I listen to my instincts better instead of strict principles, and I evaluate every situation as it is instead of within a frame of rules. I am more spontaneous, and as you see, this is a bona fide direction yet again.
Life goes on. For now, most of us think that we will find the answers to all of our questions; we will resolve our problems, progress and live a life full of good memories. At least, I do. With the comfort of this belief, I postpone some of the things I want to do. Sometimes, I watch a traumatic film or witness a death around me. Once again, I confirm that life turns on a dime. Sometimes, I want to scream “Carpe Diem” but I postpone this too. I postpone being a better person. Whatever it means. I continuously postpone—learning Italian, playing Moonlight Sonata as I once did, quit smoking, lose weight…I imagine how beautiful it would be if I did all the things I wanted to. I am satisfied with this imagination, and I lose all my motivation to realize any or all of them.
Yes, life goes on. I continually remind myself that life does go on “for now” and ask myself if I really wanted to do the things I always postpone. When we postpone these things, we believe life grows longer and feel hopeful. Conversely, some of these things lose their meaning without any notice. For example, I want to begin reading Anna Karenina from the page where I left off. I want to think I want to do this, yet I don’t really want to. It has been nearly 20 years that I read the first half of the book; in the meanwhile I watched the movie instead. Should I obey my word? Should I really finish reading this book? Should I keep my promise of 20 years ago?
While life goes on, I also postpone writing. Sometimes I try to write, but after reading what I wrote, I’m not pleased; however, I like my writings from 15-20 years ago. What has changed since then? I used to write for myself before; then I began writing for people I do not even know. Consequently, I am unable to be that intimate. I try hard to be well understood, but this makes my work boring.
Life goes on. For now, I feel frightened when I remember that it will end one day. I am afraid of death, both for my own and my loved ones. Strange, but I feel my death may be prevented because I cannot imagine what it is like “to be” or “not to be.” This is a kind of immortality belief; my husband believes the same, and I like thinking in that way.
I know the meaning of heaven: I rest on the carpet in my living room while my youngest sits on my neck and the oldest on my belly. They shout and jump all over me. My youngest laughs and I feel her spit on my face. The older one hugs her. My husband looks and smiles at us, lifting his head from the computer screen. He wants to say something, but he gives up which I can understand from his face. Our dog, Lokum, wags his tail and wanders around us. I feel tired after a busy working day. I suddenly visit an uncertain future and briefly touch the moment of my death. I paste this memory to that moment. I do not know when or at what age death will come, but I know this should be my last memory—my children jumping on me with joy.
I imagine that I distill all the ideas about life. When I look at the thing that came into being, it reminds me of only one word—innocence. I give an ear to the muttering voice. It asks, “Why do I exist?” I remember lots of explanations, theories and ideas about existence, so I whisper, “Who knows?”
If we knew the reason of our existence, would this journey be more fun?
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