It feels like I am in a constant battle with my own head. These are not bloody battles in the sense that there are visible bloodbaths but the battle scars are real. They leave me battle weary and with acute and invisible PTSD. No one can see them or feel them or truly understand them. But I fight battle after battle every single day. My mind tells me things which sometimes I ignore, at other times I cry over, and many other times, I fight with, essentially because I feel what it is saying is wrong but there is a small part of me which wonders if it is right. Recently, my attention was drawn to this place called Debatable Lands. That’s right, there is such a place on earth, and on the map. It is not a fantasy land which you can only enter through a wardrobe door. It is located between England and Scotland and doesn’t belong to either country. It is like this vacant area, 16km long from north to south and 4km wide, the east and west bordered by rivers. That made me think about No Man’s Land, which are lands left unoccupied (usually by mutual consent) due to dispute between two parties (usually countries) over its ownership. Now, that made me think about social No Man’s Land. I realised that there is a place in all our lives that we cannot tread into. It is at the margins where we keep away things from sight – unsightly things that threaten to destroy relationships. So, in a way, my mind is also a No Man’s Land (pun intended). There are unsaid words piling up somewhere. There are unexpressed emotions clawing for attention. It is the land of unwanted memories and unfulfilled dreams. It is where I put all the unutterable thoughts and every moment I tread through the sticky quagmire, I want to escape. But there is no ceasefire. So, instead, I brave it and go on an adventure to look more closely at what I have ‘dumped’ in my No Man’s Land.
It is a wasteland. It is a place beyond time. It is not just a dumping ground of all the unwanted and the undesirable. It is also unclaimed. I cannot claim it because of the value I put on relationships. It is too dangerous to tread on because it is ambiguous and anomalous. It doesn’t belong. It is a place in the margins of my life, in the borders. But I cannot deny its existence. It exists and it will continue to do so because every single day, I am bound by societal, familial, and social obligations, conventions, duties, ethics, and aesthetics. No matter what I say or do, I cannot escape these traps or trappings of what constitutes our civilized society, and especially so if you live in a community-based society such as the one I inhabit. So, the existence of the No Man’s Land of social relationships is a plug that keeps everything together.
I sometimes wonder how it will be if I pull the plug. What are the words and emotions that will tumble out and flood my life and others around me? But more importantly, what would be the repercussions of those words? What if I could tell the friend who I know was making a mistake with their choice of partner? — “Darling, he’s not the right person for you.” What if I could tell the friend who has visibly changed (for the worse): “This is not who you are. You are better than this.”? What if I could tell the ones who are persistently and annoyingly ready with advice and instructions: “You can take your stupid ideas and shove them up your…”? To the jealous/insecure I want to say: “You’re clearly jealous/insecure and it is a tad depressing and sad.” To those who are always blaming their problems on things external to them — “I suggest that you take a deep look at yourself and see your own problems and stop projecting them on others”. And these are just the unutterable words, thoughts, and emotions.
I don’t say these words (even with best intentions) because I don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings. But more importantly, because I value Peace over everything else. But the question that plagues me on most days is ‘Which is more important – peace in relationships or inner peace?’ The answer I get is that there is no absolute answer to this question. First, it depends on the situation, and second, Life is about being the fulcrum. The see-saw of emotions and decisions will always prevail but one needs to seek the balance. One must be the lotus leaf, which remains on the water, touching it at all times, but the water will not be able to touch it because of the superhydrophobicity (water-hating) quality of the lotus leaf. Like a duck’s back, the water slides right off. I want to be the lotus leaf.
As I journey deeper into the No Man’s Land, I find old memories which I want to forget. I find suppressed guilt, repressed anger, soul-shattering regrets – all things I have learned to live with. I close my eyes and meditate on the idea of the lotus leaf. I am the lotus leaf. Just like that, my reality alters. What looks like jealousy might be years and years of emotional abuse by a family member, which has reduced their self-esteem to a mere speck. I sympathise with them. What looks like pernicious competitiveness might be reflections of a childhood filled with competitive siblings and a constant need to excel and thereby to establish one’s identity (or visibility) within the family. It is deeply disturbing to imagine what kind of childhood that might have been where you felt that you only deserved your family’s love if you could only win all the time! It only results in making them losers for life but it is not my job to make them realise what their life has been reduced to. I will have to let the Universe take care of it. As I trudge on in the No Man’s Land, I find that although there is a lot of darkness here, it is also a place filled with the Light of Self-Realisation. It is here that I realise that I am wasting precious energy here. The only way out of here is to empty it completely. I realise at that moment that I suddenly had a lifetime’s worth of self-work ahead of me.