It is always difficult to ask for help. We think that it diminishes us. So even when we go to a friend or a counsellor, we may never come to the point. We may keep dilly dallying for a long time- may be too long! But if you are a peer/counsellor, you will wait patiently, instead of wondering: What the heck! Why is he wasting my time?
I too had to learn this yoga of waiting and waiting. Many young men came and discussed weather for hours! And I too went along as if I was the best authority on the cirrus clouds and their implications for bad weather. I knew well this reluctance to open up and talk about your pain. When I finished my diploma in counselling, I was requested to have a counselling session with a faculty. But I found a hundred excuses to bypass it!
Anyway, so Anil (not his name) was a young pws who had just finished B Tech and was fond of visiting me every few days, since he lived in Vikasnagar. Sometime we would go for a walk in the nearby tea gardens. After a little cursory talk about stammering in the first few meetings, he never talked about it. I too enjoyed talking to him about everything else- job market, employability skills, travel, movies etc. And this is why, I was not surprised when one evening he dropped in, looking a little off colour but not coming to the point- whatever was troubling him. We kept chatting about unimportant things.
But as a heavy odour, something hung in the air all around us. I did not, could not nudge him towards it. So we kept discussing Uttarakhand politics, corruption etc etc. But as I was making a little tea for both of us, he suddenly looked at me and blurted out:
Why do people block you when you tell your feelings?
I stopped stirring the cups and looked at his stressed face..
Dont know. May be because feelings are difficult to negotiate? Anyway, what happened?
Something within me said: Here is the hook. Be alert. Dont let it go. Dig deeper but gently.
No, I just cant understand why people shut up when you tell them your genuine feelings?
He added after a thoughtful gap: Not only that, they shut you up also..
You mean like asking you to “SHUT UP”? What happened?
I kept asking questions. Slowly he opened up. It seems that he had been friends with a girl on facebook and later on other social media. They had never met but were in regular contact. She was doing graduation. One day, when he could not bottle up his feelings for her, he shared it. Next, he was blocked. She would not answer his calls. Nothing at all. He was shocked. He expected some sort of response, even if it was a loud “NO”.
We took our cups and came to the garden – and sat down.
What do you think happened?
He had no clue. Obviously.
Could it be, that she has lost her phone? Is traveling in some remote region? Have you thought of that? Some other fiasco in her home?
May be she has other ideas: she wants to focus on her studies first? She does not wish to oppose her family?
May be she thinks she is not ready for a committed relationship? May be she thinks you too are not ready for that kind of responsibility at this point? May be it frightens her..?
Anil gave just a little nod and a long Hmmmm…
Do you want to marry every girl you meet? You want to be friends with many but long term commitment is a different thing.. right? See it from her side…
May be she thought of you as a good friend- a good online friend- and nothing more? Anything wrong with that?
Anil was lost in his thoughts. This time, he surfaced and said: But she could have said so…
We were talking now. I was happy.
How would you have reacted if she did? And how do you know that she may not respond after a gap of weeks- months or maybe a year? Can people be rushed through such decisions? Should they?
Can I say to you, as you enter my home: Will you have tea, coffee or water? Tell me NOW or else, leave?
This time Anil laughed out.
We discussed various possibilities, scenarios and concluded that the best way forward for him, was not to force a meeting – online or offline – but to let her be: give her the space which every human being wants and deserves. Instead, he should thank God for the one year they were in touch happily, focus on career and move ahead. All this needed a lot of emotional maturity, which I knew, Anil could not hope to gain overnight. He had lost a kindred soul, a friend.
But he had taken the first step: he had considered the event in a different light, from a different perspective. He had considered other people’s interest and well being, may be for the first time in his life.
He left after tea. He walked better than when he came in. A little more spring.
Post script: Anil is a proud father of two kids today, works with a MNC as programmer. He married a different girl. It was an arranged marriage. I met Anil twice since then -but we never talked about this episode. I assume that everyone is living happily ever after. Life either gives us what we want OR teaches us how to fall in love with what we have, sooner or later. Eckhart Tolle says that there are two ways of being unhappy: not getting what you want and getting what you want! But he also says that there is a way out of this repetitive cycle of unhappiness…
Moral of the story: If you are a peer counsellor, learn to sit still for hours like a cat watching the rat hole – and jump when the mouse comes out. Jump ONLY then, not a second before! Metaphorically.