Shedding the old for the new

Updated: 27 December, 2019 07:22 IST | Rosalyn D'mello | Mumbai

Looking back at the merging of my independence with the new identity of being partnered, I realise how a huge part of it was made possible with the help of my therapist

The most eloquent, life-altering lesson taught to me this year through my partner, and through my fellow feminist allies, was how to allow myself to be cared for
The most eloquent, life-altering lesson taught to me this year through my partner, and through my fellow feminist allies, was how to allow myself to be cared for

Rosalyn D'melloThis will be my last column for 2019. And what a crazy year it's been. Around this time in 2018, I'd been counting the days until my beloved would land in Delhi to spend time with me. It had not even been a year into our courtship. We'd spent just about two weeks in October in each other's presence after having sustained our interest and intrigue in each other for months through various digital interfaces.

He was scheduled to land on January 1, and he did. We travelled together to several parts of India, from Khajuraho to Ajanta, Ellora, Mumbai and Goa before returning to Delhi. I can't even pinpoint at what point we just fell into the decision to marry, knowing it would facilitate our desire to see each other more often and spend time together. It was both impulsive as well as subconsciously premeditated. Six months into our marriage I feel quite certain it was the best decision I've made, even though I had to spend a sufficient amount of time easing up to the idea of allowing myself to be partnered.

Such a large part of my identity was tied to me being single and independent. I continue to find ways to retain those aspects of my personality, just as I delight in discovering the many privileges of having a partner who exerts his presence every day in innumerable ways. It feels indulgent, to suddenly have access to a massive support system in the form of this person with whom I can share so many aspects of my inner life, with whom I can claim an emotional intimacy that is different from the kind I share with my friends.

I wouldn't say this is superior to other forms of partnering. It's different, is all.

For me, it feels particularly unique because I've never before been fortunate enough to be with someone who identifies as an emancipated man. It's empowering to have someone in my corner who is so deeply invested in my happiness.

The most eloquent, life-altering lesson that was taught to me this year through him, and through my alliances with fellow feminist allies, was how to allow myself to be cared for. As someone who always identified as a caretaker and nurturer, I had somehow internalised that my role had been cast in stone, that I had to accept that I was more prone to caring than being cared for, and I was happy to play that part. I'm not sure if it was because I didn't think I deserved love, or because I had spent so much of my girlhood and adolescence feeling uncertain about my friendships so much so that it always surprised me when I was shown acceptance.

I've been working through so many such residual insecurities over the last 12 months. I've been trying really hard to allow myself to feel first and not jump the cue and intellectualise my emotions instead of understanding their shape, texture, and contour, how they feel inside my soul.

A reader wrote in recently with her generous feedback about how much she felt my writing had changed recently. She said that before it was me sharing my thoughts, now it's about my feelings. She credited this development to my being in love. I am convinced, though, that it is the consequence of therapy.

I've been contemplating the achievements and failures that marked my experience of 2019 — and there were many. For instance, getting accepted into a PhD program but not being granted funding, I see my therapists' intervention in my life in helping me redraft the narratives I had construed to cope with so many traumas; in nudging me to be more forgiving of myself, to put less pressure on myself to over-perform; in leading me to understand how I often identified so much with others that I showed myself almost no empathy. She also alerted me to the role of empathy in the practice of love, how emotional as well as physical abuse is always marked by the absence of empathy. And most significantly, how there is a sense of self that is both static and evolving.

When it comes to making resolutions, we always privilege ends and means that are external. I'd like to urge you to consider making mental health a priority in 2020. India has among the highest cases of depression in the world, among other mental health issues that simply go undiagnosed because there is so much stigma surrounding the topic.

Because we live in such a hyper-patriarchal society, under a governmental regime that is faux-protectionist towards women and inconsiderate towards anyone who isn't upper-caste Hindu, all the more urgent should be our desire to empower ourselves. For whatever ideology you may espouse, it is meaningless unless you first practice self-introspection. If you're successful in such an endeavour, there's a high chance that you, too, will arrive at the inevitable conclusion that the future, indeed, must be feminist; that we must all be bound together in sustainable networks of caring, tenderness, and togetherness.

Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D'Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper

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First Published: 27 December, 2019 06:22 IST

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