Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Beautiful Art of Letting Things Go...

I have always been fascinated by good quotes and like many others things in my life my mother deserves credit for it. 
As a kid, Every night before I went to sleep she would read to me Proverbs taken from the Bible often restricting herself to the ones that were within my scope of understanding.

I developed a very deep sense of admiration for King Solomon who wrote and compiled these wise sayings. Just after his coronation as King of Israel the fact that he asked God for wisdom when he could have asked for anything else in the world only served to intensify my liking for him.

Over the years I have heard, memorized and tried to incorporate in my life a good number of inspiring and interesting quotes, While many of these are written by well renowned poets and philosophers, there are some whose origin is essentially unknown, author-anonymous.

Take for example these extremely popular lines -

“If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don't, they never were.” 

I heard this quote for the first time when i was starting high school, and for some reason in spite of all the time that has gone by it stuck to me. 

For a while now i have been contemplating writing a blogpost about the difficulties associated with letting things go,I always knew that the basis of this post would be the quote I just mentioned, and even though I have heard it being cited in dozens of books, songs and movies it took me quite sometime to trace its origin, and in spite of all my attempts at finding out who originally wrote it, I couldn't find out exactly where it came from, the closest i could get was to a collection of poems called 'The Prophet' written by Kahlil Gibran in 1923.

Kahlil Gibran from Lebanon happens to be the third best selling poet of all time, the two people ahead of him are Taozi from China and of course - William Shakespeare.

A couple of days ago I went back and read 'The Prophet' online and realized why this collection of poems hasn't gone off print even though its been 90 years since it was first published.

Quite simply put, Gibran is a genius.

Letting go of anything in life is not easy, right from the small things such as trying to prove a point to someone to major change of plans involving changing career paths, foregoing dreams we've cherished for ages, letting go always hurts.

When it comes to dreams I am reminded of a friend of mine who wanted to join the National Defence Academy and become a pilot ever since he was a little boy. He trained for it, studied for it, and channelled all his interests in that direction for close to 15 years. Just before applying to the NDA he was diagnosed with a high refractive error in both eyes that reduced his chances of joining the academy to zero.

He was devastated.

Giving up a dream that he had held on to for fifteen years was incredibly tough, but he had to let go.

He did not get to fly fighter jets but today he is well on his way to become one of the most renowned neurologists of our time and it makes me proud to say this, but i always knew he was going to end up doing something special.

Like most things in life even the act of letting go becomes a lot more complicated when it invloves people.
But life has also taught me that the harder you try to hold on to someone the more easily they slip through your fingers.

One of my areas of expertise is geriatrics, for some reason i connect with the elderly.
Mom says its because of my goofy smile, I dont know if thats true but she is rarely wrong.

Most of these patients of mine visit the clinic in the evenings. On the surface their complaints are many, multiple joint pains, insomnia, anxiety, depression and in addition there is always a background of some chronic illness or the other, diabetes, hypertension so on and so forth.

As I go a little deeper into their personal histories almost invariably I unravel a great deal of emotional distress hidden underneath this  facade of physical complaints.

While spousal loss is a common cause of sorrow the most frequent problem however is the difficulty  faced by these parents to let go of their children.

Sometimes all they want is a phone call from their kids, apparently even expecting that is too much in today's busy world.

75 year old Mr. Guru was diagnosed with a very severe form of coronary artery disease and critical aortic stenosis in the hospital I used to work at in May 2013, for months I saw his wife Mrs Geetha managing his affairs as his surgery got repeatedly cancelled or postponed for a variety of reasons from difficulty in arranging the correct blood type to innumerable minor and major complications that arose at frequent intervals.

In all that time I never saw her flinch even for a moment , she put on a bold front and did all that she could for her ailing husband with a smile on her face.

I'm guessing you already know how efficient parents are in hiding their emotions.

On the eve of the surgery she visited me in the OPD, she looked extremely anxious.
We got to talking.
I don't know if I did the right thing when I asked her if her children were on their way to the hospital to lend her some support but that question of mine made her breakdown and cry.
As she tried to fight back the tears she barely managed to tell me how her children couldn't find the time to help their parents in this time of crisis.

There are some moments in the life of a doctor when he feels overcome by the situation surrounding him, this was one of those moments for me.

I came early the next morning and saw her standing near the OT complex, she was happy to see me, and after 7 hours the surgery was complete, surprisingly her children came to the hospital just as i walked out of the ICU to inform her that by God's grace everything had gone well.

A part of me expected her to lash out at her kids for being so inconsiderate, but she didn't, its hard for a mother to hate her own children.

Mr. Guru had a very eventful post operational period, needless to say his children werent there to witness it, only his wife.
3 weeks later it was time for him to be discharged.
I will never forget that day, Mrs. Geetha came to my room before leaving, she held my hands and said -"You are my son". 
Me with Mrs.Geetha and Mr. Guru on the 10th day after surgery

To this day I believe that the experience at the hospital helped Mrs. Geetha (atleast to some extent) in making her peace with the reality  that she had to let go of her children, but the fact that she fought to keep her husband alive also taught me that there are somethings in life worth fighting for.

She calls me every month to check on how i'm doing, i wont lie to you, its a great feeling.

I am only 26 years old, and there is still a long way for me to go but when I look back at the road I've travelled so far I realize that there have been people who have let go of me, people who have been taken from me and people whom i have let go off as well.

It has not been easy, it was never meant to be. But it had to be done. 

Sometimes life shows you the future, you can see it as clear as crystal and you know that your presence in the life of the people you care about is not as necessary as you or they think is, it may lead to you being misunderstood for the rest of your life but you know as a matter of fact that letting go was the best thing you could ever do for them.

Even though it may hurt a lot and there are some wounds that time cannot heal, letting go of things creates a sense of inward peace that lightens the soul.

Like holding your head back on a windy afternoon and spreading out your hands as far as they go.

This being said, there are also a few things in life that are worth fighting for, and it is near impossible for us to know what is worth holding on to, i guess that is why what Khalil Gibran said nearly 100 years ago still hold good today - 

“If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don't, they never were.” 

May God give you the strength to let go when you have to ,the courage to fight for the things worth holding on to and the wisdom to know the difference.

Until next time

TGV