A crash course in compassion in which there are no coaches, only players
I am in the autumn of my life.
And for as long as I can remember, I have been tossed, perhaps with the unwavering consistency and repetitiveness of a pendulum in full swing, between two distinct seasons of living. My summers and winters are concentrated, polarising. There is rapture, and there is, well, dejection. They are the two quicksands of self-absorption because the world allows them to exist as such, undisturbed in their torrential ebb and flow (it turns out we are all disciples of the same online scripture that demands we be somebody’s peace). In my few and far between autumns that divide the rapture and the dejection, I become so indifferent to my personal misfortunes that I have the liberty of plunging into interpersonal relations, the contributions I make to them, and how others involved may respond to those contributions. What kind of friend am I? Am I a patient lover? Am I a lover at all? And in a society driven by the idea that nobody owes anyone anything, is any of this obligatory?
To my malleable teenage soul of nearly 19 years, I am arguably a very unforgiving host, floating perpetually in some restless, amniotic state of wrongdoing; there is more of me to correct, to moralise, make political, righteous and virtually un-clockable. I perform quality checks daily as if I were destined to leave the safety of my pasture for a life of scrutiny as parcelled mince at the greengrocer’s. I rejoice in the time saved by completing these checks: I pass another day without having to hold myself accountable for some earth-shattering form of social suicide that is far more energy-consuming in its aftermath and subsequent routine of repentance than it is in practice. And I would have been content in going on whittling at the fortitude of my moral compass like this, if it were not for a series of tweets, all of similar calibre.
In some way or another, the prospect of being able to criticise others was what I perceived to be a passable reward for all the time I would spend criticising myself. As a child, I was firm in my grudges — perhaps too firm for an eight, nine or ten-year-old — and my capacity for judgement stretched oceans in vastness. In the broadest sense, the idea was to evade wrongdoing just enough to preside over the wrongdoings of others. (I imagine this article would make for an enlightening case study on people who fall victim to their natal Jupiter in Virgo.) In retrospect, I was a theoretically terrible friend with just enough self-restraint to have nobody notice. And so it comes as no surprise to me that I was, at the root of it all, a terrible friend to myself.
Irrespective of the wilfully obtuse and unfounded ridicule received by its original author, I found myself in agreement with the above thread.
As friends to one another, we are completely out of our depth. Our disdain is no longer limited to backstabbers and orchestrated betrayal; we extend it to the broke, the depressed, the dying, the drinking and dragging their feet — this seat is taken, despite its very obvious vacancy; I Don’t Trust Females and Y’all Are Secret Haters and Bitches Will Always Be Jealous Because I’m Naturally Pretty. We have long since been desensitised to these frightening illuminations of transactional love, and in growing up with the Internet I have brought myself to question precisely who will save a seat at the table for the Secret Hater, for the Females we don’t trust, and for the Bitch who is Jealous because she’s not Naturally Pretty.
We so often complain that the women in our circles are not courageous enough to offer up their integrity, their directness and their wholehearted truth. But how many of us really have the compassion to listen to any of these women? At what point do we decide to address the disparity between the levels of compassion received by our female friends as opposed to our male romantic partners? And are we delegating ourselves roles in which we are easily overexerted with the subconscious intention of blaming our friends for our lack of personal boundaries?
In some nauseatingly predictable way, my scattered epiphanies on judgement’s place in platonic love may be a reflection of the compassion I yearned to receive from myself. After all, that is our tendency — to pretend our discontent with the worlds offered to us is a really an omen that says “look inward.” But I recall having watched an interview in which two people discussed relationship psychology, and the dangers of posing as red when what you are at your core is lilac. I believe I am lilac, and this article is me presenting myself as such so that other lilac people may find me. I resign my judgement and give you my arms in comradery.
Words: Solana Aerin Webber
Image credit: Solana Aerin Webber