On marriage (but not really)
freedom, responsibility, and paths we choose
At this very moment in time, I can overhear a conversation between two nice people in my family about if and when I’m going to get married. One of these people worries and probably feels sorry for me; the other has, with some difficulty, moved past her worry and into some resigned form of acceptance. An acceptance which nonetheless has the ability to be shaken by a pity-laden observation, or the apparent joys of others.
As more people, specifically girls and women, in my family and social circle get swept up in holy matrimony, one cannot help but feel all eyes on oneself. Lucky for me, few people explicitly say anything, but I can feel it, even if perhaps some of the pressure is internalized from years of programming.
This particular phenomenon has had quite a role to play in my somewhat repetitive life-regrets-type essays. I’m coming to realize that it is ultimately a question of paths we take and those we don’t, or haven’t quite yet. I shall now use the elusive ‘they’ to encompass everyone I take to be on the path I’m not on. I’ve been asking myself if I’m wrong and they’re right. If I’ve made my own life difficult by asking myself hard questions, whereas the majority of people around me seem to be blissfully getting by - going to the right schools, marrying their men & women at prime time, working their way up ladders, having their babies.
At the same time as I ask these questions, I do feel that I wouldn’t have it any other way. Not only can I not unsee what I see or unknow what I know (assuming I know anything at all), there’s a fruitful little outcome to all of this thinkership - and that’s insight, however sporadically it comes. But when it does, I feel like I have sprouted a new leaf. I have to - I must - come to my own conclusions. It seems there’s no other way. So even if I did do things the way they’re done, I would never have the life-expanding opportunity to find my own answers. I would be looking unthinkingly to the ones that already exist, and what fun is that really?
At the same time, I do not think the answers that already exist lack wisdom. Sure, they may be rooted in patriarchy and I don’t agree with much of it, but intentions are pure (?). They want us to have secure futures, to have happy families, for the species to be perpetuated, for people to sustain a sense of meaning through existing communities. Do not stray because you are safe here - and they’re right, I am safe there. I don’t even think it’s a question of happiness - am I happy, or are they happier? Side note: I’m not sure anymore that it’s a human’s birthright to be happy, contrary to self-help belief systems. Life is for living through all emotional states, no? And this means shirking none of the unpleasant ones that arise. I suppose the question is then, how deeply do I allow myself to feel them?
On this planet in this moment there are as many realities as there are living beings. Is it really sensible to ask whether some are righter or wronger than others? At the end of the day, when I strip away the details, perhaps there are only two paths - the easy and the hard. And this is not to say that the easy path can’t be hard, and that the hard path can’t be easy - let me try to explain.
I have been thinking a lot about choices lately. The choice to do this or that, go here or there, and then grappling with the consequences later. The freedom to make choices in the first place. And then, to take responsibility for those choices. I’m still not fully there on my full-circling of this thought, but what I do understand is that I will always have the capacity to stand my ground when I make a choice. Luck, fate, peace-keeping, and divine intervention aside - choices are made every single day. So the real task is to take accountability for a decision I have made. And this is the hard way. It is difficult, but it also holds the potential for the most freedom, and if seen through, the most peace.
The easy way is more or less laid out for us. There are ways to do things, and when you do them that way, chances are you will be happy, or if not that, then at the very least your needs will be met. Sounds like a good deal. But when I see a lot of it, I’m afraid I feel the ick rising up within me. I see the relegation of responsibility for life handed over to an all powerful mortal being. And the comfort of doing things the way they were always meant to be done as if following that trajectory offers solace, no matter what ill or harm comes your way, because at least you shut up and listened.
I’m now thinking that it is, in some ways if not most, a way to forego that responsibility over your life. If blessings come flooding your way, it’s because you did things the done-way. If something bad happens, it isn’t your fault. It was for the greater good. If something bad happens to someone who stood their controversial ground, it’s possible they won’t get much sympathy for making choices that weren’t in line with those who would otherwise find it in them to sympathise. It’s more, ‘I told you so’.
So, in summation and oversimplification, two paths - taking responsibility, and giving it to somebody else. As easy as it would be to get on a high horse and say that one is better than the other… it’s just not how it is. But on this journey of learning who we are, which is in many ways one of the most delightful expeditions to be on, there’s only forward movement, no going back from here. And as much as I deliberate and struggle and toss and turn in my head about what’s right/wrong, good/bad, I’m pretty okay with the way things are on the whole, grateful for the life before me, and recognizing that whatever path you’re on, there is no point in racing to an illusory finish line.