Love Me…Before You

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I met an old friend today after a long time. A woman who always sparkled looked drawn and older than her age. She was suffering from guilt & agony. I asked her again and again what was wrong but she seemed lost. Suddenly, she just broke down while I sat in shock as I watched her cry till there were no tears left in her eyes.

She is one of the strongest women, I have ever known. I have always seen her happy & organized. She alone has taken care of her son, her family & this big house of hers since her mother in law died. Never once has anyone heard her complain, always seeming to enjoy the role she played. 

But today seeing her so shattered & broken makes me wonder how much of it was fake. Was it all for show & the so-called society role or was I being just cynical and absurd? 

I let her weep some more, but enough was enough I lost my patience and shouted

‘What on earth is wrong? Why the tears? Who died?’ 

She looks up straight at me then, something in her eyes shuts me up. I can’t believe the shame I see with sorrow & hurt heating her eyes. I see a storm brewing just beneath the surface of all the pain. Whatever had happened here had made a huge impact on her.

As the silence begins to hurt, questions arise from deep within. Where is that loud, obnoxious husband of her’s today? Where are her so-called friends and family today? Why is she sitting all alone when she is in so much pain? I wait as long as I can before breaking the silence again with questions only she has answers to. 

‘Sweetheart, tell me what is wrong? Where is everyone? Something seems to be very wrong here. I know you well enough to know you will never do anything to bring shame to the family or on yourself. There has to be another reason for this turmoil I see in you.’

She just sits there staring at me with so many emotions whirling in her eyes that I start to get scared. This woman who has been a pillar of strength for more people around, an inspiration to all. People have her on a pedestal, some even envious of her but she has always had a smile for all, spreading love and joy all around. I know she is just human but nowadays there are very few like her that we see around. So, this state of hers has to mean something earth-shattering had taken place. 

I wait and wait and wait for her to speak coz I know I will never leave her like this alone. I need to know, to help and to be there for her like she is for all. Fear rises within as thoughts of everything and anything bad consumes my mind. Just as I am about to scream in frustration at her she whispers out

“The shame you see is true but only it is not mine.” 

She pauses as if collecting her thoughts before she continues 

‘I have known for years now that he is a cheat but accepted it & stayed, for my son & this family. But today something within me broke. What had been kept hidden behind doors is now out in the open for the world to know. He not only brought one of his flames to the family function last night, but had the audacity to smear my name in front of everyone there.’

 She stops as if she still can’t believe it’s all true. When suddenly something snaps in her and she starts to shout, pulling my hand 

 ‘Why did I take this shit for so long? When did I lose my confidence to stand strong? For whom did I leave the work that I loved and enjoyed? It should have been him that I should have left when I first caught him 10 years ago. Why did I believe he was remorseful? Why did I accept it when he said he loved me and would never ever repeat it? Why did I listen to my parents, my mother in law, and comprise? I should have left him and them as my heart advised. I knew I was being duped. I should have started afresh then with my son and with the work that I loved to do. If I had, I wouldn’t be standing here today with empty hands, and an even emptier heart.’ 

I don’t realize that I am crying with her. There is so much pain & condemnation for herself along with the world we stay in. I go to her and hug her tightly, whispering words that  are hopefully right

‘Sweetie, maybe you needed to experience this, needed to show to the world that you tried. Maybe leaving then would not have been good, for your son nor for you. If today he has nailed his own coffin in front of the world, you should be proud it was his doing & not yours. You stuck it out for so long in name of love, family and this so-called society, maybe now it’s time to start a new song. You, now only think of yourself, let him face his deeds and crimes. I know that everyone who genuinely cares will stand behind you, supporting & encouraging you for whatever you choose. It is now your decision on how you wish to move ahead in life. Your son is smart and old enough to know right from wrong so I know you have him to start a new life anywhere you want.’

I force her to look me directly into my eyes. 

‘You have nothing to be shameful off. He is the one with loose morals and unappreciative of the gem he had. You have always held your head high even in the toughest times. So why now give him the satisfaction of being embarrassed at his mistakes. You, my dear, have held this family together, now it is his mess so let him clear it up.’

I let what I said sink in, I let her process what life has for her ahead, & boy was it worth the wait. I see THE smile finally grace her face adding to her beauty & elegance. 

She hugs me tight and her words then will always stay with me. 

 ‘Thank you for always being there for me. I know my staying may seem weak to some. To some I might even seem like an opportunist, but I know I stayed for love. I loved a man who did not deserve it at all but it was love at the beginning that bound me here. Love for him, love for my son, love for this family. Later society & it’s artificial values took over & kept me quiet which is when weakness set in making me lose what actually matters. I know I am blessed to have people who genuinely care. I am just shattered coz with it finally out there my son’s happy family bubble finally burst yesterday. The hurt in his eyes broke me wide but I know we will stand strong again & build a wonderful new life.”

She pauses 

‘One very important lesson I learned, Love is not always about the man & woman or the children or one’s family. The most important type of love, the most valued one should be self-love. Today, I put love for everyone, my husband, my son, my family even it’s reputation before me which is why I am here all regretful and despondent. But as of today, I plan to LOVE ME more before anyone & everyone.’ she hugs me again

Today, I too learned that happiness, sadness, hurt, joy, even Love in our lives depends on the series of choices we consciously make. Some make selfish ones: the I, ME, MYSELF type. Some are socially concerned people: the ‘WHAT WILL PEOPLE SAY’ type. Some just cower under pressure & are the ones that say ‘YES, OKAY, WHATEVER YOU SAY PLEASE.’  And some like my friend, sacrifice & compromise all their lives in the name of LOVE, be that for family, son, husband, in the process forgetting what they want, who they are. It’s not wrong to comprise, it’s not wrong to make sacrifices but when it’s just you alone then we need to review life again. We need to make new choices again. We need to identify ourselves again.

 A simple fact… If you can’t LOVE yourself, flaws & all, then you will not be able to love another the way one should.

Written by Ritu Kakar. Ritu Kakar has been an avid reader, bought up in Mumbai; married in Delhi. She loves reading all about romance, drama and emotional upheavals. The fireworks in her marriage keep her heart young, helping her creative juices for romantic tales constantly. Her teenage children keep her in pace with the world of love, relationships and drama. She is surrounded with love, positivity and a supportive family, always encouraging her towards her dreams and passion of writing. She maybe 42 years of age but at heart, she is still a 16-year-old who goes all gooey-eyed over mushy scenes  

Books by Ritu Kalar:  One Precious Moment is a poignant and beautiful story of love and loss. It’s a story that teaches us that we are puppets in the hands of time being played at its will. Mira Singh discovers her ability to re-build her life again but on her own terms after being played with by time. This is a story that will tug at your heart, and hopefully make you feel thankful for the life you lead. See it here.

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