You can’t control how people treat you.
“What are your thoughts on loneliness, on feeling isolated and unwanted,” a young reader asked me.
I want to share here, while hopefully answering that question, what I have learnt from two teachers.
The first teacher I would like to lean on is Swami Sathya Sai Baba. As I have often said here, I have never met Swami. But I have experienced him through a medium. On one occasion, just before the launch of my Book, Fall Like A Rose Petal, Swami told me this, through the medium, his messenger: “To be alone is a virtue, to feel lonely in a crowd is a learning and to have a crowd is a gift.” That message has stayed with me. It is a fascinating perspective. It has helped me value every member of the audience in events I curate or when I deliver my Talks and workshops. I treat it as a gift that people like Vaani and me, who are materially on the verge of extinction, broke to the bone, still have an audience that is willing to pause and reflect on what we have to share. So, I am eternally grateful to all those who read my Book or read what I have to share on my Blog or follow me on my various social media handles.
To be sure, in a way, with Vaani by my side for the past 30 years, I have never experienced loneliness. Yes, while in my mouna (silence) spells, daily, I have been alone. I like to sit quietly at times and reflect on Life. But I have never experienced loneliness. So I will not comment about it.
Both Vaani and I have, however, come across many situations when we have felt isolated or unwanted. But we have chosen to be unaffected by such attitude. Our companionship has helped us immensely – we always talk about what we feel and those conversations help us get rid of debilitating emotions. Over time, we have learnt that giving attention to what is not in your control is futile.
Think about it. When do you feel isolated or unwanted? Only when you are not included. Now, what can you do about a situation when someone else simply doesn’t want you, doesn’t want to think about you? You can pine for attention, you can feel hurt, you can feel isolated or unwanted – but whoever has chosen to ignore you has done what they have done; or they continue to be that way. How you feel is just not important to them. Clearly it is not. So, why give their action and attitude so much attention? Just move on. Drop that feeling of isolation and unwantedness, turn in the direction of where people are waiting to celebrate you and simply move on. And if you have no one, and you feel alone, celebrate that feeling too. After all, as Swami Sathya Sai Baba told me, being alone or feeling lonely is either a virtue or a learning. Both, in their own ways, are invaluable experiences.
The second teacher I have learnt from, in this context, is my young, super-talented, friend Sundari Sivasubbu. She has amazing energy even though, being wheel-chair bound, she has several physical limitations and challenges. I met her when she came to watch my Bliss Catchers show at the Odyssey Bookstore. Now The Bliss Catchers’ event happens on the first floor at the store where there is no elevator access. Despite coming to the store, Sundari could not attend the event that evening. She could have felt unwanted and isolated. But she was brimming with Life as she introduced herself to Vaani and me when we were leaving the store after the event.
Her positivity held us a mirror. Here we were doing so many events in public spaces but without being truly inclusive. Almost all of the venue partners we work with somehow have spaces that don’t have proper elevator access for making special people like Sundari feel wanted. We have tried to correct the situation at least in one of our Event Series, Heart of Matter – Happiness Conversations – at the InKo Centre, where host Rathi Jafer has opened up her gallery space on the ground floor with an effort to start being inclusive. Even so, every time I have apologized to Sundari when we have not been able to have her join our events (for reasons of those spaces being inaccessible for people on a wheelchair), I have never found in her a trace of anger or bitterness with the way we as a society treat people like her. She’s always said, “Oh! I understand. Things have to certainly change. And that change can’t happen overnight. So, please don’t feel bad or sorry for me.” And that’s the learning I want to showcase here. If you attach importance to people’s attitudes you are squandering precious time. People do what they do because they are that way. If they are not sensitive enough to think of whether you will feel unwanted or isolated, it is only because you are not priority for them. You can rave, rant, pine and grieve or like young Sundari does, you can just move on. The choice is yours.
What others do to you, how they treat you, is clearly not in your control. Thinking about how you have been treated and feeling isolated or unwanted is the greatest disservice you can do to yourself. Instead, try diverting your focus and attention in a different direction – you will not just feel liberated, you will be happy too!