I had lunch today with a well-known disability activist and a former colleague: it felt good, really good! (note the use of the word former). Since losing my tribunal last year, I am fast falling in to the trap of discussing ‘people I used to know, colleagues I once worked with: when I had a life, and stuff like that! I used to think it was ego that made me hurt about all of this, but now that I’ve had 12 months in which to do nothing but analyse it, I now believe it has more to do with the isolation, marginalisation, the reality that I am misunderstood, that hurts the most! Now that I am unemployed, I stop being a human, a woman, a useful member of society: instead, I am a parasite, a scrounger, one who lives on benefit, one of the ‘disabled, who are a drain on resources. Then, if they want to take it up a gear: I become a Muslim, a terrorist, a weird white woman who wares a head scarf and so on. This stuff is nothing new to any of us though, and I could actually handle all of it, were it not for the changes that came about among people who were once friends. People I trusted, relied on, may not have been close to on a personal level, but at least could share the time of day with and could work highly affectively with professionally! I thought that the dust would settle: I mean, who really cares about my pathetic sacking when there is a recession to worry about? But its continued, intensified and all the awkward silences, the ignored Emails and the pretending not to see me in the street are all becoming too much! When I had lunch today with said activist, I didn’t quite know how to put it, so instead, let it all pour out!
“why are people avoiding me? What the F*** did I do? They might not agree with my decision, but is all this closed ranks stuff really necessary? Was I that bad a friend? Or was I that crap at my job?”.
He just smiled sympathetically:
“Roshni, you’ve got it all wrong!” he said, “its not that they hate you, they feel ashamed! They avoid you because they don’t know what to say! Its easier to blank it all than have to face the fact they failed you, so they look the other way!”.
“that’s crap!!”, I retorted!
“well, …, that’s what they tell me! And I wouldn’t lie to you Roshni!”.
This whole altercation struck me as so odd! For a few seconds, it soothed me: so, I hadn’t lost my mind! I wasn’t in the wrong all of the time! They were embarrassed! I get it! but then, …, no! I don’t get it! the whole thing felt like an excuse for an explanation, and it wasn’t enough for me! I was angry! Why should I be made to feel like the problem! Why should I be the victim of some one else’s insecurities about their own behaviour! The whole thing felt curiously reminiscent of the aftermath following my first marriage, and I won’t go here again I thought!
It’s the evening now, and I’ve had time to cool down. How many of us have screwed up, handled things badly and wished we hadn’t, said things we can’t take back etc. Truthfully, I’m not looking for retribution, its too late for them to make their behaviour right, all I want is for them to acknowledge me, not treat me like some kind of leper! If they really feel that bad, why not just approach me and say: “Listen Rosh, we really made a balls-up of your case, and we feel crap about it and we’re sorry for screwing up your career!”, believe it or not, that would actually put every thing right for me! I don’t do grand gestures, I’m a straight down the line kinda person! I am not complicated and not demanding! Honestly! Any one who knows me will tell you! In my life, I’ve messed up too, but part of growing up is surely about taking responsibility! I might have blanked people in my teenage years, but I certainly don’t do it now! Even if I were to meet my X-husband in the street (and Insha Allah I never will!), but I’d be civil, say salaam and walk on! I wouldn’t do the ‘ignoring routine! What is wrong with the world! Is the blanking just a consequence of all the desensitisation we see all around us? Or is it something deeper: where every connection is superficial, where every one has an agenda and where you really can’t trust any one? My vague optimism doesn’t permit me to go there, though I’m terrified it may be true; when I was a journalist, I had quite a cut-throat attitude to people and connections! If some one wasn’t a name in my contacts book, they were clearly an arch enemy! But when I entered the voluntary sector, things became much more grey than the black/white I was used to! The disability movement made this reality even more stark: the entire philosophy of disability equality often hangs between one smoke screen and another, because disabled people remain the forgotten minority, misunderstood by others, and often, not understanding their own condition because of the inability on the part of society to teach them their heritage/history! This is where I have the problem though: why would a misunderstood community purposely marginalize an individual who is supposedly from among them? …, my quandary continues!
I started this post not really knowing how I would finish it! my Grandfather, before he past away once told me, that the older you get, the less you understand life! I’m not sure how true that is: I like to think that through my travels, my happiness and sorrow/life experience, and in particular, finding Islam, I’ve come to understand life, its purpose and the goals I aspire to within it, but one thing is certainly true: the older I get, the less I understand the duality of the human psyche: the less I understand, the more fascinating I find it: and the more fascinated I become, the more disenfranchised I grow in return: perhaps psychology will always remain a mystery!