people are barely look up from their phones nowadays – you can cry in the middle of crowded ikea restaurant knowing that no one would notice.
“oh my god that is so horrible.”
“i am so, so, sorry to hear that.”
“i feel you. hang in there.”
those are typical expressions we use when we want to convey our sympathy to others. we mean well and sometimes we do feel saddened by whatever unfortunate events that happen to them. but do we truly “feel” the same level of agony or anger that they are experiencing? the honest answer to that, most of the time, is no. even when they are people who are endeared to our hearts. even when the unfortunate events are similar to what we had in the past. even when we want to plunge our emotional selves into the gorges of anguish in the name of solidarity.
every moment of emotional pain is unique. hence, there is no mass-produced, on-the-shelf remedy to cure it. instead, the one in emotional pain is required to develop a tailored antidote from scratch, every single time. sure, there are tools available to expedite the process: past experiences, support from family and friends, future goals. but they are just tools. the act of determining the right mixture of ingredients to make an antidote that works, through multiple trials and analysis, still needs to be done. and this very act, can only be performed by the one in emotional pain himself. it is not something that one can delegate, outsource, or contract to someone else. essentially, one is on one’s own. and this, is why overcoming emotional pain can be a very daunting, overwhelming, and seemingly impossible task.
overcoming an emotional pain is a process that takes time. mostly because in the process one needs to learn more about, or stumble upon a new feature of, or write-off certain piece of, his own self, before one can rise above the emotional pain. this is the essential part, that, is not only required to develop the tailored antidote, but also critical for one’s emotional growth. which, in the course of life, can serve as some sort of emotional arsenal for the next wave of grief.
if this can be some sort of consolation, no one in this world is immune to emotional pain. at some point in life, one will experience some kind of emotional pain. and yet, people do survive, recover, or even thrive after those painful experiences. i believe that fundamentally we are equipped to deal with them. the muscle is already there, but at times it is not yet strong enough. hence the “exercise” – to build the resilience required to endure this thing called life.
my earliest experience with a major loss was when i was in the last year of junior / middle school. it was not my loss, but it impacted my life greatly. my mum and dad were in the process of building our second home – our own home, not government-owned – as preparation for their retirement. we were living in the lecturer’s housing complex because my dad taught in the university, and we would be asked to leave that housing complex when my dad retires. so anyway. my mum and my dad trusted one of my dad’s colleague to handle that project. he promised them that he could do it fast, providing the fund was provided upfront. he quoted IDR 40,000,000 for the whole thing, which was roughly equal to USD 20,000. it was a huge amount for my parents, who were both lecturers. they had to borrow some money from where they worked, some kind of soft loan deal. they put together the fund, gave it to their “trusted” project manager, and, you guessed it – he ran away with it. he did not technically run away, but he spent most of the money to build his own house for his second wife (or mistress?). my parents learned about a month or two after they gave him the money, and when he was confronted he just shrugged it off and told my parents that the money was already being spent and he would pay it back, just not soon. there was no written contract made before the money was given to him, it was more like a gentleman’s agreement, well, except that he was more like a con man than a gentleman. so my parents were stuck with some sort of house foundation, a huge debt, and a lot of anger. my mum took it especially bad. my dad thought that they should continue building the house (with a different contractor, of course), so they borrowed some more money to finish the house. the house was finished in six months, but it took my parents three full years to pay the debt. we were extremely frugal during my high school years, and as the oldest child, i was very conscious when asking for pocket money or for anything other than school-related expenses. i then started to work part time as a student journalist for a local newspaper to earn some pocket money. also, as expected, the con man never paid the money back, and my dad thought that there was no use to bring it to court, as it would only cost more time and money. there was one thing that i remember most about this saga – my mum called the con man’s wife, about three year after being conned, and shouted out her anger and frustration. that was after the house was completed and the debt was fully paid. she had not let go.
my first own loss was during my first trip abroad to france. i was awarded a scholarship for a summer course in la rochelle, but the scholarship only included round-trip flight tickets, summer course fee, weekend excursions, and accommodation during summer course. meals and pocket money were not included so my mum borrowed some money so i could had fun and enjoy myself during my first trip abroad. needless to say, i was being frugal, because i wanted to use some money to buy gifts for my family and a few of my close friends. there was another girl awarded the same scholarship, but she was coming from a quite wealthy family. she had her own credit card (and she was only 18) and she definitely did not need to care about spending. when she was happily choosing which pastry from a well-known pastry shop she would try today for afternoon break, i had to be content with a slice of store-bought, mass-produced cake bought in a supermarket. anyway, i digress. during the second weekend excursion, we went to ile de re, which was so beautiful. we walked around the island, and at some point we stopped under a huge tree to have a picnic. we left after an hour or so – and after sometime i realized that i must have left my camera where we had that picnic (cause i remember we took a group picture before we started eating). i went back, but the camera was not there. i traced back the path from the huge tree, three times, looking at the corners of the path walk or by the bushes, but the camera was already gone. someone must have spotted it and taken it. i went to lost and found to report it, but the officer (who was very french) warned me not to put too much of hope of getting it back. i was devastated. it was not an expensive camera – back then it was still a film camera (yes we used an actual film roll, digital camera had not yet been invented), and mine was on the lower end. but it was A CAMERA. on my FIRST TRIP ABROAD. i still had six more weeks in france and i could not take any picture to immortalize the memory? i cried and cried and cried. i sent an email to my parents – well, i actually sent an email to my college friend who had email access in university’s lab, and he printed it out and brought it to my parents – and asked them if i could use some of the pocket money to buy a new yet cheap camera so i could take pictures when i was in france. they said of course, so i bought a new yet cheap fuji camera that cost around 120 francs. i mourned for the loss of the other camera for days, blaming myself for not being careful, hating whoever took the camera instead of giving it to lost and found as what a civilized, honest person would do, and silently hoping that karma would fall upon that damn “thief”. i was young, definitely not rich, and i was crushed by “unfairness” of this LIFE.
little did i know that it was only the beginning.
loss, as it turns out, is an integral part of life. and as i got older, the degree of the loss also got bigger. you would think that as i got older i would also be more equipped to deal with bigger loss, but i soon learned that the relationship between those two had not always been linear.
2 April 2005. 19 February 2007. 17 July 2009. 30 May 2011. these are milestones of my life where i learned about the pain of losing something significant. i think i had healed from these, but the scars will always be there.
just when i thought i had understood how to cope with loss, life decided to throw me a triple kicks: 1 May 2014, 21 November 2015, and 7 February 2017. and that – to some degree – truly shattered me. especially the last one – what a fucking blow.
they say that, sometimes, something has to be torn to pieces before a completely new version can be built out of it. it’s like when someone chooses to demolish an old house and build a new one instead of trying to do some fixer upper of the old house. sometimes, this is the only way.
i would like to think that the triple kicks in 2014 – 2017 as a giant wrecking ball slamming the old me. and i, as hard as it is, starts to believe that it is a beginning of something wonderful.
and yet, life is good at throwing curve ball at you.
today, 4 April 2017, i got conned.
a con man pretending to be interested at some thing i put up for sale online tricked me. i lost around $100. luckily though i realized that it was fraud and stopped from continuing subsequent transaction. the con man who communicated to me via WA still tried to convince me to continue but i called the bank instead and once confirmed it was a fraud, asked the bank to block his account immediately. i realized it was nearly impossible to get $100 back, so i “bid” him goodbye, and told him that some higher power would return “the favor” to him, that i was sure universe would devise some way for nasty payback, not only to him, but also to his family, friends or whoever he cared about. later on i learned that i was at risk of losing as much as $2,350 (maximum limit of daily transaction); had i not realized it quick enough i could have lost $2,350 instead of a “mere” $100.
anyway. what amazed me was how well i took it.
in the past i would have been angry, hurt, and turn those negative emotions to people around me, even when it was not their fault, even when there was nothing i could do about it.
as for today, well, today was different. i actually stayed calm and dealt with it, one step at a time. i prepared statement letter that the customer service officer told me, went to the police station to fill in a formal report, and proceeded to the bank for further follow-up. while i was slightly pissed at myself for falling into this kind of trick, i was actually able to laugh about it and stay put together. i was courteous with the police officer, and they offered their help and shared what they had learned about multitude facets of online fraud. when i got to the bank, it was 3pm so the business hour had ended, but i politely explained my situation to the security officer and asked him to allow me to talk to the bank branch manager. she was so helpful in the next one hour that followed, and we ended up trading stories of similar frauds experienced by our friends or relatives.
and now, i write this story with a clear head and a light heart. i am not frustrated, or upset. i am not ruminating what had happened (and cannot be changed). i do not blame and hate myself for not being careful enough. i was able to do my evening chores as normal, focus on the next tasks at hand, and prepared the to-do list for tomorrow. i am grateful that i was “spared” $2,250 today, and somehow i believe that when it comes to karma, universe will take care the rest.
maybe i finally learn to let it go.
and move on.
instead of being stuck in the past.
and that, is a liberating feeling.