The comfort of impermanence

It was 9pm at the end of October, less than a month before my 29th birthday when I had a severe panic attack seemingly coming out of nowhere. I have never experienced such a debilitating event before, nor since. It was sudden and lasted no longer than a minute. When it was over, I tried desperately to call my mum but my calls and texts went unanswered. A few hours later I got a call that my mother had passed away. She went to the hospital for a routine operation at the age of 59.

Until that point, I didn’t realise how primal or visceral the bond is between a mother and her child. I’ll never know what happened in that moment but I do know that the core of my being sensed that something terrible had happened and reacted the only way it could. After the phone call, I couldn’t breathe properly, as if a part of me had been ripped out of my body. Physically, I felt a complete emptiness in my chest.

When my mother died, there was no one around me to offer guidance or comfort. I didn’t have any tools to cope with such an enormous loss. I put my life on hold and focused on doing only the basics like eating and sleeping.

Over the following decade, I got closer and closer to the concept of mindfulness but my story is not one of enlightenment. I am no wiser or smarter than I was at 28. I still scream and cry when life turns upside down but the darkness is less consuming and dissolves more quickly than before. Besides, when I sense a deep connection to someone, I don’t doubt it anymore. Whether the other person accepts or rejects it, is secondary. Once established, it can transform moments, days, and lives. Instead of gods, I believe in this connection that brings people together temporarily and for a reason. Connection that once formed, shouldn’t be denied.

My travellings also encouraged the appreciation of the present moment, without expecting more than what’s been afforded by fate, coincidence, or luck. I have learnt that the people I meet on the road, belong to that time and space, and it would get me nowhere if I tried to bring them into my everyday life.

Like when I developed a deep connection in the sleeping-car of a Soviet-style train that took me from Ulaanbaatar to the south of the Gobi. Two weeks later, before sunrise at the then Chinggis Khaan International Airport, I hugged this person for the last time, wishing him the best for he was heading to compete at the biggest sports event of 2012. A month later I also left the country. I knew we would never meet again and I was right. Neither of us felt the urge to do so, but nine years of unconditional presence followed, bridging through the 8 400-km-distance. When it was time to say our final goodbyes over the phone, I only felt gratitude for the special encounter. The energy of those two weeks, the meeting of two people who mutually needed each other then and there, literally saved my life.

They say the desert has a cleansing and healing effect on those perceptive enough. This is undoubtedly true for me, because another life-changing journey has taken me to another desert and a beautiful Oasis of it, this time in a remote part of the Sahara. There I had a special encounter with none other than myself, after which the only way to move on was to leave most of what I knew behind.

The impermanence of all beings and all things, including situations, is a philosophical concept addressed by Eastern and Western philosophies. The idea of impermanence is closely linked to the feeling of grief, which can take many forms. It can be the result of death, a shattered dream, or a broken relationship, and as Breeshia Wade notes, many people avoid engaging their grief as it relates to impermanence because it touches on their relationship to power, control, boundaries, self-image, and more”.

Losing control drives many of us mad. We panic and act without thinking, as if we can turn back time and things will stay the same. I don’t want to turn back time. I do not know how my current situation will develop. Whether it ends something I consider precious or it shows a new direction, is beyond my control. I am merely an observer in the web of events and emotions. The only thing I’m sure of is that I’m grateful for the years and the person who helped me reach this turning point.

What is the point of this rather unstructured and vague piece of writing? What you will find in it. If nothing else, I hope you like the image with a cup of delicious mint tea I had on a chilly morning recently.

“Love liberates. It doesn’t bind. Love says, I love you. I love you if you’re in China. I love you if you’re across town. I love you if you’re in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I’d like to have your arms around me. I’d like to hear your voice in my ear. But that’s not possible now, so I love you. Go.”
― Maya Angelou

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