01 May Unique also means alone — and that’s how it should be
There is a saying in Spain that doesn’t have an equivalent in English: “El muerto al hoyo y el vivo al bollo.” Literally, it translates as, “The dead in the hole and the living with the sweet roll.” This seemingly crude sentiment is typical of the raw sincerity with which Spaniards approach life.
I was reminded of this saying when my mother passed away November 19, 2018. I did not announce her passing in social media. Reducing my bereavement to a status update for the three second attention span of casual onlookers was unbearable. I didn’t want condolences from people who hardly knew me; I didn’t even want sincere, quick condolences from those who felt some affection for me. Instead, I texted a couple of friends whom I knew would offer heartfelt, face-to-face support.
But I belong to a WhatsApp chat of twenty six childhood friends, and they all found out about my mother’s passing through the grapevine. I received twenty five warm chat messages. Message twenty-six was about an unrelated topic. Message twenty-seven was a joke.
The swift transition from condolences to merriment stung. Didn’t they know I was grieving? Couldn’t they show some respect? But after a few moments, I accepted that it was inevitable. Life went on. “El muerto al hoyo y el vivo al bollo.”
In the big sentiments of life we are always alone. We are alone when we fall in love and the intensity of our passion is incomprehensible to everyone else, who see our beloved as an ordinary human. We are alone in the ineffable joy that overtakes us when we become parents. We are alone in our pain when we lose a loved one, because nobody can feel the depth of our despair.
And that’s how it should be. We have unique lives, and distinct personalities — even if our experiences are universal. We price our one-of-a-kind identity above everything else. Why wouldn’t we value as well our unique emotions, and levels of emotion?
We can’t fault others for not being able to live our life. That singularity is what makes us precious, even if it can also make us lonely.
When was the last time you felt alone in a deep emotion?