What I Know Now

What I Know Now

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There are some people who give a lot of thought to any decision they have to make, but once they take the decision they never revisit the decision making process, accepting the consequences of their well thought-over actions, and never looking back. Then there are some other people who never give any thought to decide even the crucial things in life. They are either the happy go lucky types who know that they will manage to sail through life with a smile even if the decisions they made lead to unexpected results. Or else they have an immense faith in a higher power that will take care of them if their decisions let them down.

I seem to belong to a conflicting personality type, who overthink every little decision they have to make, and yet at the first knock of melancholy, jump at our own throats with the gruesome dagger named ‘what if’. I am a great fan of Julian Barne’s quote “Time…give us enough time and our best-supported decisions will seem wobbly, our certainties whimsical”. As I grow older my belief that life is just a random series of events is growing stronger. No matter what we do, the consequences may or may not beget the results we wished for. So, given that I tend to question every little bend my life’s road has taken, there are only a few little experience nuggets that I would like to share with my past self.

I would like to go back and tell myself that information really is the power. So read…read more, not just the stuff you like but also all that you thought was boring and outside your realm of understanding. Only by being better informed will you be able to take better decisions. Endeavour to know more because only by knowing more will you be able to expand your horizons.

I would also tell myself to never be complacent. Being satisfied to the extent of not striving to learn more is what will cause the most number of regrets in the times to come. Feeling settled in a particular phase in life doesn’t mean that you should stop growing. The cosy cushions of comfort zones smother a lot of dreams. Don’t let them be yours. Don’t waste time just existing happily. The feeling wears off sooner than you think. Keep learning. Keep growing your skill set. Keep adding new feathers to your cap as it will be these feathers that will help you fly when circumstances drag you underground.

Further, I would also like to tell myself to never let emotions overpower your intelligence. Since, being sensitive, emotional and a dreamer are inherent to your core, the only way you can get through this life with fewer tears in your coffer is by letting logic override emotions. Whenever in doubt, follow the diktats of logic.

And lastly, I would loudly proclaim to myself that are no happily ever afters. There is nothing that you can obtain that will make the rest of your life ‘happy’. The rest of your life starts from now on. So all you have is now. All you have is today. Making today count is all that you can do and all that really counts. Clichéd and yet true.

There is no rainbow at the end of the road. There is just the road. So…happy journey!

Frames

You know how it is when a thought half forms in your head and then just gets stuck there. Not moving, not taking a tangible form, but not receding either. Just floating around, surfacing every now and then, forcing you to reach out and grasp it by the neck but sinking as soon as your hand closes in?

That’s what has been happening to me over the past few weeks and this is my attempt to finally give some shape to a couple of conflicting threads of thought.

My nani i.e. my maternal grandmother has a store of what I love to teasingly call her pearls of wisdom that she very generously distributes among all who care to listen. One such pearl that was dropped in my coffer not once but several times all through my growing up years was, “Be like the sugar that dissolves in water, leaving no traces to see n yet leaving the water enhanced like never before.” “What? Dissolve completely…leaving no traces? That amounts to losing my individuality nani!!” I remember retorting indignantly the first time I heard this. “Ah, and what is this individuality anyways…does it control you or do you control it?”, nani would pose silently. Even though this conversation was repeated after every few years or so, I could never really provide a satisfactory answer to nani’s question.

When I looked around seeking the meaning of individuality I found that most of us establish our individualisms by defining ourselves. I love interacting with people so I must be an extrovert. I don’t really like going to temples and don’t observe any religious rituals so I must be a non-conformist. Labelling ourselves and for that matter everyone else we know, does make life seem more organised, uh..non-messy…doesn’t it? But then what about the time when in a room full of people I know, I don’t feel like talking to anyone? How do I sit quietly in a corner… aren’t I a self-proclaimed extrovert. Won’t behaving like a loner ruin my extrovert image?

Recently I saw this movie called ‘Alive’ which depicts a true story about a bunch of guys who survive a plane crash on the Andes and end up spending 3 months on the mountains facing extreme situations like starvation and avalanches before they are finally rescued. One of the guys declares in the beginning that he is an atheist and wouldn’t pray. After a series of particularly harrowing events and battling for survival when he sees everyone else deriving some solace in praying together, he undergoes a personal battle within himself. To engage in the simple act of praying he had to strive to break the barriers of rigid belief that he had built and enforced over several years. Though of course, it’s not that praying solved anything, but it did make the ordeal a little more bearable.

I have realized that our need to define ourselves stems from a fear of facing strange situations. By building a definitive frame around ourselves we’re just trying to prevent the chances of us landing in uncomfortable situations. Isn’t “I am not a gym person” – another way of saying “I don’t want to face the physical challenges of a gym at this point in time”.  Both the sentences convey the same meaning. But the harm that the first one does is that it imprisons me within my self-imposed image of a ‘gym hater’. What if I have to join a gym due to, say, a medical reason or simply because I’m bordering on obesity. In that case not only will I have to suffer due to the physical strain brought upon by the gym, but will also have to undergo the mental trauma of having to break my self-proclaimed ‘gym-hater’ image!

Most often than not we’re quick to pick labels, sometimes due to small temporary failures and other times without even actually verifying the truth of the tag. Once we build a frame around ourselves, we change the person that the world sees. Instead of seeing the real person, the world only sees an image of the person…the image defined by the frame. So what does this say about preserving our individuality? What are we preserving actually?

The need for defining ourselves probably follows from our attitude of completely rejecting or completely accepting any proposed idea. We either believe or don’t believe at all, either approve or completely disapprove, want things, in general, to be either black or white. But, haven’t we experienced more often than we’d like to accept that life keeps taking little grey turns. Even the universe tells us that there are no absolutes, light is both a particle and a wave.

But isn’t letting go of our labels the same as losing our individuality? Well, that’s probably so, but do we really want to hold on to it even at the risk of our individuality controlling our lives? What we really need to hold on to is our values, our ability to be kind, compassionate, and honest human beings who will never hurt another soul. The rest of the labels are just frames bounding us, preventing our growth into someone we don’t even know exists as yet.

Life as I see it, is a treasure trove of possibilities. I like to believe that I can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone I choose. The possibilities are infinite. The future is still unknown. Then why limit myself within a frame built out of my present limitations. So, while being like sugar in water is still not my cup of tea…I choose to be like water…free flowing, making way through new pastures, breeding life and adapting quickly by taking the shape of the vessel it is poured in…at that point in time.