Determination?

I tried so hard

And went so far

Changed strategies

Sucked life out of the tears

Jumped over despair

And scraped through the darkness

And went so far…

But here I am, yet again

Back in the perpetual loop

Walking in circles

Still trying

Trying to break the trajectory…and fly off in a tangent.

Perspective

Perspective

IMG_0819

I just finished reading ” Paper Towns’ by John Green and am feeling unexpectedly moved. There is this part where the hero (an eighteen year old) is pissed off with his friend for not responding in the manner expected. That is when the author highlights a mistakes probably all of us commit.

While we at all times expect to be accepted the way we are…not just ‘accepted’ actually…but also liked the way we are. We expect people to ‘not be themselves‘. We insist on repeatedly causing ourselves hurt over a patterned behavior of a loved one.

Like the author points out…why be upset over the late arrival of a friend who is known to always be late? Isn’t it enough that he eventually turns up always? It is a simple thought really. One that encourages to accept a few flaws in light of the greater connect. And one that lets us have friends without being constantly hurt.

Another thought the author explored was about wisely choosing metaphors defining our lives. While a low phase in life can be compared to having ‘broken strings’; it can also be viewed as just a low phase which with the help of friends can be over-ridden. It is in defining our lives that we can actually change it. In the end we lose only if we metaphorically speaking – refuse to see the light.

“…there are a thousand ways to look at it: maybe the strings break, or maybe our ships sink, or maybe we’re grass—our roots so interdependent that no one is dead as long as someone is alive. We don’t suffer from a shortage of metaphors, is what I mean. But you have to be careful which metaphor you choose, because it matters. If you choose the strings, then you’re imagining a world in which you can become irreparably broken. If you choose the grass, you’re saying that we are all infinitely interconnected, that we can use these root systems not only to understand one another but to become one another. The metaphors have implications.”

-Paper Towns

The book is full of such little shafts of light that may go a long way in dispelling the gloom that sometimes results from a disquiet mind.

Thin Love

Thin Love

20140327_171048

Recently I read about a couple that doesn’t believe in monogamy. A relationship without commitment projected as a choice made by a ‘strong independent’ woman, probably, as an assertion of her strength and independence.

Such relationships, it appears, are built on the foundation of ‘having no expectations’. The people involved feel ‘free’ and ‘unburdened’. The article reported that the rules of such relationships included not being allowed to ‘long for’ or ‘miss’ each other. This freed them from any guilt stemming out of their inability to fulfill the other’s romantic (or other) expectations..

It made me reach out to look up the meaning of the word ‘commitment’. I was surprised at the contradiction the word threw up. ‘Commitment’ means both:

the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.’; and

an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action’.

It is quite interesting to observe that the same word can refer to both ‘dedication’ and ‘obligation’!!

The words ‘love’, ‘relationship’, ‘dedication’, and ‘obligation’ seem to get intertwined quite often.

Obligation enters a relationship, probably, when the love that there was, is now gone. A relationship run on obligation loses steam pretty soon and can’t travel far. The burden of obligation on even the strongest of shoulders, eventually makes them sag and long for newer/easier alternatives.

That is why perhaps, most independent modernists are reluctant to give up their freedom of choice, even when in a relationship. The people involved make a choice, every instance, to be or not to be together. There is zero obligation, coupled with zero dedication.

And love? It’s difficult to fathom where love fits into the ‘no commitment’ model. ‘Love’, it appears, has been snipped and trimmed to fit into the modernist’s closet. “I will love you at all times”, has been appended with, “I will love you at all times, when it’s convenient for me to do so”!!!

Although, I consider myself a modernistic soul, when it comes to love and relationships I still seem to be holding on to the age old diktats of being completely dedicated in love.

To me, a relationship without commitment reeks of selfishness. A non-committed lover defines cowardice and not strength or independence. It often appears that people in non-committal open relationships are just using each other to escape the monotony of routine lives for sometime – till something better comes along. I think that it might work for some – for sometime. But, ultimately relationships of convenience end leaving behind a sour taste in the mouth; and more often than not, at least one broken heart.

A relationship in which a partner is not dedicated to the other one hundred percent is not based on ‘love’ at all. Dig deeper and you will find ‘low self confidence’, ‘fear’, ‘greed’ or ‘egoism’ buried at the foundations.

So even at the risk of being labelled ‘old fashioned’ and ‘soft’, I choose to sum up my feelings for ‘love’ and ‘relationships’ using Ms. Morrison’s words:

Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.”
― Toni MorrisonBeloved

What I Know Now

What I Know Now

20140524_115304-3

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.

Choices

Lately I have been wondering about the importance of choices in our lives. The power to choose what we eat, what we wear, where we go, and more importantly what we do to shape our destinies, is undoubtedly a gift…don’t you think?

It is the choices we make at different stages of our lives that determine what the rest of our lives would be like. We make a choice, which sets the wheels of fate in motion. Then, slowly, the consequences of the choice made unfold, revealing the colours of our days and nights to come. It is evident then, that our choices define our lives.

So what if we had made a different set of choices. Sometimes, when I am particularly dissatisfied with the familiar monotony of my life, I am tempted to toss the ‘what if’ question at the skies. Do you think that if we had chosen differently, at some point, over the years gone by, our presents would be considerably different? This question probably has more than one answers, arrived at by following different lines of thought.

One such thinking route made me reflect upon the lives of some of our beloved fairy tale characters. So, what if Jack had not chosen to climb the beanstalk? Then he would have saved himself the trauma of being attacked by a giant and would have been a pauper the rest of his life. Or would he? Think again. What is apparent about Jack’s personality from the tale is that Jack is a risk taker and an adventure seeker. He traded his cow for a bunch of beans. Would a guy who can defeat a giant fifty times his size, be dumb enough to do that? No. Jack traded for the bean seeds because they were ‘magical’. There was a promise of adventure hidden in the seeds and the excitement of the unknown hidden atop the beanstalk; and Jack being the enthusiastic soul that he was took the chance. Jack’s personality traits evident from his actions make me conclude that if he had not climbed that magical beanstalk, he would have done something equally unorthodox and adventurous; started off on a voyage into the unknown seas on a magical boat, perhaps, and would have ended up saving a princess and living with her happily ever after. Over exertion of imagination you say?

Let us divert our attentions to the pretty Snow White. What if Snow White had not chosen to take a bite of the poisonous apple offered by the evil witch disguised as a good woman? Would she not have lost all that time of her life sleeping in a coffin? Upon critically examining Snow White’s personality, it is evident that she is a simple, trusting soul who apparently hasn’t learnt exercising caution even by her life’s experiences. One would think that having been tricked out of her palace by an evil stepmother and almost killed by a hunter, she would think twice before trusting a woman who magically appeared in the midst of a forest with perfect looking apples! But people are what they are…aren’t they?  Snow White’s extreme goodness (bordering on stupidity, probably?), makes me think that had she chosen not to bite that apple, she would nevertheless have got caught in a situation that would cause her to suffer. She would have probably made some other equally disastrous choices as her core characteristic was not putting too much thought into her decisions.

Going over the lives of these imaginary characters, and also scrutinizing some from the real world, I am moved to think that while our choices do define our lives, it is we who define our choices. So if I had not made a particular choice at a particular time in my life, I would have probably made a choice not too out of character with the one I actually made. Sure, that other choice would have given a different shade to my present, but that shade would still belong to the same colour palate. For example, sometimes, when I see people pursuing fun unconventional careers, the ‘what if’ question comes up and rests on my tongue. But then I realize that being the conventional, non-risk taker, approval seeking person that I am, had I not chosen to pursue engineering, I would have chosen a path equally standard and carrying my parent’s stamp of consent.

So I conclude that if we effectively want to change something in our lives, it is not just our choices that need to be altered, but ourselves as well. Our way of thinking, our way of perceiving other’s actions and our general perspectives, all form the core of our personalities. Choosing differently while not thinking differently would be the same as painting over walls to give it a new façade. The paint would peel off sooner than later, and then, the scars of discontentment would show up again.

You may agree only partly with my hypotheses. But then, there are no paradigms that provide ALL the answers, are there?

Thinking…the right way!

When was the first time that you read about the glass half full-half empty paradigm? It was a very long time ago, wasn’t it? Volumes have been said and written about positive thinking. And yet, I wonder, do we really understand what thinking positively entails? How does looking at a glass of water and saying that it is half full change anything? The volume of water and the consequential satisfaction derived from the glass would remain the same even if we call it ‘half empty’ instead of the much applauded ‘half full’. Wouldn’t it?

Recently, a friend shared a story about how a baby mosquito came home and told his father that he had had a great day as all the humans he met kept clapping for him. The metaphorical tale set me thinking. The baby mosquito had a great day because he inferred human actions in a manner which could not be more separated from reality. However, what he perceived became his reality. In our lives, perception could be defined as the act of observing certain events occur and then making deductions or drawing conclusions from those observations.

One of the theorems of quantum physics (the entanglement theory) proposes that matter doesn’t has a definite state. It is the act of measurement that determines the state of the matter being measured. Or in other words, everything in the universe changes due to our act of observing it. Then by this definition, there is no ‘one’ universal realty. Our perception defines our realty.

Having established the importance of perception in our lives, the question that arises is: how should we perceive in order to make our ‘realty’ a pleasant place to be in? One way could be to take a cue from the ever changing universe and postpone drawing conclusions. The minute we draw a conclusion, or close our observations, regarding a person or a situation, our reality changes.

Telling ourselves that a situation is hopeless suddenly makes us lose all strength to better the situation, which in turn leads to the situation never improving and actually becoming hopeless. Maybe if we had just observed a distressing situation but hadn’t concluded that it is ‘hopeless’, we would still find within ourselves the will to fight, to dispel the darkness and, by our sheer efforts, see the light.

Telling ourselves that we dislike a person makes us view all actions of the person through the grim lenses of aversion and makes any future dealings with the person absolutely unbearable, thus making our reality very unpleasant. Sometimes, even after observing an event which makes us want to dislike a person, we can do ourselves a favour by postponing judgement and not letting the observation define our perception. Giving chances to people doesn’t always make us gullible and naïve. More often than not, it keeps us sane and our reality/our world a better place to be in, than otherwise.

So I think, that while all that happens to us in this life is largely out of our control, (call it destiny or the randomness of the universe), we could probably better our life’s experiences by wilfully attempting to control our perceptions. Concluding that the glass is half empty would cause us to brood upon how little the quantity of water left is, and then worry about what would happen when that water finishes; leaving us utterly incapable of deriving any satisfaction from that half glass of water. On the other hand, if we just observed the glass with some water in it, and did not draw any conclusions as to the quantity, we would at least enjoy the water while it lasted, and who knows, maybe lady luck would shine through and refill our glass before we gulped down the last drop. Worth a try, don’t you think?