A source of strength
A vortex that can
Twirl the soul
A comfortable home
A lonely, dark recess
A harmonious tune
A jarred refrain
Stirring chords of solitude
Or stringing lyrics of loneliness
Silence is a strange melody
You can turn it into
What you want it to be
Just read this the other day and it got me thinking. When do we probe enough to peel the layers? How often do we scratch the surface and look at ourselves or other people sans the layers? Do we care to scrape the masks and see people without labels? Without trappings of a function or a designation. We live in such transactional and mechanical times, where people matter to each other as long as they are of some use to each other. The moment they stop being of utility, they cease to matter or exist. Then there are others who become a role. They identify themselves so obsessively with a particular role that it percolates into all spheres of their lives.
What are we beneath all those layers? What are we beyond the trappings of labels, societal expectations and materialistic paraphernalia? We’re all achingly vulnerable and trapped in longing. Lost in translation. We bear the burden of buried dreams, of having loved , of winding in a sense of loss, of being trapped in fear, aching to be liberated from the lies we weave around ourselves. We’re waiting to be accepted, hungry for approval. We’re seeking our space, creating a metier. We’re all wounded little children waiting to fly away from hurt.
We live in decadent times. Hedonism starts early where parents fulfil needs and wants even before children realize they have needs and wants. They are given easy access to mobiles, gadgets and tabs which ensures they get to tap into a host of information at the touch of a fingertip. How will that ever leave room for creativity and curiosity to find roots? I too have been guilty of leaning on nursery rhymes to soothe a bawling toddler. Yes that is the trouble. We’re so busy strutting about like zombies starved for time that we look for quick fix solutions for everything. Even the things that matter like relationships, parenting, friendships. We think we can compensate for the poverty of time by amassing material possessions. We think we can punctuate our emptiness by acquiring brands and gadgets we’re going to lose fascination for soon. We are so gladly ignorant of the long term ramifications of all these quick fixes. Our parallel existence in the realm of social media is yet another space where we seek instant gratification by getting instant likes for our rants and rambles, narcissistic selfies or vacation snapshots.
As a parent and a bystander I shudder to think about the self-gratification seeking monsters we’ve become and the little monsters we’re in process of rearing. We’re heading towards a world where we’ll find it hard to think beyond our own needs and wants. A world where we’d want instant solutions for all our troubles. We’ll be men and women who’ll find it hard to look beyond their own noses and whose sympathies will be narrower than Kendal Jenner’s nimble waist. Where nothing will hold our attention and instead of finding solace and satiation in real human interaction we’ll depend on the deceptive virtual world to seek companionship and derive sense of self-worth.
Is that where we’d like ourselves or our children to be?
I still remember the eager beaver I was in the first few years of working in the corporate worlds. Brimming with ideas, going that extra mile to make a positive impression on my seniors and trying to strike the right note always. Time and experiences leave no one untouched. Our optimism gets tempered with realism. The enthusiasm makes way for the ability to question rather than conform. But one lesson that stayed with me both personally and professionally was that there is only one recipe for disaster : trying hard to please everyone around us. By falling into an incessant trap of saying and behaving in a manner which we feel will go down well with those around us; we’re signing up for misery. What we don’t realize early on in our lives is that how people judge or perceive us has little to do with how we are. And a lot to do with how they are. By trying to please all and sundry with end up pleasing no one, including ourselves. We bear an unnecessary burden of supposed expectations we think people have of us. We’re too self conscious to notice that everyone has their own baggage bogging them down, to scrutinize or judge us is probably the last thing on their mental screen.
While I am not suggesting we behave in an obnoxious or atrocious manner, but donning a veneer or mask can’t last forever. It perhaps is best to be as authentic as possible while staying civil. We can voice alternatives, opposing ideas and our concerns without stepping on someone’s toes. The only caveat is we need to be prepared to leave our egos in the cold storage. We need to be prepared for our ideas to be shot down, our suggestions to be shelved or opposed. I still am trying to learn to strike that balance. How do you tackle this?
I still remember being this child who would break into tears at the slightest admonishment. I would internalize other people’s opinions and judgements and try my best to be accepted and liked.Being reared as a cosseted and overprotected child made sure I was oversensitive to criticism and rebukes. I used to be someone ever ready to take these to heart. And then life happened. Life has a way of making sure we grow up and evolve. It dawned on me if there was one recipe for disaster in life,it was trying to please and placate everyone. The futility of trying to be someone to everyone. Allowing ourselves to be steamrolled and ride an emotional roller coaster depending on how people blew hot or cold. We’re never the people we once were. Forever changing, evolving and sometimes wondering how could we metamorphose into someone we never thought we could be?
With time I learned being too thin skinned was like handing over the world ammunition to judge you and hurt you. By being too sensitive one was allowing oneself to internalize and reflect other people’s opinions of you. And experiences drove home the fact we are all much more than people’s opinions of us.
As a friend puts it,motherhood helps us become more immune; almost indifferent to what people think of us. We become so used to being scrutinized, judged and harangued for how we choose to raise our kids.
And then we gradually develop a veneer of indifference and devil may care attitude.It can be a rather liberating experience to decide what we choose to accept from other people and what needs filtering out. The realization comes with time that how other people evaluate us is none of our business, it is their problem alone. Perhaps the first step towards emotional empowerment and autonomy.
Back in college when I was an idealistic feminist, I was always told we women have to work twice as hard to prove we’re half as good as men. I would roll my eyes in sheer disbelief! And then the words echoed true when motherhood happened. Along with being flooded with a plethora of emotions primarily the nurturing instinct I became familiar to a perpetual feeling of guilt. It became a constant companion when I went to work leaving a cranky toddler or came back from work. Till it dawned on me, we women often prey to paralysis with over-analysis. Life is best lived when we go with the flow. What needs to be done has to be done sans guilt. I realized how millions of working mothers walk a tight rope and often the noose is of their own mind’s making.
We allow ourselves to be shortchanged, when we aren’t considered for challenging assignments and are often given the excuse, how will you manage ? No one has the gumption to ask men how will they juggle parenthood and careers. Then why does the buck stop at women alone? Why do they get derisive stares when they want to leave early to pick kids from daycare or when they are on leave to tend to sick kids.
It is okay to delegate and ask for help. Both at work and on the personal front. You can’t be a lone ranger fighting a solitary battle. Having a strong support system works and what really helps is the close circle of non judgemental women who look out for you and egg you on to get it all done. Let’s lean on each other as we juggle the balls of work and life.
Romanticism has its pitfalls. All through my twenties I’d always keep assessing the reality of life, relationships and career vis-à-vis vague notions of what they ought to be in an ideal world. Until I realized that these fuzzy ideas I hold on to for dear life are nothing but the concoctions and contraptions of my overactive imagination and hyperactive mind. And it dawned that the ideal world was la la land of my creation.
It took me agonizing amount of time, several battles with myself and unwarranted heartache to finally figure out that the idea of how life ought to be and how it really turns out seldom meet. In fact forget meeting they are miles apart. There is really nothing you can peg life into. There is nothing you can compartmentalize, judge or assess life’s varied situations and people’s unpredictable reactions.After all who are we to assess? And isn’t life meant for living and experiencing rather than wasting it judging, comparing, making notes?
As long as we keep holding on to the notion of how it ought to be, life will always be less than perfect, it will leave us feeling cheated and dissatisfied. We’re letting go of even half a chance at relishing life’s bittersweet experiences. There is nothing we can do, but to go with the flow of things and gracefully accept what is thrown our way. There really is no harm in reflecting or mulling over our actions and reactions. But it is absolutely pointless to slot our life or compare it with zany ideas of how it should have or could have shaped up. People and situations will always be less than perfect, but that really is the charm of life. There is absolutely no one who can complete or fulfill us except ourselves. It is a trap we create for ourselves by waiting people to rescue us from self-inflicted miseries and make us happy. No one or no situation can act as a salve to our souls or make our existential angst or loneliness disappear. We have to falter our way through life, meander, make mistakes, fall down, cry our hearts out and finally find our own answers. Perfection is the biggest myth we feed ourselves and unfortunately our society reinforces it at each step. Making us wallow in the cages of endless self-pity and a bottomless pit of having unrealistic expectations being razed to the ground.
To love and accept people for who they really and not what we think they should be is perhaps the only way we find peace. We can neither cage people or relationships with expectations and naïve hopes. But we can certainly spare ourselves and others much heartache and drama with sheer acceptance and consideration.