You are not your problem

Don’t identify yourself with your problems – face them, solve them but don’t ever think that you are them.
Yesterday a friend called me. She was on the verge of tears. Her husband has been battling a chronic skin ailment causing both pain and low self-esteem. Their business has been struggling. And her job at a multi-national has been fraught with challenges. “It’s been very, very, very tough AVIS. We have even considered dying,” she said.
I can relate to and empathize with her situation. But thinking depressively about Life and contemplating ending one’s Life does not, and will never, solve problems. Sometimes Life will push you to a corner and it may appear to be a no-go situation, it may seem like it is the end of the road; but you must not give up. It is at such times that you must remind yourself that you are not the problem you are faced with. You may be having a relationship issue, you may be a divorcee. But you are not the divorce. You may have psoriasis. But you are not psoriasis. You may be bankrupt, penniless – like me. But you are not the bankruptcy. You may have a quadriplegia condition. But you are not the quadriplegia. In summary, never let the definition of your problem become a label that you stick on yourself or allow others to stick on you. Each of your problems is a manifestation of Life’s challenges that populate different phases of your Life. These problems will arrive when they must and they will leave you when they must. The moment you think that your problems are permanent, the moment you think that your problems define you, you have lost the game of Life. Depression will set in and you will merely exist – and not actually live!
I learnt this lesson in 1998 from a man named Ashok, who had a HIV +ve condition. My work with YRG CARE, a pioneering center for AIDS research and education, led by the legendary Dr.Suniti Solomon, brought me in contact with Ashok. I was initially very wary of him. Although I knew how one contracted AIDS, I did not want to shake hands with or even sit next to Ashok at meetings. He sensed my discomfort and accosted me with a broad smile one day. He said: “Brother, I am HIV +ve. But I am not the disease. I cannot transfer my condition to you just because you spoke to me or shook hands with me. I know I have limited time left on this planet. And I don’t intend on living that time worrying about my condition. I am not my condition. I am just another you – perhaps with a different physical condition compared to you! Just as you have diabetes, I am HIV +ve. Please, please, feel comfortable in my presence!” What he told me hit me like a ton of bricks. Ashok passed away some years back, but the lesson I learnt from him has stayed with me.

Whatever you may be faced with, don’t ever let it get to you. Death, divorce, cancer, career crisis, bankruptcy, loss of reputation – none of these, or any other, can affect you if you don’t identify yourself with the problem. Instead face your problem, deal with it daily, but never believe that you are your problem. This is the way to inner peace when faced with any of Life’s inscrutable designs! 

“Do I deserve this?” – the most futile question in Life!

It doesn’t really matter to, and in, Life whether you deserve something or not. Life will simply keep happening to you. If what you get from Life meets or exceeds your expectation, you exult, celebrate, rejoice, and, often times, even vainly pride yourself for “your” achievements. And when what you get is not what you wanted or expected you lament – “Do I deserve this?” While the ideal state would be to remain unmoved by whatever happens to you, at least, over the years of growing up, it may be a good idea to learn not to grieve over what you get.
To be sure, Life has no principles of “deserving” and “undeserving”. Life operates on a “happening” principle. It just goes on happening. Judging a happening and labelling it as good or bad, or analyzing whether you deserved it or not, is a purely human activity. It is your mind at work. Life is mindless and so simply goes on, happening, from moment to moment to moment.
When you begin to analyze why you ended up with something you didn’t want, and didn’t deserve, you are sure to be consumed by depression and grief. These emotions will ruin your inner peace and drown you in sorrow. They will hold you back from living Life fully.
Laxmi – Commendable Spirit
(Picture – Shanker Chakravarty, The Hindu)
Ask 24-year-old Laxmi from New Delhi. She should know. Today’s Metro Plus in The Hindu tells Laxmi’s poignant story. Being a good singer, she was hoping to participate in the Indian Idol contest in 2005. But in February that year, a man who was twice her age, and whose proposition and overtures she rebuffed, poured acid on her face. The tragedy left her benumbed. Grieving. And lost. It took months of facing Life__feeling angry, helpless, while having to deal with the trauma everytime she looked into the mirror__to “understand” that what had happened to her was permanent and irreversible. That when she decided to battle it out. She moved the courts. The man, who in the meantime had managed to get married and father two children, got 10 years in jail. But Laxmi was not satisfied. She decided to move a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court – which she won recently, that has led to a ban on indiscriminate over-the-counter sale of acid across India. Laxmi tells The Hindu’s Sangeeta Barooah Pisaroty that she’s happy she has “found her voice finally”. And next on her agenda, apart from leading the “Stop Acid Attackers” campaign, is to hopefully get back to her “Life’s ambition” of contesting for the Indian Idol title!
Laxmi’s spirit is commendable. She too, as she admits, went through her “Do I deserve this?” moments. And as long as she was asking that question, she remained stuck. She became a recluse. She was always unhappy. But the moment she stopped asking that question, she found a new meaning to live and a purpose to her Life!
That’s our learning too. Whatever happens in Life, there’s no point asking “Why?” or “Why me?”. Because there are no answers in Life. You get what you get. And you have to accept what you get! Period.

You may have heard this or read this before. But it is pertinent to recall what ace tennis legend Arthur Ashe (1943~1993) is believed to have once said. Ashe was dying of AIDS, which he contracted due to an infected blood transfusion he received during a heart surgery in 1983. While in hospital, he would get letters from his fans, from all over the world. One of them asked him: “Why does GOD have to select you for such a horrible disease?” To this, Ashe is believed to have replied: The world over — 50 million children start playing tennis, 5 million learn to play tennis, 500,000 learn professional tennis, 50,000 come to the circuit, 5000 reach the Grand Slam, 50 reach Wimbledon, 4 make it to the semi-finals, 2 get to the finals, and only 1 wins. When I was holding a cup I never asked ‘Why me?’. And today in pain, and dying, I should not be asking ‘Why me?’ either!
Bravo Ashe! Bravo Laxmi!