Neither impatience nor denial is going to solve a problem or make it go away.
A lady we know is embroiled in a legal dispute over her property with her siblings. Her matter has been pending in court for over 25 years. She said she was at her “wits’ end” and wanted to know this: “How much more patient must I be?”
I shared with her my perspectives on patience with solving problems.
When confronted with a problem the human mind responds typically with impatience – you want it solved in a jiffy, immediately. Or the mind wants to live in denial, it wants to run away from the problem. What we must realize is that both responses are wasted. Neither impatience nor denial is going to solve a problem or make it go away. Only when you accept a problem, only when you start living with it, does the problem – even though it may drag or linger on – reveal its teachable point of view. Every problem we face is teaching us something about ourselves. And only through learning from our problems do we evolve into better leaders of our Life.
In the lady’s specific case, her problem was not just that she was fighting over property with her siblings. It was also that she was fighting over it in an Indian court. So there’s being impatient is absolutely futile. She has to recognize that a resolution will take long and possibly may not even arrive in a lifetime. When she is in that state of acceptance – and clarity – she can either let law take its own course or opt for an out of court, mediated settlement. Not will to go with either choice will only cause her suffering. Which actually explains her current frame of mind, what she is experiencing right now.
More than anything else Life, teaches you patience by throwing you in the deep end of the pool or by hanging you from the edge of precipice. Yes, you have a choice to be impatient with Life. But when you are impatient, you are suffering simultaneously. Patience with a Life situation does not mean your problem will be solved immediately or that it will go away. It only means that you will not suffer, it means that you will learn to endure the pain while working diligently on resolving the situation.
Learning to be non-frustrated holds the key to intelligent living!
My friend from Nagpur commented on my blogpost of a few days ago saying he disagreed with my view that “our wishing alone cannot change our reality, our Life”. I have said this in so many blogposts, but let me elaborate, one more time, here. By championing acceptance, I am not suggesting that we resign to the situation. Acceptance does not mean inaction, it does not mean resignation. Acceptance is awareness of any current reality. It is the opposite of denial. Once you are accepting of a situation, you can decide what to do in it. But if you are running away from it, denying it, how can you ever expect to turn it around?
Important, acceptance teaches you to be non-frustrated with the outcomes of your efforts. Acceptance cannot solve your problems. It can only help you work in a focused and calm manner on your problem. But sometimes a problem may endure. Like in our case, for Vaani and me, it has been around for a decade now already. (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal) When a problem refuses to go away, despite your best efforts, acceptance helps you cope with it, without getting frustrated or depressed that you are not being rewarded for your intent, talent, integrity and hard work.
When I say, no matter what you do – or don’t do – whatever has to happen alone will happen, I am championing non-frustrated living. I am not saying sit back and resign to your fate. Living in the world, and yet being above it, as the Bhagavad Gita teaches, as the Bible teaches, does not mean inaction. It is a lot of action – when you learn to trust the process of Life by doing what you can do in a situation and leaving the outcomes, the results, to Life. To be sure, trusting the process of Life requires a lot faith and patience, it calls for integrity of Purpose and detached determination. It means ploughing on along the path unmindful of the terrain and the time it will take to get to where you must arrive. It means that you understand and celebrate Life’s biggest truth that, always, the journey is more important than the reward.
Denying a problem does not make it go away!
All your suffering comes from what you deny. Facing Life and taking a problem head on is what can make you solve it and live in peace.
But we invariably don’t like to exorcise our demons. We somehow have become comfortable suffering, feeling tormented, preferring to stay debilitated than feeling liberated. Because continuing to be miserable seems far easier than having to work hard to rid ourselves of what makes us miserable!
I met someone recently after a couple of years. He, in his own opinion, was financially ‘very well off’. Yet he found his Life ‘incomplete’. He spent entire days, daily, in a prominent five-star hotel’s bar, literally being there from the time it opened to when it closed! He lamented to me that his wife no longer loved him and all she wanted was ‘his credit card and a certain sum of cash monthly for her shopping sprees’. His 26-year-old son, though married, was not exactly doing anything significant and ‘lived off’ the family wealth. His daughter was the only one who understood him but their relationship too in recent years had come under stress. She wanted to go overseas for higher studies but he got her married instead because that was the norm in his ‘community’. He said to me, in a tone reflective of a defeated man, “I have lost it in Life. I have done no wrong. Yet everyone around me has let me down. I am suffering. I wish I could die.”
We have had this conversation many times before. So, I told him one more time: “My friend, you are the problem. For, as far as I know you, you have been drinking entire days for years now. You have a drinking problem – spurred by a lack of Purpose in your Life. You have enough and more money. So, because you don’t know how to be useful and productive, you are indulging in something that has already ruined your family Life and is on the verge of consuming you.”
My friend suddenly got up. He ended our meeting and drove away drunk in his car, despite my request and protests to leave his car behind and engage an Ola or Uber.
I wish he understood that unless he faced the brutal reality of his Life, he may really be unable to make it any better.
Many people, like my friend, live in denial. Either they don’t see reality. Or they refuse to see reality. They deny whatever is their problem__whatever it may be, from a relationship to a lousy job to a ruinous habit__hoping that denying a problem will lead to it sorting itself out, eventually! This is one area where no one can help you. You have to face your Life situation, accept it and then work on solving it – yourself!
But facing the truth is scary. How does one see the reality?
Simple, there are no two ways to can change your current realities or end your suffering! So, if you are feeling miserable about anything__or anyone__in Life, sit down and introspect. Diligently make a list of actions that you must take to end your misery. Resolve to do it. And just get down to doing it. Don’t give yourself the license to make excuses. The only way to solve a problem is to first accept that it exists.
If you must stop living a lie, a difficult conversation must be had.
Yesterday we watched Tanuj Bhramar’s ‘Dear Dad’ (Arvind Swamy, Himanshu Sharma). It’s a short, beautiful film – in fact, if there is anything that interferes with its precise 90-min length, it is the forced intermission that we have in Indian cinemas. It deals with a 45-year-old father (Arvind – who is simply brilliant!) making a confession that he is gay to his teenaged son (Himanshu – who delivers a powerful performance!!) on an impromptu road trip. The script and the narrative are no-nonsense – they look at the family coping with this revelation with shock, denial, struggle, compassion, guilt and, eventually, very, very practically!
And, truly, that is the way families will have to cope with their own truths and realities. Honestly, really, practically.
‘Dear Dad’s’ story is of a father daring to come out to share his sexual orientation. But each family has its own such moments of coming out – for different reasons, in different contexts. So, I think the bigger picture, the larger question to be considered is whether you are going to continue to live a lie or are you going to have that difficult conversation(s) that can make Life much easier, simpler and happier for everyone concerned in the long run?
Why do we fight shy of having honest conversations? Often we think others can’t handle the truth. Or we think we can’t handle a constructive confrontation if it comes down to that. Or you fear being called selfish because you do speak prioritizing your aspirations or needs above those of others. Or the culture of your family is non-conversational – nobody has ever spoken against a visible symbol of authority or faced up to the family’s power center. There can and will surely be other contexts. But whatever they are, you have to examine how you feel when you are living a lie? If you feel you can handle it, maintaining status quo, then avoid the conversation. If you feel you can’t live this way anymore, go ahead and have that conversation, however much you struggle with it. And be prepared to live with the consequences, which, unlike as in the ‘Dear Dad’ story, may even lead to total ostracization.
An honest conversation is phenomenally useful for your inner peace even if it is undoubtedly difficult to have one. Yet, there is no better way to have that honest conversation other than saying it as it is – brutally frank, direct and in-the-face. And when having one don’t expect people to understand your point of view immediately. Embrace the denial, the drama, the struggle and the emotional outbursts as they come. But continue to speak your mind. Over time, people do realize the value of the truth, because it involves everyone. If you are honest, it will always show. And eventually everyone makes their own peace with the way you are, the way their new realities are, even if, in some situations they may choose to shut you out!
I believe ‘Dear Dad’ has done us all a huge service. If we peel away the context of sexual orientation, and stick to considering the value in having honest conversations in a family, it shows us how, despite new – unusual, seemingly difficult-to-accept – contexts arriving, we can still accept, understand and appreciate each other. That is, if we are all ready and willing!