Life’s upheavals and scars, interestingly, make it beautiful, meaningful.
Last evening, I sat alone with my coffee at Starbucks. And I thought back on the year gone by.
It’s been an interesting one surely.
My dad passed on in April. It has been a new, unique, often reflectively painful, experience living without him. In May, our daughter Aanchal graduated in her Master’s program – thanks to two angels who sponsored her. Even so, she and our son, Aashirwad, have had to deal with their own share of challenges. Watching them deal stoically with these Life-defining experiences definitely made Vaani and me proud. But there were spells of agony too – arising from our inability to help them as parents; at all such times, we took refuge in prayer. Nalli’s Kuppuswami Chetti came forward serendipitously, voluntarily, miraculously, to publish the Tamizh translation of my book Fall Like A Rose Petal – and so, Uthirum Roja Ithazh Pola launched in October. Our 100th non-commercial Conversation, as the happynesswalas – Inspiring ‘Happyness’, happened in April. And the 50th Edition of our popular, longest-running, non-commercial, Conversation Series, #BlissCatchers, was hosted in August.
Although we awoke each day with renewed vigor to reinvest ourselves in the task of turning around our business and repaying our over 170 creditors, we have been pushed back by Life. One more time. Another year has passed without a steady or serious revenue opportunity. The glimmer of hope that came between end-2017 and mid-2018 evaporated this year, plunging us into yet another phase of worklessness; leaving us to survive on grace and grants. So, as we enter 2020, we continue to endure our bankruptcy – and all its material, emotional and legal challenges – into its 13th year now!
Both Vaani and I are over 50 now. So, understandably, some persistent health issues certainly raised alarms all through 2019. They pointed to what could be potentially debilitating conditions, but without the means to immediately deal with them, we have left them where they are – for Life to heal, to take care!
As I thought deeply, I felt 2019 offered itself for review on two counts.
- This was yet another tumultuous year, one that was often punishing. Given that we have already been faced with a grave challenge for over a decade now, on whether we deserved a year like 2019, we could possibly label it as bad or as ugly. Well, it certainly was not a good one on that scale!!!
- A constant theme for Vaani and me, that was evident all through 2019, is Happiness! Clearly, Happiness has held us together and helped us endure and survive. Our ability to be non-worrying, non-frustrated and non-suffering – which is, essentially, being happy despite our circumstances – shone through the year, through one more year!
I quickly dropped the first count. And as I embraced the second one, I smiled to myself – in gratitude, in prayer, in surrender. I thanked Life for reiterating a lesson that we have learnt and known only too well over this past decade. Which is, no year is good or bad. It’s just a happy one!
You see, a year is, at one level, a simple measure of time that we humans invented. It denotes approximately 365.256 Earth cycles around the Sun. Good, bad, ugly – well, these are human labels, again human inventions! Something happens that meets or exceeds your expectations – you label it as good. Something that you don’t want happens to you and you call it bad. And if that something causes you acute trauma, makes Life unbearable, you call it ugly. Such is the human response to Life events. And a year gets labeled based on how you, as a human, have chosen to evaluate the events that occurred in your Life, based on your expectations! But although their actions deliver this unit of time called a year, the Sun and the Earth are not bothered about how – and what – we mortals think. Hafez, the 14th Century Persian poet, says this so beautifully: “Even after all this time, the Sun never says to the Earth, ‘You owe me’. Look what happens with a love like that, it lights up the whole sky.” Now, this is how Nature operates: without any concept of time or of profit or loss. The Sun simply, unconditionally, without judgment, lights up Life on the planet – it lights up our lives – even as the Earth keeps going around the Sun! There’s love, there’s abundance, there’s a selfless giving in both these acts. Therefore, there is no worry, there is no frustration, there is no suffering in how Nature works. There’s a pure, unadulterated, sense of just being – a.k.a Happiness!
Which is why a year can really, truly, be filled with Happiness! No matter what you are faced with, if you don’t complicate your Life with human ideas – if you don’t bring up your expectations, if you don’t analyze what you want and what you deserve and instead humbly accept what you are given – you will be happy!
Yes, as is with the process of Life, at every step, you will face upheavals. Just as you will be blessed with grace.
…~ You may find and follow your Bliss. People you know will die or leave you. There may be times when you will deal with material loss or there will be others when you have to cope with heartbreaks. You may not get what you want – someone else may get it though; and you will feel frustrated and suffer when you compare yourself with them! Your Life’s Purpose may find you. Some of the challenges you are dealing with may leave you numb. You may want answers to your questions or seek logic and reason that can explain whatever’s happening but you may end up being more frustrated with Life’s inscrutability. You may find love. A child may arrive in the family. The government you voted for with so much hope may let you down – horribly! You may win a jackpot. Or a dreaded health condition may not be what you have. Towards the end of the year, you may realize that your resolution to lose weight may have dissolved long, long ago, because the pangs of earning-a-living held you in their vice-like grip.~…
So, all these, and other, scenarios may well play out through the year. And such is the process of Life! To be happy you must simply trust this process. You must celebrate the suchness of Life. You must go with its flow.
In Japanese culture, there is this ancient art called kintsugi. It is the art of fixing broken pottery with golden lacquer. As a philosophy, kintsugi invites us to celebrate imperfections. It reminds us that what happens to an object, including its breakage and repair, is an integral part of its history. Which is so true of your journey through Life too. Every experience that you go through is part of the process of the unfolding of your myth. If you sit back and reflect on your own 2019, on how Life dealt with you this year, you will see how every upheaval, every scar in your Life, is precious in its own way. You will realize how you have emerged stronger and wiser from each experience you have been through. You will be amazed at how you have learnt to cope, how you have moved on this year too, just as you have done, all your Life.
This is why it is pointless to label a year as good or bad (or ugly). A set of events simply happened to you this past year. And another set will happen in the year coming up. Instead of over-analyzing and labeling the year gone by, embrace what is, and train your mind to be non-worrying, non-frustrated and non-suffering. This holds the key to your Happiness. This is the way a “Happy New Year” stays true to its meaning and you stay happy through those 365.256 times that the Earth circles the Sun!
Note: AVIS and Vaani are the happynesswalas. They believe their Life’s Purpose is Inspiring ‘Happyness’! They are going through a fascinating Life-changing experience – a crippling bankruptcy!! Look them up here: www.avisviswanathan.in and www.avinitiatives.co.in.
Just live each day fully, make it memorable!
A manager asked me, after a Help Yourself To Happiness Talk I delivered on Friday, why New Year resolutions are often never followed through. I feel resolutions stop making sense because we attach too much importance to the time of the year than to what we resolve to do. So, when the sheen of the New Year wears away, the resolutions too dissolve, they disappear.
Now, I don’t believe in resolutions around the turn of the calendar year. I feel that New Year as a concept is over-rated, over-marketed and is, in several ways, exaggerated. Yes, I partied hard last night. But I didn’t party because it was New Year’s – I party every day. Some days, I drink and dance. On others, I simply am. I celebrate Life in all its manifestations. So, every day is a party. And each moment is a celebration.
I believe totally in management thinker Noel Tichy’s definition of leadership. He says, “Leadership is the ability to see reality and mobilize the appropriate response!” Now, consider the most evident reality of our Life – it is impermanent, it is a limited-period offer, we are all speeding towards our death and our Life will be over soon. So, what is the most appropriate response that we must bring to the table? We must live fully, not just exist, we must be happy and we must make each day count! This is what personal leadership is all about. Making each day count means doing what we love doing each day, so that the day becomes unputdownable and remains memorable.
Try this simple exercise. Take your age and multiply it with 365. That’s the number of days you have been on this planet. How many of those days do you remember? How many have been memorable? How many have been unputdownable? If you have started counting, you have lost the game of Life! Because the idea of this lifetime being handed to you as a gift is for you to enjoy living, to celebrate yourself, to be happy. It is not to merely earn a living and suffer just because you have problems in your Life.
Clearly, you can’t undo the past. But from today on, from this very moment, you can resolve to make each day count. Go on, just do that! And watch how the rest of your Life is filled with ‘Happyness’ every single day!
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