Live your Life your way, when you still have the time!
I was asked by a lady recently if it is possible for someone like her, who comes from a conservative family, to go do what she loves doing and find happiness. “I have been raised to always believe that my husband, my in-laws, my children, my extended family comes first. I somehow feel guilty every time I think of doing something for myself,” she said. I asked her if she is happy being the way she is. “No. I am very unhappy. My husband and I have a huge distance between us. Everything I do is only a chore. My children give me solace but they are young adults now and have gone their ways. Despite all my education and talent, I feel lost, wasted and useless,” she confessed. I advised the lady to decide what she wanted to do basis only one parameter – her happiness: “A large part of your Life is over and done with. You can’t live brooding over the past. Recognize that you only have so much time left. Do whatever makes you happy.”
Actually, this perspective applies not only to this lady’s context, but is true for each of us. Sometimes, we get so caught up in serving our circle of influence that we miss attending to ourselves. Respecting the needs of your family and living by family values and culture is undoubtedly important. But if it is going to leave you drained, miserable and unhappy, what is the point? We must understand that being happy, doing what you love doing, is not being selfish or irresponsible. Only when you are happy can you live a more productive Life. Simple.
Let me clarify further. I am not saying that looking after elderly parents or serving an extended family is wrong. Of course not. But if doing so is going to ruin your inner peace, and cause you (and others) suffering, you may as well choose to do what makes you happy. Because you live only once; this is the only Life you have. And being happy is the only way you can live meaningfully.
Between Vaani and me, interestingly, we have had contrasting experiences on this front. Her father lived with us for 14 years, after my mother-in-law passed away, till he died last year. Vaani served him and cared for him till the very end. In the last five years of his Life he became entirely dependent on her and this meant that a lot of her time was invested in looking after him. This did come in the way of her aspirations. But Vaani served him happily. She was always at great peace with herself – never did she complain, never did she shirk whatever she had to do for him. Now, I, on the other hand, have made a conscious choice not to have my parents live with me. The singular reason for this is that my mother and I cannot co-exist – there is no chemistry between us. In the wake of our bankruptcy my siblings accused me of being selfish, opportunistic and irresponsible because a. I had lost all the family wealth to my failed business and b. I refused to have my parents stay with me. I talk about this choice I made in my Book Fall Like A Rose Petal too. People often bring up this point in conversations with me. What would I have done if my siblings had not offered to support my parents? Am I not failing in my duty as a son, as a brother? And I always reply that I made my decision with a singular focus – I cannot be happy while engaging with my mother. Strange, but that is the way it is! So, unfortunately, we both can never stay together. I have no regrets about the decision I have made and I have the greatest respect and admiration for my siblings for doing what they are doing. If we had had the means, I would have provided for them with a separate premises and support staff. But since we ourselves have been living for the longest time on a grant and on the generosity of my sister-in-law and her husband, I am presently not volunteering any support. Now, my stance may appear to be cold-blooded to some. And a difficult or tough choice to others. But I sincerely don’t care about what others think of me. I know that unless I am at peace with myself, I can’t do what I must do – which is, claw my way out of the financial mess we have been in for years now. I clearly don’t want to be fighting internecine battles with my mother that will leave me drained and depressed every single day.
Yes, it may be the case in some instances that, when you are the only one in a family available to serve another member, you don’t have a choice. Then one has to accept the reality and stop complaining about Life. In such choice-less situations, happiness and inner peace comes from total acceptance of what is.
I share Vaani’s story and my story here only so that we all appreciate that each of our lives is unique. This so-called social norm of “family values + culture comes ahead of individual happiness and inner peace” is all humbug. Each of us has to do what we want to do, what we love doing and what we have to do. Your Life is yours. Period. As long as you are true to yourself, as long as you can face the person in the mirror, always do what you must do to be happy and at peace with yourself. Blaming others won’t cut ice when your number is called and it is time for you to depart. What will stare you in your face then is the brutal awakening that you may have perhaps lived your Life differently. What will be the point of brooding over an unlived, unhappy Life then? So, stop kidding yourself. Go live your Life happily, your way, when you still have the time!
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In a relationship conflict, consider preserving your inner peace first. That’s what matters most.
A young lady we met recently talked about her failed marriage. She said when she saw the relationship withering away, she took time off to think things through. And then she came back into the relationship to give it one more chance. But when her spouse refused to see value or reason in her efforts, she said, she just decided to move on. “I didn’t see the point anymore. I knew I had to go on to live the Life that was waiting for me,” she explained.
Break-ups are never easy. Surely not when you have made every effort to make things better. But prudence lies in thinking the way the young lady reasoned with her situation. You can try to wake up someone who is asleep. But you can never quite wake up someone who is pretending to be asleep. So, if a relationship must work – any relationship – both parties must be ready and willing to change. This is not about being willing to adjust or accommodate alone; it is about being to relate to each other’s points of view. I don’t think there’s anyone who will be unreasonable or unwilling to change themselves if they see, agree and relate to the other person’s point of view. The tragedy is that most of the time they don’t relate to what you are saying. And so they refuse to change. Therefore, in such cases, it is just best you move on instead of hoping, pining and waiting for the other person to change, losing precious time in Life doing this, and often suffering through the process.
A fundamental understanding we all need to cultivate is that nobody is good or bad; no one is right or wrong. It is just that each of us is a product of the time – in Life – that we are going through. So, in some phases in Life, people refuse to see what’s evident, what’s simple and what’s best for all parties concerned. They just think that what they are thinking is right, they believe in what they are doing and they understand that their way, their reasoning, is the only way. So, when dealing with such a situation, when the parties involved in a relationship conflict are refusing to see each other’s point of view, it is best to not press on. This is not giving up, this is not being selfish either. This is being practical, logical and sensible. This is about wanting to preserve your inner peace and choosing to be happy.
If you can find a way to give your inner joy an expression, you will be perpetually in a state of bliss!
Find out what your Zone is. Live in that Zone, play in that Zone, work in that Zone, you will then forever be blissful. To me the Zone is when you forget you are alive, you lose yourself to whatever you are doing, you immerse yourself doing only what gives you joy! The Zone knows no time, the Zone remains detached from money, from reward, recognition and material benefits, and the Zone doesn’t tire you.
To be sure, each of us has a Zone that’s special to us. Someone may find their Zone, as in Zen, in chopping wood. Another may find her Zone in cooking. Someone else will find it in art, in music, in dance. Yet another person may just find the Zone in fishing. To each one his or her own Zone. There is no problem when we operate within our Zones. The problem arises when a person who loves theatre is working as a dispatcher in a logistics company. Or when a teacher has become a lathe operator. Or when a musician has become a lawyer. My former colleague, Bobby Ghosh, once, writing for TIME magazine, demystified the Zone. He was writing on Sachin Tendulkar: “When he goes out to bat, Tendulkar seeks ‘the Zone’. It’s a mental state familiar to great athletes in which the mind filters out the crowd, the opponents, the score and other distractions; performance (in sport) is guided by a magic combination of intuition and muscle memory. Tendulkar speaks of it in terms more spiritual than sporting: ‘I need to surrender myself to my natural instincts. My subconscious mind knows exactly what to do.’” But the concept of the Zone is not limited to sport alone. It applies to anything we do. This is what Osho, the Master, calls being in unison with the Universe. It is from this oneness that world-class performances and bliss ensue, perhaps not in the same order! Reading Ghosh’s quote, and knowing of Tendulkar’s deification, may well give anyone a complex that we__ you and I__are not cut out for such divinity. You may want to conclude that the Zone is the exclusive prevail of prodigies and geniuses. Wrong. It is because people perform in their Zones that they create work that gets celebrated that makes them all-time greats.
The idea is not to get into the Zone because you want to be great or be seen as great. The idea is far simpler. If you know your Zone and live in it, you will live in bliss. When you live in bliss, you will be able to give your joy expression with your craft in more ways than you can even fathom! As Osho would say, “‘IT’ happens. Something breaks down inside you, the barriers are lost, and you become one with the Universe. A great orgasm spreads all over your being, you are in tune with existence.”
So, find your Zone and ‘be’ in it. Just ‘be’. And watch, and experience, the magic happen!
When you are provoked by another’s actions, your only priority must be your inner peace.
A friend and I were discussing about why our social environments sometimes get fractious and why culturally we are often very melodramatic. He said that a lot of problems can be solved if we can refuse to be provoked by other people’s views and statements and if we can avoid feeding off their negativity. I completely agree with him.
To get over people’s abrasive behavior, forgive and just wish the other person well. It is not difficult. It is simple. Think of a situation when you have been let down, back-stabbed and left to feel like trash. It happened sometime surely in your Life. What is your response to such a situation? Anger. Outrage. How-dare-you? Your mind keeps throbbing with this question. You sulk. You rant. You brood. At the end of it, your Life goes on. So does the other person’s. And what was the outcome of all that struggle? Pure misery for you. Was all of this avoidable? Yes surely. All you needed to do was to wish the other person well and let that person be. They also call this forgiveness.
The person’s choice to betray you was their own. Why do you have to react to it violently? It is only when you react this way that you feel miserable. If you were to just accept the situation as is, wish that person well, I am not saying you will feel good, but definitely, you will not feel like trash or be miserable. Know this: you will be run roughshod over or even betrayed in Life. Not once, not twice, but ‘n’ times. Yet, each time if you wish your detractor, your back-stabber, your betrayer, well, you can be peaceful. Ultimately, it is only your peace that matters. When you are peaceful, Life in your circle of influence will be peaceful. When people see you peaceful they will retract from their positions of designed or happenstance hostility. Being miserable you cannot make the world a better place. Being peaceful you can make your world better. You don’t have to be a martyr to do this. You just have to be sensible to see value in this proposition. Wish well, forgive, move on. The rest of your Life is more precious than your clinging on to your misery!