From the high ground
Of self-pity arising from the bitterness of your wounds.
What good does it do
In the righteousness of having been wronged.
From the high ground
Of self-pity arising from the bitterness of your wounds.
What good does it do
In the righteousness of having been wronged.
I recently came across the term “Kintsukuroi” while browsing the vast labyrinths of the internet. It is a Japanese art form, which literally translates as “to repair with gold”. The philosophy behind it is quite beautiful.
When a ceramic pot or bowl would break, the artisan would put the pieces together again using gold or silver lacquer to create something stronger, more beautiful, then it was before. The breaking is not something to hide. It does not mean that the work of art is ruined or without value because it is different than what was planned. Kintsukuroi is a way of living that embraces every flaw and imperfection. Every crack is part of the history of the object and it becomes more beautiful, precisely because it had been broken.
Firstly, notice the first word of the quote. It does not say “If”, it says “When”. We talk of chance and of curve balls to indicate that this is not what we expected, and now it hurts. Of course it does. But a lot of us are unable to let go of the bitterness that comes with the pain. “Why me?”, we ask. There is no simple answer for that. But what we do need to accept is the certainty of pain. Being broken is an eventuality, not an accident. And I do not mean this in a cynical way. I mean that brokenness leads to the wholeness that we have, at some point.
I do not read too much into the “stronger and more beautiful” aspect of it. It would sound like empty words to someone who is or has been broken. What I do like to take from this is the attempt, to heal oneself, with gold. I like to think of it as taking responsibility for our brokenness, and pouring in love and empathy and kindness to repair ourselves. If at all we need to ask “Why me?”, we should let that become a tool to better our reparation, and not as a means of wallowing in self-pity. I know I certainly need to learn that lesson.
It took me to forget
The knives that I threw;
Those double-edged words
Which hurt me and you.
And yet, here I am
After all this time,
Telling myself the same story
One more time.
“You remain as you were,
Making no changes.
You innocent fool!
Thinking you can rectify
The mistakes of your past.
Thinking that it’s the thought
Thinking that your words,
Will balm the wounds
But words are not idempotent.
What you said once
May fade over time.
And what you said once
May negate all the rest.
And what you said once
May take hold of the heart…
Often, in moments of fear or anxiety, I go back and read my old blog posts; the ones about bravery and growth and optimism. I smile a little, nod a little, but a lot of times, I just wonder. Many times, I start reading and get lost in the words and suddenly, I realize that I’ve been reading the words as if they are by some stranger, when in reality, they are mine. Was it really me, who wrote these uplifting words? How did I know then?
I used to think that knowledge and experience are things that only grow with time. What I learnt once would be remembered always. Maybe that is not always true. Maybe “knowing” is an ever-changing entity and you may gain something several times and lose it as many times too.
Maybe growth does not always mean adding to your reserve of strengths. Maybe it just means that it evolves continuously, and the what was once a strength may as well be a weakness now.
I have a love-hate relationship with crossroads and decisions. I like to believe that perhaps everyone does. I like the anticipation of beginning something new. I love that the thought that what may be coming may be wonderful and colorful. But at the same time, there is of course, this fear of choosing the wrong road, and ending up lost. What if that path was better? What if that school was better than this? What if that branch was better than this? Am I in the right place? Am I going in the right direction? Am I making the decisions which will lead me to that life? The one that I have planned?
In retrospect, my past self has always chosen the paths that ultimately turned out to be for the best. Sure, I may have certain small regrets, but by and large, I suppose I am right where I should be. And yet, whenever the time comes for something new, I’m terrified. How did my past self make all these big decisions? How in the world did I know? How did I stand so bravely in the face of all those changes, all those challenges? I feel awed by that self.
Maybe some day, I will read this again. And maybe I’ll have a clearer idea of what it all meant. Maybe someday, my present self will be a solace to the one in the future.
Trying out new things; the thought makes my stomach plunge a little every time. You know the feeling; a sudden jab of fear, adrenaline, and a worse version of “butterflies-in-the-stomach”. In general, stepping out of your comfort zone, leaving behind “what you know” invokes similar feelings.
I’m generally very good at identifying “what I know”. While that can be a valuable quality to have in various situations, it is also a liability in personal development; I form unnecessary boundaries and define limits for myself.
This is not my thing: not making an attempt.
I’ll try my best but I’m warning you, I’m not very good at this: being apologetic in advance.
I know what all of these statements mask. A fear of failure. What if I try it and find out I’m not good at it? I won’t even try. What if people see me fail? I’ll claim I knew it in advance. All the while hiding behind a claim of self-knowledge and a show of courage.
I’ve spent a lifetime in a cocoon. I’ve cottoned my surroundings to lessen the impact of any stumbling block. All my life, I’ve held on to things that I know I’m good at. It has stopped me from giving a chance to things that I could have tried and probably enjoyed. And yet, I know I’m missing something; exhilaration. Devoting your whole and soul to something and simply hope for the best.
The past semester has taught me various things. Getting past the feeling of vulnerability is one of those things. I’ve tried to put myself forward, right into that uncomfortable spot, in small, everyday moments of life, consciously. A prick of fear, many moments of “What was I thinking!” and a final dogged attempt later, I’ve always feel glad of attempting the uncomfortable. And in most cases, it hasn’t been that bad. A lot of my inhibitions have been over-exaggerated and sometimes, downright irrational.
In this past semester, I’ve made myself face small challenges every day. I’ve tested and flexed what I thought my boundaries were. I’ve launched heads-on into things that make me uncomfortable. The results have been satisfying. I’ve found new strengths. I’ve discovered a depth in my capacities that I never knew of.
Unfortunately, I’ve found out that such attempts, while very enlightening, have not changed my basic instinct. Which is to save myself from failing. A few days of comfort, and coming back to facing vulnerability is as difficult as ever. Bravery then, is a product of not one (or a few), but many such attempts.
This is my goal now; to continue to challenge myself every day, to try my hand at something new, to conquer that discomfort felt in the pit of my stomach. My goal is to fail, perhaps in the eyes of the world, so that I do not fail myself.
It was more than a decade back. The Navratri celebrations in our society had Garba competitions. (I’ve talked about Navratri and my love for dancing here. For the new readers, Navratri is a nine-nights long dance festival. Garba is the dance form). It was announced that the dancer who dances continuously the entire night (excluding official breaks) will win.
I was nine, passionate and a fairly good Garba dancer. I held a wish in my heart. I wanted to win. Working up the will, I danced tirelessly. I did not stop when there was barely space enough to dance. I did not stop when the crowd lessened. I did not stop when my body started aching. I danced the entire night.
It was time for the prize ceremony. I was feeling elated. I had danced more than ever before. I had had more fun dancing than ever before even though I was tired. I was proud of myself. I had achieved something that I hadn’t thought myself capable of.
I did not get the prize. It went to the organizer’s daughter. At the risk of sounding, well, childish, I should mention that she did not dance for even one complete hour. I don’t have an accurate or objective memory of her dancing skills.
It was the first time I learnt that the world isn’t fair. You may not always sow what you reap. You may not always get the fruits of your hard work. You may not get any acknowledgement or appreciation for giving your whole, undivided devotion to something. I was too idealistic. The realization broke my heart.
Over the years, I’ve mainly had good experiences in this matter; most of my efforts have been rewarded. But then, there have also been a few experiences where I’ve felt wronged, resentful, betrayed. Experiences, where the child in me wants to cry out, Unfair! and fold her arms in indignation, frowning, and going all Calvin.
I identify myself with the work that I do. I gain satisfaction from a job well done. Anything less than perfect eats at me, though I’ve been working on not letting it affect me. The point is, I pride myself on working wholeheartedly. When that work is not appreciated, it hurts me. And there is not a lot that really hurts me. I suppose it is not healthy to depend on rewards for satisfaction. And don’t get me wrong; it is not the materialistic rewards that I seek; merely recognition for my efforts.
It is an age-old adage that one shouldn’t work for the fruits, just the satisfaction. And that Karma takes care of everything. Eventually everything works out for the best. I would be lying if I said that I do not believe in it. There is some part of me that is still idealistic, that still believes that rewards will come, albeit not in the form that I expected. But then, there’s this other part of me, a somewhat pessimistic part. A part that has been asking these questions lately:
Is it enough to get returns in another form?
The balance may turn out to be all right at the end of the balance sheet but is life mathematics, with each wish, each reward having an equal value? Aren’t some dreams and efforts worth more?
And at the end, when we feel satisfied at least with ourselves, is that satisfaction real or merely a consolation that we fool our hearts with?
These are some questions that I’ve been grappling with, especially the last one.
This is my answer to it:
I shall continue to put in my best efforts in whatever I do. I do not know any other way to work. The satisfaction of it, consolation or not, is very real to me. But at the same time, it is important to be worldly wise too. It is important to know where to draw the line between working tirelessly and getting taken advantage of.
I still do not know all answers. I still want to learn.
What has been your experience?
One year ago, I began this blog.
One year ago, I felt pretty lost. Everyone around me was doing so much, or so I felt. I didn’t feel competent enough. I felt I was being too complacent, too cowardly, too negative. This blog began as an attempt to revive my love for writing and… and something else; something that I couldn’t quite place.
I had been mulling over blogging for at least six months before I started. But for some reason I never felt I could go through with it. I had stopped writing since a long time, and it didn’t come as easily as before. I had no idea of what would be acceptable to publish. The first post had been sitting drafted on my computer for a long time.
One night though, I made a snap decision. Past midnight already, I opened WordPress.com, chose a cheesy URL, picked out the first theme I saw and hit publish.
When I started blogging, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to come out of it. I liked writing, but had pretty vague ideas about what exactly I would write. I was being affected by too many other bloggers who had their own style. There were bloggers who had weekly features, who wrote fun stuff. For some time, I tried doing all of that. There were several posts that I published and then deleted. Nothing worked; it just wasn’t me.
For several months, I wrote just for the sake of it, struggling even to publish just once a month.
A change came around September. I participated in a blogging challenge. I wasn’t able to finish it, but I wrote more than what I was previously doing. I think it was significant in two aspects; one, that it helped me get rid of my writers’ block, and two, it gave me the courage to publish without spending ages on revising it.
I remember the first follower I had, the first time I got a comment, the first time someone “liked” my post. I wasn’t sure what exactly I was seeking; validation perhaps, that there were people out there who liked reading my thoughts. I remember signing in with anticipation every time, getting excited when I saw something orange on the top right corner of my WordPress account. A follow made my day, I liked being “liked”. The time I hit a 100 followers, I was over the moon; there were so many people who were reading my blog.
In the past few months though, a change has come. I still smile when someone “follows” or “likes”. But I am the happiest when the orange button indicates a comment.
I’ve finally realised why I started blogging. What I wanted the most was conversation.
It’s not like I don’t have friends; I do, and they are great friends. But they all know me in bits and pieces. I discuss books with some, poetry with some, feminism with a few others. I talk about stuff close to my heart, the things that make me wonder, the things that I fear, my musings generally, with certain others. This blog is where all pieces of me come together wholly to form the mosaicked self that I am.
Over time, I’ve figured out a rhythm for myself. I’ve developed a voice that I can see myself talking in. More importantly, I’ve become brave enough to put myself in the posts. I no longer feel the pressure to publish twice a week; I know now that thrice or four times a month is more suitable for me. I write what I actually want to write about, taking time to articulate what I have to say.
I never was comfortable writing poetry before. I think it has something to do with the fact that my father is a Ghazal writer. Ghazal is a very restrictive form of poetry; there are a lot of rules to be followed. Somehow I always felt it would be too much work to write poetry to be able to enjoy it. When I started blogging, I also started reading more blogs. Though I knew this before theoretically, it was only then that I finally internalised that poetry didn’t have to be restrictive. I have no idea whether my poetry is any good, but I don’t feel conscious about it anymore. I write it because I like to. Blogging has given me this gift.
It is here on this blog that I’ve talked about overcoming failures, about obedience, about being good. It is here that I’ve come to terms with why I am the way I am. It is here that I now feel I am enough.
Thank you. For reading, for sharing your thoughts, for conversing. I appreciate it.
In A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson, there is a scene, where the protagonist, Ellen is being interviewed by the principal of the boarding school where she has applied to be a housemother. At one point, he asks her what she fears. And she replies, “Not being able to see.”
Being blind isn’t what she meant. She meant being limited by something (prejudice, love) to be able to gain a clear perspective on a situation. Basically, she meant that she was afraid of being ruled by own emotions, her own fixed ideologies.
I’m sure that many of us struggle with this. There has been a time period in my life when I was so consumed by what was supposed to be, that I failed to see what actually was. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had problems with perfection. It was particularly bad during this period. I had such a clear vision of a Plan, that I couldn’t (wouldn’t) accommodate any curve balls. Admitting to myself that I tried something and failed isn’t easy for me. It’s not about other people; I don’t accept my own failures with an open mind. And this is the reason why I could only see my so-called “failures” instead of what I had actually achieved.
Today when I look back at that time, I realise that the situation wasn’t so bad. It wasn’t like my life was doomed if just one single thing went wrong. My plans weren’t that off-the-track that I couldn’t redeem. I know now, that I could have avoided a lot of pain, tears, irrational fears, had I been able to see.
Today has been one of those days. You know, when nothing seems to be going right. When your judgement is addled by mood swings. When your own view becomes so myopic that everything seems a disaster. I was agonizing for half a day about what was going wrong with absolutely everything. For the major part of the day, I could only see the flaws.
And then I stopped. I decided to let life happen, in its own way.
It’s so easy to become lost in the perfect picture of the future. I’ve mentioned before that I make a conscious effort at trying to be in the present. It still doesn’t come that naturally. But I try.
I fear it too; not being able to see. Because I know what that kind of narrow-minded worry can do to me. Instead, I try to let out the steam; cool off, call up my mother and rant about people and things that she barely knows. But I try not to let that anxiety sit in my heart. It’s better to be annoying to others for a little while than harm yourself with worry. People who are close always understand.