15: You are in your own ‘time zone’

A friend forwarded this message today, and it instantly lifted my mood and took away some of my anxiety. I am sharing it verbatim below.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Hope you are all enjoying in your own ‘time zone’. You will ask, what is this time zone? This is a very important factor in one’s life and life moves in this very factor. In order to understand more, read the message below:

Kenya is 2 hrs ahead of Nigeria, but it does not mean that Nigeria is slow, or that Kenya is fast. Both countries are working based on their own “Time Zone.”

Someone is still single while someone got married. Someone after marriage waited for 10 yrs before having a child, there is another who had a baby within a year of marriage.

Someone graduated at the age of 22, yet waited 5 years before securing a good job; and there is another who graduated at 27 and secured employment immediately !

Someone became CEO at 25 and died at 50 while another became a CEO at 50 and lived to 90 years.

Everyone works based on his or her ‘Time Zone’.

People can have things worked out only according to their pace, working in their own “time zone”.

Your colleagues, friends and even younger ones might “seem” to go ahead of you.
May be some might “seem” behind you.

Don’t envy them or mock them, it’s their ‘Time Zone’
You are in yours!

Hold on, be strong, and stay true to yourself and make your life happy and full of aspirations, goals and pursuits. All things shall work together for your good. You’re not late … You are not early … you’re very much on time! Because you are in your own ‘Time Zone’. Best wishes

14: Is it possible to be liked by everyone?

 

I am very suspicious of people who are liked by everyone, and who are friends with everybody. It’s not that I doubt the capacity of human beings to be nice to a wide variety of people or that I am jealous of the fact that they have more friends than I do. But, to me it seems an impossible feat to impress everyone on a personal level. It’s different when you are a famous person and everyone like you. In that case, people only know you for your talent or a slice of your personality and their interaction with you is not personal. In any case, even famous people do not like all their fans.

Being friends with everyone works in two ways. First, you have to genuinely like everyone to be friends with them. This means that no matter what the person is or does, you are okay with them as long as they are nice to you. That idea itself is preposterous to me. What if a person is nice to me, but is otherwise a really shitty person to everyone else. What if a person does really nice things for me but is otherwise a hateful bigot with the most repulsing ideas. How can I reconcile with that? It is said that in order to judge a person, look at how they treat their subordinates; meaning that don’t judge a person simply based on how they interact with you. So, when a person is friends with everyone including the people you know for sure are rotten, it draws suspicion. Then there is this familiar argument that even the worst kind of people deserve friends. So, what’s wrong if someone is friends with everybody? The argument is fair, but in reality, if you choose to be friends with such people, you are either ignoring their worst attributes or you may be telling them that they are wrong but they aren’t listening to you. In both cases you are turning a blind eye towards an integral part of them, and are complicit in their wrongdoings.

Second, in order to be friends with everyone you have to be liked by everyone. It’s rare to gain universal likeability if you are true in your portrayal of yourself. Nobody is perfect and there will be something about you that someone may not like. If everyone likes you, then in all likelihood you are faking it; hiding your vices and attenuating those qualities that people may like. It’s problematic because you lose your transparency hiding behind that opaque wall of positivity.  Vulnerabilities are important as they make you less robotic and more human. It’s important to admit our worst qualities as much as it is to flaunt our best ones. It’s important to offend some people, in order to stand up for the right cause. In my experience, most people who are friends with everyone, don’t usually do that. That is why, you should always approach such people with caution.

13: Letting go

The most difficult part of losing something, a person, a dream or a memory, is to surrender and accept things for what they are. You see the person, the dream or the memory fading away, and all you want in that instance is to hold tight. But, the more you try the more you fall apart and sink deeper in the pain. It’s like riding a roller coaster or trying to survive in a quicksand. You have to be able to give up and let go, in order to survive. The person, the dream, and the memory may be precious to you, and you might feel that you won’t be able to live without them. They might be the best thing that happened to you, and gave the desire to live. But their value is not absolute, it’s all relative to you. The value of a person, a dream or a memory cannot be more than life itself, your life. You have to lose control first, in order to gain it back. For when you let life nurture and flow like a river, many new people will enter your world, that lost dream will make its way for another, the faded memory will be replaced by a more vivid one. You have to believe in the possibilities that life has to offer.

Imagine yourself in a train journey, the first destination might have been amazing but don’t get stuck there. If we stay in one place for long enough, we become obsolete. Allow yourself the chance to explore many more destinations in your life. Give yourself the chance to get back on your journey and who knows you might end up at the same places where you started.

12: Should we use the word ‘love’ sparingly?

I have always had a great fondness for people. People bring out my best spirit (and sometimes my worst). I love the kindness, tenacity, and spirit of people, I love their talent and zeal for life. I find something to love in everyone I know; and when I say ‘love’, I actually mean love. My heart swells with joy and I am struck with admiration and respect for them. I never hesitate to tell people when I love something about them. Very often, people are unaware about their own qualities and I like to remind them that they are special. A lot of people have difficulty believing it when they hear their own praise. It’s because they don’t believe those things about themselves and they struggle to figure if I am being genuine in my praise or merely trying to flatter them.

All this changed when I first fell in ‘love’. The experience was so overwhelming for me, that I started questioning every other time I used the word love in my life. The feelings of joy and other emotions associated with it were so intense, that everything else seemed bland and not worthy of that label. It was the kind of selfless love which makes you cherish everything about the person, the good and the bad, and prompts you to be a better version of yourself. I decided then that I would not use the word ‘love’ for anyone, unless I come close to experiencing similar emotions. In doing so, I was also trying to ensure that, that one particular love remained special. I wanted to give that relationship its rightful place in my life, the highest one, so I demoted every other one in my life. I would proudly say, I love only a few people in my life also meaning my love is rare, cherish it. But, reality does not always play out as we like and things do not always remain the same, so when the dust settled on the ‘one love’, I found myself at a place where I felt that I wouldn’t ever be capable of producing love for anyone else. Everything from here on would just be a game of charade and pretence.

But, I was wrong. All this while, it was I who was stopping myself from finding joy in the world and people. The world never ceased to exist and be beautiful, it was I who was looking the other way. The moment I let myself fall freely in love with anybody and everybody, I gradually started to fall in love with the world again. I thought I had just one heart to give to the person who deserved it the most. It turns out, I had a thousand more from where the first one came from. The more I give it away, the more I feel complete.

11: Avoiding expectations

This blog began as a journey to subvert expectations. A place in the corner of the web, which no one would chance upon. Where I would discover what I like to think about, what I like to talk about. A place where my creativity would not be determined by the affirmations I receive. This is my secret, kept between me and you. Yet, as this blog grows daily and I receive a few dollops of encouragement, my trained mind automatically asks, is this what they like to read, should I write more of that? Avoiding expectations is difficult, especially when your endgame is to be appreciated by others. It’s not very difficult to be liked by others, just do what they want you to do. It’s when you want to be your true self and yet liked by others that the complication arises. For, when you put yourself out there completely, and you receive brickbats there is nowhere to hide but accept yourself the way you are. In most cases though, no matter who you are, people appreciate honesty and conviction. Even if you are a bitch, you honesty to yourself may be your only redeeming quality.

So, back to the topic how do we live our lives without letting expectations overburden us?  Expectations may be from friends, family, peers and more importantly your own self. We were closest to our true self, when we were children. As we grew up, we let our societal conditioning take over. As adults we need to bring out our younger versions. If we have to receive cues from anyone, it should be from our younger selves. All the other expectations, needs to be avoided like a plague. It’s difficult to trust your own instincts rather than be guided by people, but give it some time and thought and it happens. That is why some of the best art, song, and literature is born purely out of an urge to produce and not to provide. I struggled with these questions for a while, and it made me stop for some time but I am glad to be back on track again.

10: Does everything happen for a reason?

Remember the old story of the king whose minister tried to convince him that everything happens for a reason? One day as the king goes on a hunt, he is injured by a thorn in his path. He asks his minister what good could come out of his injury. The minister is proven right when the king gets lost on his way and is captured by a tribe, who want to offer him as a tribute to their gods. However, when they discover the king’s injury they let him go, as the tribute needs to be whole and healthy. This story has been told in many forms to Indian children to teach them that everything happens for a reason. The merits of this belief aside, it does offer solace during difficult times when nothing makes sense. It provides the hope that it will all make sense later. But, do things happen randomly or  is there any method to the madness?

When you meet someone special in your life, you feel that there must be a reason why you met the person. It must be because you were meant to be together. Why else would you be where you are? Sometimes, this helps to overlook the hardships which comes with the relationship. If it was pre-ordained, then you have to work it out. But when things don’t work out, and you finally decide to part ways, you wonder what could have been the point of it all. Why did you waste all those years on something which did not achieve fruition? As time passes, you begin to realize the lessons which you learned from your experiences. It starts making sense again. The more time you give it, the more it seems like it happened for a reason. So, are we merely discovering those reasons or are we just connecting the dots in an attempt to rationalize our experiences. Nobody knows for sure. But, here’s the thing. Whenever in doubt always look to nature. At the most microscopic level, all matter is a summation of randomly colliding particles. However, as we gain some perspective we begin to see shapes and sizes and color. We begin to identify objects we are familiar with. Same is with the universe. As we live, we find ourselves in a sea full of human activity and chaos, but look from the space and all you will see is a calm blue planet in its rightful place circling the sun. The truth is that distance gives us that perspective to see things for what they are rather than what they appear to be. That’s how meditation works, it helps us visualize our lives from a distance, and from that position everything happens for a reason. So, do not despair if things don’t make sense. After all, we are nothing but a summation of our random life experiences.

9: Unconventional love stories

Every love story is special, but what makes some stories worth telling and not others? The greatest love stories show us our own potential for unconditional love, through others. The greatest love stories are also the ones which show us that love is nothing but supreme sacrifice. When a person is ready to sacrifice their happiness for the sake of someone else, the seed for a great love story is laid out. How often does that happen in the real world? Not a lot, which is why we have only few stories worth sharing. In most cases, love is used as a romanticized term for an arrangement. We ‘love’ somebody when we decide to be there for them, in return for them being there for us. We provide emotional and physical support in return for the same. If either parties falter, we move on to a new arrangement. That is why people say ‘love’ is work, you need to put in as much effort as your job. In contrast, real love may have nothing to do with romance. Every day I fall in love with someone, a little bit. I don’t even know them and may never see them again, but that love leaves it joyous imprint on me.

Unconventional love stories are my favorite kind of love stories. That’s because the characters cannot usually provide what is naturally expected from them. In the absence of expectations, unconditional love flourishes. A guy who stops pursuing his crush for a mentally challenged girl who loves him unconditionally; the man who devotes his entire life looking after and saving the life of a boy whose mother he deeply loved, the girl who prioritizes her sick brother over her own romantic needs. These are all some of the beautiful tales that history has told us which shows the human capacity for unconditional love and sacrifice. There is an old Indian couplet, which translates us, Do not love like the birds, which fly away when the lake dries; Love like the fishes, who die when the lake dries. Contrary to what you may be thinking, this is not an advertisement for self-destructive love but only illustrates that the transformative power of love which changes you (for the better or worse) when that love ceases to exist.

When we all love unconditionally, we are taken care of by each other. But what happens when you love people unconditionally but remain unloved throughout your life? Is that a risk worth taking or should we just resort to mutual living arrangements a.k.a relationships. That’s a choice which everyone makes in their lives at some point of time. The greatest love stories remind us in our mundane lives, that if we choose to open our hearts to the fullest without being afraid of the consequences, that will be a story worth reading, a thousand times over.

8: Conquering loneliness

I grew up as an only child to working parents, which meant that there were often days when I was the only one to give myself company. Although I had a great time at school and had many friends, after school and on holidays I would crave for the company of people my age. There were few kids in my neighborhood whose parents let them play in the evenings and I would show up to their houses each day, diligently, on time. I have always loved the company of people, as a child and as an adult. People make me laugh and I take on their enthusiasm and spirit. On the days when there was no one to play with, my vivid imagination helped a lot. I would imagine myself in all sorts of situations, such as my favorite superhero or the lead character in my favorite story book or the member of the Secret Seven. Reading a lot of books also helped and the time would soon fly by.  But there were also those long summer afternoons when even my imagination would give up, and I would end up feeling depressed and lonely. My parents would then have to take me to a park or something, to get me to feel okay.

In college, I initially struggled to find people with whom I could connect and those were a tough couple of weeks. During that time, I remember trying to talk to everyone in my class, only to be disappointed by the fact that the friendship did not click. It was almost like dating. Once, I found people whom I could relate to, things became much easier and college became a joy ride. Now that I have graduated college and live on my own, I find many of my friends struggle with loneliness in big cities. Those who are dating, they immerse themselves in their partner’s  lives. Those who are single, find solace in Tinder, working extra hours, booze or any other mindless activity which the city has to offer.

The ability to be at peace all alone, without feeling the need to engage in any activity is something which is alien to most of us. Most people attribute loneliness to the lack of company in their lives whereas in reality people are never a cure for loneliness. They may distract you temporarily, but loneliness can engulf you even when surrounded by a sea of people.

According to religion, once you realize that you are part of a bigger cosmos, you can never be truly alone. We all share the same cosmic energy which binds us and keeps us together all the time. This concept may be difficult to grasp and its articulation unpalatable for some, but the essence of this theory dictates that loneliness is not a physical condition which can be rectified by some object or a person. It is a question of perspective and about dealing with our deep seated fears of isolation. Nobody wants to be left behind or die alone or become the crazy cat lady or the old bird man. In reality, though, everyone dies alone. Being in a relationship is not a requisite for meaningful human interactions. There have been moments in my life when I desperately needed solace or advice and my friends were unavailable. In those moments, the most unexpected and yet the best people have come to my aid and listened to my story, which has led me to believe that we are never truly alone. As long as we continue living, we are all together in this journey. That acceptance is key to getting over loneliness and finding peace, whether in the middle of a throbbing crowd or all by yourself.

5:  Are self-righteous people hypocrites?

Self-righteousness suggests a sense of moral superiority over one’s beliefs and values, to the detriment of others. If you feel that you are morally superior to others because of the values you practice, then ‘self-righteous’ may be apt to describe you. Hypocrisy is when you do not practice what you preach and display inconsistency in thoughts and actions. I have been accused of being both these things in my life.

I have mulled over both these terms in an attempt to discover if it actually applies to me. The relation between the two has been satisfactorily established in psychology. The logic is simple; a self-righteous person believes that they are morally superior because of their beliefs or actions. Reality dictates, though, that all men are imperfect and no one is infallible. This is what leads to the hypocrisy. You claim to be perfect when you are actually not. As far as I can remember, I have never claimed to be perfect. I cherish certain values more than others, such as kindness, empathy, thoughtfulness, love, loyalty among others. The only claim which I make is that I try to live by the virtues which I believe in. Am I a hypocrite? No, because I admit my weaknesses and my inability to live up to my virtues all the time. How can a person be called self-righteous  if they admit to their inability to stick to their belief system always. Does a person remain a hypocrite if he admits to being a hypocrite?

More often than not, I feel that people project their expectations of me, on me. If people accuse me of hypocrisy, it’s because they expect a perfect version of me, and are infuriated to see me act differently. If people did not expect perfection, they would act normally when they found  me diverging from my path. Similarly, when people accuse me of self-righteousness, they are projecting their own inability to live up to the values which they deep down believe in. It’s not me, it’s their own self which makes them feel embarrassed about themselves. At the end of the day, we are all imperfect. Accepting your weaknesses is great but there is nothing wrong in trying to be a better version of yourself.

4: The man who hid his candy stash

As a young girl, my mother was very close to a Punjabi family that lived in her neighborhood. The family had five sons and three daughters. She was friends with the youngest daughter and was treated like a sister by all the five brothers. The eldest brother in particular liked my mother, and never treated her any differently than her own sisters. He was a kind man, very spiritual in his outlook and had a golden voice. Just listening to him talk was like a lecture on faith and positivity. This was more impressive since he had to struggle to make ends meet and sustain a huge family. When my mother bought her first tape recorder she recorded some of the songs which he sang. We would often listen to that years later. After my mother’s marriage, the family migrated to different cities, while the eldest brother moved to the United States. They hardly stayed in touch except for the occasional news which we got to hear of them.

A year ago, however, the eldest brother called my mother from the United States. My mother was no longer the feisty, comical person whom the brother knew. She had been worn down by years of depression and family troubles. Naturally, she was overjoyed to receive that call and to listen to a familiar voice. The eldest brother sensed my mother’s need and promised to call her often. From that day, he would call at least once a fortnight, if not more. Each time he would call, my mother would be filled with hope and optimism. He would tell my mother stories of his life in America. How he was living his dream. How he exercised daily and led a healthy lifestyle. He would send pictures of himself on Facebook which I would share with my mother. Once, my mother was very worried about my life choices, so she forced me to speak to him. I was very hesitant at first, and thought there was no chance that a man of eighty years would understand my point of view. But to my surprise, he did. He told me that he had received very little education and was not as educated as I was. But, from whatever his experience had taught him he had learned that if it was in my destiny to pursue what I intended to, it would happen. He told me not to worry, that the universe already had a plan in mind, but I would have to give my hundred percent towards my goal. Talking to him felt like speaking to a friend, and I was so reassured after the conversation that it became easy for me to open up to him and to respect him. My mother often cited his life as an example for us to lead ours. In every sense, he was an ideal person and a great human being.

We stopped receiving phone calls for him for a month early this year, only to receive the sad news of his demise. We were all very sad, especially my father and I, because he had such a great impact on my mother. Nevertheless, we decided to remember his kind and motivating words and move on with our lives. A few weeks ago, we met his relatives to offer our condolences. What perturbed me was when I found out that his life was far from ideal in America. He had stopped exercising for a long while and his desk drawer was filled with a stash of hidden candy wrappers. It was so ironic that a man who taught others to live positively, take care of their bodies and practice restraint, was himself struggling with life threatening habits.

Overtly positive people often hide their deep seated pains. If everything else seems okay on the surface, dig deeper. We are all broken, after all. Some of us do a better job at plastering the cracks. The person whose life you covet on social media, may be as fucked up as yours. Our scars make us human and testify that we have lived a difficult life, and have survived.