The Wandering Wondering Mind – Part 2

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In the preceding part, I have written about the dreadful thoughts and images that plague our minds and drive peace and harmony out of our lives. And more often than not, all our efforts to block these disturbances out are in vain. We may be able to distract ourselves temporarily but the death rattle continues to play in the background before resurfacing in full force. We need answers that we don’t get easily and may never find. We go into panic mode, hyperventilate and even think we’re going crazy because we have lost complete control of our minds and the situations it constructs.

I have also made an attempt to classify these turbulences into broad categories that are certainly relevant to me and hopefully something you can relate to as well. The only person in our control is ourselves and the only situations we can control are the ones that our mind creates and overemphasizes on. We must realize that anything else is beyond our control and while we hope for the best, we cannot expect things to turn out rosy

There may not be a magically effective way to calm our minds but small daily routines certainly help.

Be productive

Shutting our minds down can be infuriatingly difficult. However, if we keep ourselves busy and aligned with our short and long term goals, we’re more inclined to be creative and positive and less likely to entertain negative thoughts. We must invest our minds in activities that we are passionate about and bring us joy. It’s these things we are likely to do best and the subsequent results will have an uplifting impact of our minds

Meditate

While I still struggle with this even though I try it for only ten to fifteen minutes daily, meditating every day can have therapeutic effects on the mind and the body. I have been meditating for about seven months now and while my mind still wanders when I’m meditating and I still have my mind infuriate me, I am certainly calmer and more in control today than I was when I began. Considering that sages take decades to master the art of medication and attain enlightenment, I’m only just getting started. Having said that, the start has certainly been promising.

Use a positive chant

Telling ourselves that ‘we’re fine’, ‘life is good’ or ‘The Yankees will win the world series’ constantly will have long term positive effects on our minds and we will experience more stability within. Hearing a positively soothing voice is very effective. There is a reason to-be parents are asked to sing to and speak to their child while she is still in mummy’s tummy. We’re not very different as adults and when we don’t have an external voice that can do the sweet-talking for us, we need to do it for ourselves.

Exercise

Cardiovascular workouts and breathing routines help relieve us of stress and anxiety. Playing a sport that involves sweating (because you could very well start playing poker) or even strength training help release endorphins, which are natural pain killers that exist in our body and help reduce stress. If we engage in these activities consistently, our physical health improves as well, which is an essential collaborator to our mental state.

Write

Writing things down that bother us, allow us to clear a cluttered mind. Revisiting these thoughts at a later stage allow us to reflect upon and gain clarity on some of our confusion. Write about the things that work for you and repeat these habitually in your life. Over time these habits will allow us more mental stability.

Read

Reading books like ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’, ‘Before I Fall’, and ‘The Bell Jar’ are likely to be counterproductive, but reading motivating books like success stories and even ‘feel good’ novels help lift the mood and the mind. And you never know what evasive answers you may find on any given page.

Listen to music

If we’re frustrated or angry, listening to Megadeth or Black Sabbath may do us little good. However, we all have happy memories associated with some song or the other and listening to these during our melancholic existence can be very uplifting. The right music not only helps me form happy memories and calm my nerves but also helps me think of a positive future.

Pursue a hobby

If you have the love and the skill for something like playing a guitar, a racket sport, stand up comedy, or even making French fries, put it to use. Engaging in constructive activities that we enjoy is always a sure way to switch out negative thoughts. Not only do we have fun but we also improve our skills, and one never knows where that may lead us.

Keep a clean environment

I personally cannot stand clutter, whether it is inside my mind or in my surroundings. I tend to think better when I keep a clean environment and I strongly believe that the way we keep our surroundings is a reflection of our minds. For example, if our desk is cluttered, our room untidy, our beds unmade, it mirrors that state of our mind. Sometimes we need to jumpstart our brain into positive motion and making a concerted effort to maintain a clean and tidy environment can have that impact. Personally, I’ve noticed that I think better when I keep my environment clean.

Surround yourself with positive people

I cannot emphasize enough on how important this is. Surrounding ourselves with toxicity is a sure shot way to end up in a hole and remain in it. We love it when people lend an ear to listen to our problems, but ideally, we need to see if they offer solutions or just join us in the cribbing game and spread more negativity. Besides there are people that just seem upset with everything in life and constantly complain, demean, ignore, fight, and try to control us. Some of them could be family members and close friends who we cannot discard from our lives but we need to be aware of where we draw our lines for our own sanity. To counter these negative effects and also as a general practice we must make a conscious effort to surround ourselves with people that spread positivity, joy, and imbibe confidence in us.

Sleep well

We spend a third of our lives sleeping (some of us even spend a majority of our waking hours asleep). Sound sleep is as essential to our physical and mental health as any other form of fitness routine, dietary habits, and other good health practices. A lack of proper sleep can lead to a drop in performance, mental tiredness, anxiety, as well as other health-related problems. I have my phases of getting appropriate sleep versus not getting enough and I sense a marked difference in my mood, functioning, and mindset in each of these scenarios. If you’re struggling to get proper sleep, there are plenty of tips available online to help you sleep better.

Live in the present

A lot of our issues arise because we cannot get over the past or stop worrying about the future. We cannot alter one and cannot predict the other. All we can do is to use our failures and pain from the past to learn and grow and plan for the future. We can only do this by living in the present and using our time at hand to the best of our abilities to make our present productive.

Forgive

We hurt terribly from the actions and inactions of people, and find it difficult to forgive them for putting us through so much grief. However, we pine over these matters long after the situation has taken place, and extend our grieving with no end in sight. Yes, it does take time to heal but how are we helping ourselves by not making any effort to move on? Forgiving someone does not mean we accept the pain they have given us, but helps us heal faster. We tell ourselves that we are now in control of our situation and getting back on our feet and running is up to us.

Contribute

We need to understand that there are people in situations that are way worse than our own. Making a contribution in their lives not only adds perspective to ours but also makes us feel good about ourselves (release of dopamine – the ‘reward’ neurotransmitter). We could choose to help people in our circles or even volunteer for a good cause.

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So stop moping around and trying to solve every mystery in your life. Sometimes, we just need to focus on other matters and let bygones be bygones.

The Wandering Wondering Mind – Part 1

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Overthinking is a mental battle I have fought for as long as I can remember and no matter the decision arrived upon after this long drawn out struggle, there are always casualties. These casualties are usually ourselves and many a time people that are close to us. And by casualties I don’t mean being rushed through heavy traffic in an ambulance or even getting stuck in a critical care bed and having to deal with stories about family problems of all our visitors, but about the mental setback that this inexorable activity causes. A loss of peace of mind, lack of focus, loss of interest, irritability, inexplicable sadness, disturbed sleep patterns, extreme binging modes (or loss of appetite), and a general feeling of loss overpower us.

Whether it’s tough experiences from the past or a generally pessimistic attitude we may have developed, allowing our mind to constantly visit an occurrence, situation, or behavior, and analyze it over and over, grips our life with a sense of incompleteness and severe lack of clarity. We strive for answers, come up with many without any confidence in any, which leads us to favor the negative outcomes. And from experience, I can say that the turmoil that this causes in the mind is as unnerving as anything can be (Except when the Wi-Fi goes down because that has to be the epitome of deprivation and depression).

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Why did he behave in a peculiar manner the other day? Why does she always act aloof in every situation? Why was my research thesis rejected without an explanation? Why did Eddard Stark have to die in season 1 of Game of Thrones? Why do the Mumbai Indians make our blood pressure shoot through the roof during their consistently erratic seasons? What are companies looking for in job applicants? Why am I made to feel like an outcast? Why do the people I care about take me for granted and instead chase people that don’t really care about them? Why doesn’t she tell me what she thinks and feels openly and honestly? Why can’t people care more? Why do my plans always go bust? The ‘Why’, ‘What’, ‘Where’, ‘When’, ‘Who’ ‘Which’ and a gazillion other questions that plague our minds. Our mind is not built to handle unclear messages, unexpected circumstances, unanswered questions, and the mysteries surrounding relationships that we deem important. Sometimes my mind is so loud with uncertainties clanging away nightmarishly that I wish I could remove my mind from my head when needed, unlike an iPhone battery. If we think jail is a scary place, being trapped inside our own minds is hellish at best.

We can seek help from others, and the ones that truly care for us will certainly offer solutions with all earnestness, and good ones at that (Unless you ask your dog because then the solutions for everything would be to scratch your ear with your leg and rollover, which is a good way to lead life if you think about it). However, just like the relationship between any coach and student, the responsibility to believe and execute lies with the student. While most of us have external help, the real battle lies within, which we must face ourselves.

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While some mysteries in our lives may unravel quickly, some may plague us for a long time, and still, some others may never reveal themselves during the course of our lifetime. Here are some areas we need to think about, accept, and address to help understand some of these uncertainties.

Mirror mirror on the wall

We are an echo of our upbringing and the values that we grow up with are the values we look for in others. Now only if choosing friends and significant others was such a well thought out and transparent process. We form associations based on looks, a sense of humor, dancing skills, popularity, the ability to win hot dog eating contests and several other parameters that meet the eye in quick time. Even for those of us that take our time to get to know people better and are strictly selective in forging bonds, differences in one’s outlook towards life is likely to crop up in certain areas. We expect people to be who we perceive them as, which in many ways is a reflection of who we are. For instance, if we grew up in an environment where control was exerted and things were expected of us, then we tend to repeat this in other relationships as adults, expect from others and want to be in control. If we were accepted conditionally, then we will lay down conditions in accepting others. We seek relationships to fulfill and complete us because we have an unhealed child inside us and are often disappointed if others cannot meet our needs. Just because people are different from us does not make them wrong. We need to understand who we are inside and heal ourselves first. Only then will we stop to seek relationships to fill gaps in our lives and seek them instead for the true value they add to us.

Relationships can fail

This follows from the previous point. As much as we’d like to put the blame of failed relationships on circumstances or our counterparts, we must realize that relationships are also a reflection of who we are as much as the other person. We need to form a perspective in relationships because if we feel dejected by others, there is an equal chance that others feel dejected in us. Sometimes we misread people at the onset and feel betrayed when we see them change. Sometimes people change as they grow, while we are still stuck at the very same spot and may feel abandoned. As the cliché goes ‘change is the only constant’, and is also applicable to people. Parents experience this as well. They may feel that their children are not what they were while growing up. As much as their love is unconditional, their expectations from their children are not. Any deviation from the well-set our patterns as they grow hurts parents and leaves them with unexplained changes in behavior. However, we are all on our unique paths of finding our truth and the likelihood of us having the same vision as our parents and being on the exact same path at the same time is slim. Paths can be similar but not exactly the same. Without perspective, understanding, and empathy, it is difficult to see this difference. Once we do, our mind will be able to grasp this concept better.

 The need for reciprocation

The need for attention, to be wanted, loved, appreciated, and cared for are common human expectations. If we bestow this upon others, then we consider them not returning the favor to be absolute sacrilege. This puzzles us and we fail to understand why someone won’t respect our feelings by reciprocating. What exactly are we looking for? Do we have a set of parameters that this reciprocation must fit? People do love but in their own way. Yes, it would be nice for people to express what they feel openly and transparently in a globally recognizable manner. Love as they say is a global language and yet it’s expression can be very complex. Open communication is a challenge all around the world and only a few have the courage and willingness to participate in this exercise. Sometimes two people find a common ground to be understood and at times it’s a never-ending mystery due to the natural shortcomings in expression of one or both individuals.

Life is not our debtor

We make plans and more often than not they go awry. We can’t for the life of us understand why things always have to go wrong. Life doesn’t owe us anything and is meant to carry on its business as it deems fit. We need to adapt to situations and circumstances. To make plans and be prepared is very important, but to prepare our minds to the fact that our plans can and will fail many a time is of utmost significance.

Neither are people

Just because we feel people owe us due to our own concoctions in our minds does not make it a reality. Sometimes it’s a feeling of entitlement and at times we genuinely expect it because we do a lot for them. If people owe us money, sure we can find ways of extracting it should they resist. However, no matter how much good we do for someone, he or she does not owe us anything in return. Sometimes people don’t love back, just like the answer to some of our prayers is a resounding ‘no’. Someone may mean the world to us but for them, we may barely exist. That’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes and we need to accept that. Let’s understand that some things are beyond our control and not let our delusions create havoc in our minds because of them.

 Every man for himself

The thought that the human race is rapidly losing any semblance of brotherhood, chivalry, unity, and generally doing good in the world drives me nuts. Small acts frustrate me on a regular basis. Why can’t that cab driver observe the traffic rules? Why can’t that person respect the queue? If businesses keep other businesses alive, why does he think about only his profits? Why do they kill over a 20-rupee ticket at a toll booth? Why do they cheat and then shamelessly stare the law in the eye, knowing they cannot be touched? Why does she take advantage of his grave financial condition? My mind knows that the world has always been like this, but I expect better because we live under this veil of a civilized society. As bad as the middle ages were, people’s word counted for something (Except that of Cersei Lannister of course). Not today. If people find any unscrupulous means of getting ahead, they will resort to it. So I shouldn’t expect from others but only from myself to have an impact large enough to turn the tide.

What people think about me

This is amongst my favorites. I have had long conversations with friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances, and strangers about their insecurities of being perceived in a bad light by others. Trying to please a bunch of people is exactly what that will cause a major deviation from our pristine personality and relegates us to confused, inconsistent, moody, and erratic individuals. Just when we think we have done everything right in everyone’s eyes, someone will express their displeasure. And if that does not happen, over time we will feel hollow from within. We will rack our brains and spend sleepless nights wondering what went wrong. The answer is we strayed away from who we really are. People that accept us for who we are, are the ones that should really matter. Everything else is just an illusion of an association.

These are some broad areas that I have spent years worrying about and I can fit most worrisome and frustrating thoughts into one of these categories. While I haven’t attained nirvana (not even close), I have recognized these problem areas and am now making a valiant attempt to stem the tide. Some of us prefer professional help, while others may want to start small with their own backing.

Stay tuned for some backyard practices to halt the wondering wanderer.

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Man Cub Diaries

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I should have thought a bit more before choosing sciences over arts in college. I should have continued to pursue sports (I could have earned as much in a day as I now would in two decades). I should never have trusted my 4-year old with my expensive Kotobukiya Wolverine statue. I shouldn’t have walked into that ‘baby food launch’ meeting in diapers and a pacifier in my mouth. I should never have asked that girl out (Now we’ve been married for 15 years). I never should have invested in the Amazon Echo (Now no one talks to me except when they need money). I should’ve thought twice before using the example of my boss’ exemplary skills on fool’s day. I should have shut that hatch in the private jet only after my mother-in-law would have flown out of the plane.

We constantly mull over the decisions we have taken over the course of our life and beat ourselves over all the events that went south. Some of them are small silly occurrences that make us cringe in embarrassment (like yanking hair out of our nose while obliviously looking into a two-way mirror), while others could be life-altering events. However, there is a reason we are not provided with reset and rewind buttons. We are meant to make mistakes, learn from them, improve, and grow into more mature, resilient, and wise individuals. To err is human.

While we can’t bring back the past and make amends, life often gives us opportunities to guide younger people that might be at a delicate stage of life where we once stood. Sometimes we see ourselves in them. If I was given a chance to mentor my younger self, here is some advice I would offer.

  1. Santa Claus exists. Sure he doesn’t always dress in red, sport a meter-long beard, ride on a sled pulled by horned herbivores, or even look like someone that started eating on Thanksgiving and didn’t stop until after Christmas. In fact, it’s not even the same person all the time but different people that come into your life and gift you with happiness, wisdom, strength, courage, support, and opportunities. They may be permanent members in your life or fleeting ones who leave once they have empowered you. It’s important to keep your senses open, recognize these gems, and appreciate the value they add to your life (Because we tend to take people like this for granted for the most part).
  2. Age no bar. Sure age is a constriction at an actual bar, but it isn’t always a deterrent to acquiring knowledge and skill, possessing wisdom, and making an impact far larger than your shoe size would lend people to believe. Growing up in the 80s and 90s we were given a mandate about what we could do and not do, based on how old we were. Sure certain disciplines had to be rightly followed, but we were wiser and more capable even at that tender age than what we were given credit for. The freedom to express without the egos of grown-ups being challenged is important for developing confidence, courage, and independence. You’re ten? No problem. Express fearlessly.
  3. Follow your passion. Sure, at some point in your life you may feel compelled to jump into the rat race (and we’re prepared for this from a young age starting with potato sack races in kindergarten), but it’s criminal to lose sight of your true passions. Hone the associated skills and live your life in the realm of your passions. You will make money following a career path you may not be crazy about, but you won’t smile as much. However, the joy of a passion oriented career will engulf your life in joy and laughter, and pay the bills comfortably.
  4. Be gutsy, take risks. Fear is real and is probably the oldest human sentiment (considering the prehistoric man was constantly trying to survive harsh conditions). It is perfectly alright to be scared. But, capitulating to your fears will only leave you with an onslaught of events to repent. Acknowledge your fears but also embrace them and learn to conquer them with time. When you address every one of your fears, you take a step towards becoming a stronger and wiser person.
  5. Don’t get bullied. If you’re going to be a pushover, you may as well become a skydiver. And I don’t necessarily mean being terrorized by the school jerk, but I mean getting overshadowed by more dominating personalities around you. A lot of these people will mean well and therefore try to impose their ideologies on you because they will believe it is good for you. Sure, it’s important to acknowledge these people and their intentions, to learn from them, take advice, but not at the cost of subduing your own personality. You have a powerful character to contribute to this world and it’s best done by being you.
  6. Watch your health: eat right and exercise regularly. Sure you can eat twelve pancakes in one sitting and wash it down with a gallon of milk when you’re nineteen, because no matter how much you eat or what you eat, you will be skinny for a while, even if you spend 23 hours a day on the couch (Assuming you do go the bathroom a few times to take up that last hour). The damage is invisible to the eye because it’s happening inside of you. The manifestation of all your bad health habits will be a colossal giant to overcome when you’re older.
  7. Don’t be in blind awe of people. As youngsters if we aren’t the boldest personalities in the neighborhood we tend to follow the ‘coolest’ people blindly. There are a lot of things you may want to do differently but you may find it hard to go against the ‘gang leader’ and will end up doing things on their agenda. Appreciate people for what they are good at, but chart out your own path and follow your own heart.
  8. The guy with the bigger muscles is not tougher than you. Whether you take this literally or figuratively, don’t let the appearance of a person or event scare you.
  9. I don’t care what anyone says, the Hawaiian pizza is awesome.
  10. Problems and pain arising from these problems are real. Don’t spend your time trying to avoid pain but rather accept it, embrace it, and practice how to master it. Pain leads to strength.
  11. Don’t judge your present and future on your past. Whether its heartbreaks or tough times, don’t judge people and situations based on your past experiences. Your past experiences teach you how to deal with these situations, not avoid them. Trust your instinct and give everyone and everything a fair shot.
  12. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it could be Loki in disguise.
  13. Love yourself and believe in yourself. Life’s experiences can make us bitter inwards. Remember to nurture and love yourself through these experiences. Your confidence will take a hit every now and again through the course of life but you need your own backing the most.
  14. Recognize, respect, and reciprocate genuine love and care you receive. Family, friends, and true well-wishers are important. They are rock solid by your side when you hit rock bottom.
  15. Eat your dessert first. Superman is Superman because he wears his pants before his underwear.
  16. Stop trying to please people. I can bet your money that you will annoy, upset or repel someone at any given point, no matter who you are, what you do, or say. Be yourself and let people appreciate you for who you are. These are the people that matter.
  17. Sport adds a lot of perspective to life. Sport teaches us the values of individualism, teamwork, and everything in between. It teaches us how to value not just ourselves, but our comrade in arms, the ethics, and principals that define us, and the entity we represent. Let one sport be a passion.
  18. See the world for what it is and not what you think it is.
  19. Respect time. Time is our most valuable resource and you must put it to the best possible use to ensure that you live a life of purpose and impact.
  20. Do it now. The best time to embark on something is now. Not tomorrow or any other day.
  21. Coolness comes from your personality and character. Doing things to look and feel cool is just insecurity.
  22. Cut yourself some slack. Beating yourself up over all your mistakes and shortcomings will only have a negative effect in the long run. Making mistakes and being inefficient is part of life. Give everything your best effort, pick yourself up if you fail, pat your back for having tried, learn from your limitations and strengths, and try again.
  23. One selfie is enough.
  24. Save consistently. I can’t emphasize this enough.
  25. Bad things can happen to good people. You may believe that you’ve been fair and honest and respectful of people and events in your life. Yet life will take a dump on you. It’s part of the process.
  26. Love your toys and pets. They give you all the joy and no grief for the entire duration of their lives.
  27. Be grateful. While you may think you don’t have what you really yearn or work towards, you’re alive and kicking and an opportunity is about to present itself to you as much as the next person. Thank your stars for what you have, the positive people in your life, the strength, the passion, the compassion, and the desire to make an impact.
  28. Spend a majority of your life outside Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media application that’s luring you into its deceptive web.
  29. Laugh at yourself. There is nothing more helpful in dealing with life’s tantrums than a sense of humor. And when this humor is directed inward, you’re a mighty titan (who may choose to just snap his fingers to get stuff done.
  30. Think beyond yourself. Have a vision that includes more than just yourself. Make a positive impact on the world around you. Give.

I have 14,000,606 more points to dole out, one more than the number of futures Dr. Strange saw in ‘The Avengers: Infinity War’. Just like he saw only one victorious future, we too have just one life to fulfill our destiny. Go make the best of it.

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The People Paradox

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I love my action figures and collectibles. I’m completely involved in following various sports. I enjoy working on my fitness. Movies and books offer a lot of joy. And if you throw in a pet dog, a bottomless bank balance, a few mansions, a private jet or two, pizza home delivery on a daily basis, weekly massages, and perpetual luxury trips, one would think that I have all the ingredients to lead a joyous and entertaining life. However, I must admit that despite the enthralling picture this scenario paints, what we really crave is good solid people and relationships in our lives. As much as we hate to admit our dependency on the people around us (because apparently, that goes against the definition of being independent), we are all connected emotionally, physically, and mentally with each other. And after the initial burst of exhilaration we may experience while spending time away from these delightfully annoying homosapiens, their absence sucks the life out of us over time.

‘Man is a social animal’ is a concept that we learn at a very young age. I am an economics student, which is a social science. And if you look beyond the theories and numbers, economics really is interactions between people at an individual level, a global level, and everything in between.

Of course, the idea of being social these days is vastly prominent on social media sites where love, affection, friendship, and care might be superfluous at best. I get the sense that our expression of feeling towards others has become more of a social media contest to let the world know how much we care more than the person that the message is actually intended for. If we want to post a picture with our mother, we will click at least a dozen photos and then choose the one in which we look the best even if our mom looks like she is about to fall asleep in the picture (If we had just smiled genuinely in the first picture as opposed to pouting and trying different angles, the picture would have been amazing at the onset). We send birthday and anniversary greetings on Facebook and WhatsApp even to the people that really matter. We keenly take pictures of all the dishes that arrive at our table, promptly post them on Instagram and monitor the feedback from our followers continuously. All this while we have had said less than a handful of words to the person across the table. It’s not like the eggs benedict we had was unique and superior to the ones others have eaten over the course of their lives. I also see a barrage of ‘best dad’, ‘best husband’, ‘best wife’, ‘best Martian’ and a host of other posts on social media. Really? How many dads, husbands, and wives have you had? If the answer is one then I’m sorry, you do not have a case. What are you comparing to? Now that this rant is out of the way, let’s move on.

Let’s face it people, we are lost in the social media gobbledygook and our relationships are slowly but surely losing sheen. We are unable to fathom why people feel the way they do anymore because interacting with, studying, and understanding people is becoming a dying art. Apparently, it’s what the experts like coaches, psychologists, trainers, and the human resources departments at companies do. Sure these people serve an important role in society but it doesn’t take an IQ of 140 to realize that your friend is angry or your mother is upset. Heck, we can’t tell if someone has a cold unless they post ‘sniff’ on their Facebook status (These have got to be the most ridiculous status updates. How much attention do we want?).

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While communication is meant to be one of man’s most formidable strengths since our inception, it is exactly what we fear and avoid today. With added pressures, loss of simplicity, a fast-paced atmosphere, and the zeal to get ahead (even if we must trample on others), we have given up on personal communication. We can write terrific professional emails but can’t convey to the management how we feel about the toxic work environment. We know how good our subordinate is at number crunching but don’t know whether that task makes him happy or not (Because we’re being paid to keep our mouth shut and do the work. And then we wonder why the attrition rate is so high despite a fancy work environment and great pay scales). We know our mom is a great homemaker but fail to see (or avoid) that she is losing her joy in this thankless rigmarole. We hear the words coming out of a friend’s mouth but fail to notice the love in his eyes. We notice the melody in our cousin’s singing but not the pain in her voice.

If our friend doesn’t call us for a few days (because he always calls), we descend upon him with fury when we do speak. But how often do we try to see the reason for their silence? They may have been low and may have needed to hear from us instead. Our brother may do everything to protect and care for us, but it’s something we take for granted and will get upset the one time he thinks about himself first. We fight on WhatsApp because we lack the spine or just want to avoid the trouble of doing it face-to-face.

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We are smart enough to realize what others feel because we feel these things too. However, we avoid acknowledging feelings that challenge our egos, make us uncomfortable, or put us in a dilemma. We incoherently assign roles to ourselves and those in our lives. While we take on the more comfortable ones, our loved ones have to bear the brunt of the more tasking ones. We expect them to understand how we feel even if we don’t communicate, but are quick to point out that we didn’t understand them as they didn’t bother communicating. Parents are meant to tolerate, friends are meant to understand, spouses are meant to support, bosses are meant to chill (even if we’ve bungled six assignments in a row), and dogs are meant to wag their tails. Even if the joker in our life has an off day or two it’s considered to be a cardinal sin. If you know how one feels about you, expresses it with love and kindness, and if you decide to let him wait in endless anticipation to know how you feel, think again. We are meant to continue doing what we do because that’s who we are, and if people can’t understand, well too bad. Everyone else is meant to be flexible and mollycoddle us.

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We refuse to express or care enough to compel our loved ones to express what they feel so that we can all support and help each other. So that we can introduce genuine happiness, security, and comfort in each other’s lives. So that we can use the one skill as the only species blessed to have on this planet.

We rather assume, which invariably leads to misunderstanding.

Assumption is the mother of…yes you got it. Go wish people in person, smile at them more often, express what you feel, tell your cat a joke, hug a sad friend, be nice to your parents, appreciate your children, and communicate in the most expressive and creative ways you can. And express now, because regret is a very heavy burden to live with.

People in our lives don’t drag us out of our comfort zone. They are our comfort zone.

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Who I Want To Be When I Grow Up

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I celebrate only my 38th birthday this year so I definitely do have time to figure out who I’d like to be when I grow up. And it’s not just about figuring out who I want to be, but also as much about who I do not want to be. I guess it’s just a human tendency to let reverse psychology work on our minds. Try telling your 4-year old not to paint on the walls. Try telling your boss you did your best despite the horrendous outcome. Try telling yourself not to think about anything while meditating. Try telling your love interest that you only checked your messages when you got up to pee and weren’t chatting with anyone special at 2:46 am. I’m sure we’ve all put ourselves through the ‘let’s not think about the pink elephant’ test and failed.

I’m sorry, did you think this was a career post? I’m sure we will all figure that out through our own abilities and guidance from some very effective career coaches. We gain knowledge and skills through our education (At times only on the basis of our grades, which in my opinion is a poor indicator by itself. And no I didn’t have poor grades just in case you’re wondering…:)…) and work to get to very impressive positions in our career. We garner wealth and then some. We become managers, lead organizations and further the vision and reach of our industries. We continue to educate ourselves and update our skillset on a regular basis to stay relevant and ahead of the development curve (Including our selfie-taking skills, social media handles, and being updated on the latest gossip). We want to be the best at what we do and that’s the way it should be. However, despite this level of growth do we really have everything we need to hold us in good stead not just on the professional front but also in our personal lives? No matter what our business is, eventually we deal with people in every facet of our lives and there will rarely be a skill that is going to be more significant than people management till we get to a point where AI runs the world (Then it will be up to the robots to understand good people management skills. Unless they want us to get pissed off and send them Candy Crush requests).

Many of us believe we have impeccable people management skills (Like micromanagement, verbal dress downs and passing the blame around). However, I believe what we really lack despite our experience, abilities, and accolades is emotional maturity and emotional intelligence. I see a dearth of emotional maturity and intelligence within myself and all around me. And I believe this really is a defining virtue in forging a strong understanding of ourselves and each other, as well as being able to truly and wholly service a healthy relationship.

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Here are some of my trademarks of an emotionally mature and independent person

  1. They are able to handle a situation with objectivity and don’t allow personal feelings to drive their response. They contain a situation and don’t let it escalate.
  2. They face the reality staring at them with humility, honesty, and transparency. They don’t let their egos cloud their judgment or willingness to accept their faults.
  3. They don’t blame the world around them for the soups they get into. On the contrary, they take hold themselves accountable for their mistakes and take responsibility in addressing issues and resolving matters.
  4. They care about the people around them and study them closely to understand and serve them better. An emotionally intelligent and mature leader will make every effort to understand the strengths and weaknesses of her family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and humans in general around her. She will then use this knowledge to bridge gaps, make up for emotional weaknesses in others (because she cares about the relationship and won’t have that ‘why should I do all the hard work?’ attitude), and instill confidence and security in them. Sometimes we need to be emotional leaders to help others arrive on that same plane.
  5. They don’t dig up the past and launch scathing personal attacks in any situation.
  6. They don’t have the ‘let’s sweep it under the carpet’ attitude. They accept that a problem exists, no matter how bad it may make them look.
  7. They don’t resort to bullying others just to relieve themselves of blame or responsibility or just because of their own insecurities.
  8. They don’t react (I need to keep reminding myself of this one). They have a lid on their emotions and don’t come out all guns blazing.
  9. They truly understand how they and others feel.
  10. They do not let their weaknesses prevent them from pulling themselves outside their comfort zone for the greater good of healthy relationships. They rely on honest and open communication, no matter how difficult the subject or situation.
  11. They understand that emotions are devoid of logic and allow themselves and others that flexibility to express emotions that seem devoid of sense, which is vital.
  12. They accept a different perspective. Not everything they know or possess is optimum.
  13. They don’t judge people or situations quickly. Jumping to conclusions is like jumping off a plane without a parachute (or one that is defective and won’t open anyway).
  14. They are calm in the face of adversity and resilient in tough situations for themselves and others.
  15. They are approachable and provide a level of comfort when spoken to.
  16. And finally, while they realize that life and survival is serious business, they also know that a sense of humor gets them further than frowns and groans. They learn to laugh at themselves.

Sure I’d like to be successful, healthy, wealthy, important, and impactful when I grow up. We all perceive ourselves in the future as top executives and business magnates, with a grand house (or five), expensive material belongings, the ability to travel the world, and an ever-growing financial portfolio. But is this going to make us happy by itself? Let’s say we have all this but would it bother us if we didn’t get along with our spouse? Would it bother us if we didn’t understand our children and we saw it in their eyes? Would it bother us if our employees or colleagues cowered in our presence? Would it bother us if our business associates felt that we didn’t care? Would it bother us if our best friend stopped sharing their problems with us because he felt we couldn’t empathize with him? Would it bother us if our dog looked at us with sullen eyes because we couldn’t figure out that all he wanted was to go for a walk with us? I’m certain that at the end of all our achievements, we will yearn for good relationships the most.

I don’t want to be grouchy, or irritable, or lack empathy, or not understand another perspective, or blame the world for my problems, or lose heart and hope in the face of difficulties, or disrupt relationships because I was not brave enough to have those difficult conversations.

I have many of the characteristics from the list above and so do you. But how close are we to truly being at a level of emotional maturity and intelligence that actually has a consistently positive impact on our lives and those of others? I may not be able to fulfill every dream I envision. But obtaining a high level of emotional maturity is nonnegotiable.

Emotional maturity and intelligence are as good of a superpower as any. If perfected, it’s almost like telepathy, the ability to understand every mind and situation. Most people don’t seem to get this and if they do, they say they are too old to change and adapt. I’m approaching the age of 40 at neck-break speed, and I’m only just growing up.

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Hums, Symphonies, and Drum Beats

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I’ve seemed to be lost in thought during various times in a given day for as long as I can remember. My girlfriend during my teen years actually gifted me a ‘The Thinker’ bookmark because she was amazed at how much time I could spend just being lost in thought (And yet this activity did not prevent me from shooting my mouth at the wrong time before thinking and getting me into trouble on several occasions). I suppose all of us wander into involuntary thinking not only when we are alone during our daily commute, quick work meals, while reading, but also when we are engaged in activities involving other humans and animals, including meaningful ones like gossip, drinking games (sometimes we pass out and dream instead of think), hanging out of the windows on a road trip (and then unwittingly peeing on an electric fence when there are no rest areas in sight), discuss the new hairstyle of a pop star for six straight hours, and even while complaining to our pet hamster about the incompetence of our spouses when it comes to folding clothes the right way.

In one of my previous blogs, I’ve written about how we end up daydreaming about a better life or palpitating about unperceived fears as we go deeper into our thoughts. Either way, aimless thinking creates a lot of noise in our mind that prevents us from living in the present. By constantly dragging the past along and keeping one outstretched arm to cling on to a hopeful future, we are completely oblivious to the ‘now’. At times it’s just other mindless distractions that keep us busy for the better part of our days. It’s important to silence all this noise to allow us to truly live in the moment, be aware of our being, and truly feel happy and at peace.

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While the silencing has to come from the heart and mind, external triggers can be very helpful in calming our nerves and helping us focus on current affairs. Music!! It has effectively worked for me to fill in a lot of unwanted noise during the course of my life. The bandwidth and versatility of music are large enough to enthrall any being, humans as well as civilized species. There are innumerable types of synchronized sounds created for everyone’s taste. I don’t believe I have ever met anyone that does not like music. In fact, even my dachshunds would get into the ‘running man’ groove every now and again on dance numbers. Ranging from Rock, Pop, Jazz, Classical, Latin, Hip Hop, Country, R&B, Folk, Bollywood, E-D-M, I-D-I-O-T (some music can be annoying) to alarm clocks, elevator dings, crying babies, and nagging spouses, there is at least one sound form that enthralls everyone.

I appreciate and enjoy various types of music and am not a fanatic of just one or two types. I know a lot of people that prefer just one type of music, which is fine, but then to look down upon other forms of music is just melodious racism. In my experience, these are usually the folk that claim to be massive metal fans. Sometimes they go overboard in preaching about the brilliance of metal and how every form of music is below par. I feel like taking a large piece of metal and bashing their skulls in. But then that would be unlawful.

Having let out some steam about the ‘clanking’ metal boys and girls, here are a few positive impacts music has on me. Assuming we are all made of flesh, bones, and stupidity, I’m certain it would hold similar benefits for you.

  • It helps improve my cognitive abilities (An argument can be made that I have none). I understand, learn and retain better with music streaming (instrumental is ideal) into my ears (Unless it is metal. Then it just sounds like a few dozen containers fell off their shelves in the kitchen, which leads to a ‘startling’ revelation).
  • My concentration is a lot better while listening to music (Binaural beats are great), which is a massive positive for a ’gets distracted every 10 seconds’ bloke like me.
  • It is a fantastic stress buster. A nice walk with earphones plugged in does wonders in calming my nerves and helping me think in a relaxed manner.
  • It is highly comforting during trying times, moments of fear, anger, depression, loneliness, and anxiety, which are needles that pierce our minds and hearts quite regularly and easily. I always find a song that helps me feel rejuvenated when I’m in a somber mood.
  • It helps me during my workouts. I seem to have extra reserve energy and enhanced physical abilities (unfortunately not quite in the Hulk category just yet) to do the extra sets and run the extra mile when I listen to music during my exercise regimes.
  • Music helps me with creativity. I listen to soft soothing instrumental pieces while writing my blogs for instance (Now let this not be a deterrent towards music).
  • Sometimes groovy numbers just make me dance. It does look awkward at client meetings, bus lines, during surgery, and even during court cases especially if you are the defendant. But a bit of lunacy every once in a while is good for our soul.

If we want to consider scientific findings, the benefits of music are plenty. We feel generally happy as our brain releases dopamine (the neurotransmitter that makes us feel good) when listening to music. Music improves memory. Research shows that cancer patients exposed to music while treatment, tend to experience decreased pain levels. Calming music improves quality of sleep. Music improves overall motivation and keeps us on track to achieve goals. And music also contributes positively to the well being of premature babies, help Alzheimer’s patients remember better, and improves our IQ among several other benefits.

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What’s more, it also helps impress your girlfriend unless you share Bollywood songs from the late 80s with her, in which case you may as well have insulted her mother instead.

Music entertains us and gives us joy, but also inspires us, helps us endure, and acts as a catalyst in fighting the demons in our heads and hearts. We have so much unwanted noise in our minds. Why not fill it with sweet melodies?

Playfully Serious

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Being serious for prolonged periods has always been a difficult task for me. And I don’t mean that I take my work, relationships, passions, and other responsibilities lightly. I take them very seriously indeed. But by serious I mean I cannot hold a grim, businesslike, tense, depressed or unhappy demeanor for too long (If you smile too much or crack too many jokes in the corporate world you’re considered to be someone that is not serious about the job). My innate nature is to play the clown in most situations without undermining or disrespecting the situation or the people in it. However, I am not impervious to the discomfort caused by drastic situations and unsavory events. On the contrary, my emotional nature does allow events and people around to have their impact on me, both positive and negative (If I was playing Bruce Banner in the Avengers and Tony Stark poked me with a needle, I would have turned green, red, yellow, purple…). However, I consider myself to be a defective piece whereby I can’t mope around beyond a point in any situation.

All my life I have tried to come up with some response (which tends to be comical and carefree in nature) to adversity in its early stages itself. When someone tried to bully me as a child (which didn’t happen all that often), after I overcame the first few moments of fear, I would participate in the mayhem in self-defense and laugh at my own predicament much to the dismay of the perpetrators. During my school days, if I struggled in an examination, I would start humming and whistling to myself (occasionally even tell myself a joke) to help dissipate some of the stress. Of course, if the invigilator happened to cast her eyes on me at the time, I would look dead straight with a serious expression letting her know that the exam is a breeze and I’m just formulating the best response mentally. If I got bad grades, I would walk it off and begin to focus on the next opportunity (If I studied hard and didn’t do well then there wasn’t much else I could have done. If I didn’t prepare enough, then I couldn’t expect to do well. Either way, there was no point sulking). If I didn’t win gold in my athletic events, I told myself that someone was better than me on the day (Which was invariably true). If I get rejections from my job applications, I tell myself that the number of applications I make will always be one step ahead of the number of rejections I can get. If I miss a target at work, sure I feel bad (but maybe for a day) and then I convert the entire episode into a joke (or a limerick) and move on. Now that I think of it, I was probably a little nervous even during my wedding ceremony and innately playing the fool, asking for updated cricket scores while the sacred mantras were being chanted.

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And why just situations? People can get us down very quickly too (Only if we allow them to, but most of us cave in). Family members, friends, bosses, colleagues, the next door girl (who still doesn’t know you like her), the ticket collector on the train (during your ticketless travels), the guy who tripped you as you tried to take a selfie during your evening run, and strangely even the banking telemarketer rejecting a loan you didn’t apply for in the first place. For a long time, I let every unpleasant behavior towards me get on to my nerves and push me in a corner. It didn’t help resolve anything and only made me feel worse than I already did. So what do I do now? That’s right, take it with a pinch of salt and a sense of humor.

We will find every excuse to be angry, upset, dejected, irritated or just be grimly serious about every situation and person we deal with. Sure, things get exasperating, but the sooner we realize that unpleasant moments make up our lives just as much as joyous ones, the better equipped we will be to deal with them. Whether we are happy or unhappy about a situation, the fact that it has occurred will remain unchanged and our grim attitude is only going to make us feel worse, not improve the situation. On the contrary, assuming responsibility and lightening the mood in the darkest of moments has helped me rebound faster, stronger, and cleared all the clutter in my mind.

The Joker of Gotham was right.

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So if you were to listen to me, I’d say don’t take yourselves, others, and situations too seriously. If we humor ourselves and laugh (not hysterically, which might be a sign of having gone cuckoo) at our predicaments, we will innately create a belief in our minds and hearts that our problems have not gotten the better of us. We will face them with conviction and fortitude. We all have it in us to realize that the ability to humor ourselves lies within us. We need that humor to face life’s challenges. We cannot tackle the visible until we tackle the invisible. To bear fruit (visible), we must nurture the roots (invisible).

Yes, things will be painful, yes people will be hurtful, yes we will find ourselves undermined and hopelessly outrivaled by various situations, but it’s really up to us to put ourselves in the best mental and emotional condition to tackle life’s gristle.

If life seems jolly rotten,
There’s something you’ve forgotten!
And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing,
When you’re feeling in the dumps,
Don’t be silly chumps,
Just purse your lips and whistle — that’s the thing!

Always looks on the bright side of life…. phee phoo phee phoo phoo phoo phee phoo (whistling)

  • Bruce Cockburn