Ever wondered why we, grown up people, have our lives plagued with problems and sorrow? I am yet to come across a person my age, or older, who is happy on an absolute level, has no remorse or doesn’t crib about the fronts he could have been better on. Why are we so vulnerable? So given in to sadness and dissatisfaction? Is there any particular thing we have been doing wrong to attract all this negativity in our lives? If yes, then how come all the people around you are making the same mistakes, and for all the so-called ’intelligence‘ present in this world, how come no one has ever been able to trace this discontent to its root cause? From my limited experience of this tiny little world of ours, I have stumbled across, by trial and error of course, some tenets that belie my theory of what shall make our experience of life, a happier one. Or what I fondly refer to as “The art of being happy”.
Of the Big and Small–
So what is your idea of a happy life? A nice job, a well furnished home, settled with family and kids, a big car maybe, vacations abroad? Sure is, likewise for so many of us. A few things here and there, but the general schematic of our idea of a happy life is just the same. All the good things, big things, packed into one perfect lattice. And we work endlessly, day and night, towards the realization of this dream. In the mean time, we lose on something very important that life has to offer. A father misses his kid’s first birthday because he was in a foreign land making his client happy, and a mother misses her child’s first spoken word which the kid uttered in a crèche since the mom had to work for an increased family income. A guy loses the best of his friends since he has been working in a different city, while relationships need to be severed since work-life balance takes a hit because of extended commitments at workplace. And then dawns the day that you worked your asses off for, when you have all the things you dreamt of, but the parody is that you are standing alone on the huge terrace of your newly bought condominium, your children hardly even know you, you wife has a best friend; and that is not you! It is then that you realize what you have achieved. And lost. You have earned a bag full of regrets, you have earned a long life ahead filled with solitary emptiness. You are not alone, yet all alone. And the biggest regret is that you knowingly did this all to yourself, and to your loved ones. While you were working like a horse, time ticked back at home. While you took a “strictly career-oriented” decision, your relationships took the pinch. And I am not saying you do not make efforts to be professionally competitive, or be career minded. Be that, be all that you need to survive in this tough employment market, just remember why you are doing all this- for your loved ones. Because at the end of all this, if you don’t have relations, it is more like a lost cause. Small things. Small things matter a lot. Dream big, but always make room for the fine things, the small moments. That is what the fabric of life is made of. Gather as many, if not all, of these small moments; for at the end, these are the memories that you shall remember, and not your five-room penthouse or a luxury sports car. It’s the moments that count. And the memories they bring along, a lot many years later.
I have it all planned, what about you?
You have limited time, and limited resources. All of you office going guys must have attended seminars on how to make the most out of both of these. The keyword used here is “planning”. Yes sir, planning. We have been gifted with a brain. And with a heart. But what the hell, let’s do away with the heart. The brain is what shall keep us going! We meticulously plan everything. Every damn little thing. We have state-of-the-art gadgets these days to keep track of things. Our brains need aid. A beep must ring when I am crossing a time limit chatting with my friend. I do not have time to meet my kid cousin since I am all packed this weekend with my colleagues going on an outing. One can not meet his girlfriend if it’s on a weekday, since it is not planned and might disturb his routine. Every small thing, and consequently our whole life, is planned to the last detail. At a point, we forget if we are living our life, or our life is living us. We become slaves to our own choices. Our clocks become too rigid and regularised to sneak out a few minutes for an unplanned activity. We forget sitting around on a pleasantly sunny morning, doing nothing but bathing in the bright yellow sun; and we forget taking a walk in the first shower of the monsoon. The kids playing along the roadside are invisible to our clock-fixated eyes, and a look of admiration meets rudeness from your side because you are too busy thinking of what to do next. We must understand what we are doing to our own lives. We must let loose, let it flow. Let it take its own course. Time has meaning, it has weight, sure. But if you do not make the moment count, it’s a moment wasted. Make time, for the time of your life. Do not plan to the extent that you forget what life is all about. It’s about living. Make a leeway for a bit of unplanned activity. Nature won’t mark your calendar before drawing a rainbow on its endless canvas, nor would children tug your shirts so that you can look at them smile and play. Love won’t make an appointment before that friend of yours gives you that longing look. Life just happens. Unplanned. Make sure you are in tandem with life. Beyond a line, do away with those gadgets, and trust your own sense of what you must do with your own time. Sometimes you must do something that makes you happy, that makes someone else happy, even though it is something you would never ‘plan’ to do. Be that. Be that unplanned person, life wants you to be that way.
This, that, I want it all!
The mind thinks, but the heart wants. The mind convinces, but the heart yearns. The mind yields, and the heart wins. Always! That’s what a human heart is. Greedy. We seldom think with our brains. We always think with our hearts. And the heart wants it all. One never wants a pat on the back, one wants to become “the one” that gives the pat. A good word is not enough, we want songs sung in our glory. One look and a smile is not enough, we want her to come and talk to us. As you must have noticed, the latter part never comes to reality. Odd? No stupid, it’s only fair. The point I am driving home is that we are never content with what we have, we always want more. And most amazingly, we want it all. We dream big, and are impatient too. We want the small success to turn itself into the realization of this magnanimous dream, all on its own accord. That’s not just unrealistic, but foolish. And we wonder why we under-achieve. We do not under-achieve, we over-expect. We expect too much out of life. Yes, life is capable of bestowing all that success upon you, but at the right time. As some wise man has said, “Nobody gets anything before time, or more than his fair share”. Only true. We cannot burden our lives with the load of our dreams, especially when we expect them to be realized prematurely, or with the lack of requisite hard-work that we have invested from our side. There exists a cycle, call it what you please, but this is the cycle of life. And I risk sounding overly philosophical and prophetic here, but that is essentially what I want this to sound like. This cycle takes care of what is awarded to us, and at what point in time. We can only wait for these good things to happen to us. Let us keep our expectations within check. A limit. That way, we never lie low for the lack of fulfillment of these expectations, but most of the times, are pleasantly surprised of the over-achievement that we beget. Yes we will always want it all, and we must too! For this greed is an intrinsic trait so common to us humans. The trick is to never expect anything in return. And you shall be gifted with a wonderful fruit- satisfaction!
Oh Lord, what tomorrow has for me?
You can probably enlist a hundred differences between your today and an average day when you were a child. But the most astonishing difference that I find between the life of a child and that of any of us grown-ups is the way we sleep. No, it has nothing to do with the rolling over in bed or any other stuff that you used to do as a child and don’t do now, or vice-a-versa. Just imagine, a normal night after a long day at work. Just the moment when you are about to fall asleep. What do you think of? Most of us, heck all of us, think of the day that would follow, the things that we must do on that day, the way we must approach a particular problem at the workplace, or what we must answer in a scenario we are so sure we are going to face the next day. In short, our mindspace is completely occupied with thoughts. Thoughts of what is yet to come. Remember such a night, full of thinking about the day that is to come, when you were a child. No? Remember harder. Still not able to remember? As children, we never even thought of the hour that shall follow, let alone the next day. Or the day after that. Nights would be short. Since we would fall asleep the moment we hit the bed. No matter if you have done your homework or not, or you have done something your parents would later be called to the school for. No matter what the case, sleep would embrace us in its lovely arms instantaneously. And maybe that is the reason why back then we didn’t need yoga to keep our mind fresh, or massage therapy to keep us fatigue-free. We needed no therapeutic treatments or mind-freeing exercises to get rid of the stress back when we were children. In fact, then, the concept of stress was limited only to physics. And it did not ‘strain’ us at all! So what is it that we did right as children, and stopped doing as we grew older? Nothing. In fact it is the exact opposite. We started doing one additional thing as we grew older, that we never did as children. That thing is trying to envision our future. With our enhanced intelligence, we would try to get hold of the future, every now and then. But what we are actually doing is ruining our today, in the hope that this cruel thing called uncertainty will let our envisioned plans fruit to execution. Seldom the case. We spend our present worrying about the future which hardly turns out as planned. So one must be forced to think, were we more productive with our time when we were children? Funnily, yes. So much for all the years of time-management lessons. Maybe we did not know such a thing as ‘planning for times to come’ back when we were kids. In which case, I must say ignorance was our bliss!This, probably is the key to happiness. To take the day as it comes. If we could control it, we would not be vulnerable to this abstract concept of fate; and since we are, I suggest we rather not think about it. Lets go childish. For I have never seen a child worry for a tomorrow that he will have to face, like all others of us, and he smiles through today, while we have a thinking cap on our heads all the time. If there is anything in your hand, it is today, so make the most of it. Tomorrow shall be another ‘today’, but let the time come.
Life is a journey, as unique to you as it is to everyone else. And there is no premix formula for how to make it happy. It’s like an abstract painting, every individual has his own view and understanding of it. I would like to regard the state of being happy as an art- that each individual has to master for himself. And like any other art, there is no one way to master it.