The Future

Day Twenty: WordPress Writing 101, October 2, 2015

Congratulations! It’s the final day of Writing 101. We hope these prompts have encouraged you to brainstorm and write in new ways and introduced you to new tools and resources.

As we wind down the course, let’s look forward. What’s next? Some prompts to get you started:

Next month, I plan to . . .
What does the remainder of 2015 hold for you?
I believe that my future looks . . .
In the future, I could do without . . .
5, 10, 20 years from now .
. .”    —  the  awesome WP team 🙂

Just one thing about the FUTURE and here it is :

The only thing certain about the future is that it is uncertain ! Change, as they say is that one certain thing about life you can be sure about. So here’s to embracing change wholeheartedly and trustfully, for life is that which flows, changes, aspires, reaches. Stagnation is death.

Whatever the future may hold, expected, unexpected, ultimately the race must be run and run well. However in this changing miasma that is life, I intend to keep one thing always in mind and that is to keep WRITING ! Even this sometimes is not in my hands. The brain cells age, vision dims, love seems lost and inspiration flags; yet for the one stung with the writing bug, to keep on at it and preferably everyday might just make life blossom again and bring unreachables within reach. Who knows ?!!

Au revoir, Writing 101 and all those who participated 🙂

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Mine your own Material: the Past

Day Eighteen: WordPress Writing 101, September 30, 2015

“Think about the things we leave behind. Tell us about a time you’ve left an object, place, person, or even an idea behind — and had to move on”. WP

Moving on beyond the PAST:

As I write this post, I can’t help wondering why moving on from certain things is so, so difficult. Sometimes you have a dream, an idea of what your life is going to be. It’s like a blueprint etched in the brain and when you come upon it you know that this is what you wanted to do all your life. It feels so right. You are willing to give up anything, undergo anything just to achieve this goal. This happened to me some twenty years ago. I was on a path that I thought destiny might have charted for me. It was not easy to get onto it. I even faced opposition from my family who felt that I was taking a very big risk with my life. Maybe I was. But the so-called enormity of the chances I was taking did not count because I had fallen totally in love with this idea of what I wanted to do with my life. Well, a small clue — it was a career choice that I made, away from the beaten track.

Does this sound familiar?

And then for five years in the prime of my life, when every energy and enthusiasm is at its best, when you are ready to take on the world, I toiled for this dream. Yes, I did make mistakes, I wasted time perhaps, I got distracted by emotions and by circumstances beyond my control, but I tried my best to make it work. I gave it my ALL. And then it happened. Just when I was about to reach the finish line, there it confronted me — total and abject failure. I had chosen ‘the road not taken’, and walking down that path, fraught with many challenges the least of which was loneliness, I came to a ‘dead end’. Life just stopped and I with it.

Today twenty years later, even when I know I had given it the best as I knew it then, regret sometimes fills my heart. The mind fills with ‘what ifs’. It is too late now and pointless too. The universe whispers messages that unless I totally let go and move on, I could never truly live again. That is what I have been trying I do these past years. First I tried many things to bring this dream back. Retrace my steps, so to say and hope that a miracle would find its way to me and there would be an opening I could clutch at! But nothing happened. I spent a lot of time in limbo, stuck, unable to move. The past kept me there. The past was over, that much I knew finally. But the future was a void and path less. I hung at the mouth of an abyss, neither falling in, neither flying up. Then one day something subtly changed.

Something totally unexpected happened in my life. I resisted it with all my might, but it did not go away and then slowly my fossilised brain understood that life was reaching out to me. So what if this new element was nowhere in my plans, so what if I never thought that the road I did not take that day in the woods waited for me still and was  opening up for me ? Life is very strange, friends and Grace comes when you least expect it. When life gives a second chance grab it! Even if it does not look like anything you ever imagined, go for it. There is a higher power that looks out for you and always keeps you in its sights. Some call it God.

Today I stand at a place where the future is not yet formed. It is like a cusp between the past and the future. These things take time, this much I have learnt from life. Finally, after much painful and sometimes involuntary lingering, I am finally letting go of this obsession, this so-called dream that seemed so perfect. No, that is not meant for me and guess what, it is relief that I feel. Well that is something I did not expect. It is as if I have given permission to rid myself of the burden of an unfulfilled dream. I discover that it was a beautiful mirage that I thought would fulfill me. But now sadder and wiser, with much more self-knowledge under my belt, I finally sense that I did not know myself at all. It was not even my dream after all.

The shattering of that long ago dream was necessary for me to truly arrive at what will make me happy. That dream itself was not mine, but one subtly superimposed on my psyche by expectations from people around me. Even when I thought I was following my own path, it was not truly mine. This long journey has been worthwhile because it helped me separate what I truly need and want from what I thought I did. Yes, I agree with the great Lebanese poet, Kahlil Gibran, that “pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses our understanding,” a quote from his masterpiece, The Prophet that has always haunted me. Finally, I am ready to let go and for this, I am grateful.

 

 

From ‘comment’ to ‘post’

Day Eight: WordPress Writing 101, September 16, 2015

Expanding a comment
A few days back I posted the following comment about illness here on this blog called Memoirs and Articles and , that went like this:

In process 🙂

When REGRET is good: Writing via a ‘PROMPT’

Day Three: WordPress Writing 101

Prompts come in many different forms. Sometimes, a single word is all you need to get your mind’s wheels turning. Here are six words: Treasure, Regret, Home, Love, Uncertainty, Secret

WORK in PROGRESS 😉

 

REGRET

It is said by the wise that one should not waste time in regret. ‘Time waste is life waste’. But sometimes, regret can be healthy, when valuable life lessons have been learnt and one can distill this learning and apply it to the life yet to be lived

C is for CREATIVE and Coping with COMPASSION

Day THREE: April A-Z Blogging Challenge

“Men have called me mad but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is, or is not, the loftiest intelligence–whether much that is glorious–whether all that is profound–does not spring from disease of thought–from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.”— Edgar Allan Poe. 

   

CREATIVE ??? 

Mental Health and Creativity seem to be oddly paired at first glance, but it is like a public secret, a fact that is well-known but not overtly acknowledged. Many, many famous and successful people like artistes — poets, writers, musicians, theatre actors, screen heartthrobs and divas, comedians, dancers, painters, mathematicians, scientists, world leaders, to name but a few of the different streams of creative expression — have been known to have suffered from one or more forms of mental disorders. Names that come to mind include poets like Shelley, Keats, Byron, Coleridge and even Wordsworth, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Sylvia Plath; writers include Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemmingway, William Faulkner, Herman Melville, Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, Amy Tan, painters like Paul Gaugin , Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso, musicians like Beethoven, Mozart, Kurt Kobain, Britney Spears, scientists/mathematicians like Isaac Newton, John Nash (remember the book and Russell Crowe in the movie, ‘A Beautiful Mind‘ ), actors like Catherine Zeta Jones, Carrie Fisher, Linda Hamilton, Mel Gibson, Robin Williams, Kishore Kumar, Meena Kumari, comedians  like  Jim Carrey, Stephen Fry, and well, Florence Nightingale, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill to name just a few. The list is endless.

The reverse is often almost true too! Look around and if you can identify someone who you feel might be prone to a mental problem — whether relatively minor symptoms like anxiety, insomnia or depression, or more serious including manic depressiveness , paranoia, eating disorders, addictions, OCD (Obssesive Compulsive Disorder), Bi-Polar disorder, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Schizophrenia, or any other, then chances are that these persons also show flashes of creativity. Newer forms of research down the years have uncovered how brain functions are very similar in people who are extremely creative and in those children and adults with known mental health issues. The two seem inextricably linked. You can refer to this enlightening article here, called Creative minds mimic schizophrenia.

Access to more sensory impulses, ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking, over-sensitivity, high levels of focus, risk-taking, obsession to details, all these traits are common to creative people as well as those with mental health issues. The two seem related in more ways than one. Increasingly, studies of brain functions reveal that physical factors like chemicals secreted in the brain affect biological rhythms and have an impact on the emotional life of people that manifest as hyperactivity, irritability, paranoia, mood swings, anxiety and other such symptoms of psychological and emotional distress. But these factors also create geniuses and extremely bright and creative minds. 

While medication might be necessary for severe symptoms of mental illness, another soothing and non-numbing approach would be to encourage creative pursuits in the person. Creative expression or the appreciation of it channelise energy into non-destructive paths and help in regulating the mind and emotions. J.K. Rowling, the creator of the Harry Potter series was in a period of deep depression when she wrote her first book in the series. The books then went on to help her out of the depressive state.

COPING with COMPASSION is another key ingredient for mental health. Often the most mis-understood members of society, those afflicted with mental health problems need to take it easy. Compassion, like charity begins at home. Have compassion for yourself, love yourself as you are and do not beat yourself up over perceived and imagined flaws. Do not go by the opinions of others and of a society that increasingly lives and thrives on appearances. Give yourself a chance and if you are a parent or a teacher, give your child a chance to grow at his/ her own pace. In the final outcome, marks in board exams won’t even be remembered. A school year lost is nothing much in the larger scheme of life. But the wounds inflicted on the fragile psyche of the human being through insensitivity and mental cruelty can ruin a life, whatever the amount of clinical treatments.

Treat these souls with gentility and love. Even plants are said to respond to love, then why not a human being? For this, societal and familial expectations may have to be laid aside. Give up the ordinary for the extraordinary! And later on, one might well be surprised by the blossoming of a creative outlet. Love is its own reward, as is patience! Beneath that irritable exterior may very well live an ‘old soul’, a being of light, who when released from strictures and structures of society may have something unique to contribute to this world. Do not shut out that light before it can shine through and illumine itself and the world around.

© Lakshmi S. Menon & VOICE’nVIEWS

  

A is for AWARENESS and AWAKENING

Day ONE: April  A-Z Blogging Challenge

The world has been pre-occupied with physical health from the beginning of civilisation and culture. Yet we take mental health for granted. While enormous time, money and energy are spent on perpetuating bodily health, beauty and youthfulness, scant regard is paid to mental and spiritual well-being. Perhaps we can blame  Rene Descartes, that 17th century philosopher who famously declared : cogito ergo sum I think therefore I am, for introducing in a big way, the mind-body dualism. Since then (putting it simplistically, though it contains a grain of truth) humanity has become firmly entrenched in the physical world and in the pursuit of material wealth, with an intelligent and rational mind being an ally and often the key to all success. In this outward, EXTERNAL seeking of well-being and wealth, the body assumed importance and the mind became a handy tool to achieve material goals. BUT in this process, something vital went missing.

While the mind, the conscious thinking and reasoning part of our being gained importance,  the  emotions, the soul, the heart, the intuition— these unseen aspects of our being were forced underground and were devalued and neglected. Being emotional became a sign of weakness; being imaginative was flirting with delusion and intuition had no voice in the onslaught of reason. These elements of consciousness that were not given their due receded to the background or even the underground; they became a part of our subconscious, unhappy wraiths of out true selves. But what goes underground does not disappear.  They started to subtly and surreptiously manifest as SYMPTOMS in the mind, as various kinds of mental disorders. They began to appear as addictions, as depression, as autism, as OCD, as ADHD, and numerous other illnesses with fancy names and fancier theories as to their cause and treatment.

Where do we begin to start redressing this problem that even today is not talked about much, except when a celebrity dies of it, (as the popular and successful Robin Williams was driven to take his own life), or some other fashion/film icon mentions it in public ( a la Deepika Padukone, the young Indian actress of mainstream cinema who spoke of it in the media recently) ? The problem is not just a medical one. It is a psychological, social and spiritual problem. It is symptomatic of the spiritual vacuum plaguing modern society.

So is there  hope for the silent (and not-so-silent) sufferers of mental disease whose numbers run into millions and are increasing day by day as the times we live in become more volatile, uncertain and subject to change?Hope lies in AWARENESS, both individual and collective. Hope stems from an AWAKENING of society to the acknowledgement and support for a malady that while affecting individuals, affects the collective health of our communities, nations and the world itself.

From tomorrow, I want to talk about the different ways mental illness can be dealt with both by oneself or for others, which finally paves the way to a deep and profound understanding of our inner personal selves. It also leads to the discovery of hidden gifts! Not all is as it looks like !

© Lakshmi S. Menon & VOICE’nVIEWS