If life were an ocean, I would be a rudderless boat

Everyday is a struggle. Me against myself. My conscious mind against the unconscious fears that clog my mind; weeding them out is task, for they hide in plain sight, just not visible to my foggy vision. A thousand anxieties weigh down my thoughts. What for, I know not. They both jerk me into action and yet glue my feet to chains unknown. I am at once action and inaction. It is most disconcerting.
There was a time when I knew my heart, my dreams, my aspirations. Now, I have leeches sucking the very colour out of them. Today, those dreams lie untouched, gray and lifeless, their presence long forgotten. The sad part? Those leeches are not strangers. They are part of my own skin and bone.
And a heaviness sets in my bones, like the body of a tired 70-year-old.
I set about my monotonous chores, like a machine keyed to a default setting. Drifting along in the river of time, with no anchor, no sense of direction, rudderless and worse yet, no determination to set my own course. For you only fix your journey once you know your destination, and I know not mine. Even short-term stops defy me.
Until then, I submit to the shallow whims and fancies that catch my attention, each lasting a mere seconds in the wider scheme of things. It’s like the boat goes right when the current wants, and then left when the wind blows through the sails. The ship is left onto the mercy of nature. Who knows where it will all lead to?
And here, I lay in the deck, watching through unseeing eyes, all the while thinking:
Where am I? What am I doing?
Who am I really?

Limiting your boundaries

An idle mind is a devil’s workshop. I’ve had plenty of time to be idle in the last one week – courtesy the typhoid that’s infected my body.

In the course of this one week, I’ve walked down several nostalgic memory lanes; I’ve missed those I had loved, but had to let go; I’ve thought of all those I’ve left behind in the journey that is life. I wish I could extend one hand and hold on. I wish I never had to let go.

There was a time when I thought I could nourish all possible friendships in my life. I never believed in limits then.

That is one of the biggest lessons life has taught me – boundaries and limits are important. They not only help keep away problems, but also keep relationships in check.

Yet the natural impulse to break them over powers me from time to time. I wish.

Looking through the rear-view mirror

Hindsight is a bitch. It has convinced me that the present has severe eye-sight issues. Logic helps act as a poor replacement for spectacles. But it rarely gets the timing and mind-speed right.

And that’s why, hindsight!

Imagine if we were to drive with a muddy front glass, and exceptionally clear rear-view mirrors.

I often feel my glass is muddier than average. I call it the anti-climax phenomenon.

My mind is forever in that mode, even during normal conversations. Remember, the dialogue in the movie ‘You’ve got mail’ where the female protagonist complains that she never thinks of appropriate responses at the spur of the moment, but much much later? Yep, that’s me. Except, this happens all the time, and not just when I’m angry.

It’s like my mind goes into mute mode the moment I have company. It doesn’t shut off, but its input process overtakes the output process. Like your mouse and keyboard are working, but you see the reaction of clicking or typing hours later on the screen.

I know it means my mind needs solitude to process thoughts. But, even day-to-day conversations? That’s taking it too far.

As a result, I not only have thoughts in my head during my me-time, but continuous relays of past conversations, their thousand possible responses and the repercussions!

Where’s my pensieve?! (Heck, that spelling looks incorrect. Hmpf!)

And to add to all this, there’s hindsight, churning out smart little observations, pointing out missed opportunities and mistakes.

What’s the point! It’s not that I can go back in time and change things, can I? Yes, I know I’ll learn from it, but how often do we have the exact same situation repeat in life? The next lesson is always different? There’s no point.

It’s like we are simply moving in circles!

P.S.: This post itself is an example of the delays in my mind and the effects of solitude. A lot of thoughts have burst forth in one day. Ergo, three posts! Who knows, maybe I will end up writing another before hitting the bed!

On dealing with jealousy

I’ve loved writing, since school. I remember eagerly looking forward to the essay-writing assignments. All the other students used to copy from ready-made essay books available in stores; not me.

In school we had to write essays from the perspective of an inanimate object. I chose a flower and wrote a love story. In sixth standard. My professor was decently surprised and commented out loud in class. When I was asked to read it out openly, I blushed to no end. I felt exposed. It was as if someone peeled a layer of my soul and bared it to the public.

Till date, writing is my go-to form of expression. And dance, of course, but writing more so. Which is why I wanted to be a journalist, and a writer later on in life, after I have had sufficient experience, stories and observations to write about.

In school, I was proud of my writing prowess. English language did not come as easily to my peers, and even when it did, it rarely appealed to many. Being introduced to reading English and speaking it at home right from childhood, I loved the language. Naturally, I assumed I was good at it.

I was not. Not as much as I would have liked to, at least.

The same continued in college. I knew where my commas were supposed to lie. That’s all. Maybe I had a slightly more extensive vocabulary than my peers, but that was it. I had no other edge other than the want to write. I still thought I was a good writer.

In 2007 and again in 2010 – two of the most influential and important years in my life, which helped shape my person, I was forced to look at myself and face my flaws. The reality was not in the least good. My confidence sunk. But, life is about picking up your pieces and moving on. So did I.

In 2011, I got a job as a sub-editor for the website of a business news channel. At first, I flourished under my first editor. He was polite and patient to teach me the ways and hows of writing professionally. When I revisited my previous works, I could not help cringe in disdain. Just when I thought I was improving again, my new editor voiced her criticisms. It was hard to hear, but she showed me the reality of my writing.

Since the time I realised my writing was not as good as I hoped it would be or wanted it to be, I spend more time reading than writing. I spend time admiring other works and being jealous.

No, don’t get me wrong. I am not jealous of the success of the writers. I am simply jealous that it was not I who produced those beautiful strings of words. I see so many beautiful writers around me that I wonder at the stupidity of my assumptions of the self. It is hard to see past the beauty of their words to mine.

I am told I set too high standards for myself; that I indulge in self-flagellation often. But, it is hard to get past this jealousy. Once it sets its claws on your heart, it never lets go. Inch my inch, you may loosen the grip, but you can never free it entirely.

I have definitely come a long way since the time I was told to “go read Wren and Martin” and brush up my English. Many have told me time and again how well I write. But it seems untrue. The satisfaction is missing – not the kind that comes from penning my thoughts, but that which is derived from the simple knowledge that what I write is good. My kind of good, whatever that may be.

I want to be special. I want my writing to be exemplary. In this life teeming with billion lives, who does not want to stand out, be valued for their sheer genius? Even this blog is a deranged effort at trying to make a mark.

All I can see, though, is futility. If you ask me, I would not even be able to tell you what makes my writing me; what is my style of writing. At this moment, it only seems be copies from the writers I have read. I guess it is time to accept that we are after all ‘average’. I, not we. It is hard.

No wonder then that jealousy seems to be the only constant.

Oh what would I be without books?

I have learnt so much from what I have read. Even a simple story can teach us so many life lessons. Most importantly, it teaches us how to get into another’s shoes, keep our thoughts aside and look at life from their perspective. It opens up so many new horizons that our individual experience would have never offered us otherwise. Here is a list of some of the books that have left a mark.

My stack of books!
My stack of books!
In the last few days (weeks, maybe?), challenges have sprung up on Facebook on the top 10 books, movies, songs, etc., that have left a mark. Once you fulfil the challenge, you nominate a few more people to pass on the challenge.

My newsfeed is cluttered with this – especially the books’ challenge. A friend of mine nominated me too. And until now, I haven’t taken up the challenge.

I used to consider myself an avid reader. However, as a result of reading full-time at work on various topics – usually business, economy and finance-related – I seem to have lost the nerve to take up casual reading. My eyes are strained enough for me to put those poor things to further task.

I must confess, I am an avid book-reader no more. I never thought I would say these words one day. Work life has indeed taken its toll on me.

Yet, my love for books remains unabated. My bucket list for reading only seems to expand with time. All kinds of books now find their way onto my list, only to sit there gathering figurative dust. My book shelf, which I proudly display in my living room, gathers dust literally.

It is perhaps because of these latest developments and the ensuing guilt that I have avoided the challenge as well as the multiple posts on the same. I was afraid and intimidated by some of the books in the lists that caught my eye while scrolling down. My book list would pale in comparison and seem childish, I convinced myself. I certainly did not want to look stupid.

As shallow as these thoughts seemed to me, it reflected the guilt for the lack of reading. It also reflected my deep-seated insecurity of not being well-read, literate, and well… unintelligent.

Finally, after much encouragement from my friend, I decided to pen down my list. It certainly is not limited to 10 names. It goes well into the 40s. I can’t select the top 10. It changes every minute. (EDIT: It has now reached the half-century mark.)

After all, I have learnt so much from all the books I have read. Even a simple story can teach us so many life lessons. Most importantly, it teaches us how to get into another’s shoes, keep our thoughts aside and look at life from their perspective. It opens up so many new horizons that our individual experience would have never offered us otherwise.

I am not good with non-fiction. I learn my lessons – both in life and in books – through stories and action-filled experiences. Heck, sometimes I look at my own life as an author and not as the leading character.

Anyway, before I get caught up with philosophical (maybe not?!) observations, I list some of the books that remain in my memory. I am sure I am not doing justice to the many more I have read, but hey, something better than nothing, right?

Here they are:

  1. When God was a Rabbit – Sarah Winman
  2. God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy
  3. Pride and Prejudice, and other Jane Austen works
  4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
  5. The Chicken Soup for the Soul series– multiple authors
  6. Angels and Demons – Dan Brown
  7. The Last Symbol – Dan Brown
  8. A Child Called ‘It’ – Dave Pelzer
  9. The Queen of Genes – GK Pillai
  10. The Kite Runner – Khalid Hosseini
  11. Thousand Splendid Suns – Khalid Hosseine
  12. Kane and Able, and many other Jeffery Archer books
  13. PS I Love You – Cecelia Ahern
  14. Where Rainbows End (a.k.a. Love, Rosia) – Cecelia Ahern
  15. The Book of Tomorrow – Cecelia Ahern
  16. If You Could See Me Now – Cecelia Ahern
  17. Circle of friends – Maeve Binchy
  18. The Courtesan – Julia Justiss
  19. Perfect – Judith McNaught
  20. Paradise – Judith McNaught
  21. Whitney, my love – Judith McNaught
  22. Princess, True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia – Jean Sasson
  23. Acts of Faith – Eric Segal
  24. Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D H Lawrence
  25. Cry, my beloved country– Alan Paton
  26. Conversations With God – Neale Donald Walsch
  27. A Fine Balance – Rohington Mistry
  28. The Sword of Truth series – Terry Goodkind
  29. The Inheritance of Loss – Kiran Desai
  30. The Inheritance series (Eragon, Brisingr, etc) – Christopher Paolini
  31. 1984 – George Orwell
  32. Animal Farm – George Orwell
  33. The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes
  34. Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
  35. The Hunger Games trilogy – Suzanne Collins
  36. Timeline and other works of Michael Crichton
  37. Jeff Resnick series by LL Bartlett
  38. Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts
  39. A Walk to Remember – Nicholas Sparks
  40. A Message in a Bottle – Nicholas Sparks
  41. The Last Song – Nicholas Sparks
  42. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
  43. Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe
  44. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
  45. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
  46. Passion’s Promise – Danielle Steel
  47. Schindler’s Ark – Thomas Keneally
  48. Look At Me – Jennifer Egan
  49. Father Unknown – Lesley Pearse
  50. The Godfather – Mario Puzo

P.S.: Don’t mind the order. It is random, as my thoughts often are. 🙂