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In my darkest of places, I have often asked myself:
Do you want to die? Do you want to end all this suffering? A little voice, called “Life” always said: I want to live.
I want to be happy, agile, and laugh.
I want to run through the meadows and swim in the ocean.
I want to soak in the rain and feel the stickiness when the sun shines.
I want to giggle and lick that melting chocolate ice cream dripping on my hands as quickly as possible, feel it moving down my gut and cooling it.
In those places, I often wondered, how will I ever do that? Where will I find the courage to be myself again?
It took me years to realize my own potential—to live my life—to what extent I could enjoy just being myself, sitting alone in the room, without any need for external support. And it is mind-boggling.
This tussle to be aware of my own courage and then own up to it has been my biggest struggle so far, and biggest boon too!
The courage to face my grief was not bestowed upon me by a shooting star and it definitely did not happen like a pop of a balloon. It was a constant effort of crawling through uncomfortable situations, confronting people (at times, including loved ones), and fighting with myself to be better, and not to fall into the trap of dejection and despondency, again. This goes without saying that it is still an ongoing process. Anyone who is on the road to recovery will agree with me on this.
The one question that I am asked most frequently is this—what was your motivation?
If you sit down quietly, even for a minute, breathe, and let go of everything, you will know that you deserve better. There is no magic to it. The life inside you knows this. Somehow, we all become experts in shutting down that one voice that matters the most.
So, when I heard that voice, I knew, instinctively, what needed to be done.
I had to break that pattern of self-destruction and ignorance.
Before we jump into it, here are a few pointers to keep in mind:
It’s a long haul—there are no shortcuts, and be prepared for failures and pauses and hiccups and restarts. One thing that I can promise—it’s totally worth it.
1. Believe that you deserve to be your best self
We all know what to expect from others—love, respect, kindness. But, do we give ourselves enough love, kindness, and respect? Do we forgive ourselves enough?
You have to tap into your deepest potential to be a better “you”—not for anyone or anybody.
Every day reaffirm this: “I deserve to be my best self.”
There will always be things beyond our control— situations, circumstances, and reactions of people.
The debate is not whether we deserve “this” or “that,” or what we did to end up here, or why the other person did what they did. Treat yourself to chocolate if you understand this.
The power of acceptance is turning the debate around. This is what it is and your platter is full—so what are you going to do about it?
3. Don’t fall into the trap of morality or philosophy
When we are grieving, we tend to ask larger than life questions—what did the universe mean by this? What did I do to deserve this? There is an endless list.
On the other hand, do you question anything when you are happy?
In my experience, there are not any answers to “why?” It is “karma”—cliche maybe, maybe not.
The way I see it, with my finite knowledge and intellect, I can not comprehend the infinite—God, Universe, or Nature.
I surrender in gratitude, understand what I can, and move on, on a daily basis—the emphasis being on daily.
4. Whatever happened to me doesn’t define me
I am much more than an incident, a broken relationship, or that hole in my gut that refuses to fill up. Yes, there are wounds that refuse to go away—does that mean they will control my life? Giving yourself time to grieve and mourn and rest is alright as long as you refuse to give up.
My Action Plan
1. Make small goals—how small depends on you.
Maybe the next month, the next day, or simply the next half hour—whatever you can manage.
2. Identify small manageable tasks.
It could be as mundane as the next meal. Prepare it with love—love for yourself. Something that you like and enjoy. Treat yourself to flowers or my favorite, chocolate chip ice cream. Wear your occasion dress at home, blow dry your hair, put on nail paint. Show up!
When we are grieving or recovering, the routine and mundane become the most viable.
It is possible that things may seem superficial, at first, but these are powerful for confidence building.
3. Incorporate a routine in your life—on a personal level, relationship level, work level.
On a personal level, find your 10 minutes in a day—for a cup of tea, for the next episode on Netflix, for that manicure that you’ve been holding off.
On the relationship level, try to figure out what works out best for the two of you. Ask and listen before assuming.
On the work front, you don’t have to climb up the corporate ladder all the time. Give yourself time to analyse if your work is bringing you joy, or if you would like to change something. Are you working toward a long-term goal? Are you in sync with changes happening around you?
4. Introduce physical exercise.
I love to go on an early morning run; it works for me. That half an hour is mine—no matter what. It gives me clarity and puts things in perspective.
Choose what you like—walking, running, yoga, swimming—anything that works for you.
5. Be mindful.
Avoid drowning in the procrastination vortex. Be aware of your thoughts and emotions. Sit with your feelings, acknowledge them, and let them go.
Avoid going down a guilt trip—you are not responsible for what happens all the time. We are not responsible for the difficulties of the world around us and more often than not we can not do anything about it.
6. Do not glorify your pain or trauma.
There is no bravery in this. There are a number of studies to show that we are wired toward what is called a “negative bias” in psychology. In simple terms, this means we tend to think about negative emotions more than positive ones.
We focus more on negative experiences, even if it’s just a comment from a co-worker in the office. Our mind has the capacity to ruin the whole day thinking about that one comment. Does this mean nothing positive happened on that day?
The good news is, we can train our minds to think positively.
7. Ask for help.
No one can do this alone. Reach out to family and friends. There were times when I was not comfortable talking to my friends or family. I felt more comfortable talking to unknown people because there was no fear of judgement or unsolicited advice or I told you so! Do not attempt to do this alone. Ask whoever you are comfortable with.
8. Remember who you are.
In the words of Lalah Delia: “She remembered who she was and the game changed.”
Every waking hour, remember who you are. Identify yourself in the mist and reaffirm with each breath.
Hermann Hesse said: “But every man is more than just himself; he also represents the unique, the very special and always significant and remarkable point at which the world’s phenomenon intersect, only once in this way and never again.”
Are you ready to live the phenomenon that you are?
Whenever you find yourself in those dark places, get back to the simple things. And always remember you are not the only one going through this. Travel deep inside you and find that hidden treasure of courage that is lying untapped.
It is a marathon and a sprint, both—prepare for that.