Of convictions and contentment
I met Frankie today. A very interesting Austrian woman who happens to be here for a little more than a week on jury duty for an International Film Festival that is taking place here in Dhaka. We went for a long walk around Old Dhaka today and had some rather interesting discussion. Frankie and I have been born world apart, in the same year, in completely different societies. Our upbringing and lives have been in that sense rather different too. Yet we connected on so many different levels and had such animated conversations that none of us wanted it to end. At one point during our conversation though, she said something that made me stop and ask her to repeat herself again, just so that I really understood what she was saying.
Here’s what she said: “You are full of convictions and yet at the same time you are also brimming with contentment”.
I kid you not, I did a double take when she said it. I was sure that I heard it wrong, which is why I asked her to repeat herself again.
My convictions that she was referring to was about my views on religion, life, goals, my child and what I want and don’t want for him & me etc. My contentment apparently stems from the fact that I can very easily declare that I love my life. That its easy to see that the work I do is something that I love very deeply.
This is not a gloating post.
Tomorrow will mark the 2nd year anniversary of the day I almost ended my life. I was in a deep dark tunnel that had no end, stuck in a life I felt powerless to change. Simply put – I hated my life and could not find the answer to the question, “why should I take another breath? or live for another day”. I didn’t have an answer. So I decided to take matters into my own hands. I planned for posterity (that would be the type-A personality in me). I planned my will, bequeathed what I own to the people I care for as carefully as I planned out exactly how I was going to end it.
I will tell you what saved me that day – these quotes from the Bible and the Quran and my best friend.
Frankie asked me this today and I had to think for a moment before I answered – am I religious? I think not, I think I am spiritual. I believe in something greather than us, a grand designer, creator of the cosmos if you will. I do believe in humanity.
I have been incredibly fortunate or lucky to see quite a few miracles in my life. At the same time I have also seen the worst face of human beings. It’s like the highs are real Himalaya kind of high, while the lows have been the pits of hell. That in itself would be enough to either rattle someone to their very core, or get them diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Turns out I don’t have that. Trust me, I did analyze myself and get a second opinion. (yes I am talking about mental health issues here, if you are not comfortable, this is not the blog for you). What I do have is incurable, inexplicable – optimism and faith.
When I had forsaken the religion that was being shoved down my throat, I decided to find out for myself what religion meant. I went everywhere I could think of – churches, temples, gurudwara, synagogue. I read up on philosophy, debated religion with people who were open minded enough and knowledgeable enough to have an intelligent discussion. Let me tell you this – the ten commandments hold true no matter what religion you follow, or which God you worship. The name may change but the devotion felt is the same and at very core of it lies humanity. This gave birth to my conviction on religion – to each his own, his own action, karma, life and choices.
So back to two years ago, I was stuck in a dead end life that was not what I wanted or needed but couldn’t figure out how to get out of. See the trick there? I couldn’t see the how, the silver lining, the end of the tunnel. That’s were faith, optimism and my best friend kicked my ass in. I had to let go of the need to control the how and shift my attention to the why.
Ok, so I was not happy – why? what do I need to change about my life to be happy? What can I no longer tolerate in my life? What do I actively want to manifest in my life? What would change my life to the point where I do not feel the need to question the why of my life.
The more I have let go of the ‘how’ and concentrated on the ‘why’, the more I have achieved and the happier I have been.
It’s really been as simple and as difficult as that.
When my motivation to undertake something is not at the core of my being, my passion, my time is wasted. When it is, my time is invested. A simple example – people have told me for years that I should do my Masters. I couldn’t see the reason as to ‘why’ I should do it. The reasons that people usually gave to the ‘why’ was not for me. I don’t need that certificate or the salary bump that may come from it. Both of these reasons are arbitrary and while they may be true for most people, I already made more money than most people my age and I have worked my ass off to get where I am, so that didn’t really apply to me. However, last year, when I got bitten by the bug to know more, when development aid ignited my passion, I finally conceded that I do now want to do a Masters on Development Studies.
The problem with my life, as with most women and men’s, was that I was living a life that is prescribed by someone else – our family, society, expectations. The invisible iron chains that bind us down into making choices that has nothing to do with our individuality. It doesn’t stop to take note of the machines that we become, the dreams that we kill, or the aspirations that we suffocate to death. It takes no note of the zombies we become, like actors on a stage, in a play that they do not desire to be part of but cannot leave either.
This journey of becoming an individual is not an easy one. Neither is it for the faint hearted. If you crave love, attentions, affection and confirmations, then this is not the road for you to take. You will not get accolades for your efforts. Neither will you be cheered on your journey. The road to transformation is a long and lonely road – because no one else will see the destination that you are trying to reach. When you reach your destination, you might be the only one at the mountain top. Others might congratulate you for scaling another peak, for another success. But it will be your own blood and sweat that you will shed on this lonely journey.
Then again, in your travels, you might find a kindered spirit in someone else. Recognize yourself in someone else. You might even stop in your path to lend a helping hand. If you are suffering from depression, if you can’t see the end of the tunnel – the psalm 23.4, really helps. It will remind you that you are not alone. And when you get tired of fighting for what you believe in, your dreams, your goals – the Surah Al-Kafiroon, really helps. It will shore your belief that just because others can’t see things from the same perspective as you, it does not invalidate your dreams. You have every right to be YOU, while they have a right to be themselves.
Contentment? Yes please, I will take a double helping of that 🙂
Posted on January 18, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged choice, development cooperation, education, empathy, Family, God, knowledge, leadership, life, Mental health, personal development, philosophy, Religion and Spirituality, Thought, Women. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.