Whither life, whither happiness?

I left my previous post hanging, to put some more working of some thoughts from the previous few months, in fact, the previous few years. Well, time has been hard, has not been ideal. If you had made plans, this wouldn’t be what you bargained for. In cricketing terms, you were looking at a 500+ score, but suddenly realised that you were 200/5. That kind. What is one supposed to do?

During some really bad moments, I looked forward, I looked really forward, and then I looked around and it made it all the more worse. Sometimes I felt I wouldn’t be making it that far ahead, that there would be no escape from current predicaments and bad days, that these bad days would eventually consume me. I worried for my future. In fact I obsessed, yearned, longed and pleaded for my future. But the present was unmoving, I still had to deal with it. Some nights I had panic attacks. Few moments when the heart beat faster, when there was a lot of sweat. Am not new to it, and am sure quite a lot of you have experienced it at times. Then there were moments of resentfulness, when I looked at others, and thought look how they dealt with it. Why not us?!

What does one do? The simplest solution might be to look inside, look at the moment and not look too far ahead. I started with that. It helped a bit. It helped control sudden flashes of rage too. Almost all anger is when you realise things aren’t going as you expected, as you planned. Take the planning and the expectation out of the picture and things look a little bit better. Then I came across different “stuff”.

Like Stoicism. As one psychotherapist/philosopher explains, a lot of our anger is because of our judgement about the event. When a guy cuts you off in traffic, you’re angry because we expect others not to do that, when a queue in the supermarket is long we get irritated because we expect to be served faster. Take the expectation or the judgement away and things look ok. More importantly, some guy cutting you off in traffic is only going to delay you by a few secs, a supermarket queue might set you back by a few minutes. Now apply that to bigger moments.

The other bigger picture was to look at failure, the “what if this doesn’t work out?” picture and realise it won’t be that bad. It’s hard to buy this bigger picture for stoicism though, except when you read that the man leading its comeback is living in a cottage with his almost invalid wife and struggling to make ends meet. And the only way he’s getting through life is through this. It would be so much easier to go “WHY ME?! WHY ME?!” and fall into Depression.

Yes. Depression is another of my favourite topics. Am not talking about those who have to deal with mental health issues, but the pandemic sweeping through the world now. A lot of it has to do with expectations, and when things don’t go as per plan. It doesn’t help that we are increasingly alone in dealing with things. Where or whom do you turn to? Or should you?

Then there is the Buddhist way of detachment. Where you sit and watch your thoughts, your emotions, go by, and don’t get affected. But then, as goes by Descartes, are you what you think? Apparently not. Are you your emotions? Apparently not. Nothing belongs to you. What is you then? Who knows! Maybe there isn’t any one entity that you can pinpoint and say this is me.

But that would take work, a lot of meditation, in fact some meditation per day. Want to see where that goes. It would take a fair bit of it to calm my mind. Thoughts aren’t easy to tame.

There is the idea of giving up the need for security, for certainty, for embracing the opposite and living with it. This is even management type. Am not sure I have looked for much certainty, time has been too fast the past few years.

Yes, things changed a little bit at a time once I stopped looking at the future. The switch wasn’t easy to turn off. Deal with things a few days at a time, or even see what that day has to offer, and not look too far ahead. It helps that when I really come down to it, there isn’t really much to look far ahead to! A status quo isn’t something I have baulked at. It also helped that the situation improved. Things are getting closer and closer to an earlier normal. Less days spent groping in the dark. Am not sure how I’ll react if things get back to the bad days, after all these are health issues. That would be the real test, and I really hope I won’t be tested too soon on it.

That brings me to the question, what is happiness? How am I supposed to “look for it”,  “pursue” it, or “produce” it. Or should I? Or do I look for a state of balance, of tranquility, and call it that. Am not someone easily excitable, in fact, am not excitable at all, preferring a more British approach to dealing with events. Might come in pretty handy in fact.

Yes, there would need to be more bolstering for the future, some meditation and change of perspective. As you grow older, you start arming yourself with defences for what life will now throw at you, the “honeymoon” period might be over. In fact for many, I know it has been over for a while. Life does get in the way once you cross into the 30s.

Also, since I went so long about all these systems of thought, the book, the delightfully titled, “The Antidote: Happiness for people who can’t stand positive thinking“, by Oliver Burkeman(Thanks Satish for recommending this!). It’s a quick read, and you won’t regret it(ok, maybe, if you’re the “world is divided into optimists and pessimists, and pessimists will drag you down and should be avoided” kind of person). Go for it!

(P.S: Have intentionally not disclosed the real issues, this being a public blog. The main idea is about the ideas, not the issues. I make a case out of them, sometimes add fictional stuff too, so don’t hang your coats on it too much.. As I mentioned earlier, this is not an advice blog, I write for myself and about myself. A fair degree of anonymity helps. Those who know me, they know what am talking about in any case.)

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