Note: This post first appeared on Medium
This is the finale of my ‘5 Reasons I Cherish 2014′ series. Part 1 was a ‘prose of praise’ to my pup, Oreo; Part II was dedicated to my enterprising online friends; Part III elucidated on the steps I took to confront my phobia of public speaking; Part IV revealed my decision to finally declare myself as a writer. Bear with me while I rant a bit before revealing the fifth lesson of 2014 ;)
A Magnificent Start or a Spurious Mirage
Like many of you, I woke up this morning with a buoyant heart, a gritty soul and an optimistic mindset.
The day I had been waiting for with bated breaths was finally here: January 1, 2015
A new day. A new year. A new beginning.
What’s not to like about a fresh start, eh?
The golden shaft of light slanting in through my window shimmied with the promises of hope and happiness.
The wisps of snowy clouds floating through the azure sky seemed to beckon me to the future of my dreams.
Even the chilly weather of Chicago— that normally has me cussing creatively — somehow felt gentler, like the feathery touch of a fresh snowflake when it first hits the ground.
The aromatic morning air glimmered with love, light and laughter — thanks to my dear friend, Christine L. Bowen, for these three Ls. If I were blessed with limitless imagination, I would have definitely seen magical unicorns floating around me!
I logged onto Facebook to make the necessary salutations, brewed a pot of coffee (which smelled even more enticing today!), solved my morning crosswords and then drove to Panera Bread for some To-Go breakfast and their yummilicious Hazelnut coffee, while my pup leaned his whole body out of the window and enjoyed the rush of breeze.
For a while, my world felt as perfect as George Clooney’s face! ;)
But couple of hours later, as the hour hand and the minute hand converged at noon, my enthusiasm began plummeting. And at around 1:30 pm, I hit rock bottom.
Wasn’t today supposed to be different? Wasn’t this year supposed to be more positive than 2014? Wasn’t I supposed to feel (miraculously) happy at all times?
To give you some background, the hours between 1 pm and 5 pm are extremely hard (every day) because my eating disorder regularly rears its very ugly head to taunt me about my ‘over-sized meal and obese body’.
But I thought January 1 was meant to be a the dawn of a new era, one that is NOT pockmarked with difficulties or demons or disappointments.
So what was going on? Why was GOD being so unfair towards JUST me?
A Lesson In a Bar of Soap
When sleeping or playing with my pup didn’t elevate my spirits, I stomped to my bathroom for a mid-afternoon shower, hoping that the hot water would calm my agitated nerves.
That’s when I spotted one of my favorite bars of Indian soap — emerald green and lime scented — sitting gracefully inside a shower cubby.
As my nose drank in its sweet smell, I suddenly recognized why my morning high was replaced by crushing sorrow in the afternoon.
The New Year was like a new bar of my favorite soap.
Let me explain.
I have a soft spot for scented Indian soaps. A trip to an Indian grocery store will inevitably result in the purchase of half a dozen bars!
From the subtlety of sandalwood to the seductive appeal of jasmine, India manufactures a wide array of soaps with heavenly smells. And I cherish inhaling them while they are still in the packet — sometimes, I even use them as moth balls!
However, my happiness always plummets after using the soap a few times. Although the fragrances don’t fade, my fascination fades with repeated use.
The holiday season is very similar.
Like the pure scent of that unwrapped soap, the holiday season — which ends on New Years day — smells intoxicating, exhilarating and powerful.
From self-help gurus to digital marketers to huge retail brands, everyone throws advice and bonuses and discounts and sales to celebrate this ‘special time of the year.’
(Just like the unwanted buzz around Valentine’s Day, which makes even less sense. Why do we need a special day to celebrate love? To sell products, that’s why! Marketers wrap the red roses and Rolex watches in a seductive package of love, and we foolishly throw away money to express a sentiment that is best expressed with a lot less and comes naturally!)
The anticipation of bigger. better and more beautiful times clouds our judgment, and we start hoping for some magic wand to erase all our troubles and bless us with our dream life!
But when the unblemished perfume of a new soap blends with the not-so-fresh scents of our body, and diminishes in size, its appeal begins to dim.
Similarly, when the New Year arrives and we are forced to take part in it, the day doesn’t feel remarkable anymore.
It feels bland, boring and blase.
The magical unicorns disappear, the sunlight feels blinding, the sky loses its luster and the cold goads you to kill someone!
Because our pre-New Year expectations were completely unrealistic!
Take Off the Festive Blinders
What if, instead of year-end sales, retail establishments start holding ‘daily day-end sales’?
Sure, they will lose a lot of money, but, hey, we might then start believing that every day is extraordinary, right?
Do you see the problem with this thinking?
Instead of mindfully experiencing every moment, we are attached to labels and packaging and facades and marketing ploys!
Let’s go back to my favorite soap.
Despite not losing its fragrance, that soap lost its allure in my mind. Why?
Because I was drawn more towards the enticing possibilities of an unopened bar than towards the act of using that soap every day.
Similarly, the holiday season urges us to visualize a utopian future; one where contentment is dirt cheap, where gallantry is our best friend and where success resides on our doorstep at all times.
When New Year arrives and reality doesn’t align with these fantastical expectations, our confidence takes a nosedive and we revert back to the ‘pre-holiday season’ version of ourselves: uneasy, uninspired and unimaginative.
Is it any wonder that most resolutions don’t stick?
Very few people have the attitude and aptitude to change their lives drastically using showy goals.
Most of us mere mortals have to take small, supple steps that lead to consequential change.
And we have to take these steps in our real, messy, mundane, unstimulating lives.
Just like writers who wait for inspiration to start putting down their thoughts hardly get anything written, those who chase glamorous milestones to start living their purpose are never able to achieve sustainable success.
Live Like a Dog
Now what the heck does that mean?!
In the morning, while I was behaving like Maria from the Sound of Music — joyfully spreading my hands, humming a happy tune and twirling through my unclean home — at the prospect of a NEW YEAR, my pup, Oreo,looked up at his crazy mum, yawned and went back to sleep.
I pooh-poohed him for not understanding the import of a NEW YEAR. He was wasting precious morning minutes scratching himself instead of dancing with me in our not-so-lush backyard!
However, when afternoon arrived and Oreo joyfully chased his favorite squirrel, while I was sinking deeper into depression, I had to confess that he was much smarter!
Because, unlike us humans, my pup’s happiness didn’t depend on the time of the day or the day of the year.
To Oreo, there was nothing different about today and so he did what he always did.
So, yeah, my wish for you is to not have a happy NEW YEAR.
My wish is that — just like a dog — you engage mindfully with your PRESENT and seek something gratifying in the daily grind of life.
My wish is that you embrace each moment — both pleasant and unpleasant — to the fullest so that over-hyped milestones lose their intrigue.
My wish is that you find the courage and the confidence to steer your life in the direction you choose — every day. And if you fall, my wish is that you find the compassion to be gentle towards yourself and possess the cojones to get up, brush your outfit and start over.
Because your dreams, your desires, your aspirations, your ambitions, your passion, your purpose, your success, your story, your loves and your LIFE are worth fighting for: every single monotonous day.
Happy EVERY DAY, friends!
And now let’s move on to the fifth and final lesson of 2014, shall we? (yep, I know that was not a ‘little rant’, but the words flowed and I couldn’t stop — if you are reading this, I either succeeded in captivating your attention or earned your snickers! Either way, I am glad you are here! ;) )
Lesson 5: Do not fight your life. Surrender to it.
One of my closest friends is in a dilemma over a boy who seems to like her, but is just not ready to commit.
She asked me, “Kit! How did you KNOW that your husband was the one? Why do you trust that he will never leave you? How are you so sure that your marriage will succeed?”
Pat came my response, “But I am not sure. My marriage can break tomorrow. Either of us — or both — might get tired of each other, fall out of love and want to call it quits. I don’t KNOW what’s going to happen in the future, and that IS scary, but also so very exciting!”
She remained unconvinced — actually I might have put her off love completely because of my realistic, but unromantic answer (!)- but my point is that life IS unpredictable, which is why it’s fun!
Like chess players, we take chances based on our insight and intuition. Some of them pay off and others don’t, but all of them were worth it because we dared!
Think about it.
When you make the right moves, the rewards are tremendous. And if you bomb, you are still wiser because of that experience.
Let me recap the first four lessons of 2014 to show you what I mean:
- Furry Friends Are Forever
- If You Want to Be Rich, Form Enriching Relationships
- The Thing You Think You Cannot Do is a Lot Easier to do Than You Think
- If You Want to Live Your Calling, You Have to First OWN It
I was blessed with the aforementioned insights because of my willingness to stretch my comfort zone just a bit and take a tiny risk without knowing the consequences of my action.
None of my experiences — be it adopting a rambunctious pet, forming heartwarming relationships, co-hosting a LIVE show OR declaring myself as a writer — were planned or predictable.
In December 2013, neither did I know nor did I yearn for a pet. But when the opportunity fell into my lap, I trusted my instincts and embraced it.
Similarly, I would have never guessed that I would be co-hosting a show or that it will be celebrating its anniversary in 2015.
But I did and it is.
If I had hesitated or shied away from this ah-mazing opportunity, I wouldn’t have those enriching relationships. More importantly, I would have let my fear to take an even stronger hold over my life.
Finally, when I finally called myself a writer, I began experiencing the ebbs and flows of emotions that every writer experiences.
And although the blank screen, overwhelming competition and poor paychecks intimidate the bejesus out of me every day, I still take a certain amount of pride in finally living MY vision and being happy doing what I LOVE.
Please note that I am not saying any of these things to brag.
Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I reek of insecurity and inferiority complexes!
I am just sharing my experiences as further proof that when you befriend your circumstances and lean INTO your life, you might just be pleasantly surprised.
Even as I am writing this, it’s hard to believe that a ‘scared cat’ like me took those chances.
But, now that I have taken the first step, I am going to continue pushing my limits — gently, gracefully and genially — because that’s the only way I can explore more of life’s whimsical treasures. (And that’s how I can pen another series of long, rambling posts! :P )