It’s amazing the demands that life makes on you. And the toll it takes. The things we do, or don’t do, have a cumulative effect on our well-being. There are so many roles to play out; so many things to balance; so many things to stay on top of.
Nearly a fortnight ago, and not for the first time, I simply keeled over and collapsed losing my ability to balance. I lived for a week with the crazy sensation of being on a merry-go-round going down an elevator shaft every time I moved my head the slightest bit. Considering that I am being treated only for symptoms without knowing the origin of their cause (as was the case the first time I collapsed with a brain stroke over a decade ago), it is worth my while to contemplate what I have been doing wrong or have been missing out on doing in my life.
You may think that I am a really busy person with a lot of chores to do. The thing is that I really am relatively free of regular household chores at this stage of my life. There is a maid for cleaning and doing dishes, a cook, a gardener, and a driver. There were times in the past when I was doing all that and a lot more as a working woman; driving myself beyond my capacity for years. No longer. All I really do at home now is keep the place organised, neat, do the laundry, work on creative things or whatever I feel like, and tell the employees what to do. Other than that I think, write, contemplate, and fulfil the requirements of my job to the best of my potential.
So, what exactly is it that taxed me so much that the imbalance I was feeling in my life manifested as a physical symptom? I think the answers are the same for a lot of people, especially educated urban women in our culture, caught between tradition and modernity; between trying to be self-effacing and assertive free-thinking individuals; between wanting to expand and keeping shackled to traditional meekness.
Post analysis, the breakdown seems to be a cumulative effect of several things over the years and they mainly boil down to these:
- being too much on my own, especially at times when the need to have worthwhile company is very strong;
- internalizing feelings in silence and intellectualizing emotional issues instead of processing the feelings;
- not rewarding myself enough in materialistic terms because there is always something more pressing that could do with the funds;
- repressing wants and desires because freedom to choose and do is not sanctioned in a society like ours;
- restraining myself when I am itching to expand because then I might be labelled selfish and a troublemaker amongst my own people; and
- living largely in my head as a somewhat different person than what shows on the outside as a result of all the above.
Though all people are interesting, some even fascinating, in their own way, not everyone constitutes good company or company one requires. And company, as in human connect of a certain kind, is so important. I don’t mean that as merely being amidst people. That happens at the workplace, at social events, as well as home when you are with family. I can be there, but not quite. I may be mostly fully involved or engaged too. But not fully invested. Many a time, even though there is warmth, comfort and abundant love, there still exists a gap, a wall, an invisible shield, a tension, a cautious holding back, a restraint, a detachment. So there is interaction, but it lacks a certain quality of mental stimulation and a certain lack of freedom to express. I have leant that for me, the latter have come to be extremely important as well.
I think that is an obligation I must fulfill for which there is a need to associate with people with whom I can hold conversations without fear of being judged, reprimanded or rejected for holding certain views; people who don’t look at you with the glasses of ‘cultural correctness’ weighing your words against what constitutes ‘acceptable’ in terms of your role as a woman, wife, mother, daughter, daughter-in-law or anything else. People who let you be an individual with no riders attached and who let you play out all your moods without burdening you with the knowledge of how your moods negatively affect them so much, and therefore, should not be on display. People who match and exceed your intellectual level, who are mature enough to allow for stimulating discussions and accept differences, explore issues and concerns of interest, who are sounding boards to your ideas, who are different from you in beliefs and attitudes, who give you new insights; and challenge you to know more, learn more and be more. I do think everyone must find at least one such friend/partner/associate or whatever name you want to address such a person by.
Some of us never know we are approaching psychological break point, so engrossed are we with our work or issues at hand that we believe require our attention. It isn’t worth falling sick for the reasons I did. They are relatively easily addressed by simply bringing in change. Besides, it just causes so much unnecessary drama in the home. I see the concern and fear in my family members and it makes me sad. It was all avoidable.
My problem is pretty easily diagnosed in the end: I just need to be myself and feel good by fulfilling what my heart and mind need and desire. The healing is in my hands.
My checklist? Here it is:
- Play – with pets or people. Or do puzzles, Sudoku and crosswords on my own
- Pray, love, give thanks and appreciate little things
- Eat well and keep fit
- Take time out for entertainment once a week
- Read for pleasure, growth and evolution
- Take at least one vacation to a new destination every year
- Build and cherish memories
- Wonder and meditate
- Relax with music and tend plants
- Remember that I am human
- Love myself more by committing to self care
- Reward myself in material terms
- Consciously think of at
least one thing to feel good about each day
- Recognise and respect
my physical, psychological, emotional and mental limits
- Connect with a friend frequently
Staying sane depends almost entirely on me then.