Why cant we ‘just chill’? Hoping to reign in the restlessness in 2012

For the last couple of years, I have been terribly restless. A large portion of my mindspace has been occupied trying to understand the reasons behind this restlessness and trying to find ‘solutions’. Initially, I assumed this was a stage-in-life kind of thing, exarcebated by a need to re-pursue the career of my choice–urban planning, as opposed to writing that I had ended up pursuing. All this was further compounded by the usual angst associated with motherhood and the constant pull and push between wanting to do motherly things and trying to be yourself (to me, these two can be complete contrasts!).

Earlier this year, I took the decision to follow my heart, stop worrying about expectations, most of all my own and just DO stuff I want to. For starters, I cut down on  commissioned writing assignments and stepped back into the sphere of urban planning. Here, I discovered (thanks to the sheer luck of finding wonderful employers at micro Home  Solutions) that the skills I had developed as a writer, research skills learnt at grad school in the US, my training as an urban planner and a keen interest in issues of urbanism and poverty could all be brought together to add value in a variety of projects. I restarted music, which I had given up on for several years and I truly believe this could feed my soul like nothing else can. Recently, I have taken up kathak too, quite a challenge since my guru spends quite a bit of time getting my body to unlearn the bharatnatyam i learnt as a kid! In the mommy role, there are the usual outings (some exciting ones as well!), birthday parties and other social dos, kiddie-choice meals to rustle, pushing the limits of my imagination composing and adapting stories, etc.

In a nutshell, life’s pretty full. But this isn’t about wanting you guys to pat my back and say, well done!! I realized this morning that this restlessness is coming, not from within me, but from the environment around me. ( I must confess this line of thought was brought on when I realized I couldnt write a new blog entry because I hadn’t done anything ‘new’, gone anywhere exciting,etc. I didnt has pics to put on on FB this week, nothing to boast about….my life was dull!!) We live in a society that is constantly in a state of restlessness. Our attention spans are small, we get bored easily and we need constant novelty and excitement to keep our energies high and motivate us. Nothing overtly wrong with that, except that we also tend to burn out! Last week, a friend had a blackout, just like that, at the end of an ordinary work day. Another someone I know suspects she is depressed and she can’t figure out why, she leads a normal, reasonably fulfilling life. All around me, I see talented, capable and wonderful people worrying about their self-worth, success, the future and most of all, worry about whether they are fulfilling their potential.

We have lost the art of just living our lives, taking pleasure in day to day things. I feel the urgent need (there, I used the wrong word!) to slow down the pace in my life, to savor the passing moments, to relish the now rather than constantly plan ahead! As a child, I watched my grandmother (Ajji) stitch endlessly, make papad, wicks from raw cotton, vermicelli (sivai) and a whole host of other stuff at home. She had led a hard life, brought up 4 kids as a widow, always earned some money, kept house for a large joint family, etc. But I never sensed in her the hurry of finishing things up. There was a certain pride in what she did, a meditative sort of calm is the atmosphere I remember she created around her. Of course, my memories are biased. I am her grandchild after all. I am sure she had her share of frustrations, but it didn’t show in they way she led her life. My other grandmother (amamma) immersed herself in housework. She managed a mean kitchen garden in Bangalore, full of fresh, healthy fruits and veggies. She produced three excellent meals everyday for my rather fussy grandpa (vava), kept her house impeccably clean and pretty, etc etc. What I’m trying to say is that they were satisfied doing what they did. They had aspirations too, but those didn’t take away from the pleasure of the present.

So this is my new year resolution. Finding the balance between excitement and calm. Pursuing my desires without becoming competitive (with myself) about them. Not living to show others, but for myself. This is essentially for me continuing into 2012 the journey I began in 2011. It’s an experiment, right or wrong we shall see….. In all this, I do keep having self-doubt about whether this attitude will serve me well (i do recognize the merits of restlessness and ambition) when I look back a decade later….what if I don’t have ‘achievements’ to show, will I have regrets., blah blah…. But I also have a strong sense of comfort, of knowing I am onto something good. Like I said, we shall see!

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20 thoughts on “Why cant we ‘just chill’? Hoping to reign in the restlessness in 2012

  1. This is one of those very expressive pieces, all honest and pushing aside qualms of ‘what will people think’ when you say things like “wanting to do motherly things and trying to be yourself (to me, these two can be complete contrasts!).”
    The balance through everyday, exotic and excitement and that whole achievement deal needs a something like this blog to get back to every once in a while and ask ourselves “Why can’t we ‘just chill?” I am book marking this one!

  2. Nice and relevant!! We need to stop and look where our life is heading…not in material things, positions acquired, assets we posses, but also look at our spiritual well being and mental satisfaction too!! After all we are thinking n feeling individuals…..not animals!!!

  3. While retrospectoscope provides moments of angst – ‘i should not taken that decision’, ‘it would have been better if i had done that’ – futuroscope is a poor instrument!! And few of us have the strength to live for the present alone – which really means no aspirations, ambitions for the future and no looking back either! And probably life would also be a little flat without the highs of achievement and the lows of disappointment. How to get the perfect mix? If we knew, it would all be so simple wouldn’t it?
    But not many question themselves or recognize a need to shift track – and do so! I have been watching your struggles with yourself – a space where it is difficult for others to step into – and trust that I have been there for you. But this is an “each one to herself” kind of journey – i am sure you will reach the other shore in great shape.

  4. Some thing good is bound to come out for you .This existential struggle between between
    “being” and “becoming” is essential to make one realize one’s full potential .Shall I say , “never give up on this struggle , come what may”?

  5. A very thought provoking article & equally thought provoking comments – a la FB comment n I am sure u ll reach the other shore in great shape!!..U have just captured what I have been feeling for the last few weeks. Some not so co-incidental things have been happening in my life to make me realise ‘I dont need to prove anything to either myself or anybody’ nor ‘Do I need to run so fast to reach a point that I miss the mazza of the scenery around me’…2012 is a year that ll see me restart my theatre which I have done so far in fits n starts n dig in heels in the area of organisation psychology…N Love n enjoy every moment that I live – Just being blissful and thankful of what I have.

  6. Hi Mukta
    I know exactly how you feel. There is a lack of ‘centredness’ in today’s life. Probably comes out of having so many choices . . .
    Also from having to prove your worth either to everyone around you or to yourself.
    I have taken a month off from work to do nothing. No running around, just want to savour being here and now. Also to read the way I used to when I was a child.
    Love
    Neera

    • does ‘doing nothing’ include meeting up? its been ages…lets catch up this holiday season for sure :) and yes, i (along with rahul, udai and mum) am also reading voraciously and rediscovering the sheer joy of it!!

  7. Mukta you struck just the right chord! I have also been thinking about this off and on! I remember as a kid in Meerut, small things like reading a book in the sun in the garden gave me so much pleasure and satisfaction! Since I moved to delhi, I have just stopped enjoying these simple things in life and hence the dissatisfaction in everything!

  8. Mukta, I have been a silent reader of your blog since the first post. And I can’t tell you how many times I thought, ‘Is she inside my head? How does she know what I am thinking?’ Even more so while reading this post !!
    I think it is so great that you were able to write this and put it out in the open because I haven’t been able to do the same, yet. I think this takes ‘courage’ (courage, as Brene Brown means it).

    Btw, loved the link put up by Dipanwita. Totally worth the time.

  9. Who knows more than me the tall mountain self-expectation creates in front of us! When I read the title of the blog, it was in the middle of a client crisis, and I almost smirked. ‘Just chill? Huh, someone tell that to the woman at the other end of the phone who’s chasing me minute-to-minute!’ But in the past few months, as you well know, I’ve been introspecting my own choices and self-expectations. Milestones like birthdays, year-ends and others are I guess created to make us go through these choices and their repercussions. They remind us that the tail we’re chasing is our own.
    But sometimes you have to remind yourself (as you have often reminded me!) that everything else is external, including the choices we make. Where we place them in our priority for assessing our level of satisfaction and happiness is the only thing in our control. So even if we decide that we will go through certain stresses, as long as we know why we are going through them and where those stresses pay up in our lives.
    Easier said than done, right?

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