Yesterday, a friend messaged me saying she was quite upset, annoyed, and was miserable. I responded saying, “I am upset and annoyed, too. With work. With people. With life. Fed up with all of these.”
There must have been a shocked silence. Well, as much of a silence as you can gauge on What’s App before this startling response. “You are a life coach. You should not speak like this,” she admonished me. I laughed when I read that. Life Coach. That was a first. Of all the designations I have had in life, which includes Idiot, Moron or Imbecile, Life Coach stood out. “Even Life Coaches have lifeless days,” I replied. But that phrase struck me. I know that to be a Life Coach is an accepted career choice, especially in the West. Of course, my friend was only referring to me informally as one, and I know I am nowhere close to even understanding life for me to pretend being a coach of it. Yet, it made me think. What has life taught me? Where has it coached me? I didn’t rewind the clock too far. I only wanted to see how I have coped with life and its varied messages this year. If I were to look at life as a train, then these were my coaches:
One of the first things I told myself this year was to not allow anger to control me. I have an awful temper, and I came to realize that it’s not what we say with love that people remember, but the scarabs and swords we hurl in anger. But like all emotions and feelings, anger is a feeling too. We have to learn to allow anger to move through us, not block it. Anger has been a co-passenger for me this year, unlike last year when Anger was the driver. It’s not that I don’t get angry, but the frequency and virulence of it have reduced. I don’t throw names, and in some situations I can’t control, like traffic, I find that I hardly get angry. Yet, I am aware that anger is there at the back of my mind, a lurking devil waiting for the tiniest gap. Sometimes, I feel I just have to make peace with that awareness rather than fight it. Anger is not our enemy, it’s the way we use it. When I am angry with myself if I have been lazy, I find that anger to be useful. It goads me to be more focused. Being angry with others, on the other hand, has very rarely been useful. I am still learning there – trying to find out how to use anger without harming myself or others, and indeed make it a peaceful co-passenger.
I love weeds. In the vast world of flowers, weeds are the forgotten detritus. But they amaze me with their tenacity. A flower can droop and die without sunlight. But weeds? They need only the tiniest crevice to take root. This year, I noticed more flowers. More skies. A part of me did it unconsciously after I started meditating. I would go running and then pause, taken aback by the beauty of Purple Bauhinias or flowing Jacarandas.When I ran, my mind would be jostling with 100 things, but that one moment when I stopped to caress the petals of a flower, my mind would go blank, and I would be in awe of that one moment. Me and this flower. That’s it.
Looking at the colors the skies unfold every day brought moments tinged with just the glow of warmth. It’s not that the flowers and the skies made me realize how insignificant my life’s worries and problems are. No. Our problems are ours, and how much importance we grant them is a choice we make. But I started consciously noticing the flowers and colors and skies not to forget my problems, but to appreciate that I can see these still despite all the problems.
The other day, while driving by, with my head in a mess, I stopped at a temple because it seemed to be leaning into the sunset, tipping its shadows into the light. It was beautiful. A conversation with the sky ensued. Above, rays from the clouds changed appearance every now and then, and at every turn. They seemed to mock my attempts to capture it with my poor S3 mobile’s camera. They gave me 100 reasons to stop. To look. To be in awe. Was my mind still a mess? Yes, of course! Had my problems disappeared? No. But I believe I felt alive. The day I lose the ability to view a flower’s crimson hues, or a dandelion’s billowy clouds, or the sky’s palettes, I think that’s the day I am no longer alive.
I heard this in a movie I saw on Sunday:
“You don’t get over your fears, you move through them.”
For so long, I have thought otherwise. I fear so many things – from worms to caterpillars to heights to fear of loss and abandonment to fear of financial insecurity. Not the best advertisement for a Life Coach, this. I thought the best way to “get over” these fears is to attack them. Confront them. I haven’t been able to attack a worm. But I have reduced the choked and paralyzed feeling I get when I see a worm, to a less panicky retreat away from it. I have gone parasailing and paragliding, stood on glass floors on the 123rd floor of the tallest towers in the world, cycled on a rope strung between two hills in the Philippines, all to get over my fear of heights. And then, I put my feet over the ledge and look down at a pond that is but 5 feet below, and I feel my stomach churn, and I know that fear is still with me.
I know now, that fear, like anger, is a co-passenger with us on this train. We can’t get rid of our fears any more than we can get rid of our personality. Fear and anger are what we need in life if we know how to use them. Yes, I fear financial insecurity. But that fear gave me the courage to leave my regular job, knowing that Fear had helped me build a wonderful nest before. So, I stand at this phase in my life, realizing that I have to move through these fears, and see where I reach. Not attack them. Not fight them. Not try to overcome them. But to wade through these fears, as water moves over stone. Would I find acceptance? Would I find freedom? Something tells me, the answer is yes. So, I shall keep moving. Where will I reach?
Part II of Life’s Coach to come soon.