It was a blue sky in Bangalore. The sort of blue that seems to be washed in some painter’s pristine dye. Painted without a blemish.
I stared at this sky for some time from my desk before giving in to the temptation. I walked out with a book, out where the blue enveloped me.
I sat on a ledge, the sun on my back, Aruna Gopakumar’s wonderful book with me, and I gazed out. I saw this tree, heavy with berries, bowed to the earth, yet standing as all trees do, with majesty and grace. I stared at the tree and took a photo. “Holly Tree,” Google Lens tells me. How did a Holly Tree land here in front of my apartment? But my heart warms when I read that the tree has significance in Celtic mythology as one that symbolizes peace and goodwill.
The sun warmed me more. Ants crawled around, busy with their day and mocking my languid rest. Someone yelled from the badminton court. And then, there was silence. Creeping in, startling me with the quiet.
I picked up the phone and called my Dad. My favorite Aunt is again hospitalized, he told me, her brain increasingly fighting a losing battle. I swallow. “I couldn’t sleep last night,” he says. This man, who has been through so much – a sister last year, and now this last surviving sister who he can’t even see, as she lies tied up in tubes in a hospital bed in San Jose. I had last spoken to my Aunt a few months ago, just after her brain surgery, and had laughed along with her, urging her to give motivation to my Dad.
“Everything is fine. Her heart. Her kidneys. Just her brain,” my Dad repeats, bewildered. I have no words to explain. You can’t explain. There’s just this. Life. A blue sky. A brother grieving over his sister.
After I had kept the phone, I looked at the tree again. Its leaves fluttered. I had spent the day before shocked that someone had stalked my website, the act making me feel watched again. And the extent of that person’s hatred made me nauseous, triggering pain points again. It’s sad when you realize that someone you think you knew turns out to be a completely different person…but who hasn’t experienced that?
And my thoughts swirl. I have a new company to run next year with MyndStories. A marathon in Chennai on January 8th- the first marathon I am unsure about finishing with my Covid-affected lungs. Cash flow. Errant clients. A book to send to publishers. Parents who are aging rapidly, frightening me with the thoughts of their mortality with each day. I can’t bear the thought of another Covid wave, my scars still fresh from the last one. I look at next year with anxiety and fear. Yet…
I found in myself a bubbling spring of happiness.
All my life, I had thought that to be happy is to hold only this emotion of ‘feeling good’ as happiness. It isn’t. As the Holly Tree arched towards the sky, its trunk remained rooted. That’s how I feel now. I have fought hard to reach here. I burned boundaries. Gave myself a voice. Invented myself anew.
I felt happy not because I have no problems, but because I know that this moment is mine to choose, that happiness is knowing that you have the strength and resilience to appreciate life and its people – to give and receive love in the limited time we have, to weave compassion in our actions, and to know that we can breathe and be grateful that we are here, that the people we love are here, and that grief can hold more space for our strength.
As we reach the end of this year, I wish you the happiness of the Holly Tree. May you find your steps light, may you find in yourself that indestructible light of peace, and let’s build connections of magic, kindness, beauty, and healing.
All my love to you.