Sunday, 20 February 2011

The Positivity Injection

I'm not one to include the word "awesome" in my vocabulary.  This is, of course, largely attributable to my strong British education.  Besides, the word, when enunciated, just does not sound as resplendent as the words that we, on this side of the Atlantic, use to convey the same effect: "brilliant", "super", "amazing".  There are times when I make a conscious attempt to include other words to express my approval for something - I say: "That's great/fantastic/superb/perfect".

Notwithstanding the words that we use to convey our happiness/approval, we all want to actually feel what we're saying.  When we say "That's great!", we actually want to feel great. We want to feel great that the cashier at Sainsbury's has offered to pack our bags for us. We want to feel "brilliant" when we see that New Year's Eve fireworks display.  We want to feel "amazing" when we're at that electrifying concert.  And 9 times out of 10, we do end up feeling that way, even if for just a short moment.

That moment feels so good (for want of a better word to use here!), but is forgotten all too soon.  We have somehow learned to dispose away with those small moments in which we feel good, blissful and content with everything around us. And all too quickly, when life throws its conspicuous boomerangs at us, we let those boomerangs take us down, we brood over our problems, how difficult our lives have become, how much of a struggle every-day living has become, how much uncertainty prevails around us.  Our most effective weapons against such depressing times are those countless short moments in which we feel loved, we feel cared for, we feel happy/amazing/super/brilliant or just nice.  Yet we forget that we have these weapons at our disposal.  Why? Because we forget (almost immediately after experiencing them) about the moments when we feel so great to be alive! We forget about the moments in which we savoured (even for 2 seconds) life's simple pleasures.

In 2008, my dad was diagnosed with a malignant conjunctival melanoma (a cancerous brown spot on the white part of his eye).  It could not have come at a worse time. I was due to sit my final exams at university, and my dad flew in to London to receive treatment.  Now, by all accounts, a conjunctival melanoma is not as scary as a liver, gastric or breast tumour.  However, it is its potential to metamorphosise into one that is scary. My parents needed all the emotional support they could get during that time - through the countless doctor's appointments, hospital visits, surgical procedures etc. I had to balance my studies with providing as much emotional support as I could to them. I used to think - "Why? Why is this happening now? Could it not have waited for 2 more months, after which I could have easily dealt with it, being on vacation?" The trouble is that life's boomerangs come to you unannounced and unexpected. We have to learn to deal with them.  What got me through those tumultuous times, was my focus on life's simple pleasures - I learned to be grateful for everything else that was "right" in my life - the extensive family and friends' support I had in the UK, the financial resources that my family had access to facilitate the necessary treatment, the spiritual grounding that gave me the strength to comprehend the situation I was in, and most importantly, my health and my music.  I began to learn to savour the taste of my Starbucks gingerbread latte, something that I was and still am a big fan of.  I began to learn to relish the smell of fresh rain falling on the London pavements, the natural resultant high of having the first cheesy bite in my Pizza Hut margherita. As Neil Pasricha explains in his talk below, I began to experience life through the eyes of those of an infant, taking in everything once again for the first time and relishing each such maiden experience.  

What particularly helped me to look at life through an infant's eyes, was my close association with my nephew, who at the time had just turned 6 months old.  I would look at Saaj's face every time I'd spend time with him, and would try to imagine his thoughts as he began taking things in for the first time - it must have been an exciting time for him, setting his eyes on so many things (a plasma tv, a car, a mobile phone, a grasshopper, a golden leaf) for the first time.

Savouring life's pleasures, just as an infant does, is what can shape one's attitude and approach to dealing with life's boomerangs. And once you've mastered that, there's no reason why one cannot begin leading a life that's truly brilliant/great/perfect/super/amazing or......"awesome"!

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