The Joy of Journaling

A close friend of mine, a mother in her late 30’s, feels a sudden sensation of ‘the world going round and round’, while waiting for her son’s school bus one afternoon. Next thing she remembers – parents of other kids hovering over, trying to talk her back to reality. Regaining consciousness, she is escorted back to her den, to her existential blackhole: nothing escapes her home. All her anxieties, lists of things to do, expectations to live up to, just about everything had taken a toll on her. They just made themselves home, they had no way to get out.

The blackouts had turned frequent. She joined Sri Sri’s Art of Living, alongside taking medications for low blood pressure. ‘I feel so good, you should try it, too!” she sang to me.

The therapeutic benefits of a meditation course have been proven time and again, but there is not much about the positive changes brought about by the simple act of ‘writing a journal.’

I began writing a journal as an 8-year-old. It may have not lasted even 8 days, given my extreme anxiety and sleepless nights over being spied on by my siblings. Reminiscing the entries, they were mostly a vivid description of my dreams, the ones you see with shuteye. One was about how I had discovered a particular mountain, just like other climbers had, with no gravitational pull on one side. The people ahead of me, slowly jumped down, giving wings to their ultimate dreams, and were soon floating about in air, maybe 1500 kms above sea level.

It’s now or never. I got off too. I became a bird, just gliding real slow all around.

Jotting it all down on those pages was so much bliss: the very act of recalling the feeling of being a bird, talking about my wish to, perhaps someday, set out on a discovery mission for the magic mountain.

Another entry I remember is about how my mother taught me to ‘fly a butterfly like a kite’ while returning from school, and how I instantly rejected the idea, because passing a thread through butterfly wings might be hurting them. The other entries in the little journal may have been imaginary stuff – I can’t recollect any more. All I know is me tearing off the pages and then tearing each page into little pieces – me, the human shredding machine!

Later, I tried again but encountered only false starts. The fear of someone finding my diary lying about minding its own business, reading it and knowing the goings-on in my mind, was too extreme for me.

So, I stuck to blogging – logging on the world wide web. It was not personal anymore. I weaved cryptic words into little poems to express what I was feeling inside. I made fictional accounts of fictional characters, actually telling my story. People read them as poetry and fiction, not a soul knew the stories hidden between the lines. This was fun, but not as liberating.

Your diary is your road to inner peace. Your diary is your friend, your philosopher and your guide.

So I stuck to personal diary writing again – late last year, and have been going strong till date. It’s the best part of my day; I look forward to putting pen to paper and jotting down whatever comes to my mind that time.

Therapists have long proven the benefits of keeping a journal, specially after going through trauma you can’t explain to another soul. History is replete with famous people and their diaries, without which we wouldn’t have known their humane side. Inventors, Philosophers, Visionaries, Artists, Shapers of our world have maintained notes or journals of their random thoughts throughout the day. Explorers loved their travel journals while Thinkers loved their book of ideas.

The Anne Frank Diary is a classic window to the joy of journaling. Hiding from Nazis, this Jewish girl all of 12 copes with her anxieties, dreams and aspirations and the eternal fear of being caught, by making time to write the day’s happenings, and her ideas about growing up to be an adult.

Whatever be your standing in life, it can always be tackled by writing away your fears and worries, your anxieties and hurt feelings. I believe like reading, writing too, is to your mind, what exercise is to your body. It can purge out the toxins just when the pen touches the paper, the ink flushes out the unwanted.

Moreover, it helps bring clarity at the times you are quite muddled. In this age of instant gratification and mindless scrolling, swiping and virtual escapism, a diary is a real thing; you can savour it at leisure, look it up for ideas or just ogle at the vintage beauty of a bygone era, still very much yours.

Your diary is your road to inner peace. Your diary is your friend, your philosopher and your guide. Write your own story. Own your day. Jot down things that brought you joy and also those that made you cry, things you’d love to do, friends you’d love to make and places you’d love to visit. Go on… discover the daily joy of journaling!

Your age is your discount!

This April the 4th I turned 38. It may not be a big deal, in fact it is just a number, but it is a significant one nevertheless. From a size ‘M’, I’ve grown to a size ‘L’ if comfort is what I’m looking for. I need to stub out a few beard hairs every week, else risk looking like ‘she-man’. I carry around a tyre like a stationary hula-hoop around my waist.

I’ve begun to eat more than I need, exercise less than I must, talk more than I should, listen less than what is good for me.

I’ve begun to eat more than I need, exercise less than I must, talk more than I should, listen less than what is good for me.

My thought processes have chosen their absolute paths around my cranium and the connected nervous system. Everything there is to learn in life to sustain a decent livelihood has been done with, and my grey cells have gone into hibernation. I feel a terrifying vaccum inside me is sucking in everything from my insides, forming a lump of non-renewable mass to be never transformed into energy or set anything into motion again in life.

Apparently, this is what is termed as mid-life crisis, or the perceived notion of reaching a ‘dead end’ in one’s journey, because everybody (read society) says so!

The so-called ‘People of the Society’ now have a fair understanding about me, and by that qualification, they can now advise me on what exactly I should be doing in the 38th year of my life.

Happy 38

A coincidence off-late made me mull over my age. It so happened that I was seated at a popular Chinese takeaway, waiting for my parcel, when right adjacent to me was a standee, displaying loudly: “Your Age is your Discount”. A beauty salon was looking to boost its haircut sales.

I wondered, “Can my age be discounted in real life?

38 tells me how much grey has begun to set in; how fatigued is my body; it nudges me to go for a health check up so I could wring any hereditary or lifestyle diseases right away while the nasty things are still in stealth mode. 38 tells me I’m closer to 40!

38 defines where I am in life with respect to where I should’ve been in life as per my life goals. It tells my government to put me in the next demographic. It tells the people around me that I have now arrived at a ‘big’ juncture in my life, that I should now take life seriously, that I need to now worry about my aging body and not flush my eggs down the toilet bowl – and here is where it all ends, sadly!

38 also throws up some very vital questions: Am I sporting an age-appropriate waistline? Should I colour my greys? Have I under-achieved compared to my peers? Do my friends and family miss me? Does my age bother my other half? Can I still reach the finishing line? Am I a failure?

Wait… these don’t look like vital questions, in fact, these aren’t even questions!

These are fears implanted over the generations, in you and me; like a wheel it goes on and on in a never ending cyclic path, consuming every fresh idea that comes its way.

These are fears implanted over the generations, in you and me; like a wheel it goes on and on in a never ending cyclic path, consuming every fresh idea that comes its way. Satan’s other name is Fear!

Age can be discounted had we been told how many years we would exist. Let’s suppose a human life was designed to live fully till 100 years, and then the aging process would set in. In this imaginary world, I could avail a 38% discount the whole of this year, and really look forward to turning 39.

But, we are mortal beings with no number attached to the lives that die every second. They could be 3 or 8 or 38, and still mean so much to the people in their lives.

The only way to keep going on is to ‘unlearn’ everything they tell you to. Stay in the ‘now’ and not worry about the future and certainly not about age, because as someone wise once sang, “Que sera, sera.”

Cheers to all of us who are 38 years ‘young’ this year!

Your choices are half chance!

Today as my Sunday coffee regime was happening on one side while I was mulling away on the other side, the words ‘Sunscreen’ lit up in my mind. Somehow I could recollect the title ‘Everybody needs sunscreen’ but Google corrected me out and also led me to the source of this song – ‘Everybody is free to wear sunscreen.

It is actually an essay by Mary Schmich that was published as a column in the Chicago Tribune in 1997. Her essay was written as a commencement speech to graduating students, in case she ever got a chance to deliver one! Now this was news to me as I had connected with this particular song during my college days.

I can remember being swayed by it’s distinct style of musical wisdom, even faintly recollect being inspired and awed by its depth. Adoloscence has its own charm of belief and uncertainty, so a naive me related to only some of the parts in it. Then years morphed into decades and once again I found myself at the alter of this timeless classic today. And I was swayed again…

This time some more lines hit me. But the one that had me shaken all over the most is this –
“What ever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either, your choices are half chance, so are everybody elses.”

How true! This one came almost like a tight slap of loving advice. Since a month, I’ve been recuperating from a lower back sprain and this has opened up new opportunities to re-think my life. The stress I underwent in the past year either bawling away or jumping on cloud nine with every little step for the startup, had taken its toll.

Had I been dispassionately passionate with everything, the  stress wouldn’t have built up. Had I enjoyed the journey without a care for the destination, even complex tasks would have been simplified. Had I believed that my choices are all half chances, I wouldn’t have worried about the money not flowing in. I would have given a damn to our performance dashboard, goals, content plans, and all that jazz.

Anyways, better late than never! This year I have embarked on a new path where I will strive to find a balance – To be anchored with my destination yet free to stand and stare. To believe in the divine plan and let go of all my worries. To surrender to the Infinite and find answers intuitively.

The laughing club lessons and more

Every morning I’m awakened by an orchestra of sorts – a myriad of laughter sounds in various sizes and shapes emanating from the neighbouring ground. When we shifted home in the middle of this year, all we were in search of was a place with a good broadband connection. But, as luck would have it, we were blessed with much more.

I love the lush greens surrounding my compound walls and the colourful birds nestled amongst the branches. I love the hollering boys playing cricket in the grounds, while a few serious ones practise their yogasanas in the shade. I love the karate class kids too, especially the really little girls and boys. But, what I love most about the ground is the lessons I have learnt just by observing the laughing club members.

This group mainly consists of bright senior citizens – the politically correct term for elderly people – with a sex ratio of 1:1 and I find them really adorable. These guys start coming one by one to the ground beginning 6 am. Only when the entire group is present do they start and that happens in half an hour around 6:30 am.

Members of the Gateway to India Laughter Club in Mumbai

They quickly assemble in a circle with women and men forming half the circumference each. After the initial introductions and the calling out of consequent numbers by each member, the motley group is all energised for a session of laughter and joy.

The session begins slowly with soft giggles and then catches pace with a laughter barakhadi (ha-haa-he-hee-hu-huu-hey-heey-ho-hoo-houu-humm-hahahahaha) followed by bouts of weird body movements and sounds. Sometimes, they scare each other with a simple ‘boo’ or sometimes its a little startling roar by sticking their tongues out. Its adorable to watch the old men and women claw the air and play animal-animal. The session that started with frail laughter and gestures, then reaches a crescendo of sorts, to finally end in a full-bodied laughter, by which time the onlookers have also had a laugh or two.

But, it was never a cacophony of laughter. It had rhythm, it had style!

I remember in the beginning during my morning jogs, I was way too embarrassed to be crossing them. There they were, the wise old group laughing away to glory without a care in the world. And here was me with my extra tensed neurons and all, so conscious about my rising weight and striving to burn it out frantically as if that is the cure to all my ills.

Gradually, as the days turned into months, I developed an attachment towards them, so much so that if I did not wake up to their laughter, the day would feel incomplete. Come rain or chill, the group was always out there on the grounds, but it was only me who woke up late and missed them. I saw a month of summer followed by four months of monsoons with heavy showers welcoming the early mornings. Now, it is winter and really chilly. I don’t venture out in the morning; just a little verandah watching suffices me. But, the laughing club goes on!

As I sit beside my work table, adjacent to my large window, trying to concentrate on the smaller things in life, the things outside creep into my thoughts. More precisely from the laughing club. The discipline, the dedication, the sheer energy and will power of the group amazes me. Their approach towards laughter, the motivation they share with each other, the laughter sounds reverberating in the air is all so inspiring, that I’m all charged up and raring to go.

Yes, were it not for laughter, we would all go insane!