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30 and Learning…

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life

Choices

 

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Destiny or free will?

I daresay that’s a question as old as humanity itself. Since man developed the cognitive prowess to think and reason, people have wondered why things happen to us the way they do. Is it all preplanned or do we shape our own lives? Some people believe in absolute destiny – that our lives follow a fixed blueprint that was created by some higher power long before we were born. Others, mostly those who do not believe in the existence of such higher power, believe that we create our own destiny by the choices we make.

I’ve never had a firm opinion on the matter, instead still searching for an answer. One thing that I do firmly believe in is that there are no absolutes in life. So I guess I neither believe in absolute destiny nor in absolute free will. I came across a piece recently that seemed to resonate with this idea (wish I had the link to share). What the author said was that there is a plan for all of us but it is up to us to make the choices that will allow us to follow that plan.

To look at it in another way, my life is supposed to be a certain way and yet I can alter its course by making choices that deviate from that course. Since I talked about my nameless relationship recently, I’ll use that as an example. At every step, I had the choice to either continue or run away. My heart said continue and my head said run away. There are very few times when my heart and head are in conflict but I’m a person wholly led by my heart. So I continued, and I am so happy I did, regardless of the pain I feel right now. Because knowing this love was my destiny, it just feels right. I wouldn’t have it any other way and I’d do it all over again if I had to.

That’s the other thing with choices and destiny – if it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t. And that is why I feel that it’s important to think with the heart and not head. Now obviously I don’t mean the literal heart, but what I mean is the instinct, the gut, the intuition… Whatever you want to call it, but there’s always a voice inside that lets us know when we make a wrong choice. So maybe that’s our cue – if that voice inside is not in agreement, maybe we have chosen an option that doesn’t align with our destiny.

But what if someone keeps making the wrong choices all throughout? What if someone completely silences the voice inside? Honestly, I think that happens all the time. The world we live in forces us to be logical, practical, rational – all that manmade cerebral fluff – and ideas like this are considered absurd, even loony! Yet we hear stories all the time about people on their deathbeds, breathing their last, reflecting upon the life they lived and regretting the choices they made, regretting not following their hearts. When in doubt, I wonder that if I died today, would I be happy with the life I lived or would I have regrets? As long as the answer is the former I know I am following my destined path.

And finally, someone might say that what if there are no choices. But I doubt that’s ever the case. We always have choices and whether knowing or unknowingly, we are picking an option each minute. When I had to leave the US, I thought I had no choice, I was forced to leave what had become my home and move back to India. But I had the choice – to marry someone and stay. I wouldn’t have been the first one to do that. Logical people do it all the time. But I’m not logical. My heart wouldn’t even consider that as an option. So I chose to leave instead. Leaving Izzie and Milo behind was not an option my heart would ever acknowledge either. And I am so thankful that my inner voice is so loud and clear because if I made either of those choices, I would’ve regretted them immensely. So if I die today, I would die happy, knowing that I chose love each step of the way.

Maybe that is how souls get liberated from the cycle of rebirth. Maybe people who die with regrets have to come back. I don’t know, I have no opinion on that subject either and I’m open to be convinced either way. But that’s for another time; let’s not get too hyperbolic now!

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A Lesson in Detachment

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It’s been a while since I last wrote something and that made me think why…

There was a time I used to write more or less everyday, as a habit. But that’s because I always had something to write about. I’ve generally only blogged about existential matters, no stories or fiction or other specific subject matter. So why suddenly I don’t have much to write about. I wrote my last two blogs within a space of 3 days and now it’s been 3 weeks since I felt like writing, or had the time to do so.

I think I have reached a point where I am completely and truly living in the present. I don’t think about the past and I don’t worry about the future. I feel grateful to have what I have today and I don’t feel entitled to have it tomorrow. I don’t feel entitled to anything for that matter, and so each moment that I get to live is a blessing. In a lot ways I think of that as detachment.

I was talking to friends about detachment today and somehow during the conversation I realized that my writing is generally driven by attachments. My last two posts were driven by attachment too, because a friend was going away. But as much as I love him and would like to have him around, I am happy knowing that he is doing well for himself and is exactly where he needs to be. The post before that was driven by my attachment for my cats. And again, I am content with the knowledge that they are safe and well-loved, and I don’t have to be with them to love them. Detachment does not mean absence of love, it means being able to let go while continuing to love.

During our conversation, a friend said something that made being detached seem the same as being unattached. I don’t think that’s true. We don’t have to be unattached to be detached. In fact, I think true detachment can only come from being attached and acknowledging the fact that no matter how deep our attachment we do not own anything or anyone. Everything is transient and what’s here today may not be there tomorrow. To be able to invest in something without the desire of an outcome is true detachment to me. The detachment, then, is not from the object of attachment but from our expectations thereof.

Someone else asked me today, in a separate, unrelated conversation, that how am I always happy. Now, I wasn’t always this way. It’s been a long, grueling journey getting here. But the answer to that question is this same detachment I daresay. If I were to expect, I would either have things my way or not. The former would make me happy and the latter unhappy. But since I have no expectations, my happiness is not driven by external forces. The source of my happiness is within me. It’s a kind of contentment that is hard to put in words. It’s like whatever I get is already more than what I could have asked for because I don’t ask for anything to begin with. That’s not to say that I don’t have hopes and dreams, I do; but they are my fuel, not some sort of an arbitrary benchmark for success and consequent happiness. I am happy just working towards my goals irrespective of whether I achieve them or not. My happiness lies in each moment I get to live and continue this work. These moments may cease at anytime, no one knows when their time’s up. So my happiness lies in the here and now with no expectations of tomorrow.

To sum up, I write out of attachment, and the process of writing helps me regain my sense of detachment and the happiness that comes from it. In a way, the less I write means the happier I am… not sure if that’s a good thing but that’s how it seems to be!

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Pieces of My Heart

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Two days and I’m back here again… Something must be the matter!

Writing liberates me. I don’t write for money, or likes, or recognition. I think that if I did that my words would lose the soul they now have. I write to get in touch with myself. It’s just another way I meditate, but with my eyes open. Sometimes I meditate, in the traditional sense of the word, to ease a restless mind. But when the heart is brimming, it needs to be emptied. So I pour it out in words here, in my ironically private space.

So yes, my heart is brimming. It’s teeming with all sorts of emotions, but mostly with love and pain. The two generally go hand in hand anyway. I said two days ago that someone is taking away a piece of my heart with him. But in order to give someone a piece, you have to break your heart first, and it hurts when the heart breaks. So there’s love, and there’s pain. Now, I’m not talking about a breakup or any other romantic affliction. This someone is not a flame or a lover but just a soul that connected with mine and filled it with love.

Last few years of my life have been so rich with experiences. I have seen a lot of hurt and sadness, but even more love and joy. It amazes me just how many ways love has found its way into my life. I have met and loved the most unlikely people, in the most unlikely way; experienced love that is truly unconditional and transcends all kinds of stereotypes. Love that is so pure it doesn’t demand any words or proof, it can simply be felt. So I look forward to each new day with childlike wonder in my eyes because I know it might bring me something beautiful that I didn’t even know existed.

It’s not that life wasn’t rich before these last few years. But my heart was closed. I don’t think I allowed myself to love as freely and easily as I do now. What has, in fact, changed in the last few years is my attitude towards life. I have connected with my soul, and the soul only knows love. It feeds on love, and so it seeks love. I hold no judgements, have no expectations of others. I just want to connect with their soul, and if I find it then love just follows. In a way, my life is full of many a soul mate.

Somedays when I wake up, the first thing on my mind is death, like “one day I will not wake up at all”. It’s not a dark, depressing thought. Death is an inevitable truth so I don’t see it as a macabre subject. I see it as objectively as I see the sun rising and setting each day, it’s the law of nature. At least for now. But until my time is up, I want to keep finding love, in all the unexpected places, in all the unexpected people, in all the unexpected ways. I want to break my heart into a thousand little pieces and spread it all over. Because with each piece I give away, I collect love in return. And when I die, I don’t want a whole but empty heart, in its place I want a soul full of love. That way I’d know I lived a full life.

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The Red Thread

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I believe in the Chinese legend of the Red Thread…

According to the legend, two people who are destined to meet are tied together by an invisible red thread. No matter where they are, they are connected and when they meet they share a special bond. People often associate the legend with romantic lovers only but I think it goes beyond that. For there is more kinds of love than just the romantic one.

If there is more than one kind of love, then obviously there has to be more than one red thread wrapped around each of our fingers. If you think about it, we’re bound to so many people, so many special relationships that don’t fit any conventional moulds; there are people we met once upon a time, people we see each day, and people we are yet to meet. But irrespective of the length of time spent together, when we meet the person at the other end of the thread, the connection is instant, and special.

This post is dedicated to one such special friend, also the photographer of the picture here. So it all seems rather befitting. I’ve known him for just about two months now but it feels like I’ve known him forever. I fondly refer to him as my kid. Of course he’s not my kid, and though older, I’m not old enough to be his mother, but I love the kid as if he was my own. He’s going away soon, like kids do, and I know he’ll take a piece of my heart with him.

He is a self-proclaimed introvert so friendship wasn’t an obvious eventuality for us. But I think there is a red thread that holds us together and we were destined to share the bond we do. We talk little, but there’s comfort in our silences, and a sense of understanding that sometimes lacks even in friendships that go back years.

I’ve said enough goodbyes in my lifetime to know that once people move away they grow apart. People plan to stay in touch, meet regularly, but then reality strikes. Everyone gets caught up in their own lives, and days turn into months, months into years, and the people who meant a lot at one point only cross our minds occasionally, if at all. I know the same fate awaits us too but I’m just happy that we had the chance to meet. Should our paths ever cross again I know we’d be able to pick things up wherever we leave them now because we’re bound by the red thread, and it never breaks!

Update: with his due permission, the photographer is Ananay Agarwal (IG @ananay_agarwal)

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