Cruise Control And The New ‘Joy’stick

I live a charmed life.

I stumbled onto something I loved doing and that, coincidentally I was also good at. It happened late enough that I had had enough time to pick up an education and a world view so I wouldn’t grow up into a unidimensional adult. And it happened early enough that I hadn’t grown weary of mediocrity. I don’t have any real loans or bonds. I also don’t have a boyfriend or a house or a car. But all things considered, it seems to be a worthwhile trade-off.

Charmed indeed. Yet, most days I forget. I find myself tired, unhappy, unwell and sad. When I trace it back, I realise it’s because of bad eating and sleeping habits and a lack of exercise. There are external annoyances of course – an unprovoked personal attack (really now, I ask myself, you’re a digital citizen AND a woman, haven’t you gotten used to the idea that that is par for the course?) here, an unseasonal weather change there, Mumbai’s persistent pollution and traffic. But still, still, still, my ability to handle these is directly proportional to how well I manage my own well-being (food, sleep, exercise – the magic mantra).

I’ve figured out life comes down to these basics. It really isn’t about wonderful achievements, proven brilliance or unimaginable wealth. Happiness comes down to the ability to deal with daily realities of life, whatever those may be for you. And millions of human beings everywhere in every part of the world find their own unique ways to do it. It certainly can’t have to do with things more complex than food, sleep and exercise. These are what every human being has in common.

Yet, I don’t keep these on top priority and I frequently slip up. Why? I think we get used to being less than happy. We sabotage that feeling with excuses like ‘I forgot’ or ‘I got bored’.  I think I am starting to understand what the wise ones meant when they said it’s simple to be happy but it is very difficult to be simple. “I don’t know” is not a valid excuse anymore. The 20s were about experiences hitting like hailstorms, not being able to make sense, trying to get under cover and recover from the bruises of each. Post 30, I find I know myself, my body, my moods and my attitude a little better. Now to put that knowledge to good use – that is the challenge of the 30s.

By this time, one knows what one must do and how to approach it. New experiences bring up apprehension but even that is not unfamiliar. I know how to turn that into the drive for perfection. Unforseen setbacks, those are harder, but not completely new. The personal attacks, I’ve learnt to rationalise as other people’s insecurity and backhanded compliments. I’m learning compassion – this is new. And mostly it draws from the magic mantra of keeping myself clean from within – physically by not polluting my body with harmful substances but also mentally by not retaining anger, jealousy, grief or other harmful emotions.

I discover something new in the driving seat of my life – call it a ‘joy’stick . It’s so new I forget it’s there half the time. Then I discover it and grip it hard taking myself into excessive light-headedness. Then I pull back and let it drift. I’m learning a new control but I’m not a new driver. Happiness happens somewhere between delirium and stagnation. I’m not smooth but I’m learning.

I start to tie off this thought. When I end this post, I will shut down my computer. Outside the window, I can see it has begun raining. I won’t dip into sullenness, thinking of the muddy roads. I also won’t let myself whine about working on a Monday instead of going to the beach. I’ll pull on the brand new Crocs I picked up last week and ready myself for my next meeting – an exciting project with people I like and respect. And then, as I step out, I’ll remind myself to be happy. That’s my only real task for the day. Everything else is on cruise control.

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