Questions. Questions arise in the mind. Often my reaction is to reach out, to speak to a like-minded friend. To discuss, to brainstorm, as one would say.
But some questions have no conclusive answer. They do not appear to be enquiring into facts, and yet they seem to be more significant than all facts put together. The ‘One Fact’ underpinning every other, the single insight knowing which would squelch every other question. A perfect paradox, questions to which there are no answers, and yet an instinctive certainty hinting that unto this unfathomable conundrum is the secret wherein mystery seamlessly unravels.
At the ripe age of fifty-five, I’ve done more than my share of seeking. Searching. Spiritual, philosophical, psychological. I’ve questioned why I never felt content enough, why the wrong things seemed to happen to me, why I wasn’t happy when I should have been, why I continued making erroneous choices. Mistakes. And so on.
Until I reached a turning point. I now questioned the how. How could I get what I wanted? How could I know what I wanted? How could I know what was right for me to want?
And so the wheels kept turning. Wrong and right. Why? Then, how?
When I was a young girl, I thought that I’d have it all figured out by the mature age of thirty. My complicated life would be neatly compartmentalized. I’d have left behind my messy past, moved beyond assigning blame upon my parents for the emotional complexities that regularly made me my own worst enemy, and wrapped up the goals of family, fame, and fortune with my ingenuous skillset. Actually, fortune was never really my thing, but family and fame haunted me.
By the time I was thirty-five, I had successfully failed at family. Two divorces, two children, and a single parent later, my adventures had gained me more the title of being infamous. Perhaps even notorious. I’d turned my world inside out, upside down, over and under, hurt upon hurt and pain upon pain. I’d turned into a tortured soul.
Like a person insane, I hunted for my square inch of solace. But peace eluded me. The wounds and cuts just got deeper. Infected, they bled. Awake or asleep, I scratched and gnawed until the scars became raw and jagged. Often I wished that, like a gangrened limb, I could saw away from my poisoned heart: then only could I be empty, free of anguish.
And so on. Wandering along, I faced the bottomless abyss. I don’t know if it was my journeying or whether the destination came towards me, but there I was encountering none other than the Great Doubt. Teachers without and the Guru within held me still. It was the first time in decades that I stopped running. Running away, running to, running from. In that space of steadiness, I found my feet. Stumbling, falling, standing. In that standing, the questions slowly faded. The answers came, but they were wordless. Every time I tried to articulate my understanding, it seemed like a feeble attempt to name the nameless.
And so on, I continued. Years rolled by. The why and how of bigger questions were erased; other smaller ones raised their heads. How to be a good parent? How to be an unfailing partner? How to be an ever-dependable friend?
As my hair grayed and skin wrinkled, new roles ceaselessly came upon me. From being a mother, I became a mother-in-law. From being a friend, I became a mentor. And from being a daughter, I found that this role too had been reversed. I was now the caretaker of my eighty-six-year-old mother.
The learning never stops, does it? You never really know what the right thing to do is. Often doing the wrong reveals the right. Being flawed reveals the good. The role of a student, unbeknownst to me, seems to be the one constant.
There I’d been a forty-something, thinking that the uphill task of study and knowledge, experience and experimenting, questioning the big things of Being had all distilled into a comforting glass of clear, lukewarm water – pure, satiating, complete. But little had I realized that these smaller questions of life are the true challenges of existence here on earth. God, Consciousness, Nirvana, Paradise; it was all here and now.
How do I tell my child that I think she might do well to slow down? How do I tell my friend that I can no longer lend her any money? How do I tell myself that I must let go of my unhelpful attachments? These, and a million other ordinary – at times, mundane, simple, ‘small’ – questions of life are the ones that no spiritual, philosophical, or psychological teaching answers conclusively. We must each learn our own way. Find our own answers. Grow into new roles. Leave behind others long outgrown. And continue to be human, vulnerable and willing, and wanting to learn. To observe, to listen, to try, and to fail. And, sometimes, to succeed.
Questions. Questions arise in the mind. Often I reach out. Often I reach within. Big, small, right, wrong, why, how. And so on.
This series of blogs has been reviewed by Drishya Warrier, Aditi Iyer, and Pratishtha Bagai, of Symbiosis Centre of media and Mass Communication, Pune. We are students that have completed our first year. Through this NGO Internship Project at MHAT, we explored the field of mental health while pursuing our interest in creative writing.