We live in a society that accepts toxicity cause’ hey we practice it ourselves. We have made this planet into a toxic place. We eat toxic food. We study toxic materials. We learn toxic beliefs. We follow toxic methods. We preach and practice toxic lifestyles. Then we complain.
From the beginning of this year I have been more withdrawn and silent than my usual self. And it has gone across differently to many people. I thought there was a problem with me. But then I realized it is not a problem unless I want it to be a problem. I was simply changing because I asked to be better. I wanted to be better. I did not want my health issues to continue defining me. I did not want my health to get in the way of all the dreams I wanted to come true. I did not want to see myself having to choose between life and death, between exhaustion and dreaming. So I had to make a choice. It has been difficult since then. My interactions with people have changed. Some connections have broken and some completely disappeared. But that is life. It constantly requires change in order for any other change to happen.
I saw how I was already in a toxic environment. The work I do is toxic in itself because of the kind of issues one has to deal with which is further depressing. I could not allow that. If I was smart I needed to use this so called smartness and understand what I needed to cut off, where I needed to cut off and how much I needed to cut off. So I did some reading on economics. Yes I actually did just so I could implement the concept of demand and supply from a philosophical perspective. It concluded with a reminder to what my boss once said to me and I purchased a book that I never read though the title was good enough to make me still reflect upon it so often. It was ‘The Virtue of Selfishness’ by Ayn Rand.
It was very recent (less than 2 weeks) that I met someone who wrote about me in an article. He described me as a 33 year old woman who looks 15 and who comes from a different galaxy. No doubt that is exactly what I am and how I come across to many people. Sometimes those younger to me feel a bit strange that they even find it in them to feel protective over me cause’ I can be such a child. Then the irony arises when they also speak to me and hear what I say and believe it. It is such a catch 22 relationship where I see myself as being someone they listen to or look up to, then again we end up fighting over who is being rude or why I have not given them attention as before. Then they retreat and withdraw before showing up again. One said that I somehow evoke a maternal side in them to which I burst out in laughter saying ‘If only Freud was alive, he would certainly LOVE to psychoanalyze me and figure out what complex I have or he might have to come up with a new one all together’.
Lately I have been gathering ‘fathers’ too. So looks like the child in me is evoking both maternal and paternal instincts. Quite an interesting resume I would make if I got paid for this. But that is not why I am writing this.
During a particular interview recently, something crept up my sleeve quite naturally as the experience was fresh. The interviewer was asking me several personal questions and I narrated many of them. One in particular focused upon the recovery of someone with schizophrenia who is under 25 years of age. It is important for me to point out the age factor here because the rest of this post is to raise the depth of what we call the generation gap and clashes involved in this said gap.
If you ask me a generation gap is not about the age at all for I find myself not being able to understand what other women my age do or think and I simply can’t relate to them. I think generation gap is more of our attitude towards life, things that constantly influence us, people who are perpetually in our close proximity of existence, those directly or indirectly make an imprint in our subconscious mind. Even my cat and the ‘couple of hours’ spider pets I have influence me! To me this ‘gap’ is one of existential in nature.
I often use the phrase ‘People come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime’. And there is more to this sentence than meets our amygdala. It does not apply a single day but every other minute. We are all made of energies. We attract what we want but we cannot forget that in wanting what we want we attract many other things we might not want and this can confuse us to the point we forget what we wanted in the first place as the various temptations that have entered this ‘attraction field’ has clouded our minds with a lot of things we otherwise would say ‘no’ or ‘yes’ to.
So let me go back to the narrative and what I found myself looking at. The fundamental issue I found staring right back at me even though I was the one telling the story was the issue of what troubles the youth of today. (Not that I want to sound as a martyr – I have no plans on being Mother Teresa as I am more than just deluded to say I am an alien and rather be a satyr from the Greek mythology.)
I observed that these age group (whatever we call the youth) are challenged in a huge number of ways that they themselves forget to recognize their inner selves (no wonder so many of us are going bonkers in the head).
A simple example is that of recovery from schizophrenia which was quite similar to mine. My recovery was criticized from all sides of the coin. Some remarked ‘She evidently had a good psychiatrist’. ‘She has such supportive parents’. ‘They obviously have money to buy her art materials.’ So on and so forth. At first I felt that this is just part of any documentary or story that would receive criticism. It is something inevitable. But then I began noticing it was not. People like me are constantly shunned even after recovery. How dare they even pass such remarks? I went to the point of addressing this and told someone ‘Why are you making me feel bad for having reached my recovery? Why do you even have to pass such comments of how lucky I am?’ Do you even remotely have any idea of what really goes on in my head and what has transpired in my life? Why judge me based on something that you saw was about 39 minutes? What gives you the right to deduce that you know my entire life history without it being disclosed?’
I realized it was not about me. It was about the other person. It was about their insecurity. What they lacked and what they continue lacking. I was nothing but a threat instead of hope for others alike. And no doubt man is driven by jealousy. If it is something he cannot get or something he lost and he saw others receiving it he becomes like the fox who could not jump high enough to get the grape so he called it ‘sour’ and left.
I noticed that such remarks were being made to others who were on their road of recovery too. And this was unfair and is very unfair. When I say recovery I don’t just speak of those of us with schizophrenia or any other mental illness per se but I also speak of others who are experiencing a certain type of a breakdown within themselves which makes them undergo another set of self-doubt. And these self-doubts are placed upon us by others and sometimes by our own minds. We are led to believe in certain things and that that is the only way to receive certain things.
We assume that the only way to nirvana or to gain or achieve something or to be saved is to undergo pain. We make it a necessary requirement that that is the only way. That pain and suffering is a must towards any success (Yes ‘no pain no gain’ works under certain circumstances like at gym but not for all situations). We begin constructing our thoughts and building on them faster than the speed of light.
We are in an era where we look at clips from TED or INK talks or read books and true encounters where we wish we were there. We wish we were that person. It is so inspiring and courageous to have done what they did and continue doing what they are doing. And we reflect as to how much the person has experienced and equate the experience of pain and suffering to how capable we are or of being who we are supposed to be. That is honestly quite true but then again stupid.
No doubt there are people who are different who have done great things and achieved great heights ‘inspite’ of their disabilities or hurdles. No doubt there are geniuses who are weird or strange but have decoded many scientific theories. No doubt there are great masters of art and music who have been completely crazy. But is this what we are driven by? That we can only be great IF we have some failings?
WHY can’t we be great without any failings?
Why can’t we do the most incredible things on earth and be recognized for it without there having to be a sob story or a grave experience to make it sound ‘incredible’.
I would like to be recognized as an artist because I am good as an artist and my art is simply incredible. I do not wish to be recognized for being the artist who is great BECAUSE I have schizophrenia. It makes a good marketing strategy but when I began recognizing the artist in me, I noticed that I was no commercial artist. I was painting for myself not for anyone else. So if someone said I had too much black or too much white or my paintings are too gory or too depressing, I had to tell them to ‘fuck off’ in my head because I was not painting for them. I was painting simply for myself. I had to recognize this in me. I had to recognize what type of an artist I am. I might be using art and it might come from the part of me which is ‘schizophrenic’ but that is not how it truly is. I might go by as ‘the schizophrenic artist’ or ‘the crazy artist’ but that does not make my work great. I surely would want my work to be great because it just is and not for any other reason. If it isn’t that I have to deal with that rejection and find what I am good at.
Luck and being good exist together not separately. So either you are good at what you do and hence you get lucky and you are lucky because you are simply good at it. And this is irrespective of whether one has schizophrenia, a particular disability, an addiction, or a trauma it does not matter. You are who you are and no label or experience needs to be the defining factor in how good you are – only you can decide that and make it happen.
In other words, you don’t have to be Cinderella to find your Prince. You can be living a good life, having your comfort and luxury and still meet your prince. You can have what you want, all the joys and love and still write great poetry. It does not have to be sad or dark. It will be great as long as you are who are you because that is the most difficult thing we have to do. Just being you is difficult in itself and if you can do that you automatically start being great in just being you and that is something no one can take away or copy or destroy.
I see many tripping over old school philosophy where our fathers would have used very often. It’s a well known universal statement ‘I have reached where I am through my own hard work and own two feet. No one helped me. No one stood by me.’
It is true for some because they certainly did not have the support. But MUST IT BE THE UNIVERSAL TRUTH?
Is this the only way for anyone to be great?
Must we all fall just to reach success?
Then we haven’t learnt anything from the great masters. There obviously is a reason Jesus became Christ or Buddha decided to learn about pain and suffering – because they wanted it to be easier for us to live and understand life. It does not mean we need to strip our garments and put on robes and bear pain that is not ours. These men came in our lives and history for a reason too. Prophecy speaks of their reincarnation et cetera but they also said ‘God is in us’ ‘Each of us have a Buddha nature’.
In fact they made it easier for us to get to the next step but we don’t see it. We get driven by this old school philosophy because we need to proof ourselves. But what for and for who? Why waste your time on this earth repeating things that have already been repeated when you can have it easier to get to the next step. It is ok to write amazing poems and not have any traumatic inspiration behind it. It is ok to paint the most beautiful picture and not have any grave perspiration that led to it. It is ok to enjoy your drink and watch the sunset at the most expensive place on earth and come up with the most brilliant idea. Why stop yourself from enjoying what you have and what has been given to you in this life just because the world around you has a different story? Your experience is your experience alone. It would be stupid to not see the opportunities present with you and not think of it as a gift in hand already. It would be stupid to throw that gift and look elsewhere for pain and think that that’s your only way to gain a real gift.
You might already have that gift. You might have come into this world for a reason and with support already available and you need to recognize this – not falter and fall because – that is cliché. You will have your own pain and troubles but you need to go beyond that. With every step further there is more pain because it will continue to test your strength (yea you still got your pain there). So you will still fall but you won’t fall a minus thousand steps because you already climbed it. You will fall a single step or two then you need to get up and take the next 100 more.
And the further you climb you will fall but not back to where you started. You will fall so that you can take some time off, see the horizon from a distance to remind yourself of what it looks like and where you are headed. Then when you have that picture ingrained, you regain your momentum and begin climbing once again. Because the closer you are to your horizon you won’t be able to see it as you did from a distance because you will be in it by then. You will be experiencing it.
The only reason left for you to not want the gift in your hand which you came into this world is then pretty clear. It means that you are not ready for the next flight and hence you are the only one delaying yourself from getting there. Why make it difficult when society is there to make your journey difficult in the first place?
I don’t know how many of the younger generation experience this. I don’t know how many in the other generation promote this. I don’t know and I don’t need to know. All I know is the few I interact with who shuffle between these different levels of expectations and confusions. And a simple statistical probability draws a bigger picture in my head to how many out there might be experiencing the same irrelevant of what generation they belong to.
Then again is this where we are headed? Where the future’ of tomorrow are caught in a lot of history and philosophy, in culture and tradition, in experience and knowledge, in spirituality and pseudo-realities?
How are we traversing these paths?
– Written in conversation with a couple of voices in my head, that of real and unreal and most importantly the necessity of my own voice resonating with me