There was our time, when we learnt about beauty, boys, sex and everything else worth knowing from our parents, our peers, our books and our social interactions. We became self-aware and aware of the curious world around us by experimentation, by taking risks, by putting ourselves out of our comfort zones and then learning to be comfortable with our discomfort. It was a slow, lazy, long process that added up to 12 years of childhood, 6 of adolescence and probably a few good years of early adulthood — our twenty-somethings spent in discoveries, failures, heart breaks, dealing with fears, apprehensions and learning to understand our minds and bodies.
We live in such a contrasting world today. There’s Google. And that about sums it up. There is no ‘age‘ to do anything, be anything, know anything or learn anything. No social triggers, no sense of curiosity and no unanswered questions. Just a perfect world of instant gratification. Pardon the cynical tone, but it scares me to fathom how our children will fare in the face of failure or rejection, of having to wait for their time, of gaining resilience through pain or strife, and of accepting an undesirable fate.
In stark contrast, the 80s child lived a life dominated by eagerness, curiosity, patience and an attitude of embracing ‘The Wait’. I remember how we would wait for a whole week to watch a particular song on television as only one show on Sunday morning played Bollywood numbers. Then with FM Radio, the wait was cut down to a few hours until the same number played again. With CDs, it was just a matter of finishing homework and listening to our favourite songs till mom said it was time for dinner. With smartphones and You Tube, we have done away with the sweet pain of ‘The Wait’ or the ‘longing’ — and, the satisfaction that comes after the longing ends. With this, we have taken away from the simple joys of life — now having to depend on more complicated, more demanding expectations of joy — always seeking it, never finding it.
The self-help section in the bookstore is doing some great business, as we sit here and try to map our road to happiness. Unknowingly, we have redefined the parameters that determine happiness. For instance, happiness is not just about having a healthy, happy baby but also about getting back in shape, breastfeeding and making a big deal out of it, getting back to work, being the perfect mom, being the envied multitasker, being the mom without any dark circles and the one who makes it all seem like the swish of a magic wand — bloody effortless. But it doesn’t end there — we are always craving more and more before we declare ourselves ‘happy‘. Is it of any surprise then, that our children feel the same pressure? The same hopeless quest for happiness and fulfillment? The same disconnect from nature, from being ‘present’ in a moment, from all things that money cannot buy, and from their own disconcerted souls? When did contentment become so hard to come by? And why did we start footnoting happiness with a ‘conditions apply’? And why oh why is it not okay to live the simple, calm, easy, lazy life?
I exemplify motherhood in this crazy obsession with happiness because I am guilty of it myself. In yearning for more of everything (time, personal space, money), I lost moments with my son that were never coming back. I had, by my own doing, victimized myself — and made others feel miserable for it. It’s not something I like to admit, but I must acknowledge the immense pressure I put on myself to fit into a certain frame, in a certain amount of time — always beating myself up for not being good enough. It may have been the sway of the waters, the social media influence, an inability to trust the beauty of time and my lack of judgement in taking the right decisions that led to this meltdown and thus, this never-ending happiness crisis.
Unintentionally, I had begun to believe that it is not okay to rest, heal, switch off or to wait till I found my bearings. Because waiting is wasting time. But, is it?
When I was pregnant, I read a fun book on French parenting (Bringing up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman) that I knew I was going to practice when my son would be born. And I did. My one critical takeaway from the book was this process of educating the baby, by helping him understand from an early age, that there is no such thing as instant gratification. This means that it’s okay to let him cry for a bit before he is picked up and cuddled or while he waits for his food to be served to him. I practice this principle with my son to this day, holding on to his favourite toys or food for just that extra half-minute, though it still doesn’t stop him from yelling his guts out. However, it took me a surprisingly long time to put the same principle into practice while I struggled with the (self-inflicted) pressures of being a first-time mom. It goes to show that being self-aware is not the same as believing in the theory of it. It’s a conscious choice we make every few seconds, with every new thought and every action that accompanies it.
If only, we as parents and as individuals can remember to take the time to heal, to forgive ourselves, to grow, to learn, to teach and to stop and smell the flowers, I think we can safely assume that our children will, once again, find happiness in the ‘little nothings’ of simple living. Despite the fast-paced, competitive, emulative world of social media, let us please please remember that waiting is NOT a bad thing. It’s the way of the world, and in its time, it will teach us a thing or two about life. Nothing wrong with that, eh?
Now, close your eyes for a few seconds and remember that one thing that you loved longing for. Something that filled your heart with joy when it finally happened?! Like waiting to see a loved one after a long separation? Or, finally seeing your dreams turn into reality? Or perhaps, waiting for a first kiss?
And then there is the ultimate kind of ‘The Wait’, the one where you don’t know what it is that you are waiting for, but you know for certain that something’s amiss. The beautiful thing about our cosmos is that, even though we cannot fully comprehend it’s love, it’s love fully comprehends us. It gives us what we need even when we aren’t looking for it. It’s trickery is wrapped in serendipity, and in endless, boundless grace. Remember, these aren’t accidents. These are your cues to undertake your journey of crossing the mountains and valleys, all the time knowing that as long as you are breathing, your moments are never in vain. The universe is watching over you, ticking off one wish at a time. Listen to the voices and the signs. Because very often I find myself looking up and saying ‘It was you all along, wasn’t it?’.
‘The Wait’ is like a poetry of magical emotions. It is delayed gratification. It is good for your soul — because ironically, it leads you on to the path of long-lasting, fulfilling happiness. Every beautiful thing will happen in its time, and adhering to this credo should be the mantra we live by. Because after all, waiting for the good things in life is the sweetest kind of longing. A longing that will eventually fill your soul with flowers and star dust, and all things magic.
Until next time, XOXO