The Science of Happiness!

That’s the MOOC that I’m doing. It’s interesting. I should have started it in December, but I got busy and didn’t prioritise it, perhaps because it’s FREE. It’s strange how our mind works when something is gratis versus when we have to pay a price for it (especially if it’s a steep price, our minds are on auto-pilot-rational, justifying how good it must be, or how we’re going to be these super amazing, cool human beings from now on, now that we’ve spent an arm and a leg getting that something that we don’t really need or could have done with similar stuff without paying an arm or a leg.

Like gymming: I just can’t be as disciplined about my exercise regime when I’m on my own versus going to a gym where I pay thousands just for that momentary “feel good”. That I’ve managed to go for 2 months, yay! and see, see, I’ve toned, I’ve lost 4kgs or see how slim my thighs (those damned thighs again!) and slowly by the time it’s the 3rd or 4th month, the ennui seeps in surreptitiously and then by the 5th, it’s like awww, chuck it, I’m okay…(and pop goes that brownie and the ice cream and you look the other way, train your mind to look the other way while your heart says, Good for you, attagirl!).

Like learning a new hobby online: yup, I can learn the guitar online or even to draw online, but the idea of learning from a flesh and blood teacher and paying them a certain fee for their effort and skill and commitment hopefully rubs off on me too and so I go at least once a week to learn to strum a few strings.

Anyway, to get back to Happiness and the Science behind it, well, will share more when I have something to share. Right now, all I can say is: happiness is a warm, fuzzy, ecstatic, unmeasurable, gooey, excited, smiling-from-ear-to-ear, loving feeling that is really difficult to measure and figure. But the professors at UC Berkeley are conducting this course that is all about positive psychology that will hopefully unravel and teach us the principles and practices of living a happy and meaningful life.

Learn more about the Course here.

So two very unrelated things here – how when we actually pay money for something, we feel compelled perhaps to do it better, be more disciplined or perhaps it’s just guilt. And how happiness can be a science and maybe we can take lessons in it. And apply those lessons to life. And maybe next time, even if we pay an arm and a leg for something that we feel will give us happiness and it doesn’t, we can then settle for something simpler, like walking or jogging or swimming or cycling that enhances our well being and doesn’t cost a whole friggin’ lot. What say?

Have a cool week ahead! Stay happy!

The Angst of Guilt!

Have you ever felt that sudden perplexing yet completely fathomable emotion sweeping you heartwards, going down to your stomach and traveling to your ears that go warm and then feeling your throat constrict? That sudden clenching of the jaw, the clenching of the palm and this sudden urge to lash out? Yup, been there done that right?

Before you nod your head or shrug your shoulders like, “so who doesn’t feel anger?” pause. Anger has many hues. The colour of anger born out of injustice is different from that when you’re frustrated, or when you’re trying to prove a point to someone stubborn, or when you feel jealous or from someone’s apathetic attitude. But when someone nonchalantly makes you feel like you’re wrong, and dips into the bowl of guilt hiding just under your skin, you yearn to scream. Every time.

So tell me: has it ever happened that you’ve answered emails promptly every time and then that someone who usually never bothers to respond let alone on time looks for an opportune moment and asks when you, on that odd occasion haven’t responded, about why you haven’t responded?? How do you feel? Guilty, angry, both? It gets my goat.

What about those times: when you’ve always made it a point to call people and wish them well before they embarked on a new journey in their life – an engagement, a baby, a new job, a new house, – and they never ever bother to actually keep you informed in the first place, because you’ve always heard it from someone else?

Or wait a minute: or that very thoughtful post that you posted on FB that got perhaps 10 Likes and 5 comments, versus someone who only posts pictures of some banal stuff in their lives and it gets about 110 Likes and 78 comments? How does that make you feel?

Or or or: you wonder how not to wear your heart on your sleeve and show your dislike and disgust towards really Ugh! people and their attitudes, who are just plain unlikable, and then you see other known people doing a marvellous job of sidling up to them and pretending that they’re the best people in the world? You do start to question your own attitude don’t you? Like, is there something I’m missing here? Somebody? Anybody? Please, tell me?

And hey remember that time: when you’re supposed to be invited to a very important but intimate family occasion, but all you get is a hand-me-down invitation from associated family members? And the ultimate groundswell of humiliation swallows you up when you learn that this very family actually deigned to bill and coo an invitation out to some other associated family members but couldn’t pick up the phone and call you? Wow! Talk about being shown your place! Or like some people I know would say, “really? oh don’t feel so bad, she/he’s like that only”. Yeah, right!

Yup, so these things happen in our lives as we live day-to-day. You may think why make such a brouhaha about it. But I can bet you that you’ve felt miserable about similar happenings in your life and have felt a minor (or major) twinge and let it pass. Because you’ve shaken your head and thought, “Ah, it’s okay. Why make such a big thing about it?” You’ve sometimes writhed in humiliation, hurt, pain, disappointment and that ugly little five-letter word called GUILT has bared its fangs and dug deep into your heart. Sheesh!

It can make you toss and turn as you wonder if it’s only you who feels hurt. You justify other people’s miserable behaviour, and even more jaw droppingly,how no one ever says a word. Hush is the sound that emanates from these hallowed hearts. And a smile that doesn’t reach their eyes, but hey, when the world gets by on theatre, what’s a little pretence eh? While Guilt continues to pierce deeper and deeper into your weak little poor heart.

“Is it me? Why don’t others say something? Am I just a funny person with a hyper sensitive psyche? Or maybe that really horrible person is not so horrible after all and everything I feel is a chimera? Maybe, maybe it’s time to look at my hurt and disappointment and anger in a different way? no no, wait, actually I’ve got to forgive myself and free myself from this chain of thoughts that keeps me imprisoned in my mind. Yeah right, everyone is good, everyone is pristine, you must really understand how they operate, maybe they didn’t really mean something even though their behaviour was obnoxious, because perhaps the rancid smell of stale relationships comes from your mind not theirs. As if you don’t put your nose up in the air and give people the cold shoulder. Why does it bother you so much? Oh look, they’re best buddies and how amaaaaazing they are no? How thoughtful, cheerful, fine specimens of humanity.” (And all you want to do is shout out loud, A-Hole! Bitch!)

On and on and on the carousel of the mind keeps turning, with angst and guilt following each other. While you twist and turn and gripe about it, these “people” who so expertly make you feel at once, guilty and angry go about their lives so surely, amassing adulation and confidence, empathy, sympathy, even admiration. Yuck!!!

“Hey, so can I treat you out to lunch because I’m a really nice person and genuinely think for and of other people and their sensitivities, and you, yes I know you never bother, you’re blinkered and you only call, talk, share when it’s convenient, or not at all, but yet, I’m asking you, would you like to go out for lunch today?” (Can I hear someone piping up and saying, how come you asked him and not me? And the spiral of angst ridden guilt or is it guilt ridden angst starts the slow churn.God, I need a break!)

From now on, I’m going to try and see if I can lead my life giving other people ulcers. Must be nice methinks to be a little callous, a little selfish, a little self-centred, a little blase, a little snooty and have people falling all over you no because you’re so “cool”? Because somehow the world wants you to believe that it’s all about being lovable and gracious and compassionate and sensitive and loving and forgiving. But sometimes, just sometimes you want to say, Bullshit! because these people are serenaded by the world, while you and I and the rest can end up licking our wounds in the hollow of our pillows, with our silent queries, ‘what did I do wrong?’ Go figure!


Not tried and tested are we?

NH 10. Name of the movie that I saw yesterday. It’s gripping. It’s violent. It’s got a good screenplay. It’s got great cinematography. It’s chilling. Period.

It’s a story of a young couple going out on a weekend. They get ensnared and trapped into a quagmire of their own making. It’s now a road to hell. And there’s no looking back. I leave the rest for you to see and find out. See it you must. You may hate it. I didn’t. I liked it, but yes, the violence is brutal and unrelenting. It reveals how underneath all the veneer and Dolce & Gabbana (Sir Elton John has called for a #BoycottDolceGabbana, read that story here) we’re wild, uncouth and vengeful with hate simmering just on the inside, waiting to come to boil.

After seeing the movie, I had a few questions of my own to which I knew I didn’t have satisfactory answers only hypocritical excuses. I’m an armchair critic and I always crib about how life’s unfair, dirty, chaotic, how “those” people from the villages are morons, idiots who just make our lives in the city so unbearable yadda yadda yadda. Everything in life’s ok, even the dissing, as long as I don’t have to:
a) sip tea from the same tea cup as my housemaid
b) share the toilet with the housemaid and am uncomfortable if she does use it
c) share the elevator and breathe the same air as her or the plumber or the electrician or the guy who actually clears the garbage, mine
d) be faced with uncomfortable truths about the pittance we pay our housekeeping staff
e) shake hands with a garbage collector, manual sanitary scavenger (yes in India it was practiced until 2 years ago after which it has been supposedly banned)
f) greet and be pleasant to the person at the other end of the retail counter/ cash counter/ baggage counter
g) give my new sedan/ SUV/ salon (what we normal people call “car ) to the relative to drive
h) share my clothes, cosmetics, jewellery, shoes, bags, perfumes, combs, clips, nail art, with anyone other than myself
i) pretend to like the housemaid’s kids and their wonderful achievements in school (making me feel like the prick that I am)
j) lend money to a friend/ relative/ acquaintance in the fear that it won’t quite come back
k) fight for my life or my loved one’s life in a situation that just swirls rapidly out of control
l) face men who think women are commodities or worse – they’re there for sexual gratification, and being subservient to their whims and fancies
m) look beyond the foggy curtain of my car window to the old, infirm and disabled looking at me with soul-full eyes, begging for another chance in life
n) worry about where my food is coming from or where it’s going as long as I can order caviar, lobster, meat, milk, broccoli, shitake mushrooms, maybe even truffles and talk about it at my next kitty
o) confront the misogynistic and misplaced patriarchy of feudal ganglords and have my head bashed in if I deliver a female child, get married to a man I love, get educated, answer back at the atrocities committed on my body, my mind, my soul – so what if I live in a gilded cage where my Armani suited husband/father/brother/ boyfriend/uncle/ burn the ends of their expensive Marlboro Classic into my delicately perfumed skin every night as long as I submit to their ugly oleaginous fantasies
p) worry about my car breaking down in the middle of a deserted road and begging for those same “villagers” (morons, idiots, uncouth rascals) to help me “pleeeeease”
q) spend money on treating my maid of HIV while I may be suffering from gonorrohoea and yet pretend that I’m fine and everything is right with the world
r) cancel my expensive vacations and scowl at the maid not being able to come on her festival days when she’d like to spend it with her daughter/s
s) wash and wear my dirty linen in public and have enough needy and impoverished hands to drop the linen into (and feel very pleased in the bargain of giving back to society)
t) be woken up in the middle of the night when the harried woman comes knocking on my door asking to be helped and sheltered
u) be questioned about my own dependability and trustworthiness but feel it’s my birthright to whip around in a flash and gnash and gnarl when the guy at the cashier’s counter takes an extra minute or genuinely forgets the change
v) worry about cleaning my own toilet
w) sleep under the night sky with my skin a blanket for my tired and cold bones, looking up at the distant stars and wondering why don’t they shine on me
x) feed a hungry baby, scavenge for food, get my French manicured nails dirty and worry about survival in the jungle of the rich, for the rich, by the rick
y) answer the call of duty and be faced with moral questions of honour, self, country
z) behave humanly and wave my hand at the unseen quiet, suffering masses and say, Marie Antoinette style, “waiter, get me some walnut brownie fudge will ya?”

Yes. I am plagued by disturbing questions. Of me vs. “them”. The “other” that we so conveniently forget. “They” who’re so essential for the smooth running of our lives and yet so inconvenient to think about.

All because of one starkly brutal, realistic and modern film that asks not just the above, but much more of each of us. If we allow ourselves to be asked that is. If we don’t have to be tested against the badlands in our Levi’s and Converse shoes, with our imperiled lives in “their” hands, begging for mercy, yet hating them with all our hearts. “Them”.

So when push comes to shove, will you kill for your husband or just walk away? Will you deny the truth and live a convenient lie or allow the truth to consume you because it could save someone’s life? Would you keep your house on collateral for a friend in distress or would you shoo the friend away diplomatically? Would you give your kidney, rent your womb, get maimed, rob, murder, jump for someone you cared for?

I don’t know. All I know is I wouldn’t know until I’m tried and tested. After all, our strength is evidenced only when our backs are against the wall. A wall made up of our own dreamy world where there really is no room for the “other”. They’re the left-overs. Right?

The Shame Of Being You. F#@$!

I journal as regularly as I can. I haven’t got down to my goal of journaling everyday. I’m upset at myself because of that. F#@$! It’s one of those bugbears which I’ve tried asking to some ‘experts’ about and never got any answers that I could really sink my teeth into.

Similarly I try exercising everyday. But I haven’t got down to it. It’s on my to-do list, and there it remains, winking at me wickedly, taunting me and sometimes bearing down upon me. F#@$!

When my professional colleagues are laid-back and chilled, and I’m running around like a headless chicken because I’m a Type A personality or what have you, I know I’m a sucker for ‘wanting to be accepted’ sob narratives in my head. F@#$!

The family gets together and everyone wants to have a good time. But some like me are running around chauffeuring people around, being worried, being the ‘go-to-gal’ for mostly anything that needs to get done. I feel like cursing the living daylights for this personality that I’m born with. I curse my karma, my stars, the sun, the moon, and everything, including myself. Why can’t I be the one who can sit back and relax just like some others who pretend to work, and guess what, get all the kudos and appreciation to boot from en famille. And poor old me? Yup, I remain poor and old and me. F@#$!

Men in my life have usually ordered me around. They’ve had their egos float on Cloud 9 and if most of these men have however fleetingly felt like an Emperor, it’s thanks to me. Jeez! I have always been a victim of the ‘what if’ syndrome and so have always cowed down, bowed down and bent down to listen to them. After all ‘what if’ they leave (which they eventually do), ‘what if’ they like someone else (that too), ‘what if’ they wander away from the altar (I can almost count myself to be the Runaway Bride in reverse where the bridegroom just ups it and leaves) and yeah, ‘what if’ I never “settle down” (in plain layman terms it means find a nice man, marry, get round, have kids, fight, get tormented, and play by the rules or you’ll be left behind, so what if it’s a shitty marriage, but at least it gives you status and so on)? So all the ‘what ifs’ have come true. F@#$!

There’s an underlying theme to this whole behavioural pattern. As you step into the journey of adolescence, teenager, crusty adulthood, your beliefs of who you are get firmer, not necessarily truer. And we’re happy about status quo. Who wants to dig deep and unearth the truth right? Truth someone said is bitter, ugh! We’d rather indulge our sweet tooth and get fat and Type A diabetes right than hear the bitter truth. Sadly we get so consumed by our narratives of who we are we never turn explorer and Xena-fearless to just do a reality check and turn our narratives on their heads. And make way for other more real, closer to the truth stories that could be the gateway of more fulfilled lives.

Which is why:
a) we’re needy
b) we’re weak with longing to be accepted
c) we’re stiff with fear of being rejected
d) we’re uncertain of our own strength
e) we’re aching to belong
f) we’re thirsty for acknowledgement of our own beautiful self from a world that doesn’t give a F@#$!
g) we’re dying to be heard

We’re crying out to the world, “see me for who I am” but the truth is we don’t see ourselves. We’re afraid. Of being naked to ourselves. We’re ashamed.F@#$!

Conditioned to believe that if we’re not perfect with 10 fingers (for women they need to be long and tapering and smooth with pearly long nails for that perfect feline quality meeow!), 10 toes, narrow waists, child-bearing hips, shapely legs, tiny feet, great breasts, the gap within the thighs, the tinkling laughter, the mane that no shampoo ad can rival, the skin like alabaster without a mole or freckles, acne marks or wrinkles, then we’re losers. And for the men am sure it’s a similar story. Poor men, even more insecure than women and can’t even admit to it. Only show machismo because that’s supposed to be how they are, vulnerability can go fly a kite! F@#$!

The conditioned self. The true self. The ‘narrative’ self. Somehow we find it so easy to float on a bed of lies, shame, guilt and fear that we really forget who we are. F@#$!

What the hell do we do now? How do we step back from the abyss of dismay, disgust and delusion? How do we reclaim our true selves? I don’t know. F@#$!