Spectator by Seema Goswami: The bell tolls for thee…
Even though I never knew Wendell Rodricks particularly well – I only ever met him on a couple of occasions – I was still shattered to hear of his passing. For one thing he was only 59, an absurdly young age to die. And then there was the fact that news of his demise came out of the blue, administering a shock to all those who knew him – or even just knew of him. But more than that, his death also came as a reminder of the fragility of human life. We may be alive and well, feverishly planning our future one minute; and gone to the great beyond the next, with all our plans left undone.
The truth that we rarely have the courage to face up to is that our lives may end at any moment. There is no guarantee of getting up in the morning when we go to sleep at night. But even though from time to time we all employ the cliché of ‘living as if every moment would be our last’ we don’t always practice what we preach.
But Wendell’s passing got me thinking. If I knew that I had only a finite amount of time left on earth, what would I do with it? Well, here’s what I came up with:
Forgive and forget: All of us carry around grievances – justified or not – against some people in our lives. And very few of us can see a way to get beyond them. So, the bitterness festers and destroys relationships. Anger seeps deep within us and becomes our default emotion. And soon we are so locked into our positions that we can’t break out of them. Well, I’m going to let these intimations of mortality push me into making an effort to break those patterns and find a way to get past my anger and resentment. I’m going to try and forgive those who have sinned against me; and ask for forgiveness from those I have sinned against. Forgetting is a bit harder than forgiving, but I am going to make that effort nonetheless.
Open lines of communication: With the pace of modern life overwhelming us all, we have lost the fine art of conversation. Rarely if ever do we chat about the things that matter with the people we love and cherish. We would much rather WhatsApp than have a phone conversation. We eat our dinner in front of the television watching a Netflix show rather than at the table where we can speak to each other. And even when we do talk, it is about mundane things like what to make for lunch or who will pay the electricity bill instead of meaningful things that could bring us closer to one another. That’s one thing I am determined to change. Communication is the key to healthy relationships – and to a happier life. And those two goals are going to be my primary motivation now.
Tell the people you love that you love them: Whenever there is an outpouring of love for a recently-deceased person on social media, I can’t help but wonder how many of those paying tribute ever said all these lovely things to the person when he or she was alive. My guess is that very few – if any – did. So, my resolution from now on is to tell the people I love – family, friends, colleagues – that I love them when they are still around to appreciate the sentiment. And I am going to do that not just by words (though a well-timed “I love you”never goes unappreciated) but by deed as well. That means making time for them, taking an interest in their lives, even buying them the odd, unexpected gift – anything that shows that they matter to me.
Start a gratitude journal: Yes, I know, it sounds like the kind of thing that Gwyneth Paltrow would recommend on her website, Goop. But sometimes even Paltrow gets it right. And even though I was initially sceptical about the idea, I have started penning down one thing I am grateful for every day. And I have found that it concentrates the mind remarkably, forcing me to focus on the positive rather than dwell on the negative. And that’s not a bad way to negotiate life when you think about it.
Stop procrastinating: I am a past master at this. I sit down to write my book (a sequel to Race Course Road; coming soon, I promise!) and go down the rabbit hole of Twitter instead. I settle down with a book that I have been longing to read and get distracted by the news about the Delhi election. When I should be thinking of my column, I go into some sort of displacement activity like cleaning out my closet.
All that comes to an end now. I am going to focus on the things that matter, stop wasting time to social media or mindless TV-watching. And yes, I am going to live my life as if every moment might be the last.
And maybe, just maybe, you might want to do that too.
Journalist and author Seema Goswami has been a columnist with HT Brunch since 2004
Spectator appears every fortnight
From HT Brunch, February 23, 2020
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