Monday, November 11, 2013

Happiness 101

Cours Saleya, Nice (2012)
What are the things we can do when we are distressed? If anyone asks me the question, I would suggest that he or she could try reading, writing, dark chocolate or physical work out.  Some form of physical exercise is always a good way to elevate one’s mood as endorphins trigger a positive boost in mood. That definitely works for me. Any form of physical exercise is usually energizing. Whenever I hit some tennis or done some gym work out, the good feelings remind me of why I have enjoyed exercising in the first place.

Both regular reading and exercise require discipline. I find that settling into a chair and start reading is never a problem. Through reading I have gained insights about humanities and the world around us. Even if I cannot find answers or resolutions, I find solace and comfort in reading. When these writers tell stories, they often translate and share their views and sentiments about the world and help us understand a little better about ourselves and the society we live in. There are days when I slack off and rather stuck in my reading and writing, it is not easy to get back to the mode of regular exercise. When it takes too much effort to leave the comfort of the book that I happen to be reading , I do some yoga stretches and standing poses.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak is  about Liesel a young German girl who sought refuge in books during the WWII in Germany. The first book that she had stolen was the gravedigger’s handbook that she had found lying in the snow after her brother’s funeral. Though she had not learnt to read then, the book meant the last time she saw her brother and her mother. To her it did not matter what that book was about but what it meant that was more important. When her foster father discovered the book, he taught her to read even though the book was hardly ideal text to start with, thus begins her love affair with books and words. She read in the bomb shelter and also started writing in the basement.

A mountain range of rubble was written, designed, erected around her. She was clutching a book.

Apart from everything else, the book thief wanted desperately to go back to the basement, to write, or to read through her story one last time. In hindsight , I see it so obviously on her face. She was dying for it – the safety of it , the home of it - but she could not move. Also, the basement didn’t even exist anymore. It was part of the mangled landscape.

The Book Thief was narrated in the voice of Death who had picked up a little black book that contained Liesel’s journal. On the first page, she wrote “The Book Thief  a small story by Liesel Meminger”.

‘Yes, often, I am reminded of her, and in one of my vast array of pockets, I have kept her story to retell. It is one of the small legion I carry, each one extraordinary in its own right. Each one an attempt- an immense leap of an attempt – to prove to me that you, and your human existence, are worth it.

Here it is. One of a handful.

The Book Thief.

If you feel like it, come with me. I will tell you a story. 
I’ll show you something.

The Book Thief is beautifully written and its story tugs at your heart.

There are some days that things irritate or worry me so much that  I find myself sitting on edge. Even if I try not to brood, I cannot shake off the miserable thoughts that trouble me. One of the ladies who went to the same fitness studio as me once quipped, “Perhaps I should get one of these punching bags and install it at my balcony.” A punching bag that hangs in a corner of your home sounds like a good remedy if we know how to punch and kick ……LOL. Personally I find that a good night’s sleep helps to calm one’s nerves and anxieties. Sleep is absolutely necessary to keep the gremlins at bay.

A month ago, a friend became extremely depressed and was incommunicative when  he felt that something was wrong with him as all the symptoms were familiar to him. It was déjà vu as he had experienced the ordeal just barely three years ago. He now  has  to go through all the medical tests to monitor the growth of the tumor in his brain. He wrote that he had to accept reality and his fate. He wrote: "Amor fati" means love whatever happen to you cause you only experience it once.According to wikipedia, ‘Amor fati is a Latin phrase loosely translating to "love of fate" or "love of one's fate". It is used to describe an attitude in which one sees everything that happens in one's life, including suffering and loss, as good. Moreover, it is characterized by an acceptance of the events or situations that occur in one's life.’

It is terrible news that this friend has to confront his sickness and the challenges that accompany it.
Monaco(October '12)
So often we are reminded of the fragility of life and unpredictability of what it has in store for us, yet we  forget that good moments and bad moments are as transient as each other. Sometimes when things get tough and there is no solution, it is pointless to get ourselves all worked up in our head. Perhaps it is good to emulate Scalette O’hara in Gone with the Wind as she  said “ I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.” I always remember the line from the movie,  “After all tomorrow is another day.”

1 comment:

  1. This book is on my to-read list; thank you for the review. Sending healing thoughts and prayers to your friend. What an ordeal. Our family has recently had some medical stuff to deal with. It can be scary and discouraging but all you can do is take each day, find the thankfulness in it, and get up ready to live-- thrive, not just exist-- in the next one. Not easy but worth it. All the best.