2015 was the year of letting go; it was the year of saying no.
What I reckoned as my dream job began crushing my soul. I said no to it, and went back to my desk job. When I was stuck in a crevice created by a moral dilemma — should I let my furry-friend go on the vet’s table, or give him his time? I said no to the latter. When the tenant of my dreams, the great love of my life, was uncertain of my worth, I said no to the relationship. Perhaps, it was the biggest no of the year.
Nononono! I drowned in a sea of negation.
But, in the process of saying no, unknowingly I had been saying yes. Yes to love. Yes to peace. Yes to life. I didn’t pay heed to the sunny side then. Naturally. Now that my yes to life seems loud, and pronounced, I had a silent epiphany — I had been helping myself all this while.
Three books helped me make peace with my past, embrace my present, and nurse no anxiety about my future. Susan Forward’s Men Who Hate Women, and the Women Who Love Them. Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. When I was writing for a newspaper, I derived immense satisfaction from seeing my bylines. I felt good to realise that my stories were read by hundreds and hundreds of people. I felt empowered. With a wee bit of arrogance in my tone, I often told myself, “Fuck, I have finally become a writer.” But, I found the job stressful, took several steps back, and went to the banking job. I wallowed in self-pity, and depression. I must underscore the fact that I am not using the words ‘self-pity’, and ‘depression’ in a careless fashion.
After I quit the writing job, for several months I told myself, “Fuck, I am not a writer anymore.” Because I was not writing for a media house or a publishing company. So, I bought the idea that I was not a writer. The mere act of putting one word after another seemed as daunting as penning dialogues that would be mouthed by Morgan Freeman, Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Patrick Stewart, or Sir Michael Caine.
Although writing a blog too appeared like a Himalayan task, I loafed around here, writing about my ‘writing woes’. A friend, who read the blog, sent me a message on Whatsapp. “Regardless of where you write, or for whom you write, you are a writer. You write. So, you are a writer.” Her message ended with one of those livid scarlet emojis. I could only wear a smile. I still wasn’t ready to reignite my love for writing.
My best friend, and I were at my therapist’s. For reasons that still escape my logic, my psychiatrist always made me write about my fear, and anxieties. During one of those sessions, I poured my heart out, channeled the torrential feelings toward a small piece of paper, and waited for my turn to meet the shrink. The wait made me more anxious, because I was rereading, paraphrasing, and proofreading my writing. My friend smirked. She threw an accusatory glance at me, and quipped, “Even now? Like really? Are you checking if commas, and semi-colons are in place? Don’t you think this proves you are a writer?” I guffawed.
I still wasn’t ready to comfortably put my pen to paper, and most of all, I shuddered to call myself a writer. In spite of feeling inadequate, I continued blogging.
Then, a friend recommended Gilbert’s Big Magic. As though Gilbert was determined to address my insecurities, her answers replenished my morale, and love for creative things. Big Magic was riveting because Gilbert’s remarkable conviction shines through. The book seemed to have unloaded my baggage in a quiet fashion, and in its wake, it’s made me confident, positive, and hopeful.
Big Magic is for everybody. Because Gilbert argued in the book that we all have been creators forever. We all are creative. Some of us create because we do it with sheer love. Many of us do not create because we think we are not good enough, we think we should not be arrogant, we wait for somebody to certify us, and we believe that there are more important things to do in life.
In Big Magic, Gilbert beautifully highlighted the power of human mind.
Possessing a creative mind, after all, is something like having a Border Collie for a pet: It needs to work, or else it will cause you an outrageous amount of trouble. Give your mind a job to do, or else it will find a job to do, and you might not like the job it invents (eating the couch, digging a hole through the living room floor, biting the mailman etc.). It has taken me years to learn this, but it does seem to be the case that if I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something (myself, a relationship, or my own peace of mind). We all need something that helps us to forget our age, our gender, our socioeconomic background, our duties, our failures, and all that we have lost and screwed up.
When I finished reading it a couple of hours ago, I marshalled my thoughts, and managed to put my finger on the profound impact that the book has created.
Just like Gilbert, who vowed to write forever, I promised that I would answer my creative calls, practise saying yes. I reminded myself that I would do it seriously, yet lightly (like the paradox that she explained), and regardless of the output, and the kind of attention that my creative pursuits might garner, I would put my heart and soul into it, and make love to it for the mere pleasure of exploring, and experimenting.
I reminded myself that I would not let my heart sink if my creations are loathed, and I would not let it fly too high if they are celebrated. I would do because I want to do. I would do because I love to do.
All I know for certain is that this is how I want to spend my life — collaborating to the best of my ability with forces of inspiration that I can neither see, nor prove, nor command, nor understand. It’s a strange line of work, admittedly. I cannot think of a better way to pass my days.
Above all, Gilbert assured that it’s absolutely okay for me to stop, restart, or keep doing the same thing over and over again, like Murakami’s heroes who keep stirring their spaghetti. Because all is fair in love, and there is no war here.
If I had said yes to life involuntarily last year, I have chosen to say yes with all my heart this year. I am saying yes to reading, writing, doodling, colouring, cycling, journalling, yogaing (I am saying yes to being silly too), quotes-collecting, and if I cannot say yes at times, I will withdraw, watch cat videos on Internet, save money to visit elephant orphanages in Sri Lanka and Thailand, and earnestly try figuring out a way to become a panda. When those phases pass, I will let the other delightful things unleash its magic.
You want to write a book? Make a song? Direct a movie? Decorate pottery? Learn a dance? Explore a new land? You want to draw a penis on your wall? Do it. Who cares? It’s your birthright as a human being, so do it with a cheerful heart. (I mean, take it seriously, sure — but don’t take it SERIOUSLY.) Let inspiration lead you wherever it wants to lead you…human beings are possessed of something special, something extra, something unnecessarily rich, something that the novelist Marilynne Robinson calls ‘an overabundance that is magical.
And it is time to unleash that magic.
Deepika Ramesh is a reader, blogger, animal-lover, aspiring cyclist, and a sucker for tiny, warm moments. She blogs at https://worncorners.wordpress.com