I’d Rather Be.

I'd rather be

“The man I am greets mournfully, the man I might have been.”
~ Hebbel

I can think of two possible ways to close that statement;
I’d rather be at……….. instead of where I am now.
I’d rather be …………. instead of the person that I am now.

To both I would have to say No. I am very comfortable exactly where I am now and I am very comfortable in my own skin in my current situation and have no desire whatsoever to be somebody different.

The two quite popular wishes usually arise from a dissatisfaction with one’s past. Usually one who is still young and wanting. One wishes for a future that should be different and preferably with other locations, people, employment, health etc. Having reached the proverbial three score and ten quite comfortably, albeit with some replaced spare parts giving some trouble on and off, I am very pleased with myself for having reached where I am now and also very happy with all that I have in my life and do not miss anything for which I crave.

And I am grateful.

Like most Indians my daily prayer includes this bit which is from my heart and sincere.

“Anayasena maranam |
Vina dainyena jivanam ||
Dehi me krpaya shambo |
Tvayi bhaktimacancalam.”||

( “A life without poverty and an end that is without hardship for me and those around me. This is all I ask of you, Shambo and unswerving devotion for you.”)

This brings me to the following quotation which is apt for this post.

“The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him?

No, thank you,’ he will think. ‘Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, although these are things which cannot inspire envy.’ ”

~ Viktor Frankl.

This topic was suggested by Shackman, for the weekly Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where currently nine of us write on the same topic every Friday.  I hope that you enjoyed my contribution to that effort.  The seven other bloggers who write regularly are, in alphabetical order,  AshokgaelikaaLin, Maxi, Padmum, Pravin,  Shackman and The Old Fossil. Do drop in on their blogs and see what their take is on this week’s topic. Since some of them may post late, or not at all this week, do give some allowance for that too!

My Favourite Book.

I hope that you enjoy reading this post on the weekly Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where seven of us write on the same topic. Today’s topic has been chosen by Shackman. The six other bloggers who write regularly are, in alphabetical order, gaelikaa, GrannymarMaxi, Paul, Shackman, and The Old Fossil. Do drop in on their blogs and see what their take is on this week’s topic. Since some of them may post late, do give some allowance for that too!

Shackman’s original suggestion was “Your favourite book. ( Bible excluded )  On the assumption that he would exclude The Bhagwat Geeta for me, I leave that single most important book for me which is not just my favourite book, but also my lifeline to sanity.

mans_search_for_meaningExcluding that, my all time favourite book is Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl.

Let me explain why it is.  To start with, the story itself is poignant and beautifully told.  Then Frankl moves on to his Logo-therapy which evolved out of his experiences in the concentration camp.

The lessons that stand out from his writings are

1. Looking back to his being sent to Auschwitz, he states, “if someone now asked of us the truth of Dostoevsky’s statements that flatly defines man as a being who can get used to anything, we would reply ‘yes, a man can get used to anything, but do not ask us how'”.  I am sure that all my readers will agree that in retrospect, we find that throughout our lives, we have adjusted to various situations and have successfully survived.

2. I recently saw The Shawshank Redemption on DVD because someone had said something about it and I wanted to go back to see the film in its entirety. In that, two long time prisoners, after release go through difficulty in adjusting to freedom and one, unable to cope, commits suicide whereas the other finds meaning in a promise made to a friend from prison and escapes that end. When liberation came, Frankl writes, “We came to meadows full of flowers. We saw and realized what they were, but had no feelings about them.” The transition from a concentration camp into real life must have been an experience that we would have expected to be joyful . He goes on to explain how prisoners lose the ability to feel joy, and have to relearn the ability slowly.  All of us have also relearned to live in new ways after having some life changing experiences, except that unless we consciously become aware of that, we simply take such relearing for granted.

Between the two, we learn about how it must have been for the prisoners inside those camps as a historical fact. But we also learn that ‘He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how‘.  In retrospect, all of us do find that we have found the whys in our lives despite the many hows being difficult.  In my life, as all my readers know, the whys have been the meaning and purpose of my life.

Leaving that aside, when he moves on to Logo-therapy. I learnt two magnificent things from Logo-therapy.

1. Paradoxical Intention / Dereflection.

2. Tragic Optimism.

My experience as a mentor has been enriched by sharing what I have learnt from Frakl and because I keep referring to this book so much, I have to go back to it again and again to find quotations and references to share with my friends and mentees. Almost all of them have either been gifted a copy by me or have bought their own copies and now, we have a nice group of people who are all Frankl fans.

Care Giving.

“I feel the capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest significance.”

~ Pablo Casals

It is no surprise that when we were asked to suggest topics for the LBC posts, this came up on top of my list. It is however a big surprise that this post will also celebrate the LBC entering our fourth year of existence. The last three years have been eventful for me and among the coping mechanisms that I developed during the period, an important element was the LBC posts and the close relationships that developed between me and other LBC bloggers as well as some readers.

I used the phrase coping mechanisms because just over three years ago, I lost my wife and I had to find a new meaning in my life. Since mid 2001, my meaning in life was to take care of her after she was felled with multiple cerebral and cardiac infarcts. I was a care giver. All other aspects of my life took lower priority and the primary focus was on keeping her comfortably alive and to ensure that her dementia did not cause her any embarrassment ever. In the earlier part of that decade, I was able to take the support of my son and daughter in law which gave me some freedom of movement but once they separated and went off to live their separate lives away from us, it was the two of us together for long periods of time which had never been the case prior to that due to the traveling requirements of my career. Eventually, our son did return but had to go overseas and was otherwise quite busy with his career that I had to carry most of the load. A care giver from the USA Linda reached out and even interviewed me for her blog. That interview will give some idea of my pre LBC life.

Strangely enough, this was the happiest period of our life of 40 years together as we had never been together like that for such long periods of time. On the three occasions when she got lost when having gone out for walks were nightmarish for me till we got back together. After the last of that experience, I decided that she will not be unaccompanied ever and till her death, that was seen to. Urmeela was also an ideal care receiver, hardly a bother and ever cooperative. We were joined at the hips and I got addicted to care giving!

After her death, there was naturally a big void and my father’s presence in my life at that point of time was something that I could have done without. I did however get out of Pune on a number of occasions and generally had an active and enjoyable life though the need to be around for my then 92 year old father did dampen my spirits somewhat. By late 2009 I also suffered from ulnar palsy that took my attention away towards my own recovery.

In January 2010 my father fell down and fractured his hip joint and since then I have had to revert to being a care giver all over again. Apart from the recovery time, post recovery complications started to appear one after the other for him culminating in his kidneys beginning to malfunction and a relatively simple care giving role has evolved into a more semi professional one with me having to play the role of a male nurse and ward boy too. In the meantime, I also underwent second revision to a hip joint and am yet to recover fully from the after effects. That does not help matters either.

“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionateley waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how”.”

~ Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search For Meaning.

The two care giving experiences, one to my wife and the other to my father are vastly different from each other. While the former was focused on a cheerful if helpless patient, who affectionately waited for me, the latter is towards a very difficult person with a history of alienation from his children, thus making it an unfinished work for me.

There are many resentments that I carry towards the latter and often I find it galling to be forced into a role which is not accepted by him gracefully with gratitude, but one that he expects as an entitlement. For instance there is the way he makes a request – say after a meal, one would request the care giver to remove the plate from the bed table by saying “please remove the plate” or something like that. My father would issue an indirect command. “The plate may be removed” to no one in particular. This is to me, to establish the pecking order I suppose. To the help, it would be sarcastic criticism – “Can’t you see I have finished? Should I keep shouting to get your attention? Why can’t you do your job properly?” In my role as a care giver, I not only have to take the indirect command, but also pacify the help who tend to get quite fed up with the nagging.

In both care giving experiences however, the driving force was/is the “why” and it is indeed true that I found the “how” once I became conscious of the “why”.

That situation is enough to drive me nuts but for the various coping mechanisms that I have developed among which the blog world has become a vital part. In fact I have written another blog post earlier on the same subject. I also share my experiences with other care givers in India through group mail and FB activity. A significant contributor to easing of tensions is our family physician who is also my friend, and my sister in law who is a physician who is always available for telephone or personal consultations.

Over the last few weeks, my father’s condition is worsening. I have not been able to manage on my own and / or with the support of my son. I have hired a day time nurse who takes complete care of him for eleven hours every day, but I still have to be around to be the link in communication between them. Being feudal in his treatment of hired help, I often have to play a mediating role to keep the nurse in good humour and that leads to problems with my relationship with the patient too.

“The dearness of parents to children changes over time. In the pitiless eyes of natural selection, the utility of our parents to us declines, after a certain point, even faster than ours to them. As we pass through adolescence they are less critical providers and protectors. As they pass through middle age they are less likely to further promulgate our genes. By the time they are old, we have little genetic use for them. Even as we attend to their needs, we may feel traces of impatience and resentment. Our parents, then, are as dependent on us as we once were on them, yet we don’t look after their needs with the same gusto they brought to ours. The ever shifting but almost perennially uneven balance of affection and obligation between parent and child is one of life’s deepest and most bitter-sweet experiences.”

~ Robert Wright : The Moral Animal.

That makes more sense to me now than when I read it a few years ago, and I hope that I don’t ever have to make my son a care giver to me. As my fellow LBC blogger and care giver eloquently says, life deals our cards with unfathomable logic and we have to play the hands that are dealt to us. My one wish when Urmeela was alive was to outlive her so that I could care for her. Now, it is to outlive my father so that Ranjan does not get burdened with that responsibility and to predecease Ranjan quickly so that I don’t become the kind of burden that my father has become for me.

So, when last week’s topic was “Is Pessimism More Realistic Than Optimism?” I was at a loss to find an apt answer. Either way, I lose and so simply took the easy way out and published a flippant post referring to a couple of earlier posts more humourous than serious on the same topic. Care givers can neither be pessimistic nor optimistic. They have to live one day at a time and some times one hour at a time and handle whatever comes their way. I have learnt to laugh at the many peccadilloes that he comes up with such as different tones in talking with different people, different postures for different people and his utter insatiability. Humour helps.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post on the weekly Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where thirteen of us write on the same topic. Today’s topic has been chosen by yours truly. The twelve other bloggers who write regularly are, in alphabetical order, Anu, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Maxi, Maria SF, ocdwriter, Padmum, Paul, Shackman, The Old Fossil and Will. Do drop in on their blogs and see what their take is on this week’s topic. Since some of them may post late, do give some allowance for that too!