A friend once told me, “It is bad to be 29.” She was jokingly fussing about how age was making it difficult for her to stay in shape and run fast. I remember replying something like, “You are right, 29 is bad, but 39 is better, and 69 is really good. You should aim for those numbers.” I don’t know what my friend will say when she turns 30, because for many people, there is a virtual ten years difference between 29 and 30.
I thought age was something which only women worried about, but then I was in for a shock recently when I found myself brooding over my age. I was never really conscious of my age. If anything, I was proud of it. After all, I was taking up stronger mental and physical challenges in my thirties than I did in my twenties. So actually, my age made me happy. But then, few days ago, certain events (or more accurately, non-events) in my life, suddenly made me feel old. From being an ever-optimistic man, I turned into a man who could only think of how miserable his current life was. I just could not believe that I had practically spent 36 years of my life on this earth living a single life. Of course, I had fallen in love before, and even got married one and a half years ago, but the truth was that I was still living a single life. To me it seemed like nothing could be more unfortunate than that. I felt like a complete failure. None of my achievements, good deeds, and the positive influences I had made in people’s lives mattered. They all seemed inconsequential in front of the reality that I was still living a single life.
Now, some of you, who don’t know a whole lot about my personal life, may wonder about the cause of my living a single life. That’s a valid question, and if you are my friend, you definitely deserve to know the answer, at least the summarized one-paragraph version of it. And I am sorry for not having shared this before, but I wasn’t just ready before. I am living a single life because of broken promises…because of lies… I’m living a single life because my arranged marriage turned out to be a clear disaster. Divorce proceedings are now in court, but I don’t know how long it will take for the matter to get settled.
Dreams are powerful; they inspire us. But then dreams get shattered, and when they do, they are extremely painful. If dreams energize us, then shattered dreams leave us completely dejected and defeated. If dreams give us a sense of hope, then shattered dreams leave us hopeless and helpless. It was this feeling of utter despair that engulfed me a few days ago. I felt like my life was an utter failure. It was as if my years had surreptitiously creeped into me. It seemed like I had lost some of the most precious years of my life. The energy with which I had started the doctoral program had got lost dealing with the emotional turmoil in my life. I was now behind in my dissertation, and many of my research papers still remain in half completed state. The most irritable thing for me, however, was that I was still living a single life! I kind of find it funny writing about this now, but during my state of despair those were my real thoughts.
Today, as I am writing this blog post, however, I am no longer depressed. My problems are far from solved; I’m still living my “single life” and will for a while; my dissertation is still not complete, and I still do not have a job. But these things don’t bother me anymore. I now have faith that I will weather all the storms. That’s because now I feel Shakti back in my life. I had lost most of it somewhere along the way, but with the discipline of meditation, I’m being able to re-experience it now. Yesterday, I finished a 40-days discipline of meditation, and it has renewed my faith in my values. I almost feel transformed from a man of hope to a man of faith. As Aeschylus said, all men in exile feed on dreams of hope. Hope is surely better than hopelessness, but it still focuses on external circumstances to improve. If I take the analogy of a card game, hope focuses on getting a good hand after you have been dealt with few bad hands. But good hand, you may or may not get, and even if you do, it may be too little too late, and so you may still end up losing your game. So, the point is to not just hope for better cards in the next round, but to play each and every round with dignity, whatever the cards. I needed a 40-days discipline to realize this wisdom. Call me a slow learner, if you may, but I am glad I am more inner-directed now than I was before. I am happy that I am over my stage of hope. And I vow to the divine grace of Shakti for helping me through this process.