2015 was dark. The Solar System didn’t lose the Sun, English didn’t kick out the word hope, and the Dementors didn’t kiss me. But, my 10-year-old marriage plummeted. My 12-year-old dog passed away. And, I quit my dream job. My battle with anxiety and depression began.
Quite ironically, when some of it took place, I was reading Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending.
Every morning, I tried hard to dismiss the thought – I have got one more day. What will I do with it? Friends offered comfort, colleagues stayed away, and my family attempted to alleviate the pain. Days were empty but heavy.
Every night, I was strangled with loneliness. My bed was cold. The room was scarily silent. And, I had nobody to ask, “Hey, how was your day?” My own demons entered the room, chanting the words I wanted to forget.
Myriad days and nights passed. But, the wound didn’t heal. The suffering was fuelled by memories, guilt, and regrets. While sleep, happiness, and optimism moved to another island, I let fear, self-pity, and helplessness stay with me.
There was a huge box in my bedroom when I returned from work one night. I succumbed to curiosity, exercised patience, and opened it. A floor lamp winked at me. I shook the box a couple of times, rummaged in it to find a note, but I could see only an invoice. As I was about to read it, my sister messaged me. “I hope you will like the floor lamp.” She didn’t offer another word. But I knew that sending a floor lamp was her way of saying, “Sending you love and light.”
I planted the lamp in a corner, and switched it on. It filled my bedroom with bright, yellow light. My heart gleamed; I smiled. I didn’t know then that I would continue discovering life’s little pleasures from that moment. My sister’s gesture taught me the most valuable lesson — Life could snatch big things from me, but it couldn’t rob the tiny, warm moments.
The next morning, as soon as I woke up, I went to a cycle store and bought a modest cycle. My mother was amused. “You didn’t tell us that you were planning to buy one,” she said. I confessed that I surprised myself. “An invisible force took me to the store, Amma,” I said in jest. She shook her head in disbelief.
I named my cycle after my dog – Calvin. Just like my four-legged companion, the two-wheeled one is loyal too. Together, we go on adventures, to watch ravishing sunrises and sunsets, lazy cattle and sleepy dogs, snaky roads and smiling cyclists.
As though I found the determination to take the bull by the horns, I began spending my time and money on little pleasures. I had this secret conversation with life. “Listen, you are going to learn to be nice to me. We should learn to co-exist.”
A few weeks after I befriended Calvin, there was another box in my bedroom. But, I was shocked to learn that my sister had sent me a bookshelf. As I sent several hearts to her on Whatsapp, I recalled telling her that I had reignited my love for reading, that I had bought numerous books, and that my shelf was overladen. I was humbled by her thoughtfulness.
Thanks to the bookshelf that my sister gifted, I bought more books, and read like my days were numbered. Whenever I was found with my face buried in books, curious onlookers observed, “Reading is not everything. There are other interesting things to do.” I chose not to make the effort of lifting my head up and making a snide remark. But, there were colleagues and friends, who were inspired by my love for reading, and wondered if I would be willing to loan my books. I pushed my skepticism aside, hoped that they would look after my books well, and let them borrow. Some enthusiastic beginners said, “Deepika, we want you to recommend. We want to read what you liked reading.” My heart was warmed. If someone had asked what I did in life then, I would have said, “I am a reader, blogger, cyclist… and an amateur librarian.”
I think life took that little chat serious. I could see that it was trying to be kind to me. Many a thing changed. Father, who didn’t know how to cook, began making tea. Mother and I sank on the divan, and relished the hot tea that Father fixed for us every weekend, while my dog Boo played with her toys merrily. I read more, cycled more, loaned more books, and downed a lot of cups of Father’s tea.
A friend, who understood that I was trying to cope with anxiety, suggested that I try Zen-Doodling. I
nodded when she encouraged, but guffawed in the privacy of my bedroom. I thought, “She loves me. But, my drawings must be lousy.” I parked the idea for a while. When I visited a bookstore with Father, and when we spent some time in the stationeries section, I was possessed by this pressing idea to buy a doodle pad, and some felt-tip pens. I let the idea conquer me.
I returned home that night and doodled like I was the best artist. I doodled like I was going to hold an exhibition in a few days. I doodled like there was no past, no future. That moment, when my felt-tip ran on the notebook bravely, seemed permanent. A few hours later, I googled to find out if Zen-Doodler is a legit word.
The last six months have taught me that life was kind to me in many ways. While I was crying over the road that broke and disappeared, life held a lantern, steered me towards the path that’s replete with precious gems, and threw brilliant light on them, making them sparkle with hope.
A couple of days ago, I had a cup of strong tea and read Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You at a restaurant. I couldn’t stop reading. And luckily, I had more time. So, I walked up to the counter again and ordered one more cup of tea. As he hollered my order, the man behind the counter said, “I have always seen you with books. I cannot read English. But, my wife can. I want to gift a couple of books for her birthday. Do you have any suggestions?” I smiled, wore my imaginary amateur librarian hat, and asked him more questions about his wife’s preferences. After I collected my tea and went back to my table, I reminded myself one more time: Little pleasures come in many forms.
“I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.”
— The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Greater things might continue to crumble. But, so long as I choose to keep reveling in tiny, warm moments, I hope life will seem beautiful.