Finding God

Choosing courage

“If you had to choose between courage and patience, I’d say, choose courage. With courage, the patience will come too but with just patience, you’ll never have the courage to live your life your own way and be happy.”

Wise words from a 26-year-old firebrand of a masseuse I’ve recently been associated with. We meet every Saturday when she gives me an Ayurvedic massage with much gusto, going all red in the face, leaving me energised and exhausted at the same time, so that I need to come home and sleep it off. And if the massage is stimulating, the conversation is even more so.

We talk about men and relationships. Falling in love with the wrong man. With the right man. With a married man. With one’s best friend. Being the daughter of a divorcee. Getting drunk on a bottle of beer. Breaking up with a man after three years because he is a sissy. Working hard and still not making enough. Fathers and husbands who aren’t worth it. Betrayal. Children. Commitment.

Today we talked about a friend who is in a bad marriage but continues to be there because she is afraid of slugging it out alone as a divorcee. “I find such people to be real *****,” she said, using a crass Hindi expletive. “Why do they wait to start living? Women are always told to have patience. To wait. To endure. To be stoic. Bullshit. I value courage above all qualities in life. Without courage, you can never be happy. All these other qualities are recipes not for happiness but for compromises, regret and sorrow.”

“Yes, there will be a bit of pain when you take a courageous step in life,” she went on, kneading my shoulders, “but that is short-lived. After the third, fourth, fifth day, you will find so much greater happiness and liberation.” I mumbled a muffled agreement into my neck-rest.

“God tests you. God puts you through situations when you have to show what you’re made of. If you act out of courage, you will win through all obstacles. And what obstacles? They will all fall away when you stand up with courage, anyway,” she announced as she flipped me over.

“Your friend needs to spend time with herself. Take a couple of months and sort herself out. Half her life has gone past in heartache and loneliness. If she can’t make herself happy now, what’s the use of finding happiness later in life? Tell her to be strong—not patient. Tell her to stop seeking happiness from others, from husbands or children. If a person can’t love herself, how can she ever love anyone else?” The young, spirited guru trundled me into the steam room.

The session was short today, and as always, I came home and slept, inspired.

I dreamt of angels with fiery wings.

Seeking God

A time of challenges

Last Tuesday, P, an ex-colleague of mine and a single mother, found out through conclusive tests that her two-year-old son was autistic. She had suspected it for a while, she said. He didn’t look her in the eye and he was too quiet. But she had hoped against hope and kept her fingers crossed all those months. Until the test reports came back positive and she was devastated.

His occupational therapy will take a huge toll on her both financially and personally; she is required to be there in the mornings for a month, and then she has to put him in a special school which will cost her three times his current school fees, so far being paid by her ex-husband. Her ex also pays their rent. She began to worry about how she’d manage to work and go to his therapy. And where would the extra money come from? P’s dad is no more, her mother is dependent on her too.

Then on Friday, God dealt her a double whammy. Her company announced closure of operations. On one hand, she was relieved; she could go to her son’s therapy every morning. On the other, a chill went up her spine. Where would she find the money for all of these increased expenses? Who would hire her for half a day’s work? Were there any jobs left in the market with so many competition groups shutting down?

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Another close friend confided her own emotional dilemma. Her husband of 18 years had cheated on her for several years; he’d had a long-term affair with one of their common friends. My friend and her husband began living separately a couple of years ago, but don’t want to get divorced because of the kids. She’s living in a state of limbo — unable to forgive him and allow him back into her life; nor let go and start a new one.

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I read somewhere that even if every human being’s problems were to be thrown into a huge pile in the middle of a field and we were given a free choice on whose life we wanted, we’d still pick back our own. There is not a single human being — no matter how rosy their life may look — who doesn’t have his or her own share of suffering and pain. You sometimes think, “Oh but if I had the life of the richest / most powerful / most beautiful / most intelligent person in the world, I’d have lesser problems, or I’d be able to deal with these better.” But truth is, everyone has their own battles of the soul. Even the richest man has his moments of spiritual poverty; even the most beautiful woman has moments of self-doubt; even the most powerful human is helpless in the face of life and death; even the most intelligent person cannot escape the quirks of destiny.

Our salvation lies not in becoming someone else, but in becoming purer versions of who we are. Our challenges find their conclusion not by our running away but in facing them head-on and changing what we need to in ourselves. We are incomplete until we have played out every single range of emotion that humans contain within ourselves — from the good to the bad, from the easy to the excruciating. We cannot be divine until we embrace the demons within us.

We cannot be rich until we amass compassion; we cannot be beautiful without love and forgiveness. We cannot be powerful without conquering our fears. We cannot be intelligent without the humility to adapt ourselves. Our stories are given to us for a reason. Our problems have a purpose. Think of Nirbhaya; her unthinkable suffering shook up the conscience of an entire nation. Think of Jesus: his terrible crucifixion awakened the whole world.

We do not need knights in shining armour to defeat our monsters. Sometimes, all we need is faith. Everything else follows.