There’s something I both love and hate about an afternoon nap. Or a mid-morning rest after I’ve been up pretty much most of the night. I do this often. Stay awake through the night, sleeping only a few hours at best. Doing nothing special in the hours I’m awake. Nothing as exotic as meditate or stand on my head or perform some holistic breathing exercise. I just wander about and attend to unfinished chores of the day. Even invent some as I go along.
More often than not, I put clothes into the washing machine. It’s one of my most favourite tasks. I love the fragrance of fabric softener, knowing that I can simply gather up a bucket of soiled sheets and towels and, voilà, in one fell swoop they’re sparkly clean and almost dry. Gone are the days when I squatted on the ledge of a shower cubicle and worked my way through soaked clothes that weighed a ton, giving myself a back ache, and often injuring my wrists as I tried to wring out the excess water. Never was I successful.
Putting them out to dry was yet another exercise in masochism. And heaven forbid if it were a humid, rainy day, those darn things never dried. Even under a fan running at full speed it took ages for a pair of jeans to dry out and, by the time they finally did, they probably smelt so bad that they needed a wash again.
Ah, for the joys of a washing machine. Yet what about those who still have to handwash their clothes and can never even dream of affording such creature comforts in this lifetime? Yes, in India appliances such as a washing machine are far from common fare. Well, I’m not going to go into the plight of the poor in this country: washing their clothes is often the least of their issues, if they even have access to water at all.
So, what I love about daytime naps is the feeling of being rested. Of a fresh wind beneath my wings. But what could I possibly hate? It’s not that I cannot sleep again at night, or that I walk around groggy the rest of the day. It’s something much more fundamental. I always wake with a deep deep sadness in my heart. A hollow in the pit of my stomach. It’s been this way for as long as I can remember. Tired, longing rest, curling up into a blissful ball of comfort; eyes open, sadness.
Yes, feeling sorry for myself too. What a tragic trajectory. Indeed, I’ve often wondered why this melancholic malaise. I just don’t know. There’s something seemingly ominous about those first few seconds, minutes actually, as if hidden between the folds of sleep and waking is another state quite contrary to my normal, lived, day-to-day experience.
While I often feel sad, with and without reason, it’s this particular underlying discomfort which intrigues me as much as it gets my spirits down. It’s as if I’m frozen in the moment. Unable to process the emotion which grips me. Yet somehow understanding that it’s much like a glimpse of sky suddenly revealed on a dense cloudy day.
An interpretation by the mind of what otherwise is something that just happens. Just happens to me. Who catches hold of the sensation. Labels it sadness. Decides it does not like the feeling. Then a story unfolds.
Perhaps one day they’ll invent a washing machine for emotions. Soak, rinse, spin and you’re ready to go. As good as new. Things just happening. Choicelessly. The lived experience of my life.
Though my childhood was difficult and complex, these challenges forced me to look for happiness in things beyond the conventional givens of material possessions, career and marriage. Decades of philosophical reading, exploring meditation techniques and alternative therapies, culminated in meeting my Guru, Ramesh Balsekar. It was during the six years I spent attending his daily discourses that my innate love for language developed into editing books and doing some writing of my own. Learning from hard-earned personal experience I was finally able to overcome my unresolved issues. Today, this journey has allowed for me to be an emotionally present mother, a caring partner and a dependable friend. Indeed, suffering can be a gateway into becoming a more complete human being.
This series of blogs has been reviewed by Drishya Warrier, Aditi Iyer, and Pratishtha Bagai, of Symbiosis Centre of media and Mass Communication, Pune. We are students that have completed our first year. Through this NGO Internship Project at MHAT, we explored the field of mental health while pursuing our interest in creative writing.