Working with anxiety

Often, the best of us find ourselves in a place where nothing feels possible. Sometimes, it happens almost every day – and living life becomes toxic, like a constantly ticking bomb. Just yesterday, I came across this comic by Extra Ordinary Comics which illustrates the feeling just right.

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Someone on Facebook commented on it saying “Anxiety?”, which was the right word for it. Also, it is very important to be able to articulate what you are feeling – that’s half the job done. The comment did exactly that for me. It put into words what I feel almost every day – or on days that I want to accomplish something (which is every day).

I also came across a book review of the book Thin Slices of Anxiety on Brain Pickings. The illustration below gave me a new perspective on anxiety.

thinslicesofanxiety10

This illustration is a trick that can be used in our day to day lives to deal with anxiety in an effective way. I’ll give you a personal example. Every weekend, I have to travel for 2 hours to get home. Living in two places at one often takes a toll on my mind. Because there are so many things I have to remember to do and to carry that I often find myself worrying about not having some book or a particular pen with me. These things are supposed to make my life easier, and help me write.

Also, this scattered way of living makes me dread the train journeys home – though once I am home, I am happy. But on these dreaded train journeys I’d be worrying about things that I might have forgotten or of the plans I have made that might not work out because the stars won’t align at home. So, the trick that the illustration suggested is to turn your perspective from inside your head to the surroundings around you. Since observing the surroundings around you help with keeping yourself in the present, in the moment. Because you are not stuck thinking about something that happened in the past or some thing that could happen in the future – desirable or undesirable.

It is just like the trick I learned at Vipassana, a form of meditation I find very helpful in dealing with day-to-day living. The Vipassana trick is called Anapana meditation, which is, simply put, being aware of your breath. What being aware of your breath does to me is that it keeps my mind from overthinking – overthinking being one of the things that causes anxiety.

So, while dealing with all this anxiety and resultant stress, getting some actual work done can become almost impossible. But being patient with oneself and not getting disheartened; having some faith in the process and in yourself helps. And though training the mind is a technique that has guaranteed results, sometimes the chaos in our minds tends to get the better of us. There could be numerous reasons for it: being stuck in a difficult work situation, a dislike for the kind of work we’re doing, an inability to focus on the task at hand, distraction caused by social media, or simply a lack of motivation.

So when all else fails, there’s poetry. For more than a year, Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s “Chand roz aur, meri jaan” has been a constant source of reassurance. Here is the complete text of the poem:

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चंद रोज़ और मिरी जान

चंद रोज़ और मिरी जान, फ़क़त चंद ही रोज़ |

ज़ुल्म की छाँव में दम लेने पे मजबूर हैं हम,
और कुछ देर सितम सह लें, तड़प लें, रो लें
अपने अज्दाद की मीरास है, माज़ूर हैं हम |

जिस्म पर क़ैद है, जज़्बात पे ज़ंजीरें हैं,
फ़िक्र महबूस है, गुफ़्तार पे ताज़ीरें हैं |

अपनी हिम्मत है कि हम फिर भी जिए जाते हैं
ज़िंदगी क्या किसी मुफ़लिस की क़बा है, जिस में हर घड़ी दर्द के पैवंद लगे जाते हैं?
लेकिन अब ज़ुल्म की मीआद के दिन थोड़े हैं,
इक ज़रा सब्र कि फ़रियाद के दिन थोड़े हैं |

अरसा-ए-दहर की झुलसी हुई वीरानी में
हम को रहना है पे यूँही तो नहीं रहना है

अजनबी हाथों का बे-नाम गिराँ-बार सितम
आज सहना है हमेशा तो नहीं सहना है |

ये तिरे हुस्न से लिपटी हुई आलाम की गर्द,
अपनी दो रोज़ा जवानी की शिकस्तों का शुमार,
चाँदनी रातों का बेकार दहकता हुआ दर्द,
दिल की बे-सूद तड़प, जिस्म की मायूस पुकार,

चंद रोज़ और मिरी जान फ़क़त चंद ही रोज़ |

For a complete word by word translation of the poem go here. It is quite sad that Mustansir Dalvi has not yet translated this.

Anyway, the poem to me is like an older, wiser person telling me patiently to be patient with myself. It almost feels like a parent who is explaining to me the way the world works and is giving me simple and straightforward advice. Of course it is up to me to take the advice or leave it. But even if I take the advice and try being patient with my failures and rejections, not keeping at the work at hand will bring the house down in no time. And anyway, one can’t really fail or get rejected without trying to get something done.

While all these things seem easier said than done, there is only one way to actually get to doing them – doing them. Instead of spending hours thinking about an undesirable thing that has to be done, just getting it done with will be effective and less time-consuming. It all depends on you – which is a very scary and a very liberating thing at the same time.

So here’s to doing things despite the fear and the anxiety of failure and the possibility of adversity!

Poem of the week: Week Forty Eight.

And the last poem of December 2014 from Hemant Divate’s poetry book चौतिशीपर्यंतच्या कविता.

कुमारीपण 
– हेमंत दिवटे

मी
पाहतोय मला टांगलेलं
दोरीवर उलटं
आणि त्याही अवस्थेत
झेपावतय माझं शरीर
तुझ्या नग्न शरीराकडे
एक सरपटणं
शरीरातल्या मऊ काळोखतून काळोखाकडे
तू थांबवू पहातेयस
तुझ्यावर कोसळणारं कुमारीपण
आणि तडातडा तुटतेय
तुझ्या-माझ्यातल्या काळोखाची त्वचा.
***

Poem of the week: Week Forty Seven.

And here’s the second last poem of December 2014 from Hemant Divate’s poetry book चौतिशीपर्यंतच्या कविता.
बेंबी नसलेला माणूस 
 – हेमंत दिवटे
उंचसखल नाकारांचे पडघम
वाजत आहेत
आणि
आठवणींचा गर्भ वाढतोय चिरंतर
किती वाट पहावी तुझी
हातातली फुले डोळ्यांत उतरलीत
आता नसलेपणाची दुखरी खिडकी उघडून
डोकावून पाहतो तर
हडकुळ्या शब्दांचं
पॅरलाईज्ड शरीर दिसतं
आता कुठल्या इस्पितळात जाऊ?
 
साली दुनियाच बेंबी हरवून बसलेली
मला आता
कुणाविषयीच वाटत नाही प्रेम
तिरस्कारही नाही
आणि म्हणूनच
मी झिडकारतो तिची स्पर्शलिपी
स्तनांवरून बेंबईवरून अतोनात सळसळणारी कविता
 
आता थोडं चाललं की 
तिचं नसलेलं गाव लागेल
मग मे मनाला झालेला एड्स बरा करून घेईन
विचारांना भोकं पाडून
त्यात स्क्रू पिळून घेईन
पण आता
कुणाची आठवण नाही काढायची
आता चंद्राची पुडी बांधून
निंबोणीच्या झाडाखाली पुरून ठेवायची.
***

Poem of the week: Week Forty Six.

This is the second poem from stolen time: December 2014. It is from Hemant Divate’s poetry collection चौतिशीपर्यंतच्या कविता. 

स्पर्श
– हेमंत दिवटे  
 
मी वेडातून गेलोय वेडावून
अशी तुझ्या स्पर्शांची गस्त प्राणाभोवती
तुझा अधाशी स्पर्श
कापत राहतो देहस्वर सपासप
अन्
मी मनाच्या वेदनेने फोडून काढतो
स्वप्नाचे हात
तर एक एक जखम
वाहत राहते शरीरातून
हा मरण आकांत स्वप्नांचा
ज्याची अतोनात वाढलेली नखं
घुसत राहतात वसनेत
आणि वेडा होऊन मी
धावत सुटतो
तुझ्या शरीरातून.
 
***

Poem of the week: Week Forty Five.

For December 2014, I had read Hemant Divate’s चौतिशीपर्यंतच्या कविता, a book of poems in Marathi. The year’s gone but the poems remain to be shared. Here’s the first one:

मी
– हेमंत दिवटे

मी
विस्मरत जातोय
मला 
उरत नाही कुठलाही रंग रूप भाषा स्पर्श आणि अर्थ
मला
उरत नाही
ईश्वर आई बाप नातीगोती
मला उरत नाही
जात पात धर्म देश भाषा लिपी
श्वास मन शरीर आणि आत्मा
मी पोहोचतोय
जन्म आणि मृत्यूच्या पल्याड
मला
माहीत नाही मी
जन्मतोय की मरतोय
की पोहोचतोय कुठल्याशा
अनाकलनीय समाधीत
मी
नसलेल्या.
***

 

 

Poem of the week: Week Forty Four.

And here’s the last poem from Hoshang Merchant’s poetry book Love’s Permission.

‘Sunday’ Afternoon
– Hoshang Merchant

Actually, it is Tuesday
But I’ve taken off from work
He, from school

We listen to Ifti Nasim’s ghazals
Read gay poetry from Boston
Discuss Ashok Row’s magazine piece

We have installed ourselves
in a world made by ourselves
with a little help from our friends.

I think of Hockney’s paintings
of his sleeping lovers
They sleep, he paints

My lover sleeps, I write
I shop for bread and cheese
My lover dreams

I cannot enter his dreams
Living together for him began
with a dream of friendship

In his dream a boy became a man
There is no man or woman only love

The poem is complete
The challenge of this once empty page met.

***

Poem of the week: Week Forty Three.

Here’s the second last poem from Hoshang Merchant’s poetry book Love’s Permission.

Reading Rumi
– Hoshang Merchant

This morning has come whoring
Where are incense and prayer?
The sun is in bed
Outside it is raining
Rumi’s plaint reaches our ears
It frees rivers of ink and tears
Something must sit at centre for this to be
The Master absconds
The pupil sits searching
The sky for an eye
He waters the earth                                 Verses wet
By giving up each one’s brought up bone dry and shining
Each letter a burning jewel
Each jewel a burning wound
Received on the way to Mecca
Dealt by the Beloved’s own son
This morning the darlings are turning
at Konya as they do each mourning
They celebrate the son of the Sun
They call to the Lover to come
So the Beloved can become the bridegroom
Each day is death
Each day is marriage
in this world but not of it
Why then do I
turn to you in bed with wet eye?

***

Poem of the week: Week Forty Two.

Here’s the second poem from Hoshang Merchant’s poetry collection Love’s Permission.

Evening Song: 17 October 1995.
– Hoshang Merchant

This long evening
When old monuments hide in mist
belongs to me

It longs for all its history
The history of other long evenings
It longs for me

It tells me I’m nothing
That men will come and go
There will always be evenings

Then out steps a shade from the mist
It is not rain; it is memory
Calling to me

It says come back to your history
You were not nothing
You were sent to sing the night

And all the rain of Nohant
Descends on my heard with Chopin
What could he do but sing?

We sing always to shades
To mists and memory and evenings
There are no men everlasting

Only Love, evanescent
That passes hurting us into heart
Making everlasting nights of evenings.

***

 

Poem of the week: Week Forty One.

The poet for the month of November is Hoshang Merchant.
And poems  are from his fifth poetry collection Love’s Permission.

Song of the Courtesan
– Hoshang Merchant

I keep house
like a courtesan

I sit writing poems
in bed

I listen to old songs
of the courtesans

Boys who visit
Find here a strange peace

Even if my mood be
bad or sad

Life would go on
without us

But there would be no pleasure
we live as if there was no death

Though daily we die
in bed

Teaching the boys this
I cease to being the old courtesan that
I long to be
and become purely her song.

***

Poem of the week: Week Forty.

The last post of the month of October is a slightly longish poem from Amrita Pritam’s poetry collection प्रतिनिधि कविताएँ.  
And as promised, the theme is Cities.

एक शहर
– अमृता प्रीतम


वह फ़सल जो सितारो ने बोयी थी
किसने इसे चोर गोदाम में डाल लिया
बादल की बोरी को झाड़कर देखा,
रात की मण्डी में गर्द उड़ रही है

चाँद एक भूखे बछड़े की तरह
सूखे थनों को चिचोड़ रहा है
धरती-मा अपने थान पर बँधी
आकाश की चिरनी को चाट रही है…


अस्पताल के दरवाज़े पर
हक़, सच, ईमान और क़द्र
जाने कितने ही लफ्ज़ बीमार पड़े हैं,
एक भीड़-सी इकटठी हो गयी है

जाने कोई नुस्ख़ा लिखेगा
जाने वह नुस्ख़ा लग जायेगा
लेकिन अभी तो ऐसा लगता है
इनके दिन पूरे हो गये हैं…


इस शहर में एक घर है
घर की जहाँ बेघर रेहते हैं
जिस दिन कोई मज़दूरी नहीं मिलती
उस दिन वे पशेमान होते हैं

बुढ़ापे की पहली रात
उनके कानों में धीरे से कह गयी
कि इस शहर में उनकी
भरी जवानी चोरी हो गयी…


कल रात बला कि सर्दी थी,
आज सुबह सेवा-समिति को
एक लाश सड़क पर पड़ी मिली है,
नाम व पता कुछ भी मालूम नहीं

शमशान में आग जल रही ह
इस लाश पर रोने वाला कोई नहीं
या तो कोई भिखारी मरा होगा
या शायद कोई फ़लसफ़ा मर गया है…


किसी मर्द के आग़ोश में –
कोई लड़की चीख़ उठी
जैसे उसके बदन से कुछ टूट गिरा हो

थाने में एक क़हकहा बुलन्द हुआ
कहवाघर में एक हॅसी बिखर गयी

सड़कों पर कुछ हॉकर फिर रहे हैं
एक-एक पैसे में ख़बर बेच रहे हैं,
बचा-खुचा जिस्म फिर से नोच रहे हैं


गुलमोहर के पेड़ो तले,
लोग एक-दूसरे से मिलते हैं
ज़ोर से हॅसते हैं, गाते हैं,
एक-दूसरे से अपनी-अपनी –
मौत कि ख़बर छुपाना चाहते हैं,
संगमरमर क़ब्र का तावीज़ है,
हाथों पर उठाये-उठाये फिरते हैं,
और अपनी लाश कि हिफ़ाज़त कर रहे हैं…


मशीनें खड़-खड़ कर रही हैं,
शहर जैसे एक छापाखाना है
इस शहर में एक-एक इन्सान
एक-एक अक्षर कि तरह अकेला है

हर पैग़म्बर एक कॉमपॉज़िटर
अक्षर जोड़-जोड़कर देखता है
अक्षरों में अक्षर बुनता है,
कभी कोई फ़िक़रा नहीं बन पाता…


दिल्ली इस शहर का नाम है
कोई भी नाम हो सकता है
(नाम मे क्या रखा है)
भविष्य का सपना रोज रात को
वर्तमान कि मैली चादर
आधी उपर ओढ़ता है,
आधी नीचे बिछाता है,
कितनी देर कुछ सोचता है, जागता है,
फिर नींद की गोली खा लेता है

***