Saturday, 9 July 2016

Does Every Cloud Have A Silver Lining?

 
I enjoy the monsoon sky, at the best of times, but more so when I’m tied down by household chores and drained by housekeeping woes. Then its nature and keeping company with her that lightens my heart. The best part of my day is 5.00 pm when I go down to the pool for my swim. It's usually after I've done sixty laps that I walk around the garden and reflect on the birds and ants and other little things that catch my attention. They refresh the mind, allowing it to go beyond the mundane - finding something of beauty, something to cheer about, in an otherwise ordinary and often frustrating day.
 
But today, as I was showering before entering the pool, I found myself staring right up at a grey cloud which had a delicate, silver lining. In that moment, I forgot that I was in a swimsuit in the central courtyard of the condominium where three towers overlooked the pool, and almost every domestic staffer or labourer and driver or resident had a ringside view. I dashed towards my swimming bag in my wet costume and water dripping of my limbs. I quickly wiped my hands on the towel hanging off the back of the chair, and took out my phone. I just had to capture that delicate, silver line behind the grey cloud. And I spent a good five to seven minutes, attired in a wet swimming costume, craning my neck this way and that, angling my phone and head to get just the right view. And with the sun in front of me, no matter that there was cloud cover, getting that silver lining to look as ethereal as it was to the naked eye, was a complex affair. Besides, clouds do not hang around, so the formation changed, the silver lining became even more fascinating and me and my phone-camera were enchanted and fully engaged. It was only later that I realised that it may well have been quite a spectacle for any onlooker. I was too absorbed to have noticed anyone around and hoped that it didn’t look too crazy. But alas, even if it did what could I do about it now?
 
I'd had an annoying day. I've been struggling to run my home and also do some creative work, without my home cum studio support of twenty-four years. In a huff, he'd called it quits and I'd had enough of his threats so I duly accepted without demur. But it's been tough. Today, Laxmi, my maid whose been with me for about three years and is the only one aside from me now, who knows the drill, pulled one stunt after the other and I was all but tearing my hair out. She has this terrible attitude of never really listening when I tell her things. We'd had a good start to the day, because I'd made her repeat the instructions as they were numerous. She handled that part well. It was silly things that she was getting wrong and instead of asking or informing was taking decisions she had no business to. I was right there, just a knock on the door, away, for her to ask, but it's anybody's guess why she didn't. I was thinking about this on my way down and thought that she's terrified at the best of times, it's just the way she is, and in the bargain she's always tense and therefore doesn't seem to get things right.
 
 
As I did my laps, and stroke after stroke in free-style, as my palms sliced into the water sending bubbles towards my face, I thought about the silver lining behind that dark cloud. I have heard the phrase 'every cloud has a silver lining' for the better part of my life - the implication being that there's always light, or wisdom, behind the darker moments of being. But more often than not, in those moments, it's hard to see the lighter side. Revisiting the cloud-view that I had seen as I’d showered, a realization dawned that the cloud itself can't see the lining, but an observer, someone standing a distance away, can. It gives us a better perspective to view things. In that guise, as an observer, I thought to myself, that maybe if Laxmi would just let herself feel her fear, maybe she'd find her way through life in a more constructive way, allowing her innate intelligence to come into play.
 
I swam a few more lengths with this thought, my head bobbing up and down, limbs splayed frog-like as I did a length of the pool using the breaststroke, moving northwest, in the direction of  the silvered-clouds, which had predictably moved on. As the cloud-cover darkened, and grey pigeons hovered around the pool dipping their beaks, the mood turned grey and even the aquamarine waves now carried a greyish tinge.  And in that sombre moment, submerged in an otherwise empty pool – I was the only one swimming at this hour, I voiced out loud “but how many of us really do that” - letting ourselves feel fully every moment, every experience and every feeling. And is it possible to live that way and also lead a productive and meaningful life?
 
 
 
I know that I don't always let myself 'feel' things fully enough. As a child, I'd retreat into my inner space to allow myself to wallow in whatever feelings came up. I would just wallow and the feeling would pass but it was said that I was sulking and too intense, and the implication was derogatory. As I grew up and started voicing feelings, I'd be told, let it be or get over it and more in that vein. So, in many ways, I've trained myself to get past the feelings as quick as I can, using positive affirmations or expressing them through my art or whatever. But what I have discovered, of late, is that it only works temporarily; the feelings do not get resolved in any substantial way. I find the silver lining or think that I have found one or something distracts my attention. But I have realised that trying to find a positive outcome, to a situation that one feels negative about presently, is not always the best way forward. The mood may be raised philosophically but the feeling hasn’t really had its say, so it comes back to haunt me. Actually it never really leaves, just transfers from the mind onto the body in some way. So, I have been wondering if there is a more efficient way, such as sulking – allowing oneself to wallow in the feeling, swim in it for a while, till it passes of its own accord?
 
I lay on my back, doing a back-stroke this time around, as I contemplated this idea, looking up at the large expanse of sky now turning quite dark. There were patches of white in between but the clouds were much darker than the cloud that I had spied earlier on, the one with the silver lining. These clouds just merged into each other and there was no silver lining to them. It may have something to do with the fact that I was now looking South-East and the sun was behind me, but it made me realise something: that it may well be best to just let the feelings be, because not every cloud does have that silver lining.
 
 
 
 
Not every story ends like a fairy tale, happily ever after or with some positive outcome arising from a negative situation. We cannot always find some wisdom to draw on from unpleasant experiences and while it is useful to think positively and try and find that silver lining, it does not always work, does it?  New age ideology is full of positive thinking and I’ve seen the benefits of it too, but the truth is that not all clouds have a silver lining.
 
The promise of rain was thwarted and the dark clouds pulled away and it seemed as though a vortex of white was churning, within the circle they formed around the lighter coloured clouds. Gradually, they too moved apart and an untarnished, unfazed, bright azure shone through. I took that as a sign to say that whether or not we could find that silver lining wasn’t relevant, what is significant is that moments pass, moods change, feelings alter and life goes on. Finding meaning in everything may not always be the most efficient way.
 
 
 
I sat on my favourite bench in the park and thought to myself:  As humans we have many feelings, there is sorrow and pain and there is fear and anger and this is the story we need to focus on, for the narrative to move forward in any evocative way. Our feelings carry meaning for our lives, they tell us how we feel in any given situation and acknowledging them, allowing them to tell us what is wrong takes a lot of courage and requires us to spend time, with the feeling without judging it. I wonder how I could convey this to Laxmi, but in the meanwhile I decided it was worthwhile exploring this for myself. Could I step back from the business of things, the world and connectivity and all that keeps my mind distracted and allow myself to be that child again, and sulk for a while?

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