03 June, 2009

Attitude .....

Life, it is said, is a great teacher. It is indeed an eye-opener on a huge scale. Life presents situations constantly – some of which are easily resolvable, some maddeningly confusing, some totally scary. But anyway one might look at things – the common underlying factor is the same.

Through it all, as we traverse this journey called life, at each and every turn, there is something to be learnt. So is the case with death too. It is a teacher in its own right. And no – I’m not speaking in terms of rebirth. I’m speaking in terms of what death teaches the living.

I realized this after my dad passed away. I realized that one can learn just about as much (maybe more) from death than one has through life. And in saying that, I am talking in terms of societal taboos and societal acceptance.

As we grow, there are certain rules instilled in us – rules which ensure that one stays within the realms of what society considers “normal” and “acceptable”. As we grow, the feeling is fortified by immediate family that it is the family which is the unquestioned support system in times of need. As we grow, the idea is planted by society that one needs to adhere to a certain set of laws that are considered conventional.

My question is – “What is conventional ?” and how does one define the term “Conventional”. Why do people expect others to be bound by conventionality and rules even in extreme situations ? And what gives the so called “pillars of the society” the right to judge people who do not fall within their definition of “conventional” ?

For instance, the day my dad passed away – the house was full of people who had come in to offer their condolences. In the midst of all that had to happen that day in terms of rituals and what have you, there were people who made it their business to comment on the fact that my mother did not howl her heart out. She did not create a scene, nor were there any hysterically emotional scenes. The question in circulation that day, the question that was in vogue that day was “does she not care ? Because if she did, she would not have remained so silent.”

How did these people think that it was their god given right to judge things ? And since when has grief been quantified by the amount of tears shed ?

Different people grieve in different ways. It is pretty much an expression of one’s pain. Like the expression of physical pain which differs from person to person, so does mental anguish and emotional distress. And in the midst of all that angst that we were going through in trying to cope with the loss of a loved one, there were rather blatant questions being put forth – questions that people had no business asking.

People were commenting on the fact that I was not wearing a sari on the day my father passed away. Should this even have been a matter of discussion ? Just in case people had forgotten what they were there for, it sure was not for a fashion show.

And there were many more such instances where the whole thing began to be viewed as some sort of a power play, a circus even. The control freaks had a field day, knowing very well that there would not be any active resistance to the way in which they manipulated situations to suit themselves and their rigid attitudes. That they were wrong to have assumed that is a different story – that would be an essay in itself.

What made me put this into words today is the fact that there was another death in the family about a week back. And it is no surprise per se, but the same scenes are being repeated there by some so called “senior members” of the family. People who “know-it-all”. People don’t seem to learn. Sadly enough, people don’t seem to want to learn.

And it is not an educated guess when I say this – but more of experience talking – when I say that in circumstances like these, when people around you decide and pass judgment as to whether you are in the right or the wrong in having done something or not having done something – it takes a lot out of you to maintain a sense of equilibrium.

And what does one do to find some stability in the face of such insensitive remarks being hurled or inconsiderate questions being posed ?

If there’s one thing that I learnt, it is the fact that one has to learn to “let it slide”. One has to learn not to be affected by the observations and interpretations of all and sundry. If people want to write a review about how one behaved whilst having to cope with the loss of a loved one, let them. If they want to conduct some sort of behavioral analysis and use you as a subject right then and there, let them.

It is not an easy thing to do – definitely not when one is in a situation when one is feeling rather raw and chafed from having to deal with the loss of a loved one, when one is struggling to cope with loss, not knowing how to cope. It is very difficult to stomach such attitudes right then.

But the key lies in “acceptance”. Acceptance of the fact that some people and their attitudes might never change. Acceptance of the fact that it is futile to hope for a transformation. Acceptance of the fact that not everybody lives by one’s own ideals.

And the first and foremost thing that helps in bringing about such an acceptance is one’s own Attitude.

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. ~ Winston Churchill

Our attitude in learning to accept that some things and some people will never change, no matter what. Our attitude in learning to accept that while we cannot dictate how others behave, we certainly can control our reactions. And once this attitude is in place, it does bring along with it a rather curious sense of peace. It brings along with it a sense of relief – from not having to clash with someone else in terms of “ideals”. End of the day, in not reacting to situations such as these, what we do ourselves is a big favor. We save ourselves a lot of unwanted mental anguish and superfluous emotional trauma.

This quote by Charles R. Swindoll says it all

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.

Attitude to me is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company...a church...a home.

The remarkable thing is you have a choice every day regarding the attitude you will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past...we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is ten percent what happens to me and ninety percent how I react to it.

And so it is with you. You are in charge of your attitude.

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6 voice(s) said so:

The Inquisitive Akka said...

I know! And I have adopted the policy of acceptance, it makes things much easier.

Suki said...

I know exactly the bossy type you're talking about, G. Only too common, they are.

I suppose the greatest lesson to glean from your post is that we show our mettle best during the toughest times. And more often than not, people will hit hardest when the "opponent" is already down. Tough, but true.

dipali said...

So true, what you say. A hard lesson to learn, but an important one.

Swati said...

so true , very well said. Life has its own way of teaching us.

Sue said...

Been there, hon. And found that I didn't care so much. People will be people and if I let that take precedence over the stuff I need to do at that point of time, I lose out. Nobody else does.

BTW, I was wearing low-rise jeans for the best part of the day when people came over for the FIL. :) I don't think he'd have minded. But it was a while before I got the chance to go home and change into a saree.

choxbox said...

true g.