What’s the Best Advice You have Received?

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata”
There is a tricky side effect to all gospel- nobody likes to be thought of as a self righteous prig.
Yet sometime as you begin to mature in thought you realize your life is under your control. If not, then it should be. It is a gut consciousness that you may either accept or ignore. It will not go away. This awareness is self evident as Truth.
Despite the fact that you may have been conditioned differently by your environment- maybe you learnt to stay silent only when the teacher was in class, you studied because your parents were on your case 24/7, you obeyed rules like wearing your seat belt or driving at a certain speed only when the traffic  policeman was watching…
Still you know you have the power vested in you to steer your life in any direction of your choosing.
For those who swear by self-reliance it is a comforting thought. To those who have abdicated their decision making ability this is frankly daunting.
The unvarnished fact is where you are in life is the consequence of the decisions you took and if you don’t like the road you are on it is what you choose to do from here on that will make a difference.
No one else can be you. No one else can live your life. No one else can think your thoughts. No one else can take your decisions.
Even when you decide not to choose for yourself in effect you are the one making that choice.
So I come to the Desiderata again and again revisiting its simple but profound ideas as I choose how I will live my life. And at every step I find its simple homespun philosophy guiding me with unerring instinct to choices that have worked best for me.
When we relocated I left behind my comfort zone. It seemed an adversity but in retrospect I realize it was the best thing to happen to me as an individual.
I pondered over the lines- Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Instead of being acted upon by my environment I chose to immerse myself in building my career. The books I wrote, the website I developed, the blogs I wrote…
Each action, small but incremental built my self-image.
So what if I was not climbing a corporate ladder, or going to a JOB like regular people? I created my own niche and invested it with value.
When people meet me today they don’t see me as someone’s wife or someone’s mother or someone’s daughter or someone’s sister. I feel genuine pride in my own accomplishments when I introduce myself as an author.
Don’t misunderstand. It is not my work that defines me or instills in me a sense of self worth. It is because I am happy being me that I have been able to translate it into professional and social success.
Being happy is a state of mind. Parameters are different for different people as what will make them happy.
Be yourself… Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
So, I asked myself what will make me happy?
And I found working for myself would make me happy. Where I created from my labors books I would cherish. Where I dictated my terms and where I looked in the mirror and asked myself for a raise.
From my happiness positive outcomes have generated. I have become a confident partner to my spouse, more patient mom to my children and understanding to my extended family.
without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others …
I vocalize my needs. I talk about what I want fearlessly. At first I hesitated and I have been guilty of trying to feign affection where I was not feeling particularly affectionate.
But every time I short changed myself I was nagged by a strong feeling of discontent which did not seem healthy.
If someone accused me that unjust accusation would hurt me but I would suffer in silence. I would think: this person, more than most should know how pure my motives were.
Till I realized I would have to actually speak up for me and stand in my defense.
I could not allow people to use me as a door mat in relationships. If they messed up they should apologize.
I was not into holding grudges but at the same time it is important that I am an equal in a relationship with my feelings validated and not getting taken for granted.
I am not willing for people to hold me a scapegoat for their shortcomings and their failings.
If someone tells me: I did not tell you because I knew you would misunderstand and make an issue out of this
I have garnered the sense to realize it is not me at fault here.
I am not the guilty party. I am the one who has been wronged. Not only has someone deliberately lied to me but on top of it I am being held culpable by them for not meeting some ideal image of me that they have in their mind.
While people can expect another to live up to their ideals- it is in fact a good thing to have positive expectations of others- however being overly critical of them, abusing them or cheating on them and then rationalizing it as their failure. This attitude is wrong.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit… Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
It is not Utopia. People will try to demean you. To rise above depression you have to keep in mind-
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
If someone misbehaved or tried to put me down I would think of Eleanor Roosevelt who said that nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent. She is right but at the same time it dawned on me that neither am I a punching bag for someone having a nasty day.
So now when someone makes a snarky comment on me I turn around and ask- what’s biting you?
Bullies don’t imagine they will ever be accosted. Once you accost them they go into a pretzel routine tying themselves in knots like a verbal gymnast and ahem! look rather silly.
Sure we all have our secret fears. Fear of loss of a loved one, fear of loss of life, fear of loss of love, fear of loss of money, fear of loss of health, fear of loss of…
It is an endless list of phobias that if unchecked can become our Waterloo.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Its these lines that clarified to me that either I would be acted upon by fear or I would act upon it. Either way a life   where you are in an equation with fear is a terrifying proposition. I looked past it for a positive, joyous motivation to my life.
For example fearing what if I were to lose my husband’s love and become caught in a morass of jealous emotions it would be self defeating.
There is nothing one can do to keep a spouse faithful. It is entirely at their discretion if they value your relationship or you are expendable to them.
All I have control on is myself. I have the ability to chose to celebrate a happy marital relationship investing it with love, caring, sharing and understanding.
How much more prettier is our world when viewed through rose colored spectacles?
… it is still a beautiful world… for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it (love) is as perennial as the grass.
I get so many compliments and it is humbling.
I think of a man tabulating his thoughts recording each word with care. Even if it touched  just one life- mine- for me it is a miracle.
I have taken simple decisions daily. An article, a poem, a blog, a book and suddenly fears have regressed and joy laps at my ankles like an incoming tidal wave.
I am feeling positive, I am contributing, I am creating and I am content.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

© Ruby Mohan
© Cristina Bernhardsen | Dreamstime Stock Photos

One thought on “What’s the Best Advice You have Received?

  1. Good article, ma’am.
    Your honesty comes through.

    Made me think about my own self.
    Thought I would share it with you.

    For me, it has been,

    To be fair to everyone.
    To be honest to myself.
    Been loyal to family and my few friends.

    Dreamt the impossible dreams.
    Went places where no one I know has been.
    Tried everything I wanted to try, mastered a few.

    Never refused if anyone needed help.
    Lived a life leaving no regrets.

    I may not have achieved as much as others.
    But I am content.

    I learnt
    I am but a few specks of stardust.
    Insignificant in the vastness off the universe.

    If there is a journey to take beyond,
    I am ready.

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