A lesson from nature

When we look around us, we see nature at her most pristine. The scurrying squirrels, wandering birds, swaying leaves, and sparkling mirages are all reminders how nature treats life as we know it. Everything around us is a part of a bigger picture that nature paints for us. From the playful kittens and mischievous puppies, to the untamed wilderness, there’s always something worth smiling at and palpable happiness in the air.

It’s only natural then that the joy affects us as well. As inhabitants of this earth it’s close to impossible not to let nature influence or impact on us.

Nevertheless, despite the bubbling energy in our environment, we refrain from enjoying it.

Kids don’t care what others think of them. Kids be themselves, splashing around in the mud, making a racket, spilling coffee on their clothes, and laughing at it all without a care in the world.

Would we grown ups dare do the same?

We wouldn’t. We’re too self-conscious to let ourselves go. We’re too worried about what others would say or think of us. As we ponder about living in the moment, we fail to recognise our lives are fleeting before our eyes. We think we don’t deserve to play, because we’re adults with adult responsibilities.

We, instead, reserve playtime as for kids. Play is for everyone. It’s what makes us human, spreads liveliness in us and makes us relatable. When we face life with a smile on our lips, with a positive attitude and confidence to overcome barriers, when we’re unwavering in challenges and ever hopeful, we fall in line with the earth herself: content and tolerant.

The best thing about enjoying, indulging, ourselves is that we don’t have to try too hard. We just have listen to and heed our inner mind. And sit by a stream observing the gushing water. There’s so much calm and joy radiating from nature that it seeps through us as well. Nature reminds us to live every moment, and does that by example.

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Unblock

The muse stops.

The screen freezes.

The block appears. And you’re stuck.

It’s so common nowadays to claim a writer’s block. Professionals do it all the time. Even amateurs often find it hard to go further than the first few scrawny lines they managed on their big novel.

I’ve felt the same so many times. However, I don’t think it’s valid to name it writer’s block. No one’s blocked in the literal sense. Writing is a habit. It’s practice.

Even art isn’t art without practice.

The problem is, we often define writing as a creative job. People stereotype writers as wearing big round glasses, sleep-deprived, coffee-fueled, alcohol addicts. I don’t think so. Sure, we’ve seen a lot of great writers who match the description as much as twins look alike. Nevertheless, writers are different with varied perspectives and tastes. Not every writer writes only when they’ve gulped a pot of coffee. Not every writer needs alcohol to keep them typing.

Some writers just sit at the computer and write.

The reason is that they approach writing as a part of their life. It’s not an impulsive muse that needs to hit them at the right time at the right spot. It’s, instead, a ritual they go through because they choose to commit to it.

Writing in its pure sense is communication between the writer and the reader. It should be simple and straightforward if the reader is to glean anything at all. There’s no place for showing off there. Sure, poetry and fiction need a creative streak. And, yes, readers often enjoy an occasional wordplay or the clever turn of phrase. But all that comes from editing, and not the writing itself. For the first draft of anything is often us telling the story to ourselves.

When we approach our everyday writing like it’s verbal diarrhoea—or logorrhoea, in technical terms—there’s no way we’d get blocked. Whether we’re a professional non-fiction writer, an amateur, or a novel novelist, at the end of the day, we’re just a writer. It’s our job.

And when we have a job to do, we can’t afford to slack. No other job gets the block. 

Hospitality is a huge industry. Thousands of staff work day in and out throughout the calendar to ensure the rest of us are comfortable. I’ve never seen housekeeping personnel claiming they’re blocked. They get tired and even bored at their job. But that doesn’t mean they can’t, and don’t, finish their work.

Writers get tired, too. It isn’t easy to put words to thoughts on a daily basis and do it well, too. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do it. It only means that we’re too bored or lazy to keep going. We just need to take a break and carry on. 

Calling it writer’s block is just a lame excuse for not sucking it up.

Agent of change

Change is undeniable. Whether it’s immediate, intermittent, or ironic, everyday things are changing every day.

Whether it’s adopting a new route to work, embracing a fresh lifestyle choice, or committing ourselves to a new opportunity, change brings consequences. While some of these changes are self-made and voluntary, some are sudden and downright surprising.

Regardless of how these changes come about, they’re transformational without doubt. They delve deep within us, affecting our inner being, stirring our spirit, and enabling us to showcase our best self.

Transformation is a symbol of new expectations. It brings along hope and a mind ready to take on new challenges. We become more self-reliant, confident, and excited at the prospect of a positive development.

That said, however, transformation can be scary too. Change is uncertain. And when we face such situations, inertia often engulfs us. We hesitate, ponder, and wonder if we are indeed in the right path. It may take some time, but we’ll recognise the goodness in change. Its unfamiliarity may take some getting used to, but once we do, it’s a smooth sail—making it favourable.

That’s why it often helps to change in manageable chunks. Bit by bit—or as Anne Lamott says bird by bird—we can make it a bigger, sustainable change. It’s like climbing a mountain—when we take one step a time, we’re more focussed and the task seems less overwhelming and daunting.

There’s no such thing as a bad transformation. In the long run, changes either alter our lives for the better or leave us with lessons. When nature throws an unwelcome change at us, when we’re least prepared, we feel scared. We wish we’d had some warning, a step-by-step approach so we would’ve got used to it. But life doesn’t always work the way we want. When it forces change upon us, we adapt and learn to live with it. It’s often not obvious, but as humans we are capable of stepping into a current flowing on the opposite direction and learn to swim with it.

Whether we choose it or nature chooses it for us, change affects everyone around us, too. Family, friends, acquaintances, neighbours, and even the prying, annoying, cousins once or twice removed. No matter what anyone says, though, our transformation is ours. If we can accept that, we can also help others accept and understand us. Some may decide to join us, but many won’t. Regardless, resisting change is unwise. Just as we want others to accept our changes, we should accept others’ change as well. By being compassionate and empathetic to others, we become a more evolved and mature human being.

Street smarts

I often vent (offline) about living in a pedestrian-hating city. I think it’s horrible. Some of the roads are full of potholes, mud puddles, slippery plastic bags mingled with garbage, and are just plain un-walkable. Then there’re vehicles and senseless drivers who almost brush against you when you walk. Oh, and on an average day, you’d hear at least fifty different honking frequencies over the course of a five-minute walk.

It’s horrible. That’s why few people walk and advocate for walking as a way of commute. Apart from the mental and the noise pollution, you’d also have air pollution and nostril violation.

As you can see, I love ranting about the street conditions in my area.

A couple of days ago, however, I saw something that put a different perspective in light. A group of women walked with absolute disregard for the vehicles whizzing by them. As a regular walker myself, I make sure I don’t get in the motorists’ way, even by accident. I’d walk on uneven rocks on the side of the road just to avoid the speeding drivers.

These women, though, cared not one bit. They waved their arms in the air talking while they waited to cross the busy highway (freeway) on which trucks cruise every day. Though obvious, they were distracting the driver sending all kinds of mixed signals. Drivers can’t brake at whim, and when someone puts their hand out, it seems to them as if that pedestrian would jump onto the moving vehicle.

I learnt this during my front-seat rides while my brother drove. He’d often swear at pedestrians who run into the street without warning. Though they’re often confident that they can cross the street without getting hit, it always scares the person behind the wheel.

When I saw the women do the same, I wondered how wrong I am to blame only the motorists. We pedestrians aren’t any better.

We need more stringent road rules and decent infrastructure.

Side note and moment of epiphany: From complaining about the masses I’ve begun complain about the authority. How mature of me.


P.S: I describe my observations of the city I live in. I’m aware that it isn’t the same everywhere else. I’ve walked through so many streets in California dropping my jaw at the street sense there. (Portland, I’m looking at you.)

Situations

Rushing emotion threatened to betray her resolution.

He hadn’t noticed. She’d been around, though, lurking behind the water cooler, perched at her desk, throwing side glances each time he paused for a drink or walked by to the men’s room.

She’d pined to talk to him, to express her desires and disappointments, to have him listen and agree. Yet a craven lass she was. Colleagues knew naught of the turmoil she waged within, and none cared enough to care either.

Bottling up all her impulses, she remained mute and desolated, unable to ask her boss for the vacation she deserved.