When I look back at 2018, the most significant event is my coming to terms with my post-work phase.
There is something dangerously seductive about the word ‘retired’. Even though I was sure in my mind that I was leaving Life Positive only to be fully engaged in my chosen line of work as a facilitator, the more I told people I had retired, the more I bought it.
And the easier it was to while away my time in between workshops on Facebook or watching TV. After all, I was ‘retired’ and even society gave you sanction to take it easy.
So I did things I had never done before, like shopping or seeing a movie in the middle of a working day, inviting people for long leisurely lunches during weekdays, travelling to other people’s houses for long leisurely lunches during weekdays, travelling around the country holding my workshops and so on.
All this was great and I hope to do them all my life, but there was something missing.
I felt as if there was a gaping hole where my centre ought to be. At the end of the day, it was hard to figure out where my day had gone, and what I had done.
Worst of all was the fact that I wasn’t writing as much as I wanted to, and thought I would. There was a book I had planned to write even before leaving Life Positive, but it languished on my laptop, while I busily attended to the day’s minutiae.
Fortunately, sometime in early October, it all came together. I was in Delhi for a workshop which was to be followed the next weekend by an Advanced Course. I was staying all alone in the house of my dear friend, Suparna. For lack of anything to do during the week, I decided to revisit my book. Inspiration took flight and I dashed off a few chapters.
I realised then that if I had to write my book I had to sweep everything else off my plate. It had to be given top priority.
When I came back home, I chalked out a schedule. My must-dos for the day would be meditation, writing, and an evening walk. Everything else would have to be fitted around them. I also drew up a weekly schedule of things to do, and every day, I wrote down the tasks for the day, depending on their priorities. A weekly schedule helped me to bunch up activities. If I had to travel beyond Malad at some point, then I could plan to shop for veggies and other necessities at Malad station the same time. If I had to go to Bandra for something, then I could also meet up with some friends at the same time.
Best of all, after a very long time, I felt focussed and action-oriented.
It was then that I realised that all this was a process I simply had to go through. A few months after leaving Life Positive, I did consider creating a schedule that would see me at my work desk at 10.30 am. The thought was suffocating. What!? Was I going to exchange one treadmill for another? I no longer wanted to watch the clock. I wanted to be free of the pressure of time and allow myself to unwind.
I guess it took me this long to arrive at a space where I could create schedules for myself that would not imprison me. The key word is priority. There are days when I cannot attend to the writing at all, because of other priorities, but I make up for it through days devoted entirely to writing.
I am learning not to allow the important to suffer in the hands of the urgent in the words of Stephen Covey (author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People).
I am learning to value my time. And to make the most of my day. I go to bed these days feeling fulfilled and satisfied. I may not always write as much as I would like to, but most days, I manage to finish at least one chapter. (Each chapter is only about 1000 words, so that is not an unachievable target)
And yes, in writing, I have found my centre. Something that pulls my whole day together and gives it meaning and purpose.
What has been your greatest takeaway this year?
Suma Varughese has had a long and illustrious career as a writer/editor/journalist for 40 years. She was the editor-in-chief of Life Positive, India’s premier body-mind-spirit magazine, for over 12 years, prior to which she was the editor of Society magazine for five years and has also been a senior editor with Gentleman magazine. Suma is a popular guest speaker at many conferences and seminars and has been intimately connected with the rise of the spiritual movement in India.