At the end of 2017, I wrote an article about what that year taught me about life. A little over two years now – in the wake of a new decade – here I am, reminding myself of, and implementing those lessons, through a year of gratitude.
The beginning of 2019 was very different from the beginning of 2020; for one, back then, the new year’s messages poured in till almost the 10th. This year, its been barely few days in, and I can already see that the messages and merriment has phased out.
A small part of me believes it’s because people have matured and moved on from the hysteria of overplaying it. But a more dominant part of me believes, it’s because of a universal decline in enthusiasm. I can’t speak on the behalf of the entire world population – but as I see it, and as Joan Didion once said ‘the world as I had understood it, no longer existed.’
It is perhaps because of everything that has happened since 2009 – personally and globally – and while I can’t encapsulate every event that has impacted our history since then – I know for a fact that the events of 2019 has impacted the way I see the world, and the way I see life.
I won’t delve into the details of my prior statement because this is not an article about my history, but on a global level 2019 saw many many historical moments.
In India itself we saw the re-election of Modi, the enforcement of the CAA, the Pulwama Attacks, not to mention everything that happened globally: the burning of the Notre Dame, the combined bombings in Sri Lanka, the violence against homosexuals in Brunei, the terror attacks in the mosques of New Zealand, the ravaging Amazonian and Australian forest fires, and the onset of a global war in Iran.
But let’s not forget, 2019 did see some good things happen too: the starting of the impeachment proceedings against Trump, the legal ban on the Triple Talak, Greta Thunberg’s relentless campaign to spread awareness on climate change, National Geographic honoring Women for their November issue, the killing of ISIS head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the first ever picture of a black hole, and my personal favorite: Ocean Vuong winning the MacArthur Grant for his debut novel ‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous’.
And just as the events of the world oscillated between celebration and devastation – on a personal level – my perceptions of life and the very state of my existence oscillated between moments of happiness and moments of dejection.
To be clear, there is no direct connection with what happens in the world to what happens in my life – but I would be lying if I said I didn’t resonate with it. There’s something about the high’s and low’s of the world that made me privy to the high’s and low’s of my own existence. And that is when I found myself looking (once again) for a sense of perception.
I found it one day, at the end of August last year when I stumbled on a short video clip created by Jay Shetty on the concept of gratitude. For him it is as simple as putting a positive spin on a negative situation. From something as easy as replacing an ‘I’m sorry for making you wait’ with ‘Thank you for waiting for me’, you’re not just acknowledging the good within that situation, but reinforcing positivity into it. But in order to do that, you have to look deeper and closer to recognize the good. To recognize the gratitude.
We can’t change what happens in the world or what happens in life – but we can change how we choose to see it. There’s pain and there’s sadness, but there’s also joy and love, and then there is this mid zone: like a grey area where we are left feeling nothing. And on days when we find ourselves in that zone, is when we start to look for perception – because perception is the only thing that guides back to love and joy.
Not a difficult lesson, and yet it made me look at life from a whole new dimension. Every time I’m sad, or anxious, I try to look at the good I have: friends I can open up to; my parents who love me unconditionally, the beautiful stories I have read, the stories I still have to read and the stories I have to write.
And so I’ve decided, while everyone else draws up a list of resolutions, for me 2020 is the year of gratitude.
‘Life can be beautiful’, my mom whispered to me a few days’ back – and maybe I can’t see it just yet, but if not for life, I know gratitude makes existing feel better. It’s not going to be easy, but as I embark on this journey – this year of gratitude – I can feel the fears of anxiety and uncertainty gradually diminishing in the background.