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birthday retrospect : Lebensmude and other Midlife things


This year will be the 11 th Birthday retrospect;it is a promise I keep to myself, where I write my thoughts on growing a year older. I started writing a birthday retrospect on my 25th birthday and this year being my 35th birthday post. (read last years post  BR 2018 )

This year went by in a blur –and I was happy about it.
Earlier, my reaction used to be, “ Oh my God! This week went by so fast, where did the time go?” , but this year I couldn’t wait for the months to roll by. I was in a WHY IS LIFE TAKING SO MUCH TIME TO PASS BY mode .
Ah! I can feel that a lot of people reading this are going to be surprised by this. Because I have always been someone plugging my day  with many things to do, I was someone who was a ‘go getter’ kind of person, so much to do in life, so much to see in life, the girl with the biggest FOMO or Fear of missing out.
This year I had flipped completely to the opposite spectrum. I didn’t want to do anything new. It wasn’t like I was demeaning the act of discovering new things, but I was in a ‘so what/kya farak padta hai ‘ kind of mind frame. So you had the best pizza in town –so what ? Or you tried a new dance form – so what? How does that change anything? I have had 30 different types of Pizza, and even the best of them in the prettiest of places, how did that change my life? And if I don’t experience it will it affect my life adversely? The answer was always no. no, nothing would happen if I didn’t travel to the exotic country, nothing would happen if I didn’t eat in the new restaurant – life would still go on.
It was a kind of reverse Psychology, or a kind of detached Nirvana state, where I started to not attach much value to things or activities, and even to people outside of my immediate circle.
It started I think in November last year, I am not exactly sure when, but in the beginning it felt liberating. It felt like I had gone from a fear of missing out to, a joy of missing out.
Also I had reached a stage in life, where I had pretty much achieved what I had set out to in my 30’s.  I had kind of ticked my checklist – have child, buy a home, start working , and all three were going well.
 As I said, I was HAPPY, that I had stopped attaching meaning to meaningless things. I was free, I was evolved. I felt like I was floating through life. I just want to not make any more efforts, and just wait for the years of my life to draw me gently to the end.
It was as if I had set sail in my ship, and the initial problems of setting up ship, fixing things, and moving out of harbour were done, and now we were on the open seas, with only miles upon miles of endless sea.
I was searching for a word to describe how I felt. Was it ENNUI ? A feeling of boredom and listlessness, with having nothing interesting or exciting to do.
I know, by now the ones who are still reading this, are feeling – at such a young age, you are feeling like this…
And here, I want to share , that it was just me. My husband Pawan, was in the exact opposite state. All gung ho about following his dreams, working out twice a day for almost 2 hours, fixing, solving , doing, being- he was all the proactive words, one attaches to following your dreams and goals.
I, on the other hand, felt like I had done all that I had to do.
This went on for a few months, all the way till June or July of this year . in the meantime I heard a wonderful word , at a standup comedy by Kunal Rao. He explained his state of mind as LEBENSMUDE.  A German word that means “ Tired of Living , or Weary of life.”
It summed up how I felt. Just, tired of life. Not sad at life, not angry at life, but weary of life.
Infact I wanted to share what I was going through even before this, on 21 June I even started writing what I was going through. This is what I wrote.
“It feels like having a flu , the same malaise, it’s more of a mental lethargy rather than physical. And just how in a mild flu, you still go to work, and do everything that you are supposed to, it’s just a little more effort, and not so much fun, this lebensmude feels just like that. And just like there is no cure to flu, but just wait it out, here too one just has to let the feeling pass. And because there is no hard and fast cure for it, there are many well  meaning treatment solutions. In flu , people suggest drinking soup, resting at home, taking a break, here too I have got suggestions like going on a trip, listening to music, getting a massage , eating something nice, all of these help , just like drinking soup helps during flu. It all does help, but only for a while. “
It went on. I still felt detached, but now, it had stopped feeling like Nirvana .
And then one day, I was dropping my son to school. It was a bright sunny day, just any other ordinary day . We passed by some older kids playing basketball in the school field, and my thoughts were, ‘ I feel so sad for these kids, they have so much more of life to live. ‘ And then I looked down at my son, whose hand I was holding, and thought ‘ Such a long and tiring life ahead for him…’
I had enough insight to realise that this was not normal. My immediate next thought was ‘ I wish there was a blood test to check depression, maybe these are the kind of thoughts women have before jumping of bridges with their kids.‘
Don’t take life too seriously was what I had started out with, during my Nirvana type of detachment, but it had progressed from not taking life seriously, to not valuing life as much.
‘So what if we are alive, what is so great about it !’
I wanted to get out of that mindset at the soonest. I didn’t want to wait for the “This too shall pass” patiently waiting for things to get better.
I decided to go meet a Psychiatrist : But I didn’t want to ‘talk about it’, infact I wasn’t in the mood to talk about it , I just needed the meds to make me feel more happy and if not more excited about living, at least not as weary about life.
(I am not in the mood to talk about it still )
Things started to get better after that. Was it the meds, was it the fact that I started to take more active control over the situation, started to think positive thoughts . (negative thoughts , and wallowing in misery , tends to reduce the happy chemicals in the brain, thinking happy thoughts makes one happier , over time)
But it wasn’t as easy. It still isn’t.
In the past year, I did only the things I absolutely needed to do, like go to work, and see that my son was fed and sent to school, everything else was optional.
I had drastically reduced my time on all of social media, especially as a creator I was not creating any content. Pawan, who previously laughed at my social media leanings, was worried enough to ask why? It didn’t give me joy, and the reason I was doing any of my extra curriculars – painting , writing blogs, posting on instagram, all of it I did because I enjoyed it, I had stopped enjoying them.
Things that I did enjoy, was this Oreo silk chocolate. From a person who loved dark chocolate, I shifted to very sweet milk chocolate, and Pringles. These were my comfort food.
2019 would not be complete , if I don’t mention Korean dramas . They were my ‘drug of choice’ , my ‘substance’ which kept me comfortably numb. it was an alternate universe which added the little joy and excitement to my life. Infact when I finally decided to get back to writing, I opened my laptop after almost 9 months to write an article on Kdramas, and between last year’s birthday retrospect and this year’s retrospect, there is only one more post I wrote on this blog, also about K dramas ( read it if you want K drama ). I deeply value what K dramas provided me with; they were the equivalent of my warm bubble bath, candle lit dinner, and snuggling in a warm blanket put together.
When I realised that running would help jump start my happy chemicals in my brain. I used to run to Kpop music. I still do.
I didn’t explain my reduced social media presence. I didn’t check my emails, my whatsapp always had 99 chats still to read , but I never thought I needed to explain to anyone what I was going through. I just wanted to be left alone.
So, why am I writing this now.
Well, for one I have always written this retrospect as honestly and as personally as possible. My first birthday retrospect at 25th birthday was also a sad melancholic one (read my first BR 2009 ), and so was my very first blog post, in 2007, was about dark thoughts.
And this post is as much for others, as it is for me to read ten years down the line to remember what I was going through.
Also, I have heard this common theme being vaguely talked about, by a lot of people my age. twice at stand up comedies, where they talk about doing the SAME thing for the NEXT 40 years, and these are guys who have given up cushy lives to ‘live their dreams on stage’ and also ‘make people laugh for a living’. Even in my friends circle, my friend talk about “ yaar its difficult to get up in the mornings”, some one will suggest ‘ dress up to work’ ‘ buy a new lipstick’ ‘ go on a lunch outing’ go for a movie’ , and the answer is always “ I did that yesterday… but I feel the same today.”
Ah, that’s exactly how I felt. I did all of it, sequentially, and then all of it on one single day, and yet the feeling of “ So what? “ had remained.
I hear “ I want to just run away.” “ I sometimes sit in my car, scared to go back inside the house, because life is waiting in there.” I hear “I want to fall in love, travel , go somewhere far away…”
And all I hear is “ I want to feel alive again.”
Ah, I know , I am cringing while I write all of this, but, I was the most ALIVE person I knew. I know I was always super enthusiastic about doing things, trying things, being everywhere all at once, and if I could go through the ‘not feeling alive‘ feeling , anyone can.
And honestly in the beginning, it felt good! It felt good to just float through life, not get so hyped about going and meeting life halfway. Just letting life wash over you.
Ok, I am starting to ramble now.
Last words.
It’s ok to feel WHATEVER you are feeling.
You don’t need your feelings to fit a textbook definition.
You don’t owe anyone an explanation to what you are feeling.
If you feel content with the way you are, it’s ok.
The day you feel, that you don’t want to feel the way you are feeling, ask for help.
Sometimes things don’t go away with time, you need to work on it to get better.
Exercise. Run, or beat the shit out of a bean bag, whatever gets the blood circulating to the cobwebs in your head.



Comments

Anonymous said…
Love what You write Ku. Have been in that kinda frame for a couple of years. I do live in between. But am mostly there. Like you said, have stopped explaining my ways or thoughts to people/ family/ friends.. Coz it doesn’t even make anything any different it seems.. I live on days when I feel alive, and let the days pass, when I don’t!
I hope You are back to being your cheerful lively enthusiastic self this birthday and always! And you continue to dream and pursue them!
I am quite liking the new version of you though, as much as the older, I mean younger You amazed me.. the new You seems deeper, stronger and I am sure You will have the meaning in life You are looking for!
Loads of love on your Birthday and always! ����
Anonymous said…
I want to feel alive....the phase that even I had gone through. Can connect with most of the thoughts that u have penned down. Feels as if u have written what I felt. Wish u a very Happy Birthday!
I remember going through this a few years ago though i did not know the name. I know how achingly sad the feeling can be as well. The sense of a futile routine just eats away at you... Especially in our profession, where a monotonous routine is often broken by a heart pumping emergency not allowing for time to just wind down at a happy pace.

Seek out things that make you happy and work towards doing them even if it means taking time away from work or family. You matter.

Always remember that... You matter. Happy birthday.
Thankyou Anonymous 1 and 2. :)
Live a little more on the days you feel , and on days when it feels too much of a tribe , don't feel embarrassed or guilty for taking time off and float, doing nothing. I feel we need to cut ourselves some slack and give ourselves the freedom to feel , even if that feeling is one of boredom or weariness or apathy.
Thanks Roshan . I realise that the important high is when one feels needed. I really appreciate the work you have done for depression. It's a multiple multitude of feeling s, of jaded and weary and tired , and it's small pockets of wonder and excitement that one reaches for.
Tanya said…
Hi Kuheli, a doctor friend of my suggested I follow you on Insta as you’re a mom with a multi-faceted career including blogging. I’m a 27 year old mother myself and your personality resonates so much with me. I’m also an avid traveler and go-getter and guess what, past few months, after my son was born, I started feeling the same...that does travel or fun or anything else even matter? Then I remembered a line from the Bible (I’m a Catholic Goan) I had read as a child...the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to children. Pairing it with the Hindu ideology that your youth should be spent satisfying your desires or the “Kama” phase of life, I suddenly saw meaning in this sentence. You can still find calm and happiness when you have fulfilled all your wishes and then realise that it’s ok to relax and enjoy the little things like making your baby’s favourite porridge recipe or relishing a cup of tea. Just like finding heaven-like joy in little things like balloons and ice-cream as a child. Doesn’t make you a loser or less valuable. Time shifts your perspective and that’s OK. It’s not weary for the kids to go through life as they have their own beautiful journeys to follow...just like our elders etc would say money etc doesn’t matter but as youngsters we want to still fulfil our dreams and experience it on our own to know for ourselves. These are a lot of different ideas I’ve thrown in but I’ve been thinking a lot about these things too so maybe thought it would help😊 Just remember, life itself is beautiful, just breathing, watching nature, just being...sometimes you need nothing else.
Aloka said…
You know I know you know:) it's tough but it's all worth it

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