BOREDOM PROMPTED ME TO EXPLORE

Bearing a tag – ‘Fragile: Handle with Care‘, I lived my whole life till I stepped on the soil of the City of Joy – Kolkata in the year 2001. Till then I had lived my life amidst close relatives and family in a very cozy and warm atmosphere. I had never done anything on my own or went outside alone. But in Kolkata, the challenges were new and difficult for me to face. After office time I had nothing to do but to read books, write something or study Bible. There was no one to speak with, no one to play anything or nothing to do that would entertain me, or nowhere to go as I had no idea about this new city and I was all alone. Soon, I was dragged into a depressive shell called Boredom.

In those initial days at Kolkata, weekdays were manageable as I kept myself busy at the office during the day time till 6 PM and somehow managed the evenings till bedtime. Sundays were also okay as there were church services till afternoon which kept me engaged. But Saturdays were worst. There were no office or church services on Saturdays except my lonely world called, Boredom.

Every time I woke up on a Saturday morning, I had one worry, ‘How to finish this day as soon as possible?’ But every time, I ended up dwelling in that uncomfortable shell called, Boredom without stepping out of my comfort zone.

But one Saturday, I decided otherwise. I wanted to break free by breaking the shell of Fear and Boredom within which I had been dwelling for a long time. I decided to take that first step in my life by stepping out of my dwelling place called Boredom which actually prompted me to go out and explore; explore something new and challenging for me at that moment of my life, something I had never done before on my own.

I remember, I told my mom, “I am going out to roam and around the city as I am feeling so bored”. My mom was aware of the plight of a 25-year-old man who had been spending all his life with a lot of restrictions and obstructions which had actually cringed him in a dungeon called, Boredom.

I took a rickshaw and went till the main road and took a taxi from there. When the taxi driver asked me where to go, I replied, “I don’t know. Take me wherever you think best for me to feel elated and happy but within Rs. 200, I should be here at this place, safe and sound.” Rs. 200 was like Rs.2000 for me at that particular moment and I had that much only with me to pay, attempting to kill Fear and Boredom in one go.

The taxi driver was a compassionate man. He understood my heart and responded well, “You must have already known and seen Howrah bridge, so I will take you to another bridge which is a new one and called, Vidyasagar Setu”. I nodded without saying a word as my heart responded to him loudly, “Thank you! But know that, I am at your mercy“.

He took me there, on that bridge which was way beautiful than any other bridge that I had ever seen till that time. When he brought me back to my place, I remember, I paid him Rs.170.00 but we both were extremely happy which were priceless. I was happy for taking the first step to come out of my Boredom and explore the city all alone for the first time, and he was happy for being that change agent in my life.

Captured by me: The road leading to Vidyasagar Setu

Many years later, when I had the opportunity to capture the beautiful Vidyasagar Setu, I remembered how I explored it in 2001, all by myself.

Captured by me: A glimpse of Vidyasagar Setu

I had been to Vidyasagar Setu a number of times in the last 20 years of my life in Kolkata but that first trip to Vidyasagar Setu will always be my favourite one till the end.

Captured by me: Crossing over the beautiful Vidyasagar Setu

Every boredom prompts something to explore. If your boredom doesn’t prompt you to explore then remember you are not bored but actually enjoying where you are.

Today, due to my health condition, I don’t go out much but I found other avenues or have explored something else to get out of my boredom. But all these mini or big explorations have always made me happy and kept me joyful instead of dwelling in depression and boredom. And I will quote that same Bible verse again which has always encouraged and prompted me to explore – “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.” We can not make use of our ideas, intellect when we are dead. We can utilise them only when we are alive and our God wants us to be happy and joyous in life, kicking off a life of grumbling and complaints. With this thought in my mind, I had initiated and gave birth to my child – Candles in 2006 and I am so happy to write this article today, which is the 2000th post published on Candles Online.

So friends! Never dwell in depression or boredom but be prompt to take the first step and come out of that shell called, Fear and Boredom to lead a joyful and cheerful life.

Stay blessed!

FIRST STEPS ARE NOT ALWAYS CAKEWALKS!

Escapades from the din and humdrum of routine life are fun, exciting, adventurous, a tad scary at times and offer elements of surprise that one would cherish or banish from memory forever. A first step taken either literally or symbolically in any avenue is more often than not, a step to remember – especially if you had been scared to take that step.

To kickstart this week’s topic – ‘Taking that first step . . . when you were afraid’, let me share one such fun episode from more than a decade before.

I was in the University pursuing my Post Graduation. The famous apparel chain Pantaloons had just opened their first outlet in Bhubaneswar. My University being just a few kilometers away, my friends and I decided to pay a visit after classes got over one day. We were excited, especially because there weren’t too many big brand outlets and malls in the city that time.

We weren’t disappointed! The stock of apparels and accessories pleased our eyes, though being students still, we didn’t have much money at our disposal to splurge. Once we were done with the ground floor, it was time to move up to explore what the other two floors had in store. There came the catch! Having been designed as a mini-mall of sorts sans food court, there were escalators to ferry customers to and from each floor. No staircase. No lift.

My first exposure to an escalator and the accompanying hesitation to take the first step! One by one all my friends stepped on the escalator and reached the first floor while I was still stuck in the ground floor. Somehow, I couldn’t muster enough courage to take that first step. My friends soon realised that I wasn’t with them and called out to me, to which I simply gave the excuse that I had to explore a few more collections in the ground floor.

After some time when I still didn’t reach up to the first floor, one of my friends understood the reason. It was very sweet on her part to come down to the ground floor, hold my hand and take me to the escalator – all the way assuring that she would be going up with me holding my hand. And, that is just what she did!

Lo! We reached the first floor hand in hand and joined the others in exploring the stuff there. The same friend held my hand while descending from the first floor to the ground floor as well. The others who had by that time known what had kept me downstairs, went down and and encouraged me to do so. But, this friend stayed back, held my hand, stepped on the escalator with me and gave me the courage to move downstairs.

It has been more than a decade to that first exposure to an escalator. Surely, I don’t spare a second before stepping onto escalators now! But, the memory of that first step sure makes me chuckle 🙂

As I stepped out of Pantaloons that evening thanking my friend endlessly for lending her hand to help me overcome my fear, I learnt a very important life lesson – first steps aren’t always cakewalks!

Across life’s pathways, being sensitive to others’ first steps helps makes the journey pleasant for them. At times encouragement from a distance helps. But at a few other times, what is needed is to extend the hand to hold on to and take the step together. It helps address the inner fear and the accompanying hesitation along with providing the confidence and the courage for an independent step in the future.

Coming to escalators, now that I don’t bat an eyelid before using escalators, I always look out for people who might be in the same place that I was years before and extend them a hand with a few words of courage. I am grateful to God for teaching me such a vital lesson from the experience that day and also for reminding me how He holds my hand across life’s myriad pathways with His promises – “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you . . .”

So yes, a fun outing turned into a vital learning that day. To be sensitive and respond to someone’s inner fear of the first step does more than you can think of in many ways. It helps keep your conscience alive and responsive (that’s to your benefit) and helps the other person reach a new level of confidence along with accomplishing the immediate goal at hand.

 And if you are a person hesitant or afraid to take a first step in any area of your life – literally or otherwise, I would like to encourage you that a helping hand would soon come by. Don’t stop . . . move on!

FEAR, FEAR, IN MY HEART

Walking through this life, I often Stumble

Sailing through time, it makes me Tremble

Fears can’t be faced with a pinch of Salt

It Hampers my growth, but it’s not my Fault

Thorny and Barbed and Dry and Rough

I can walk no more, this road is tough

Days can be dark, nights can be darker

Fright Has no pattern, there is no Marker

Just know that it’s fine if you take a fall

If you conquer your fears and just stand tall

Yours can be a dog or a spider or a snake

Mine can be flowers or books or cake

I fear Doctors and Dying and Crowd

But that’s no reason that I can’t feel proud

You won’t know Freedom until you know a cage

Just overcome that horror, just turn that Page

For you are not alone in this battle that’s within

But just keep on fighting and never do Give in

You try and try, you try harder and you fail

You sob and you cry and you whine and you wail

“Fear is only as deep as the mind allows” they say

So snatch it by its neck and show it the Highway

You seek but none can help, it’s your own battle

These scares and these frights are your own chattel

So don’t show your back and run like a coward

Focus on your strengths and feel empowered

I would let you on a secret, on how to be Wise

F.E.A.R is an acronym for, Face Enemy And Rise!

CAN’T BEAR THEIR SIGHT!!

Fear or phobia is a very big word. I don’t know what I feel is fear or just plain discomfort or borderline disgust.

I have this huge revulsion towards reptiles. The snakes, crocs or any kind of slithering animals. I just have a huge fear of these things. Sometimes I wonder why. Mind you I have never seen these animals outside of the cage. Never had a bad encounter with any of them. But just the thought of them makes me cringe.

I will share a few instances. As in most households we put on the television while having dinner. And when it comes to TV channel all the four members of our family have different choices. If by chance my younger son gets hold of the remote he will put on his favourite channel – Animal Planet or Discovery. While I too believe that these channels are very informative and it’s better than watching mindless cartoons. But please, please not while having food. Just imagine you are having your dinner and right in front of you they are showing Bear Grylls of Man vs Wild eating raw worms or an animal catching its prey in close up. I don’t know about your reaction but my food takes a reverse gear and I puke.

In Pune there is a very beautiful Zoo. It was earlier only a snake park and then converted into a full-fledged Zoo. So a huge chuck of the zoo is still dedicated to snakes and other reptiles. My kids love going there but I can’t get myself to look into those cages. Even though I know they are safely locked up and can’t harm me. I just cannot bear the sight. During our last visit I sat outside the snake park with a packet of chips and cold drinks for company while my whole family went and admired all those slithering beauties.

Actually speaking, any close contact with any animal raises my self-preservation antennae. Like my dear friend Chiradeep I am really scared of dogs too. Even the pets. Even with the pet owner by my side I am never comfortable if the dog is roaming around in the room. The owners will try to sooth me by saying that “Don’t worry he won’t bite,” or when the dog is sniffing me and they tell me “He is just trying to be friendly”. I am standing very still and in my mind I am shouting at the pet owner – “The dog knows that I am afraid of him. He will definitely try to overpower me. Help!! Just send him to the other room.”

I know these fears are silly. But this is me. Can’t change. My husband tried to get a pet Labrador. A very cute little pup. But in a week’s time he realized that either he could keep his pet or his wife. Both can’t coexist. I was so scared of the little puppy that I spent most of my day on the bed. So that the puppy couldn’t reach me.

List of phobias are endless. I am very scared of watching any kind of horror movies. Even if I see a trailer of a horror movie and later forget about it during the course of the day. The trailer comes back in my mind at night to haunt me. So I am quick to change channels if there is any such advertisement is coming up.

I think I am not the only one. We all have such little fears and phobias. Do share your phobias in the comments section.

MY FEAR OF “NOT LOOKING GOOD”

One of my biggest fear that makes my stomach crumple is the fear of being judged wrongly, the fear of people thinking that I am bad, fear of people believing that I am not good enough for something.

Fear of looking bad comes when I constantly think of “What people will think of me?” and the answer to that question actually drives my actions. This also means that my own opinions would not matter. It would always be defined and governed by what people want me to do and behave.

In the past I had a tough situation at work. Apparently, the team that I worked with did not think that I am doing enough work or performing to my capabilities. They always had reasons to find faults at me. Mainly most of them did not like me. I remember not wanting to go to work at all and even crying in washrooms during the day. It was a horrible time for me because somehow what people think of me mattered to me a lot.

“What can I do so that people like me?” “How should I behave to be in good books of people close to me?” “What does he/she expect from me?” These were the kind of questions always running in my head. It was so important for me to be a “Good Girl” that I would go to just any limits to make this happen. That doesn’t mean that I always followed what people wanted me to do. That meant that I would always give an impression to people around me that I am the best. It was more prevalent with my family members.

Long ago when I was studying, I had a close friend. She used in confide in me a lot and I used to as well. But there was one problem – she was very judgmental. Every time she would feel that I am doing something wrong in her opinion, she would simply invalidate my feelings and tell me that I was wrong. As a result of this I started to hesitate in sharing my feelings with her, because I knew she would come down on me. But the fact is that I had to be “Nice” to her so I started to hide things and even lying to her. So, it was double life – on one side I would things that I liked and on the other I would be a person that she would approve of. One can imagine what happened to our friendship, it died after a lot of trouble.

Things like these happen to me quite a lot – where being nice or looking good in the eyes of others is so important for me that I would step upon my own feelings. The result would be that I would end up being a doormat.

In Dec 2016, I took a resolution to make an attempt to get over this fear. I took a very conscious decision to have those difficult conversations with people around me to make myself heard. I made a list of people I have to talk and the topics I have to talk to about. Initially, it took a lot of preparation in order to come up with the conversation but now I think I am getting used to just telling people (in a nice way) that I disagree with them.

I think my parents did an amazing job of putting values of being nice, being kind, being selfless in me. But excess of anything is harmful. I have gone through a lot of emotional turmoil because of this fear. I have a feeling now that I might be on journey to keep this fear behind me. I hope so.

OVERCOMING SOCIAL PHOBIA- THE FEAR OF INTERACTING WITH PEOPLE

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

And if I am not for others, what am I?

And if not now, when?”

-Hillel (Ancient Hebrew Sage)

Yesterday when I was informed by a friend of mine regarding placements in school in the third semester, I found myself panic-stricken and anxious. I was placed somewhere that I was not comfortable with. Moreover, going in to a new situation, adjusting in a novel environment threw me in jitters. I, a 24-year-old woman pursuing my Bachelors in Education, a would-be teacher and a dancer frequently found myself in situations where I was struck with Social phobia. While it was before a presentation stint or an interview or before performing on stage and socializing I was shrouded in nervousness. I feared that I would end up embarrassing myself which would make people feel that I was incapable for the task, which took place quite a few times.

The word phobia is defined as “a persistent, abnormal, or irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid the feared stimulus.” Therefore, Social phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is a feeling of acute aversion towards social situations which are unfamiliar as the person in question is expected to be evaluated or watched. This has become a very common affair as we have to reach certain criterion set by the society regularly. Some of us try to look for an escape plan as it places us into distressing hair-splitting footings.

A person suffering from SAD as recognized by HelpGuide organization in collaboration with Harvard Medical School experiences the following in social situations:

  • Self-consciousness and anxiety to the utmost
  • Extreme worry before socializing
  • Fear of evaluation and observation
  • Self-embarrassment and self-humiliation
  • Nervousness
  • Palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Tightness of chest
  • Racing pulse
  • Shyness
  • Nausea
  • Hot flashes and sweating
  • Bringing a companion along everywhere
  • Escaping from social situations which disturbs life

Social phobia can be inherent in a human being and can be experienced even from early childhood. The earliest it is identified the best one can work to overcome it. When you find out that your child is shy to talk to adults, play with other children, afraid of tests, you will understand that he/she may be struck with social phobia. Adults experience it when while presenting, public speaking, making phone calls, going on a date, being the centre of attraction and so on and so forth.

I went through most of these and did my very best to avoid social situations but there were times I couldn’t. At times I was conceived of an unprofessional, incapable and incompetent. But this did not have anything to do with my skills and abilities. What I realized was that the fear is tentative and is just a conception of the mind. If I had to achieve what lay in front of me I have to view the situation in a different way. With the help of people around me who constantly gave a positive boost, I am able to change my perspective.

Social phobia can be eliminated if one is confident in and knows what he/she is doing. It requires challenging the negative thoughts and changing them into positive. Staying focused and relaxed also helps. Before speaking, performing or socializing it’s essential to calm the and free yourself of disorders and confusion. Attempting to be spontaneous and most importantly being who you are also can bring you out of your fear while maintaining your composure. Eliminate from your mind that even if you don’t deliver you are not awful. With children the methods of positive reinforcement, exposure to character building engagements, learning by doing, role playing etc. have to be applied.

It’s not that we, the common folks only face this giant fear of people. You will be surprised to know that a host of other celebrities also experience the same. The list includes Johnny Depp, Beyoncé, Oprah Winfrey, Adele and many others. In spite of suffering from such a disorder we see them performing and presenting brilliantly. Though it requires a conflict it is not impossible. Therefore, do consider the quote mentioned in the beginning when experiencing SAD.

CAGE THE DEMON

Fear kills! Yes, you read it right. Fear kills! Each day many people die untimely deaths because of fear. Extreme fear causes the internal physiological system to collapse leading to multiple organ failure. Of course, constant irrational fears (phobias) are definitely not normal and need to be dealt with by experts. There are certain triggers of fear that can be nipped in the bud before they lead to disastrous consequences.

D – Doubt

Lack of trust creates doubt and doubt leads to fear. Fear arising from doubt breeds suspicion, gives rise to conflict, breaks relationships and takes the lives of many. Fear arising from doubt robs the peace from one’s life and provides room for apprehensions.

E – Emergency       

Emergency situations require an immediate response. Not all people are equipped to handle emergencies. Many people are unable to act instantly because of the fear of the consequences of the emergency. For example, a person who hears about the sudden accident of his son needs to rush to the spot immediately. If the fear of facing his son in critical condition holds him back, all will be lost.

M – Malady

A debilitating disease afflicting a loved one or oneself creates fear in the heart. Fear of losing a dear one to sickness or fear of losing one’s life, especially when one has the responsibility of children and / or aged parents / spouse is really worrisome. Research studies have shown that fear slows down the process of recovery.

O – Opposition

Facing criticism and opposing views creates fear in the hearts of many – fear of taking initiative, fear of losing one’s self-esteem, fear of being ignored, fear of being jeered at and fear of rejection. And, so we prefer to remain silent and sail with the rest of the crew.

N – Novelty

Novelty usually has uncertainty as its companion. Hence, newness gives rise to fear in the hearts of many. A new relationship, new job, a new-born baby, a new plan, new boss, new school/college/workplace – give rise to apprehensions which are normal for a short duration. However if these feelings of apprehension linger for long, they give rise to fear.

So, then how do we cage this demon called ‘fear’?

C – Cultivate Faith

Have faith in your abilities, in yourself and in God. God believes in you and your potential. So, you need to believe in yourself even when the situation is bleak and there is no hope in sight. Faith generates hope. And hope dispels fear. Hence, cultivate faith.

A – Accept wise Counsel

Nobody on earth can claim to be a ‘know-it-all’ expert. We all need advice / suggestions from time to time. When fear regarding anything grips your heart, seek help. Share your apprehensions / fears with a trusted person and accept the wise counsel that is offered to you.

G – Govern your Thoughts

Don’t allow fearful thoughts to gain an edge over you. Instead replace them with courageous and positive thoughts. Avoid the company of fearful people. Fear breeds fear. Be in the company of people who would infuse courage into you. Positive self-talk strengthens the mind. Fill your mind with thoughts are true, pure, noble and courageous. Don’t let your thoughts govern you. Rather, you govern your thoughts.

E – Embrace Changes

Fear of the consequences lead many to inaction. Imagine that a bud refuses to bloom because it is afraid of the changes that it might encounter when it becomes a flower! Will it be able to enjoy its life and bring joy to others? If a pupa refuses to become a butterfly, it will die trapped in its cocoon. Change always springs in something new. Encountering the new and novel creates fear in many. However, remember you cannot bloom unless you embrace the changes that life has to offer.

So, don’t allow the fear-demon to scare the life out of you. Cage it in. It’ll die a slow death!