Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Letters to Myself

This vacation, people have been telling me I look happier than usual. It's been a welcome change from the old queries and concerns about my then apparently incurable shyness. The other day my sister asked me how I managed not to worry about my future (or something to that effect) and I had no answer to that, because I do in fact worry. My cheery face has more to do with my useful ability to sweep my problems under the carpet than any commendable effort on my part. But there is one other thing I've been doing these past three months that has, in so far as I can tell, worked. Bottling up happiness, so to speak.

That artists need pain to make art is our pet stereotype. We tend to become most self reflective when we are sad, lonely, sick. It's our tragic flaw. We let happy times swiftly flit by and spend ages poring over the slightest of difficulties. I honestly don't believe great art, good writing, spring from depression, but that's another issue. Most budding writers and poets I know rarely go out of their way to describe happiness in as much depth and detail as they devote to death and loss and misery. I am as guilty of grief-stricken rants as the next "personal" blogger. Who'd go out of their way to find an empty corner at a party and write about the fun they're having? Come home after a nice date, win an award, and write about it? For some inexplicably universal reason, writing a diary, at least among us "grown-ups," mostly ends up reserved for tears and life lessons.

Sometime in July, I came across a writing prompt to write a letter to your teenage self explaining all the things you wish you'd known then. Pointless, if you ask me. We're never going to be teenagers again and no self-respecting teenager is going to seek advice from an adult on how to be a teenager. People write letters to their future selves all the time. Write heart-rending stories to dead parents or wax poetic to imaginary lovers. Many beautiful reads, all essentially tear-inducing. But this letter-writing-obsession did give me the idea to write letters not just to my future self, but to sad, depressed, wants-to-give-up-on-everything, homesick Priya. And write them whenever I'm at my happiest.

I hate writing by hand. So I have an email address I send all my happy jolly notes to. Dear Priya in Hyderabad, they used to start before, when Priya in Pune imagined homesick is all the other self would be. Now there are happy times from Hyderabad and home, trips and holidays. An inboxful of memories to remind me that every sad moment is as bleak and as brief as I make it. There's only one rule: I only access that email address when I'm feeling low. That's to keep it from suffering a fate of casual dismissal when I'm in my cynical no-nonsense spirits.

Last night, I collected and shelved recent sweet memories for when I may need them. Later, worried about soon having to leave the comfort of my city, I opened up my bottled joys and caught a whiff of this - "the book is heavy in your hands, the bench pleasantly cool and the breeze catches in your hair. It's perfect. You could possibly convince yourself you're at home. And then a friend shows up and another and suddenly you're hit by this wave of spontaneity and you find yourself abandoning the book and the bench and the breeze and the half empty cup of coffee you didn't know you had and heading out for a stroll." I remember that day at the uni and what happened next was even nicer but this made me smile, and if only for a fleeting second last night, I missed being there.

Happy letters to your sad self, worth a shot, don't you think? Sounds a little pretentious, this post of mine, but come on, all I'm saying is, you're the best "self-help" you could get.

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