It’s been a while; many times i have felt the urge to write, the right way to express the emotions in words confound and elude me. The 3-month long summer break (though I would hesitate to call it a break) is drawing to an end – it has been eventful (perhaps overly so) and sufficiently fulfilling. It has been tiring but also rewarding; challenging but at the same time enlightening.
Thus comes the time when I surface for air – to catch a breather after plunging headlong into a deep pool of commitments. I have found myself growing at times, being pushed along by the currents at times, and cruising along at times. Regardless of the way I’m progressing, I have sought to retain tight control of the direction that I move in. Even as I drown in 12-hour workdays, I doggedly insist on sticking to my double-session training routine and teaching schedule.
Perhaps at this point in time, any discerning literary student would have read the above passages and note the obvious contradictions, and then acknowledge that the truism that contradiction lies at the core of humanity. For we are all walking contradictions and the greatest mistake that we make each day os to attempt to reconcile these inconsistencies and present to the world a coherent image of ourselves.
What we do not realise though, is that it is these contradictions that make us human; they give us character and transform each of us into a three-dimensional human being. According to Jack Johnson, we’re clever but we’re clueless. And yes, many of us are condiment but shy, assertive but insecure, competent but careless, driven but afraid, committed but frivolous. We soon realise that perfection is a myth and coherence is an impossibility.
My way to live then, is not to perfect the imperfections, but to accept them. It is not to reconcile the contradictions, but to embrace them. Living this way makes one more accepting and forgiving of others, as we realise that the supposed double standards we often accuse others of imposing are but a manifestation of the inherent contradictions of the human condition.
I remember pondering and writing about the futility of fighting the currents when swimming in the open sea, preferring instead to go with the currents; flow with it and make it work for you. Perhaps now, I’ve arrived at a deeper understanding of this. Over the years of being an angry, rebellious kid,I’ve learnt that anger and denial takes you nowhere (except to the darkest depth of the human condition). Things have not been smooth sailing lately, but I’ve learnt to accept the imperfections and hurdles of life as making up the essence of life itself. I stopped questioning why I have to bear the cost of the mistakes of others (which seems to be a recurring theme in my life recently), for what’s done is done, and we should let losses lie where they fall. I have been asked why I’m not angry, why do I not pursue the matter and hold those in the wrong responsible, but I simply shrug. Someone shrieked at me the other day, saying that I was too kind-hearted and letting others take advantage; once again I shrug it off and say, I don’t believe in karma. I don’t believe that kindness begets kindness; though I try to do good for those around me, but I don’t believe that kindness actually comes back to you. Perhaps the reward lies simply in being able to give others a hand.
Neither is denial good for you – this is a lesson that I learnt from triathlon. “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”, this is what I once lived by. But now I take it further: I don’t just accept that each training session is painful and I also accept that suffering is part of it. Make your opponents play by your rules, that’s what I’ve been told over again. I’ve realised that we should play to win (rather than playing not to lose) and so the focus should be on our own strengths and not our opponents’ weaknesses (this becomes the focus only if you’re trying not to lose). So in every race, I acknowledge that everyone is suffering and going through pain, then I push the pace and invite them to suffer with me; all this while confident of beating them because I know that I am willing to suffer more than them, and willing to take more pain than anyone else.
This is in everything I do, training, racing, studying, working. For this is the way I deal with my own inherent contradictions – I am insecure but confident, insecure about my own abilities but confident about my capacity to suffer. This quiet acknowledgement of knowing how to deal with pain is how I battle the insecurities and the doubts.
And that is why everyday, I throw myself into deeper waters and take on greater challenges – I call it “training to increase capacity to suffer”. You’d be amaze at how far this ability to suffer can take you. But for now, it’s a heads-up and a breather; a time to surface for some air before plunging all the way down again.