I shot the Sheriff
Without exception, we all start each day with the belief that it will be the best. That we will give it our best. That it will yield the best. We believe we’ll bring nothing but joy in the lives of those we love. Those we battle life for every day. Those we protect. Those who make us want to live.
Yet, some days are dark.
And they’re easier to get by when the cause is external — the enemy outside the gate. But then, there are times when you are the doer. You, who makes night of day. And there’s no escape. For, when the dark cloud is external, there’s respite in the liberating thought of cutting loose: I’ll quit, I’ll walk out on him, I’ll fire her, I’ll never fly this airline… But how do you escape you?
Recrimination doesn’t help. Analysing makes it worse. And to add to your misery, the other, the victim of your action, refuses to do to you what you believe is retribution. And perhaps, release. So, no blame game. No bomb squad. Threats. Or even cold disapproval. No easy escape where the act is lost in the aftermath. He, yet, believes in you, and your original agenda of bringing joy.
Sometimes, to be hanged is an easier punishment than to be loved.
As a little girl, I’d repeatedly lose my mother’s jewellery. Don’t ask how I got around it. I just did. And much was lost. For a fauji household, such excesses earn the Quarter Guard. Ma, albeit the disciplinarian, never gave me the dark room. Nor sharp rebukes. On the contrary, she’d beckon me close; hold me and console me, as I’d cry. “It’s okay, my doll. I know you are sorry.” She taught me responsibility, responsibly.
And yet, responsibility isn’t merely the safeguarding of riches. Being ‘good dog’ where it counts. Responsibility is to be responsible for who you are. To safeguard the self, every day, every minute.
We are all the sum of many parts; parts indigenous and then parts accumulated — harnessed and cultivated. But one is in the know of the lay of land. And then something happens so bizarre — and even more bizarrely done by you — that you lose perspective. You may take responsibility for it, accept blame, and the other may forgive you — even allow his image of you not to be sullied — but what of you? You crumble. Your equipoise destroyed. And despite the brave face you put on, your sense of self is in jeopardy.
There’s guilt and then, there’s shame. Guilt at what you’ve done. And shame at what it makes you out to be. This is not me, you recoil. But it is. What hurts in particular is that, most often, at the root of this disenchantment is but a moment’s carelessness. A moment where you chose, unknowingly, to not be you and veered from your core.
Choices. Most often, when we do things, are we even conscious of exercising a choice? The big ‘dos’, yes, but what of the multitude we execute every hour, every day? Thoughtlessly, on autopilot. Life is the sum total of our choices. Choices that, in an ideal world, are made based on contemplation. Thought. But in the frenzy of achievement and that need to extract the very last drop from each day, we disregard the fundamental. You think of all else but what you are doing and, more so, who you are.
You forget to be you.
Now, as you revisit that thoughtless action, which distances you from you, what wells up is self-blame, guilt and shame. Allow these emotions to play out and yet, don’t indulge them. Take responsibility rather than blame. For, responsibility yields accountability whereas blame ushers resentment. Responsibility is empowering. Blame, defeatist. As for Miss Guilt and Miss Shame, yes, they are the untouchables but if administered in right measure, they take on a positive sheen. Catalyse you to corrective action, and not paralyse you.
How? By inducing in you a certain motivation to change. And what can be simpler than returning to your core? Simply, being you. Yes, even as the fallout of a thoughtless action is heart wrenching, making amends is not rocket science. Be aware of who you are every moment. Juxtapose what you are doing, no matter how mindless and insignificant, against your core and then press enter. And this consciously. Mindfully. Stay centred. Drop the frenzy. The checklists. The multitasking. Be one person at one time. For, truth is, there isn’t a bigger accomplishment if you can be you in all you do every day of your life.
Nupur Mahajan is a sum of many parts. Ideas are her business even as her creative streak sees her straddle television, advertising, publishing, radio and brands. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org