I had forgotten to be happy long back. Not because I had any serious problems going on in my life. I had a wonderful job, lovely kids and an amazing family. But I had to interact on a day by day basis with one unhappy person. A person that I had to interact and work with very closely and was also my senior at work. There is a kind of people that would radiate negativity, and spread sorrow no matter what the situation is. Unhappy people that border on some kind of personality disorder syndrome — OCDs, Narcissistic, paranoid personalities are all a cluster of personality disorders that occur in normal people.
As much as happiness is contagious, unhappiness is equally contagious too. Even if you had a table full of delicious and tasty dishes, one wrong dish can spoil the overall experience. One negative is sufficient to ruin out all the positives. When it comes to a well rounded happiness experience, there cannot be even one negative in important aspect of life like in family, work and friends.
Our human brains are designed to compare and contrast. What we subconsciously do is to pick on that one problem amidst all other wonderful things in our lives, chew on it, blow it big and obsessively worry over it. That is how we are designed. Gratitude and thankfulness does not happen to most of us as a default emotion.
And so, this one unhappy person, when she first came into my life, I did not realize it was going to suck me into a black hole for an extended period of time. For every work that we had to do together, whatever the point of view I brought into the table, the first reaction would be to criticize. Criticize with so much sarcasm and vehemence that slowly I started losing my confidence in my abilities. She tore into my confidence, ripped my authentic self apart and left me like a poor victim of her personality.
Words are very powerful, words loaded with anger and hate are even more powerful. Repetitive words can translate into reality. Thoughts shape our words, words shape our actions, actions lead into results . Words and the way we use them — How we say what we say can make or break relations.
Thus, my work life, where I would spend around 9–10 hours everyday became a nightmare. I was bullied miserably, shadowed and discouraged. I used to be a very chirpy, confident, very loud and outspoken, social and happy person. I changed. I changed from all of that into a very fearful, reluctant, doubting, constrained personality. This change could also be because of the way I was brought up — I was a pet child for my parents and never once had they refused me stuff I wanted, or was punished for any wrong doing. I was not exposed to confrontations and hate. I am sure there are stronger women who would have handled it differently. But at that young age, I could not.
I broke completely. It showed in my personality, my work and in my behavior. My family got impacted, my kids were losing it and life became a nightmare. I came to realize that I was not an assertive but a passive-aggressive personality that bottled up emotions and reflected it outside in unhealthy ways. Migraine became an everyday issue.
I then joined a gang of women’s fitness and wellness group. Outside of working out together in open spaces and gym, the group also had the habit of meeting up for open talk or what we did to imitate the circle time in Montessori system. Everyone, though we were strangers, would just get together and talk. Talk about issues that were bothering us, issues for which we needed counsel and issues that we liked to talk. It was a network that was built on trust and built to support each other emotionally. It started with a ritual of all of us shouting — “We are there for each other, in each other we confide and we will never let each other down”. It was similar to what people say about Las Vegas — what happens here stays here.
One day, I decided to open up about what was bothering me for so long — I did not put any facade and ornaments around it. I was plain, straightforward, and spoke my emotions and what I was going through black and white. I made myself vulnerable in front of total strangers.
I just opened my heart up, crying in front of them and totally letting my emotions flow. In that moment, we all connected. And the response was, the least to say, overwhelming. Support and soothing words came gushing in. I could sense the empathy my girls were showing, some of them got me books, some of them hooked me with some counsellors and some even offered to give listening ears whenever I wanted.
This support network changed me. What I was going through internally was a feeling of not being included, of being pushed out, a lack of being recognized as someone who deserved to be heard. The very fabric of our existence is built on love, support and connect. When that is pulled from under your feet, you lose yourself. What about my husband and kids? What about my parents? Well, it is my humble observation that a spouse, parents and kids are not the kind of support fabric that can connect with you at a similar plane as women (or men if you were a man) of similar age and preferences can. It is different. I call my girls my fabric of joy and happiness. They make me laugh, they make me happy, they understand me without judgement. We are one. Others are not the same.
And so, I consciously planned my joy and built this network — with trust and empathy. I ensured to spend time with the girls every week even if just a few were available. We dined and shopped and chatted and did community work or went trekking for a few hours every week. And that habit, has had a major influence in how I feel with what happens the rest of the week.