Take a break
Vidya Sanjay arrives at the happy realisation that the language of Life needs punctuation, without which it can become incomprehensible and insufferable
One of the routines we follow at home is to share the day with each other before we retire to bed. My second child, Pramit, who is seven years old, is always the first one to ask the question: “So, how was your day?” and it’s always his day that gets discussed first. He is so eager and enthusiastic about sharing everything taught to him in school, about his friends, his teachers, what he did at the playground . . . the list is endless.
One day, Pramit shared about learning punctuation as part of his Language Arts subject. We were all given a full revision on punctuation and how it’s important to pause after every comma while reading, where to use the appropriate punctuation, and what quotation marks stand for. For all the patient listening we do, the whole family gets rewarded with limitless kisses and hugs from him. He is such a delight to parent.
Once, when I was reading a storybook to Pramit, he said, “Amma, you are not pausing when you see a comma. Remember we spoke about punctuation?” With a smile on my face, I slowed my pace of reading and we finished the book together, giving due respect to all the punctuation.
To ensure due attention is given to all the roles I have to play in my life, a checklist, (a to-do list) constantly runs in my head. This list never ends, no matter how much I clear my tasks, the reason being I multitask, delegate, engage the family, plan, and organise to the last detail so that I can crunch time and derive maximum benefit from it. I constantly push myself to deliver on this checklist, and there have been so many times when I have felt buried under its weight. No one has ever forced me to do anything. I have a very understanding family, yet it is all my doing.
Somehow, this discussion on punctuation and Pramit’s asking me to pause while reading gave me a ‘Eureka moment.’ Do we all realise that apart from language, our life needs punctuation too! This realisation made me rewind my life a bit, to the person I used to be—someone who knew nothing about pauses in life.
Four years back, anytime the family wanted to do a fun activity—visit an amusement park, have a day without an agenda, just go out for fun, chill and relax—this idea of fun would have to be passed through the checklist in my head. I would find myself declining, or planning some chore for me to finish while the rest of the family had fun. This attitude of mine exhausted and overwhelmed me.
When Sanjay (my husband) would see me break like this, he would force a day off on me. As a family, we would go out purely for fun, no frills attached. And I, being I, would bring forth topics from my checklist to discuss and would then hear Sanjay telling me, “Sweetheart, today’s a day for fun,” and would not indulge in any discussion other than that day’s activities.
It had frustrated me. I had resorted to all sorts of tantrums to ensure we stop this so-called ‘fun days’ and resume our activities. There had been days when Sanjay would give up, and we would shorten our fun day. And there had been days when no matter what tantrum I threw, the day was total indulgence—PURE FUN ONLY.
I am a fun-loving person. Everyone loves a day off, but I never allowed myself to have one. I used to feel guilty to take a day off while there was still so much left to do. Yet, to my surprise, I observed that when I came back to the to-do list after all the fun, I would be amazed at the pace, energy, and enthusiasm with which I did the chores.
Pause . . . relax!
Now, relate to the ‘Eureka moment’ I spoke about: Life needs punctuation too. We all understand that even an eminent scholar will struggle while reading a text with no punctuation. Similarly, a life without punctuation will become a drag and a continuous struggle. I needed Sanjay to make me take those pauses to ensure I do not burn out.
Anytime you find yourself dragging to do your checklists or feeling overwhelmed with the volume of work that needs completion, remember to add punctuation to life. Pause . . . just pause.
I am a completely different person now. My own past looks like someone else’s past. In fact, now, I surprise my family by insisting on indulging in the ‘fun days.’ Fun lightens things up, adds a little dance to your steps, a tune to your lips, and makes you feel you can handle anything. We all need these distractions in life to ensure we achieve and accomplish the goals that matter the most in life. Anytime I feel stuck, a little uneasy, my life lacks the flow, or I need to gain a different perspective, I add some punctuation to life.
The journey is equally important
With these little distractions as pauses, our journey becomes beautiful and much more fulfilling. Our beloved Mahatria (my spiritual guru) would say, “The way to the picnic must be as enjoyable as the picnic itself. The process should excite you as much as the goal.” We all strive to achieve the goals we set for ourselves, but while we are persevering and pushing ourselves, is there a smile on our face? Is joy part of this whole process of achieving the goals? One sure way to enjoy the journey is to add in fun as punctuation in life.
I still have a never-ending checklist that runs constantly in my head, but my pauses refresh me. Today, I can say that the way to my picnic is as enjoyable as the picnic itself. I have made progress in leaps and bounds. In fact, now, for me, every day is a ‘fun day.’ There are so many moments within a day that I allow myself—my pauses, my moments of fun.
Injecting life with fun
It’s not that I need to take a day off and go out or seek entertainment. These pauses have become an integral part of my life, a natural extension of me. Once, we (Sanjay and I) had a doctor’s appointment where the waiting time is a minimum of one to two hours. By the time we met the doctor and came out, I could see frustration, irritation, and impatience building up in Sanjay, and his mood was turning sour. To save time, we stood in two separate queues to collect the medicines, hoping one of the two lanes would be faster. Seeing him irritated and bored, madness struck me, and I winked at him. We both burst into a grin. He immediately signalled me to leave my queue and join him, held my hand, and said, “Anyways, we have to wait. Be with me and let’s talk about something interesting.” We do not remember how long the wait was, but we both felt our turn came so quickly. It just needed a little fun added as punctuation.
With my beloved Mahatria happening in my life, my life has become even more beautiful. Now, my pauses include non-doing too—just a few quiet moments, a few moments of aloneness in between my busy day. I find a corner somewhere, close my eyes for a few minutes, and then spring back into action. So many times, I just stand near my worktable, switch off all my devices, and just consciously breathe.
There is magic in these pauses, these punctuations. They reflect so much of me to me; I gain so many insights and perspectives from them. Calmness, a subtle confidence, and the clutter and noise disappearing enable the unfolding of a sharp clarity. It refreshes me, and I go back to picking up where I left, to ensure completion of the same. Please try to surprise yourself.
We all have learnt about commas, colons, semicolons, hyphens, quotation marks, exclamation marks and using them correctly in our written communication, but the big question is: IS OUR LIFE FILLED WITH PUNCTUATION?
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