Life begins at 40. Inching close to this number, I was inspired to write this piece after I heard a thought- provoking poem that was shared in passing during lunch at work.
This poem, My Soul has a hat by Brazilian poet, Mario de Andrade, makes you want to introspect at the life gone by and the impatience that one develops by the time one reaches close to 40. In the poem, the poet compares himself to a child who has won a pack of candies. At first, he eats them with pleasure and then when he realizes that there is little candy left, he begins to savour its taste, slowly. The poet draws this comparison to the life that he wants to lead. With no time left for endless boardroom meetings, he feels that his spirt is in a hurry to catch up with people from the ‘real world’- people who can take responsibility for their actions and are not inflated by their own successes. The poet, mindful of the candy left in the pack, does not want to waste what’s left of it. With the urge to be surrounded by like-minded people who are sensitive yet tough from within, he believes that the end is to attain peace with loved ones and with one’s own conscience. The last line of the poem, ‘We have two lives and the second begins when you realize you only have one’, says it all.
When one takes a step back from the jugglery that one defines as life, this poem makes a lot of sense. In fact, the relevance of this poem is even more apparent in today’s world where terms such as fatigue, insomnia, concentration problems, low self-esteem and a lot of trouble with performance, seem to be common terms and symptoms of a burn-out. Many psychiatrists opine that burnouts are a lifestyle-related condition akin to non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, for instance. Typically, burnouts don’t just show up one day, they creep in so slowly that they can hardly be diagnosed in the early stages. The urge to compete, the urge to the best among the best and the urge to successful, and the urge to prove something, are those that can make or even break a person. These urges need to be supported with other facets of living.
Being balanced is one sure way of circumventing the burnout syndrome. And balance here means having a life. Yes, a life that Mario de Andrade has articulated so very soulfully. A life where one has time for others, a life in which one augments a social community around oneself with like-minded souls, spending quality time with people you want to spend your time with, in simple words- just having a downtime! Downtimes have proven to be productivity boosters. It’s in a state of “relaxed wakefulness,” that some of us discover the “a-ha!” moment that invariably comes when we are taking a walk in the park, staring out the window of a moving vehicle, or having a bath. Some believe that this downtime inspires us to come up with the best of our ideas which is also a reflection of our social interactions with others around us.
Here, it is critical to touch upon on managing stress. Ability to manage stress is not everyone’s cup of tea, however everyone has opinion on it. The common opinion on stress management is to advise the so-called stressed person with the “I told you so!” line. Further, the free advice of learning to ignore things that cause the stress, is something that we are all familiar with. While the advice may initially seem benign, at 40 or closer to 40, it seems to be a wise way to avoid stress. Supplementing this is the otherwise way of starting to live life to its fullest. Something of the newly-realised second life. Here, many take to theatre, cooking or photography, or any other latent creative avenues, that makes him/her a truly happy soul.
Finding one’s own inner voice and allowing it to be heard is the strongest approach to living life to its fullest. Inner peace and happiness are not surreal concepts. Life starts at any age and doesn't end. You can renew your spirit, cheer up, run on the beach like a child, enjoy youth music, fill your lungs with deep laugh, and harvest great achievement. We have two lives and the second begins when you realize you only have one. Let’s begin to live this second life, at least at 40!
The author is Bhavna Singh, Director Communication, Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India. The views expressed here are her personal views.