I sat by the stream watching the water flow. The soft gurgling sound had quite a soothing effect on my senses as opposed to the city noise. Not that I hated being in a city but just that I had recently fallen off with it. Perhaps this is where I make my personal sacred space.
I was back at home for a short break. I had been a complete workaholic for months on end until the doctor wrote me off as a case of ‘extreme exhaustion’ and advised me at least a week’s rest. What better rest than be back at home?
So I reached Assam. That week at home gave me a lot of time to think and reflect on where I have gone wrong.
I was a fresh college graduate then who had landed into a decent job. I had dreams and of course, plans to make it really big like all starry-eyed college pass-outs are. Therefore, I worked towards that end until life knocked me down and forced me to slow down.
A Meaningful Conversation
While at home my parents proposed that we go for a picnic since the weather was lovely. I realized it later that they were concerned about me and so proposed a day out in the sunshine and the arms of nature.
We were joined by dad’s batchmate who is a heart surgeon and his family.
Dr. Bora, my dad’s friend, as he is known, is a very jovial person who loves gardening and helping his wife cook fish. If you talk to him in person you would never realize the seriousness of his job as a heart surgeon. He felt just like a happy old man from the countryside. Happy with life’s little pleasures. He found joy in the simplest of things. I always marveled at this man.
There have been times when he had dropped by for tea at our house mid-morning while going back to home after the weekend grocery shopping. On those mornings, when people from his clinic called him for a visit he would feign being sick and refer his patients to his another friend who was working that day. He had a very successful almost elated smile after he had accomplished what he had intended to. Of course, he resumed his much-cherished tea time at home, talking, telling stories and interacting, as people of his age do. He went home saying- I need to get back to my garden and wife.
That vacation as I sat by the stream he came and joined me with a plate of fire-baked sweet potatoes.
The Wrong Attitude
He sat next to me and we talked while tasting the sweetness of the potatoes and the smell of firewood that lingered in its essence. Conversationally he asked me, ‘Any idea why you have been signed off as a case of extreme exhaustion?’ he asked, of course not medically.
‘The wrong attitude.’ He said.
‘Giving yourself time is very important. No matter how urgent the work, how important a relationship is, or how immediate a need is, you need to give yourself time. You know why? Because nothing is more important than your own self. Your very own personal sacred space.
He continued, “I have spent endless nights in operation theaters, performing major operations. You have seen your father too, how hectic a doctor’s life can get. The only reason we keep going with daunting pressure is because we value our ‘me time.’ Let that be your personal sacred space and let no one impose on it.”
‘Tomorrow when you have children, when you have a family, the pressure will only rise. But I have seen life and trust me, if you do not give yourself a break, you will not do your job well. You will not be a good mother, or a good wife or a good professional and if you are not good at what you do, what’s the point in not taking a break?’
‘My wife is a patient lady. That’s why we are still married.’ he said and chuckled.
We both laughed sitting in the soft sunshine while the breeze carried the happy sounds coming from my parents and their friends who were playing badminton as the house help cooked the food on the open fire.
‘Jokes apart,’ he said, ‘whenever she does not have a good night’s sleep for some reason, she is extremely cranky with our children. Our children then fail to understand what they have done wrong and look up with their innocent faces at their otherwise loving mother. This is when I take them out for a game and ask my wife to rest. Being a homemaker is the most difficult job you see and homemakers deserve the highest salary and the longest vacation’
The Importance of Personal Sacred Space
‘Learn to draw a line. Learn to take a break; and when you take a break, learn to love yourself. Read the book that has accumulated dust. Go wear that dress you kept for a special day because every day is special. Come visit us but without a doctor writing you off.’ Saying this, he smiled and patted my head.
‘A little time away with yourself will not only better your work but also the quality of your life. Guard your personal sacred space with a feeling of sanctity.
‘Don’t finish off the potatoes’, my dad said from a distance waving at us. ‘We are hungry too.’
‘Saved one for you.’ Dr.Bora said as he raised to go.
‘Just one.’ My dad remonstrated and the wind carried their conversation in the happy sunshine.
Reason for Writing
As I am writing this, I am sitting in a seaside facing restaurant just taking my time off from playing the roles of life. I love taking breaks by the seaside because the waves seem to say to me ‘Hush!it’s ok, Hush!it’s ok.’
I have never been written off as unfit to work because of exhaustion ever since my conversation with uncle. I decided to share this with you so that you too understand the value of guarding your personal sacred space and always stay brimming with a zest for life.