"I'm afraid that sometimes you'll play lonely games too. Games you can't win cause you'll play against you." Dr Suess said that. Ever since I read "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" to my younger brother, I can't get over how this master of rhymes and proponent of eating verdant eggs has charted out my life in a twenty page book. Read it. He's probably charted out yours, too.
Seems like I'm always playing against me these days.
This week brought on carpal tunnel syndrome, allergies and the flu. Somewhere around Wednesday (which is neither here nor there, a quality of Wednesday I can't decide if I love or hate), I walked out of the office to take a phone call and give my injured arm a rest. I had been uncomfortable at my desk because of the stiff splint on my left wrist, growing pain in my right and the irritation at knowing my antihistamine was wearing off. I hate being sick. Once I walked out though, I was almost immediately drenched in sweat, since it is late May in Karachi after all. Maybe it was Wednesday, maybe it was the series of physical ills that have bothered me for the entire nine months since I started working, but I just felt like kicking something. This can't be what life is about. And this is where I clarify-to myself and to my audience-that I actually like my job. I like collecting oral histories, I like teaching, I like researching, I like the rush of working towards exhibitions and events, I like having a routine, I like having my own money and knowing my days of scrimping on shampoo to buy a textbook are over. But parts don't equal whole and whole is exactly what I am not.
It was after kicking the wrought iron chair outside, stubbing my toe and having this realisation that I went inside and wondered what it would be like to be free. I know myself well enough to know that my definition of free involves work and a lot of it. It sounds like a paradox, but it's not. I love work, but the moment any of it begins to lose meaning for me, the moment I feel that I am not putting my heart one hundred and ten per cent into what I am doing, I feel trapped. I am selfish. I will not leave my job because I enjoy the work, the people and the financial freedom. But I'm playing this game against myself. I'm swimming against the tide. The tide wants me to slow down, type less, read more, assume less, learn more and worry less about whether typing with one hand means I won't finish making this lesson plan by 6pm. The tide wants to leave me broke.
If this blog was a self-help book, a romantic comedy, an inspirational talk or a novel written by a woman going through a mid-life crisis, my next sentence would tell you that I am quitting my job, moving to an island with clean air and plenty of fruit (and wise, brown natives to complete the picture) and becoming a yoga master. But it's not. It's a blog typed with one hand by someone breathing through one nostril and lying in bed trying not to compromise but knowing for now, I'll probably have to. Maybe when I am thirty five-or even twenty five-I will have all this figured out. Maybe I won't. Maybe I will write a blog about all the solutions I have devised in my head. Or maybe I won't, because as much as I trust the people I meet every day, I know it's not a good idea to lay all my cards on the table.
Dr Suess says that if I learn that Life's a Great Balancing Act, I will succeed (98 and three quarter percent guaranteed!).
May I balance gracefully on one arm, a blocked nostril, a swollen lymph node, too many questions and a lot of heart.