Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 4, Issue 29, Tuesday July 24, 2007



Soul Food

Get unstuck

Tea leaves thwart those who court catastrophe,
designing futures where nothing will occur:
cross the gypsy's palm and yawning she
will still predict no perils left to conquer.
Jeopardy is jejune now: naïve knight
finds ogres out-of-date and dragons unheard
of, while blasé princesses indict
tilts at terror as downright absurd.
~ Sylvia Plath,

Life in the city can be brain numbing and frustrating. Bound by deadlines and appointments, commitments and traffic jams, it's not surprising to find oneself feeling claustrophobic, and trapped.

Left to itself, this feeling grows, and one finds oneself increasingly listless, bored and discontent. Say hello to ennui.

There comes a time in everyone's life when one feels spiritually suffocated. It happens to different people for different reasons. For a writer, it could simply be writer's block. For a student, it could be the post exam blahs. It could come from being stuck in a job that goes nowhere, or even from having too many responsibilities and not enough time for oneself. So you get trapped, and stay trapped, usually because you only have one way to see the situation and you don't like what you see.

Now, every prescription needs to be preceded by a diagnosis, and before one goes about beating one's ennui, one needs to find the cause for it. The easiest way to start is to ask yourself some basic questions.

Which part of your life feels like it's on a broken record?
"School, coaching, studies, maybe a little television...that just about sums up my life" says Shormee (name changed), an O level candidate. With the intense competition in academics, students are the most common victims of deadly routines, and contrary to what many parents seem to think, having one's nose inside the textbooks is, after a certain extent detrimental to performance, rather than beneficial. It's the same with work, and even relationships. Without the occasional change in the routine, boredom and frustration easily set in and this is actually counterproductive.

Do you find yourself saying or doing things because you 'should' as opposed to because you 'want to'?
Responsibilities and obligations are inevitable, but when you find yourself shouldering too much, it's time to stop and take stock of your priorities. Decide which of the obligations are simply unavoidable, and try easing up on the rest. Even if you're not a selfish person, you need to make time and space for yourself too.

What makes you grit your teeth in frustration?
Neighbours playing loud music again...kids always forget to clean their rooms...the boss is on your case again...your girlfriend is still whining about how you don't have time for her. Sometimes the most trivial annoyances have a way of piling up towards a major meltdown, so it's better to find out what ticks you off, and then deal with it.

When do you feel like you have no choice?
Ennuiherself, a blogger from Cleveland writes:
"Right now I'm in sort of a graduation limbo. I'm trying to time my defense date with my getting a job. I don't want to finish everything up and have no where to go. On the other hand, I desperately want to move on with another chapter of my life.

The aforementioned graduation limbo is intensely frustrating. For the last several months, I have been preoccupied with hurling myself through the remaining hoops for grad school, while I try to prepare for the next step in my life. This has forced me to prioritise my activities based on time commitment and expense (got to pay for that upcoming move somehow). This bottom line is that for the most part I no longer have hobbies or activities."

This can be extremely frustrating, especially for someone who likes to try out different things. The important thing is to recognise where you're going with your major decisions before you work yourself into a corner.

Do you 'tolerate' or 'enjoy'?
You tell yourself that you love him, and yet your conversations drag, and when you're with him, you wish you were anywhere but here. The job pays you the big bucks, and that's why you're still in it. If either scenario strikes a chord with you, maybe it's time to rethink whether you want to continue being in a situation you merely tolerate, instead of truly enjoying.

Funny enough, just articulating and acknowledging the source of your ennui is often enough to get the wheels turning for a happy change. When you finally get what's got you bogged down it often doesn't feel quite so insurmountable, so big and intimidating.

So look at the problem head on, instead of beating about the bush. Don't be afraid to go into the nitty-gritty and details. Write it down, and make a list. Instead of seeing your circumstances as an obstacle, turn them into a challenge you're willing to take on, and you're already on your way to beating the blues.

By Sabrina F Ahmad

Pop Up

Memoir magnificence

Every once in a while, take out your old photo albums for sun-drying. With the soaring humidity levels that we are subject to in Bangladesh, pictures getting musty and if worse comes to worse, sticking to the plastic covers is a scenario not so infrequent. Since albums are not daily household goods, they tend to be stacked up at the bottom of some closet or shelf with poor ventilation.

So take them out every now and then, flip through the pages and take that occasional trip down memory lane. However, if you do choose to take corrective measures a little too late and complete or partial damage has already been done, some forms of salvage attempts can still be made. Thinking from the positive, if little damage has been done, try and pry out the pictures gently, provided that they are not completely attached to the plastic encasing. If however, after prying them out the pictures look disfigured; there are various photo studios across town that have adequate technology to take up restoration projects. At the end of the day, even if it takes a bit of effort at regular intervals, take care of your albums while you can. Memories are not worth losing over simple carelessness.

Beat the Boredom

Re-frame your free time: Ask yourself how your hobby went from being something you took up because you wanted to learn, to something you do out of obligation. So with yoga, for example, rekindle your curiousty. Learn about muscle realignment and muscle groupings. Read about it, write about it.

Go with the flow: The opposite of boredom is the state known as the 'flow', which happens when you're lost in a task, unaware of time passing. For flow, you need the perfect balance between 'challenge' and 'skill.' If something is too easy, it becomes boring.

If it's too skilled, you'll also lose interest. If you play tennis, find a different, tougher opponent. If you run, train for a marathon.

-LS Desk


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