Monday, June 11, 2007

Let it go

Yesterday, after a nice long day spent on the south side of the river Thames - first at the Tate Modern then across Southbank and down to the County Hall building - my friend nibaq, who is in town for a few days, and I crossed the Westminster Bridge and began walking towards Covent Garden. As we passed by the Victoria Embankment Gardens he stopped to take a photograph of a group of about three balloons that were stuck up in a tree. As he did that I wandered into the gardens, which I had never actually seen open before as the gates are usually closed when the weather is bad, but the weather has now finally become glorious. It had a nice lazy afternoon crowd of people lying in the grass or on deck chairs, and it was quiet and peaceful with a low murmur of voices and the slightly louder snoring of one man fast asleep under a tree. As most of the other parks are quite full these days with children and large groups of merry summer revellers, I made a mental note that this is a great place to come to when I want to escape the crowds and read quietly and enjoy the weather.

Anyway, as I rejoined my friend at the gate and we turned to make our way up towards the Strand, he turned to me and said something that I just really loved. He said that every child loses a bit of their innocence the moment they lose their first balloon. I thought about it, and it made great sense. It is so true. You remember what it was like when you were a child – you might have had a balloon tied to your wrist but slowly the bow came undone and the next thing you knew it was flying away from you and although you jumped in the air to try and grab the end of the string, it was too late. Most children in that moment are in a momentary state of shock. You remember – it was oddly traumatizing. The initial instinct was to cry, and to just look up and watch the balloon fly away, up, up into the sky, staring at that point until it was no longer visible. I had never thought about it before, but that must be one of the first moments in life that teaches you, at a very young age, a very important life lesson: sometimes you just have to let things go.

And I think it is a lesson that I need to learn again. Sometimes, you just have to let things go. I don't mean the big stuff here. I mean the trivial day-to-day stuff that can weigh you down unnecessarily. In other words, I have to stop sweating the small stuff.

I have written before about the fact that I am an obsessive perfectionist, and while it is something that can often benefit me – in my work, for example – usually it is something that is extremely exhausting, emotionally and mentally. A big part of the problem is that sometimes I just really need to let things go, and I don’t (or won’t). This applies to trivial day-to-day things, all the way up to more significant ones. I analyze, and over-analyze, and overthink, and just simply obsess over so many different things – big and small – to no end, and with no purpose. This has certainly gotten much worse with age, and since I’ve moved to London. In fact, I think it has hit a peak this year. And it is certainly for obvious reasons. Most simply, as a PhD student I spend huge amounts of time totally on my own, and it can be overwhelming. I am always very busy with my work, and what happens is that I sometimes end up going for days without any face-to-face human contact other than with the checkout person at Sainsbury’s. Of course I will speak to people on the phone or online, but it’s not the same as real human interaction. Not all weeks are like that of course. For most of this year I attended seminars at least twice a week and spent endless hours in various libraries. So the human contact was certainly greater. But this past month has been very much spent in isolation, for various reasons (not least of which was writing my first chapter), and it is therefore not surprising that my psychological state has also hit an all-time low this month. And that great a lack of human interaction is not healthy for anyone. You get so used to being on your own, that when you combine it with your already existing obsessive-compulsive tendencies, you can almost become your own worst enemy. You have too much extra time to think. And not in the good way – to think about the things that don’t really warrant thinking about. I think only those of you who have suffered through this can really get what I mean here.

Anyway, the point I realized today is, there really is no reason for all of this. There is no reason that I should allow any of this unnecessary stuff to make me feel so mentally, emotionally, and physically drained. In practically every aspect, my life is brilliant. I have a beautiful family who are all in good health, I have a wonderful partner in life who loves me and takes the best care of me even in absentia, and I have a great career and am following my passion. However, I have been through one enormous tragedy in my life and that is something that will always be extremely difficult to get over. But experiencing the worst in life allows you to appreciate and treasure the joys in life that much more. So since I have already suffered the worst sort of pain that any human being could possibly imagine, why should I allow the trivial things that bother me to stop me from feeling that joy that I deserve and have earned the right to experience every single day?

This post is directed more to myself than to anyone else. But what I do want to do here is to say to the world (or at least the five of you who are reading this!) that from today I am going to make a much stronger and more conscious effort to just let the trivial things go. I am going to let the balloons fly and watch them disappear, out of my life forever.

Just out of curiosity, how far up to you think balloons fly before they finally pop? And what happens to the string?

And finally, whenever I walk by the gates of the Embankment Gardens, I sing this Pet Shop Boys song in my head. And interestingly enough, the whole song itself just felt very fitting today.
Cross a windy bridge one winter night
Past Embankment Gardens enter warmth and light
Face the music (It’s never easy)
Forget the chill
Face the future (It’s never easy)
Find the will

If life is worth living, it’s got to be done
One might be forgiven for thinking it’s a life on the run
Many roads will cross through many lives
But somehow you survive

Look around, picture what’s in store
Is this the final edit, or is the subject now a bore?
Don’t shrug your shoulders (It’s always easy)
You can’t ignore

That life is worth living, it’s still worth a damn
One might be forgiven for thinking it’s something of a sham
Many words may make it sound contrived
But somehow we’re alive

The survivors - Our heads bowed
The survivors - At memorials for other faces in the crowd

Teachers and artists (It’s never easy)
And Saturday girls
In suits or sequins (It’s never easy)
Or twin-sets and pearls

If life is worth living
It’s got to be run
As a means of giving
Not as a race to be won
Many roads will run through many lives
But somehow we’ll arrive

Many roads will run through many lives
But somewhere we’ll survive


  • Ah, what a beautiful reflective post. Life also continually teaches me the importance of just letting things go, especially when you have no control over them or the outcome of events.

    I love the balloon analogy. But to expound and to add, it can be said that while loosing a balloon generates the sense of loss, the loss of innocence does not necessarily have to generate the loss of purity. I think this is the challenge of adulthood (for me at least); how to maintain the inherent purity one is born with even though innocence has been replaced with brutal awareness.

    By Blogger Harmonie22, at 6/12/2007 11:02 am  

  • This has nothing to do with your posting but I want to vent.

    Where is Kuwait going:

    The Cabinet released a decision to bar women from night work
    pressure on private universities for the implementation of segregation, the pressure is so strong that even photo coverage in the newspapers is used as evidence that universities are not abiding by the #$@ seggregation law.
    There are talks about segregating in private schools.
    Oh my god if you do not want to send your kids to co-ed institution just go to ku or government schools or better move to Saudi Arabia.
    I frankly do not want a parliament anymore if this is what parliament and democracy is about.

    I am so angry, I do not want islamist to make decisions on my behalf on when I should work or not, on how to raise my kids, what to drink, what to eat, what to wear etc.. Sooner or later they will impose a curfew on women..

    I am fed up


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/12/2007 4:08 pm  

  • Life has a lot of beautiful things but nothing trully remains the same and part of our life and duty is to accept the fact that nothing remains the same and can go away, any moment. For that we should cherish what we have, the health, the education, the facilities and friends the family that we have for they might come a time when we can only "remember" these things, so we should take the best out of it. Being a perfectioniste is good, but in balance, while understand that a perfect thing is good but also has its bad, its beautiful but it also has ugly sides, thats what makes it perfect, the fact that it has everything in all aspects, we cant just look at things from a bright side because nothing is like that.

    But what ever happens thru life, I want you to know that ill be there for you, in any case and any time, I will be there and cheer you up and make u feel better and erase the "lonely" feelings you are going thru at the moments. I will take your hand and make it up to you against any precious balloon that will fly away AND you can have all of mine ;)

    Voltaire once said: “Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.”

    By Anonymous P, at 6/13/2007 11:22 am  

  • Harmonie: What I have found is that I often fixate on the most trivial things and they become huge in my eyes. And I think the reason for that is because when you have been forced to deal with a major tragedy that completely turns your life upside down, as I know you and I both have, a part of you tries for the rest of your life to keep life perfectly in order in a way that you can always understand and control. But life is anything but predictable and orderly! But it's not so much the sense of loss that I'm focusing on here. It's more about just letting the little things that bother us in life go without spending too much time fretting over them.

    "I think this is the challenge of adulthood...how to maintain the inherent purity one is born with even though innocence has been replaced with brutal awareness." That is so true. How do you not let the darker side of the world corrupt who you are. Honestly, that is something I learned how to restore from my P. He is the antidote to all of my OCD tendencies, even sometimes without meaning to be. Just by the person he is and the way he approaches life.

    B: I'll come back to your comment at the end. :)

    P: That was a wonderful comment, my love. You're so right that perfection doesn't always mean "good" in a conventional sense. The imperfections of life are often what makes things perfect because they make them real, and whole. I love the Voltaire quote. That was spot on! Seriously, nobody quite does it or gets it like the French.

    Some balloons are precious - like my earring from Raine that fell down the sink that depressed me for two days. Other balloons are just ones that serve no purpose and deserve to go flying away. Hehehe...it's not a perfect analogy, but as we have learned, nothing in life is perfect. ;)

    And I will always be there for you too. I can't wait to come back and be near you again. I'm the luckiest girl in the world because YOU are perfect for me. Je t'adore! :-x

    By Blogger Kleio, at 6/13/2007 1:55 pm  

  • B: I haven't been ignoring your comment. I have just been trying to make a conscious effort to de-stress this week! Everything you wrote is just so frustratingly true. Honestly, I can't even think about this stuff right now. It's too overwhelming. I wanna enjoy my last couple of months in London without thinking about our disastrous state of affairs in Kuwait! It's too depressing.

    By Blogger Kleio, at 6/15/2007 2:14 am  

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