Ranjana TN

Let your sorrow be your guide

I was doing some journaling this afternoon. Writing helps me think more clearly so I like giving voice to the thoughts in my head on paper. It was an interesting exercise because I was deliberately looking at unpleasant events and experiences from my past as a means to decipher what my desires are and what a stronger, more powerful Ranjana would look like. This wasn’t an exercise in ‘seeing the positive in the negative’. Far from it. It was an exercise in looking at everything unpleasant – from past experiences to what I perceive are personality weaknesses – just as they are. Unpleasant truth can be an amazing teacher if we let it.

This isn’t beating oneself up, though. It’s akin to a doctor examining a patient to make a diagnosis. When seen as a character-sculpting tool, it is a great way to define what a powerful you would look like. What desires would she have? What character traits would she possess? How would she respond to adversities? When you know what you don’t want, it becomes a pointer to what you do want. I’m reminded of a poem by a Victorian poet named Robert Browning (I love Victorian poetry as you will soon discover):

I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When sorrow walked with me.

A lot of times we lament that we don’t know what we desire or want out of life. More often than not, the answer is staring right at us in that which gives us sorrow. History is replete with stories of people who made something the central focus of their life based on what caused them heartache. Stories of criminals who turned their lives around and dedicated themselves to making this earth a safer place to live in. Stories of rape victims setting up organizations to empower others who’ve gone through similar experiences. Entrepreneurs starting businesses to address something that’s missing in the world that needs to be there. Every great person in the history of mankind – Gandhi, Mandela, Mother Teresa – sought to address some sort of sorrow or unpleasantness in the world.

This isn’t seeing positive in the horrendously wrong or the mildly unpleasant. It is taking note of things exactly as they are and deciding that you will be the agent of change – even if it is just for yourself. Think about it. Realising that you are out of shape physically can become a strong impetus to building a healthy body for a lifetime. Noticing that you suck at public speaking can get you on the journey of becoming a better orator. Being in a deeply unfulfilling job can bother you enough to pave your own path in the world as an entrepreneur.

Do yourself a favour and journal about all those things that bother you. What makes you cringe? It could be experiences from the past, your own behaviour or character traits, or something external that you think is wrong in the world. Then ask yourself what it is that you would like to see. The changes that would make life better for you. The new experiences that would help you sleep better at night.

You just might end up embarking upon a journey of a lifetime. 🙂