What is an end? A stop, a pause, or an arriving at? When does an end begin? Or, does only a beginning begin? Is the temporality of any moment defined by the materiality of it? Such as, an end begins at the end of something – which also marks the beginning of something else?
Instead of being mere prosodic juggling, these queries, and more, crowded my mind as I experienced many ends this year. The death of someone dear, the completion of a long-standing work, the legitimate end of certainty, and now, the end of a year – ends adorning varied masks.
However, as these were strewn across the landscape of the year, I realised that the luxury of indulging in such thoughts had much to do with being in an in-between space. This space, like that one-finger gap we were taught to leave after a full stop and before beginning the next sentence, embodies a lull; a space where we all are right now, at the edge of another year which is drawing to a close.
This in-between seems to me the most interesting period as it enfolds a characteristic indefiniteness, a what-now mode of thought. This indefiniteness can resist direction. Its amoebic shapelessness can open possibilities of meditation. Its contemplative mode can be cathartic, where purging of pent-up troubles can lead to a blank slate.
But for most of us, this in-between emerges as a preparatory greenroom, a space of weight and balance, where confusions of past and present coagulate and build on pre-existing foundations. Instead of deeming it a standstill moment, we unwittingly usurp it of all its possibilities of existing as a breather. It turns out to be a jumble of peace, relief, rest, anxiety, irresolution, indecision, anger, frustration and pain, which, while neutralising all movements, turns it into a confusing zone of permutation and combination. And most weirdly, of resolutions – resolutions to do well, forget the wrongs done, to look more fit or more beautiful; resolutions with a prospect for happiness.
The curious aspect is, while considering the need or the mode of this happiness, we cling onto the experiences which trickle from trials and errors of the past, and the confusions surrounding hopes and expectations of the future. The only way out for the battered and bruised self seems to be to uplift it to a pinnacle of happiness of an assured future.
So, in giving ourselves up to this demand of appearing happy, we get on with moving, showing up with a lot of energy, and determination, oblivious of the untreated and unfiltered residue of the past that we tend to take forward with ourselves. We carry on disallowing unrest, unhappiness, pain and suffering from pulling ourselves down. We focus on being a whole new person at every new beginning, wiping away the past, or so we deem. We fail to realise that what we consciously build up is a blockade which seemingly restores balance in life, and we consider ourselves happy, risen, and ready to win.
The problem arises when, after some time, the seepage from below the blockade begins, slowly at first and then so forcefully that we find ourselves drowning in the same troubled waters that we thought had stopped brewing. We realise happiness is deceptive, and once again, seek an end to it in an attempt to restore our puzzled thoughts while wishing for a beginning to begin anew. What we do not realise is how we are part of a continuum, and how happiness, the way it appears before us, is far more a constructed idea than we can gauge.
Happiness is the precondition of being prosperous, of appearing strong, of being confident. In fact, happiness seems to be marketed as the only criteria of being considered as living a life; hence these galaxies of glamourous, luxurious, mind boggling arrangements which construct happiness as the only thing covetable. Since these arrangements are beyond the reach of most, these become commodities of aspiration – the only motivation and definition for life.
This prerogative for happiness also fixes our lenses of how we view and judge the world. The aspiration towards stable coordinates masks our lives. It becomes important to forget our pain, to heal our wounds, to embalm our hurt. And all this is to allow us to feverishly gallop towards productivity in order to transform us into a viable, marketable ‘happy’ commodity.
In our maddening rush to achieving happiness, we unwittingly seem to enter into a vicious, oppressive regime of absconding sorrow. In our frustration to escape, we insanely drive ourselves towards imbalances – we fail to understand pain, we fail to love, to trust, to connect, to give away, to be empathetic; we fail to become humans while we passionately hold on to our half-lives.
Life could become easier if instead of aspiring for a market-driven formula of happiness, we could make our own concoction and believe in its worth. We could realise that happiness cannot be a state of exemption, a cutting off. Despite our best efforts, life cannot be exempt of pain, failure, fear, sorrow. Despite our courage, our vulnerabilities will loom large – we will break down when we see the stone we rolled uphill speeding down again.
Again, interestingly, life cannot be exempt of happiness as well. It is only that happiness does not lie in parties and fun-making alone. It also lies in the ways we devise to gather ourselves; in taking up the challenge of rolling the stone uphill again; in the unwillingness to give up on life; in empathetically bonding over pain and love.
It lies in our wish to soothe the unruly. In fact, standing at the edge of a year which has failed most of our calculations about life, it might be wise to realise that happiness lies in taking up the challenge of that continuum of chaos which makes the drama of our lives performable, allowing happiness to sport varied masks.
Priyanka Chatterjee lives in Siliguri from where she reads and writes passionately on concerns she intends to explore. She has published with Himal Southasian, Feminism in India, Cafe Dissensus. She can be reached at email@example.com. On Instagram, you can find her @priz_chatt.
Featured image credit: Maithili Joshi