The other night I awoke in a cold sweat, clutching my copies of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, and 101 Ways to Make Every Second Count: Time Management Tips and Techniques for More Success With Less Stress. Then I realised that the waking up must have been part of the dream, since I don’t own copies of these books.
That’s when I woke up for real, and the sweating began in earnest. With the shriek dying on my lips, I looked out at the 4am darkness and asked the large, empty space where God should have been: Why? Why didn’t I buy those books? Why didn’t I read them? Why do I for the millionth time in my life find myself in a situation where I have ten days’ worth of things to do and one day in which to do them?
In a low grumble the large empty space replied: Because you didn’t do the ten days’ worth of stuff when you had the ten days. Burn, sucker.
There are people who grow and change and develop themselves throughout their lives with the help of other people, books, maybe some after-work classes in pottery or krav maga. They try to make up for what they perceive as their deficiencies, attempt to rein in their baser natures, work on improving imperfect relationships, put sweat, blood and tears into providing the best possible future for their (typically ungrateful) children, strive to narrow the gap between who they are and who they’d like to be, struggle to become better human beings.
Then there are the rest of us, who remain thoroughly unreconstructed. We’re still stubborn, still lazy, still prefer to lie on the sofa bed rather than smite the day with vigour. We would rather, in times of trouble, give up immediately and reach for the jar of Nutella or the carton of Cerelac (wheat flavour—the others are rubbish); and we’d certainly rather set ourselves on fire than take on any kind of responsibility. Simply put, we are constitutionally and chronically averse to putting up with that with which we would rather not put.
Happily, these failings come with a preternatural capacity to rationalise them away. Some people would call that another failing. I call it an indispensible life jacket in the boiling rapids of life. So I can say, without the slightest sense of dissimulation or sheepishness, that the reason I had that nightmare is that I am stressed by too much work and too little time. Baaaa.
The reason I’m overworked is that I’m off to Thimphu, Bhutan for the first edition of what is envisioned as an annual literary festival, and am therefore writing this column, inter alia in advance. Luckily, Bhutan is one of the happiest countries in the world, not to mention one of the prettiest. It and I have a short and stormy history dating from last October, when I drove in for what was supposed to be a three-week driving trip, and it drove me out prematurely with a hideous chest infection, but this time I come in peace with no plans of any sort except to take in great lungfuls of clean air.
The weather people have promised a rainy, windy few days. But since I’m from Delhi where the mercury, at 44C, is currently twice as high as in Thimpu, rain and wind are perfectly welcome. The delight of cool weather and green mountains and meals made entirely of chilli and cheese should more than make up for the stress and overwork of the festival. Baaaa.