Things I think about when I have nothing on my mind
Good thoughts first. I think of all the things we will do when we are old. I see elderly couples at film screenings or literary festivals and begin to fantasize about growing old together. I watch one getting a sandwich for the other. Offer a paper napkin and gesture lightly to wipe something on the chin. I notice how elegant she is. I check her delicate kundan earrings, standing out against her white hair, and make a note that I too can wear them when I am 80. I imagine a gentle life and moments of leisure when we are done with the wild energy, ambitions and demands of our middle years.
I like postponing possibilities, so long as it gives me something to look forward to. To be able to imagine something gives me as much joy as the experience itself.
I think about cracks in my friendships. About relationships gone with the wind. In the middle of yoga class, my mind wanders towards unresolved hurts and incomplete conversations with people that I have chosen and nurtured in my life. Ties that seem hell-bent on disintegrating despite the love and nourishment we seem to have offered. Why is loss cyclical? It makes me want to avoid yoga class the next morning. Perhaps, I really do need the extra sleep I crave so much.
I think about things I seem to do compulsively. Like put money plant shoots in shapely glass bottles, and display them in a neat line on the windowsill. Every morning, sunlight races through the venation pattern of the leaves like an iridescent dye. I watch white roots sprout from the stem in the water. I keep growing shoots in very small places and waiting to see if they will choose life. Will it be able to start from scratch again? I celebrate rebirth. Sometimes I clap my hands with happiness.
I become aware of long-term aches in my body and think about searching online to read about them. I imagine heart disease and then tell myself it is probably tooth decay or just plain fatigue. I consider wearing comfortable shoes with my saris, then compromise with flat sandals instead.
I think about the connection between publishing my first book and beginning to wear the saris I have collected over years. Allowing myself to wear saris without becoming a nervous wreck trying to make the fabric fold perfectly. Allowing myself to relax. It’s a good thought. I buy myself a favourite mithai from a sweet shop and pause to eat it instead of just passing by, in denial of my hunger. And desire.
I fantasize about leaving home to go out to work every day. Living a life outside that distracts me from mine. I do not choose it.
I think about writing for children. That will be a good way to get out of my skin.
I think of friends I don’t call because it’s part of our mutual therapy. I have to give up on rescuing her and being disappointed that she seems to crash again. She has to give up on blaming me for not holding her up all the time. We switch roles from rescuer to victim to persecutor and we need to learn that being alone is better than perpetuating toxicity in our intimate relationships.
I think about the nature of generosity. Is it still generosity if it feels slighted when it isn’t acknowledged? About love. Can one continue to love if it isn’t received by the other?
I walk on grass to empty out extra thoughts.
I think of ways to avoid conversations in which nothing is said. No one is comforted. Old wounds are trampled upon again. I think of alternative words. I don’t always find them. Sometimes I insert emoticons as a placeholder, waiting for words to come back. I search the internet for help. Often I get it. Ironically, I do feel blessed.
I think of friends in hospital who don’t know I am thinking about them. Friends getting divorced who are angry in a diffused way. Those who turn you into the enemy because they are lost.
There are others, who make me feel calm and reassured even as I think of them. What is the difference in the quality of my relationship with them? I make resolutions never to choose a relationship that will cause me pain again. I resolve to get wiser. Less needy. More honest with myself.
“Why do you think so much?” people always ask when you say uncomfortable things. “You think too much, don’t think so much. Relax,” they say, hoping you will reconcile to status quo.
I think about sleep a lot. Especially when I wake up and am still in bed. I give myself 10 more minutes many times over. I think of the tea my husband is usually making in the kitchen at that time. I think of it more when he is not home. It comforts me.
I think about stories that I have been wanting to write but haven’t because the hardest work is examining my role in them. Once it is exposed, it will demand change. Once I see it, I won’t be able to un-see it. It is easier to be invested in fictional characters than be fair to real ones.
I postpone cracking open my ego and leaving it in shards that cannot be put back again. I’ll get there soon enough, if I keep listening to the things my mind thinks about when I give it nothing to do.
Natasha Badhwar is a film-maker, media trainer and author of the book My Daughters’ Mum.
She tweets @natashabadhwar