There is a moment in our lives when we realize that we are in a place that we did not wish for. That place could be a wrong place, marriage or job or anywhere you wanted to, but ended up there anyway.
Sometimes, you reach that place even if you have not intended to, but you end up in that rabbit hole. That rabbit hole was not the dream place you wanted to be, but you somehow got settled. But slowly, that feeling starts to creep in – first a little, discomforting flashes but a slow, nagging feeling that grows on you. Then it stays there and however you wish it away, it stays there. Then it grows and grows like a snowball, like a tumor that is present. But it is not easy to get out of the rabbit hole.
I’ve finally given in, my eyes are shut under the blindfold. I can hear and smell, but I cannot see. My hands are clammy I feel cold yet I am warm. It is what I wanted, but I am now unsure, dubious yet at the same time excited and curious. I would like to think I feel a bit like Alice just before she fell down the hole into the rabbit hole. Yet there are no rabbits here… not even those of the rampant persuasion.
― Leonora Morrison
That quote reflects the feeling that somebody is feeling warm but clammy and cold at the same time. The place does not have people, but only yourself. Suddenly, it is a small cramped room of mirrors, each corrugation showing your reflection, tinted by the prism of your past.
Your response is typically denial first – you say to yourselves that you are in the right place. You got there because you had taken this journey – technically, a series of choices or decisions that you made – and ended up in this place. The wise would say that you are where you are meant to be and this is just part of a journey, and you may agree to this adage. It sounds just about right – you convince yourself, putting yourself as a pawn of destiny and the Universe’s grand scheme. There is even a glimmer of hope. Each little thing now acquires a shape of destiny, and you start justifying yourself. The denial stage is a wolf in sheep’s clothing – beneath all that positive cramming that you do to yourself, there is that underlying, suppressed frustration.
The attempt to escape from pain is what creates more pain.
― Gabor Maté
The pain – the frustration is something you would have learned to live with, and that is an attempt to escape from reality. The reality is that you, in the first place, did not want to be there, but you are.
It is hard to know this unless I am there at your place, so it is hard to understand or advice. So I shall listen.
Why you may ask?
I was in that place – sorry, at a similar place that I did not want to be. So, I am going to share my story now. So, just listen, if you can and want to.
My Rabbit Hole
Oh, my Rabbit hole is mine. Don’t even think that I would share mine. Like yours, mine is unique.
For those of you who aren’t fans, and I’m sorry for the rabbit hole I’m about to introduce you to.
― Cat Voleur, Revenge Arc
The rabbit hole is a real place. Let us not assume otherwise. But that is nothing compared to the place that has filled in our mind palace. So, I would say that the issue was the rabbit hole that my mind has left itself to be.
My mind was in the wrong place. I was in denial. Then, slowly I realized that the person, the job, or the place I was in or with, but was myself – my within.
I wanted to be elsewhere, with somebody else and doing something else – but here I was doing what I was doing, living with these people I called family and living in this particular city. Fine, I am repeating this – but stick with me here.
I remember it was a rainy day. I woke up with a numbness in my ring finger and little finger. The morning was silent, but the silence was torn by the grating sound of autos and the raspy sound of the crows. The two sounds were synonymous with the unpleasant buzz of life in my city. The crows represented the greedy, unscrupulous, and foulmouthed life, and the autos represented the struggles of survival with no larger purpose.
The cloudy day added to the gloomy view of my life. I remembered the ‘magical monsoon’ of another city and the rain-soaked gulmohars of another. I remembered Singapore, New York, and Dubai. But here I was, in this city, which has turned into a rabbit hole.
I rolled in my bed, trying to get under the sheets.
My phone rang. The ringtone was to be non-intrusive, but it cut into my thoughts like an unwelcome guest.
I saw the name – it was my psychic friend whom I had mentioned earlier. She was calling from the US. I did not want to take her call – but she never called. We spoke on video calls but never on Whatsapp calls. This was something new. I had to pick up the call.
‘Hello.’ Her voice was chirpy, contrary to the somber mood I was in. ‘How are you doing?’
I mumbled about how I was fine. She asked me if it was a financial situation or a family situation. After an insistent prodding from her, I explained the mood I was in – the rabbit home – job, place, and people.
‘My friend. I heard so many ‘I’s in your conversation. The biggest revelation to me is that you feel hurt, but there is nobody you can blame. There is another point though – this thought of ‘anywhere else and anything else’ is dominating your mind. You are the victim, and your life is the perpetrator. So, in a sense, you feel that you are a victim of fate.’ She said, incisively as ever.
‘I am the victim here, my friend. How else can I see this? Everything I did was to move away from this place and away from this job and this city, and yet I stay here. How? I cannot see a way out. The more I try to wriggle out of this rabbit hole, the deeper I sink inside.’ That is exactly what I have been feeling, friends.
‘I have been dreaming of staying in Singapore and New York. I wanted to close those deals that I have dreamt of, and I have done this all the time – no one could do the job better than me – this, either side has agreed. I imagine that I am fit and deserving to live that life that I want, but every time I have tried to live that life, I have been yanked as if the carpet was pulled off my feet and I am back to this – this rabbit hole. I have tried, my friend. If I may add, I have tried this for a decade. Now I am resigned to my fate. This is the place I am destined to be. I have given up. My abilities are no good, they are just the seed of false hope.’
I vented my feelings out – that was the first good thing that happened to me in a long time. Nobody had the time or patience to listen to a middle-aged male of his woes. From where others looked, I was successful. By some yardstick, I was not a failure. I had built a business that now stood on the ground and another which was taking off reasonably well. So there is something to look for. But, I was not in a place I wanted.
‘See, there is that hope. You have built something – despite where you are – as you call from your rabbit hole. But there is something else you had told me that I remember now.’ My friend alluded to some past conversation. I remained silent.
‘Remember that you now work from home – that enables you to be around with family, even after COVID. Also, you get to write. Write those beautiful poems and stories. Maybe, there is something big for you waiting there, pal.’ The way she put it, it was a quick mop-up of my past conversations. If she put together those things I had been doing – for my family, for myself, then it sounded like a good place to be in.
‘It is definitely a point, but I am telling you that I feel that life has dealt cards that I did not want. There is no mistake from my side, but I have been dealt raw. How many times have I been waiting for success, only to be yanked back to this rabbit hole again? How is that fair? I have written great pieces, but lesser writers make it big. Again, how is that fair?’ I shot questions to her as if she had all the answers.
‘Wow. These are too many questions, my friend.’ Her response was a laugh that sounded like a chuckle.
‘Many of us feel this way. We feel that we have done our bit and expect an outcome. Of course, there is a large thing – call it destiny, luck, or whatever at play. But let us focus on you. Have you felt that by doing more you will increase your probability of success? What can you do that could change this outcome? And finally, why are you looking at others?’ She replied to my questions with her questions.
‘I know that I have given it all. I don’t know what I can do to change these outcomes. And finally, it is out there on social media to see how the others fare. So, there you go.’ I answered her questions, point by point.
‘You seem too convinced about your answers. This conviction is the reason for your rabbit hole, my friend. You have clammed up in your rabbit hole.’ She said.
‘I don’t understand. So is this my fault?’ I asked her, my voice laced with a sarcastic tone.
‘No. But things are not black and white. You seem to be hung on what you see today – your job, your writing, and your city – but think of it as the bricks that make the wall of your life. You cannot complain which brick is the bottom, middle, or top. But, know that everything – every little thing is a brick. Without one, the wall has a hole. So, you get the metaphor.’ Her words made sense. That feeling of contentment had come and gone, now and then. I could work from home, I could write and I could do things from where I was. So what was I complaining about?
‘It is hard to see life forward – into the future. But when you look at it backward, you will see that you are there where you are meant to be. The experiences, the people you have met, the thoughts are all part of the brick wall of life that you are building my friend. There is a saying – if you think you are buried in a dark place, it might be that you are planted, only to grow as a tree that grows and blooms later.’
I was not convinced, but I was getting there.
‘So how to deal with the rabbit hole? That feeling, that mindset.’ I asked her because I felt that might help me cross the bridge.
‘First, take a breath and stop beating yourself. Second, look at the little things around you – your wife, your kids, and your family. Your city has a great seashore and sunrise. Your city has temples and libraries. Your city has the quiet and cultural layers that many from other cities yearn for. You have the great tourist spot just fifty kilometres away, and the great French Riviera. Why don’t you look at that? You have your family with you – many would count that as a blessing. Look at the little things, my friend. The answer is always in the little things. They are the ones that count. Of course, thank me later.’ Her words sounded simple – but I could do with simple.
That is what I started to do – the simple things. One little thing, one step at a time – that is how I am coming out of the rabbit hole.
Your rabbit hole:
Rabbit holes are our creation. They slowly squeeze in and grow on us as poison ivy. They can put us on a path that slides and it is difficult to crawl back out.
So, how about you, my friend? Are you able to see your rabbit hole? There is no clear answer, but I just thought of sharing mine. Work it out, my friend.
No hole is deep enough to be unclimbable. Not even the one you dug yourself into. Never give up. On yourself.
― Vineet Raj Kapoor
Ashok Subramanian © 2023