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Not sweating the small stuff

Image credit — Google images

“I just saw my first grey hair. I’m getting old :(“, was my cousin’s text last evening. “We all are. Relax,” I replied. “Hmm.” “I noticed permanent lines on my forehead today. There’s nothing that I can do about them, except for botox maybe, haha!,” I added. Another hmm and our conversation ended. Hours later, another cousin made her contribution, “Stay young at heart.” We all agreed to that line, but I did not quite understand it. What does it mean to stay young at heart? I’m relatively young, but not sure if my heart is. Medically yes. Emotionally? Not so sure. And by heart, she definitely meant the mind right?

I am a worrier, if that’s a term. From a bout of acne to a delay of five minutes, things stick to my mind longer than needed. The monkey in the brain takes some time to sit quietly. Countless thoughts spiral out of a small diversion from normalcy, often creating worst case scenarios in the mind. Even now, as I write, I am thinking of an important call, opening new tabs to check my email, turning my head towards dad to check if he needs anything.

My Dad, on the other hand, has always sailed smooth through minute hiccups. Flat tyre at night on the highway with no connectivity? No problem. All we need is some flash light, a spare tyre and the right mindset to fix it. I do not remember a single moment, when he would fret about the difficult situation. A serious argument with Mum leading to sleeping in different rooms at night? That’s okay. Next morning, he will make tea for her, pack the kids to school, and they would joking around by lunch. Carcinoma cells in oral cavity needing surgery? That can be managed. He’ll still write jokes and funny one liners over a notepad as long as he’s advised to not talk, and continue being the merriest of all family members.

Things have now obviously taken a harsher route. The disease is present, weakness has become part of life, some nights are harder than the others, food doesn’t taste as good as it used to earlier, routines change abruptly.

However, Dad’s instinct to not worry all the time shines through. He is living with the disease and yet not shadowed by it. He has channeled his resilience to not sweat the small stuff into the bigger stuff in life.

He is calm when he chats with the doctor. He drives to the hospital on the day of his chemotherapy. He discusses plans to visit Sundarbans and his experience of visiting Kolkata with equal proportions of excitement. He prepares fresh fruit juice for himself and the family. He scolds the kids for being untidy. He worries about big responsibilities, but doesn’t let them follow him for days.

So when I worry about greying hair, or lines on forehead, I’m learning to channel Dad’s energy into my mind. Letting go of the small stuff only clears the mind to have a peaceful attitude towards one’s life. Growing old, facing disappointment, plans going awry, sudden change in routines; all are disruptions, but not big enough to lose one’s mind over.

In the long run, these won’t matter, but keeping a healthy mindset will. A competent way to handle daily disruptions will strengthen me to take on the giants of issues. If Dad did not have the capacity to tackle worries in the manner he does, this disease would have crumbled his willpower long time ago. I firmly believe that his ability to not get upset over every irritant has made up his calibre to handle his illness in the best manner.

This is one of his attributes which have kept him strong and resilient and perhaps young at heart. Something I wish to imbibe and follow each day. Acne marks and delayed trains don’t deserve my scowl. And being with Dad every day is a reminder of that.

Hi, I’m Mariyam, thank you for reading my post. This is part of my series on finding positivity and decoding the ‘be positive’ attitude as my father fights through aggressive oral cancer.

If you liked it, you can read other posts on

You can also follow me on twitter @MariyamRaza for more. Much love 🙂

Mariyam Raza Haider

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A journalist by training, Mariyam Haider is a writer and performance poet in Singapore.
She is the researcher of the book The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India’s New Gilded Age written by James Crabtree.
Her writing has appeared in Hindustan Times, Livemint, Feminism In India, New Asian Writing and Kitaab.

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