“The Times Are Bad”
But when are they not?
As a child in the 90s, there were times when I had to ask my father for permission. It was mostly to do with school picnics or some such similar outings. My father always said, “No, times are bad.” This was such an immediate and recurring answer that I took it for a fact. I remember my child’s mind thinking, if all times are seemingly bad, when are the good times? This was in the early 90s mind you, the times we look back at with a sepia toned nostalgia. If those days were apparently bad, what’d you call these days in 2022?
The question “When are the good times?” has remained unanswered throughout my life. As I’ve grown older, with every passing year the world has become shittier and shittier. This month has been tumultuous at best, especially this last week. I’ve had rude awakenings, swayed on the edges of a burnout and still did not get all the work done that exists in limbo, broke down briefly, witnessed the beginnings of a war, lost further hope with our own country and started to deal with the fact that I actually, really, truly, have a nephew who lives and breathes and yawns and farts and poops (which is so very weird). All of it has taken it’s toll on me and I’ve had to retreat within myself to fix things. Not to heal, no. There is no time for that. But a patch job, a fixer-upper, so I can get moving, push through and blast past March at a pace the workaholic in me will be proud of.
If, that is, the world survives March. As you know, the times are bad.
A couple of days back, I was tired and shaking with anger at the world and the war and all the other nonsense these power hungry folks get to, an old favourite quote popped up on my Twitter feed. It was from Lord of the Rings.
"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I" said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
— J.R.R. Tolkien
I’ve always believed words find you. At the right time and right space. And sometimes the lessons you’ve already learnt come back, repackaged thanks to the time and space you’ve spent away from them. Maybe my father was right. Times were bad back in the 90s. Times are still bad, here in 2022. Or maybe, times have never been either bad or good, but simply our perspectives were skewed. My father saw what he wanted to in the world. My own sense of good times and bad times is something I’ve inherited from him, but something I’m learning how to unlearn.
Because the times may be bad, but there is a lot of good stitched in together—all we have to do is see it. It’s almost as if the good and bad are woven together to make a whole. The tapestry of all time. Good and bad—balanced, as all things should be to quote Thanos (#ThanosWasRight). And maybe, just maybe, there is no good times or bad times. There are just times and what we perceive them to be.
In all of this madness, there have been a few constants. My partner for one thing. I feel like I’m got lucky and how, and she knows it. But there are other things I do, things that I have over the years collected to find peace in. Within this newsletter I’m going to recommend a few of those measures.
I come back to this again and again every few months. My love for Neil Gaiman is well known, but this little speech is a treasure I return to at times when I’m feeling incredibly low and nothing I do can help me push forward. I cry and laugh and Neil makes me feel understood in a way that I’m too poor a writer to even attempt to describe. ❤️🩹
I found Becky and Chris during the pandemic and I love their asthetic. They talk a lot about tech and their creative process, but their main focus is on DIY projects like remodelling their house and other similar pursuits. This video was shot and edited by Becky during the thick of the pandemic while her husband Chris was in the hospital (he’s a doctor). Worried sick, she chose to distract herself by building the background of the Instagram picture she needed to shoot and then shot it and created a short film of her doing it all. It’s beautiful and every second in this 2 minute long video is poetry. ⛄️
If I’m ever down, I’ll be listening to Dark Side of the Moon. This album is my cocoon, something that cushions me and takes me away from my own thoughts but keeps me grounded, reminding me to keep going. This album is almost like an entire life within its 40 minutes. Each songs plays into each other, and there is no distinguishing these songs, no shuffle required. It’s one entire piece and should be enjoyed whole. 👻
Akshay’s Updates 🤖
I’ve written and published things this month and sent a butt load of writing out for submissions. Hopefully, if the threads in the world align, in future months I’ll be bragging about them here in this section of my newsletter. But in February 2022, I published:
Putting all the keyboard shortcuts I love and use on such a frequent basis in one place. This is a guide for me as much for you. In case, (god forbid) my fingers ever forget their way around a keyboard.
I’m so disappointed by this piece. Mostly in myself. But it taught me much. And told me that bursts of impatience when working with a writing will never do any good.
Friend’s Updates 🤗
At Alekhya (my absolute favourite writing retreat in Himachal) I met Praveen Shivram last October. We bonded over our love for stories and the conversations we shared were phenomenal. She recently co-wrote an episode for a Tamil anthology called Putham Pudhu Kaalai Vidhiyaadha… that’s available on Amazon Prime. The episode is called Niral Tharum Idham and its a definite must watch. It’s a meditation on losing a loved one and the grief that follows. It’s delicate and showcased with absolute honesty. I’d expect nothing less from Praveena.
As I write this, my other friend from the first Alekhya I’d attended, Varun Dhingra, shared a picture of his book of poems called Wandering Trees. It’s currently available only in the US but I’m so happy to see his work get published in book form. If you are in the US or planning to go there, check it out. It’s available on Poetizer.
Words to Leave Behind 😎
How much time would you be willing to spend to create something that lasts forever?
- George Saunders
This newsletter is and will always remain free. If you wish to support me and my work, you can consider buying me a cup of tea (or three) here. You can also share this newsletter with your friends or on your social pages — support does not always have to be monetary.
Until next month, Akshay out.