Growing up, whenever I or my sister fell sick, we would be handed a rather gross concoction, kashaayam, that would cure us. Standard practice. Clamp that nose shut and dunk it down the gullet. After a few seconds of trying to get that awful taste out of your mouth, you walk away - job done!

This prepares one for many unpleasant situations later on in life, looks like. Bored and not challenged at work? Grind your way through the day. Hate your exercise routine? Stuck in a boring class? It's okay, it will be over soon. You can go do fun things right after this is over. Eating delicious cake that is trending on your feed all week.

Young school aged boy looking at a laptop computer disinterested in remote learning virtual school class during COVID-19 quarantine.
Photo by Thomas Park / Unsplash

Some of these are small, say a 1-hour class you signed up for. Some of these could be taking up a larger part of your life, say, your job.

You face that situation with this pre-existing pattern of clamping your nose and getting through it. And you distract yourself with other fun things during the weekend or in the evening. And shelve this and say it is fine, coz doesn't everyone go through it?

Just coz 100s or 1000s or millions or billions of people do something does not make it the right thing to do. For you.

does everything have to be fun?

Some things are not interesting. Some things are interesting. Some things are draining. Some things we look forward to and are lost in it when we do them.
So, do you fill your life with fun and interesting things and remove everything else? It does seem like a great idea. But if everything is fun, will nothing be fun? Or does it mean you quit the job that is boring and not growing you as a person? Working crazy hours, selling something that has no connection with you, where you find no meaning. What then?!?!

The larger issue is that nonsensical game we seem to concoct, to have a semblance of structure. To fool ourselves into thinking we are in control. That game seems to be "Do this so you can do that next."

And oh, you don't like this thing. No problem.  Clamp your nose and gulp it down. That next thing will be fun.

it doesn't have to be fun to be fun

Doing dishes or driving are two things that I would not associate with the word fun. They are things that I used to endure. I never thought there's anything to be learned from them.

But defining an activity solely based on "is it fun?" seemed rather idiotic. Reading Thich Nhat Hanh's had a dramatic effect on me.

The red light is your friend.

Rather than being annoyed at the traffic light, I learned to start using it to break out of a pattern of "I hate this driving thing. I want to get to my destination so I can be done with this."

Sky is Home
Photo by Ulvi Safari / Unsplash

Likewise, with the dishes, I have started attempting not to look forward to finishing. Because that ends up being the ONLY thought. Unfortunately, I confuse myself with "what state of mind should I be in?", and end up over-thinking most of the time. But I tell myself that it is okay.

it depends

So, do we fill our life only with energising things? Only with things that make a difference? Only with things that fill us with joy? With meaning? With purpose?
What I do know that I have no idea how to answer the above questions. I do think that these situations are not to be dealt with in a binary fashion.

The larger question to ask is not about fun, but about values. But more relevant to these things that currently we hold our breath and get over with, the answer continues to be that it depends.

Some things, you drop them.

Some things, you drop the hate. Or if hate is too strong a word, then that negative emotion associated with it.

Instead of hating driving, I can drive. I don't have to love it.

Instead of hating your physical activity routine, you can just do it. Armed with the larger theme of you taking care of yourself, you can just do that.

There are situations where we do need to hold our nose and get through them. Or are there?