In April, we - Vivita and Avneet, the co-founders of The Wishing Chair, released the "Delights of Distraction" newsletters; a grab-bag of some of our favorite links across the internet that lent some diversion, inspiration, and solace during these unsettling times. We hope to continue this weekly correspondence as long as it resonates with you, our readers - our true sources of joy and delight.
During this time, many of us have had to participate in tricky negotiations or conversations; as a company, we had to have long, onerous dialogues around rental rates, engage with suppliers about credit cycles, talk to our employees about salary cuts. On a personal level, we had to parlay with friends about social-distancing boundaries, with partners about the new rules of relentless co-habitation, and navigate through all this while voicing our political concerns in a highly charged, polarized milieu.
For a tiny few, head-on confrontation is like rocket-fuel, spurring you forward. But for most, escapism is preferable to having that dreaded conversation. So what makes these conversations so tough? In the book, Difficult Conversations, the authors point to the conflation of the outcome of the conversation with self-image:
"Anytime a conversation feels difficult, it is in part precisely because it is about You, with a capital Y. Something beyond the apparent substance of the conversation is at stake for you. It may be something simple. What does it say about you when you talk to your neighbors about their dog [who barks loudly]? It may be that growing up in a small town gave you a strong self-image as a friendly person and a good neighbor, so you are uncomfortable with the possibility that your neighbors might see you as aggressive or a troublemaker."
They call these kinds of conversations “Identity Conversations,” and argue that nearly anytime a conversation feels more challenging than it “should” be, it’s because someone’s identity is at play. In a bad difficult conversation, we view our identity as all-or-nothing: for example, if we hurt someone, we’re a bad person, or conversely, we’re a good person, and the other person’s complaints about us aren’t valid.
In general, identity issues center on 3 unspoken questions:
Am I competent?
Am I a good person?
Am I worthy of love?
In difficult conversations, we’re all worried that the answer to each question is no."
According to the authors, the way to circumvent the Identity conflation issue is to develop a more grounded identity, in the knowledge that humans are neither good nor evil, and can have complex paradoxical traits. You can make mistakes, be inefficient sometimes, and still be worthy of love. The trick is to break out of absolutes - so you can ground your conversation in reality instead of fear.
We hope that was helpful.......that ends the unsolicited advice section of the newsletter :) And now on to our faves of the week:
To Read: In India. we've always had an intimate fascination with astrology, from charting janam patris to calculate one's life course to kundli-matching for successful partnerships. But lately, there's been a mainstream surge in popularity of astrology and tarot across the globe, powered by social media and smartphones. Hailed as "fast spirituality", horoscope and tarot readings are new substitutes for mental health care systems. Young folk suffering from depression or anxiety prefer the quick, affordable advice of an astrology app; which in comparison to a psychiatrist or therapist, is "instantaneous, prescriptive, soothing, and free." Read more about this intriguing trend towards the "magical cosmos".
To Joy-Scroll: A travel photographer and artist uses tiny replicas of people and creates scenes from the great outdoors using food, found objects and household bric-a-brac— the result is utterly delightful. We've spent an inordinate amount of time marveling at her images: she creates forests and lakes from broccoli, asparagus, and jello; mountain ranges and rivers from ice cream and chocolate sauce. She even provides behind-the-scenes insight into how she creates these images, revealing that, "Like love, celebration, and laughter, creativity can really shine when it is shared."
To Personally Transform: As women, we're taught to speak about ourselves negatively; to appear humble, less threatening, and therefore more agreeable. "I can't do a push-up - I'm soooo unfit" or "I'm so dumb, I don't understand this." The problem is, we identify with negativity in our heads very strongly, and so our declarations become self-fulfilling prophecies. Do this simple trick instead, which leaves more room for positivity, and consequently: personal growth.
To Watch: This 8-minute film, "They saw the sun first" is a poignant look at life, death and the dances we do in-between; voiced over by the dulcet tones of the elders of New York, set to a dreamy score by FKJ. The compilation of advice from an older generation; reflecting on love, loss, regrets and victories - is much-needed sagacity at this time. On watching, it left us with a feeling of warmth and nostalgia - and so we're passing it on to you.
To Cook: Delia online is a gorgeous website of old-school recipes, alongside informative videos that teach the ABC's of baking. This coffee and cardamom cake with pistachios is a luscious blend of flavours and will make tea-time, truly sublime.
To Ponder: We love the concept of "Hey From The Future" a simple website of advice that people wished they knew at your age. Just pick your age, and you can read various contributions from people with advice to give at that time. Upvote what you like, and it lets you share advice you wish you had gotten. We encourage everyone to contribute. We read some of the advice that was posted for our age group and it went something like: "Whatever you’ve always wanted to do: You can still do it. The time is great because you know who you are, who you aren't, and (if single) you have disposable income. Don't fall into the trap of letting your future self handle the consequences of your choices now. Be healthy. Stay creative. Be deliberate."
And if someone were so inclined to ask us for advice; here are a few quotes from seekers who are considerably more wise, on living a good life (at any age):
“If all you did was just looked for things to appreciate, you would live a joyously spectacular life.” ― Esther Abraham Hicks
“Be messy and complicated and afraid and show up anyways.” — Glennon Doyle Melton
“"No.” is a complete sentence.“ — Unknown
"Loving someone means helping them to be more themselves, which can be different from being what you'd like them to be, although often they turn out the same." - Merle Shain
Stay safe, make good choices and keep that light on,
Viv and Ami