Posted in Experiences, Family, Gratitude, Introspection, Learnings, Loss

Year in Review

That time of the year to introspect, reflect and take stock of the year that has gone by. 

First things first. Let me address the elephant in the room. My word of the year. HABITS. A complete, utter failure to embrace it. I have struggled with simple, foundational habits – eating right, and exercising for a few minutes, and flossing. That extended to the next tier of habits – reading, writing etc. When I started out the year, I thought I would start small, build on my habits over time, and make everyday habits second nature by the end of the year. I started small but all my efforts tapered and evaporated over the course of the year. 

In thinking through what went wrong?  I am a textbook case of spare the rod and spoil the child. If I don’t hold myself to high standards, I just fall apart. I have developed a huge inertia for working out. I simply do not want to sweat it out. Moderation does not work for me. Once I succumb to one bite, it’s million bites after that. My mind has become an expert at wiggling out of discomfort and coaxing me into taking the easy way out. If my own internal barriers aren’t enough, Da’s and my own work schedule have thrown a wrench on our routine and made time even more scarce. 

I am disappointed with myself but determined to pick up my slackness and get better. Now that the most difficult part of introspection has been addressed moving on to what else was happening in our lives. 

In terms of life events, my maternal patti passed away in the beginning of the year. End of life is a hard phase, some have it harder than others. My grandma was surrounded by love and prayers in her deathbed. Thankful that her suffering was not prolonged. 

Da moved on to a new company. The commute is less but the work day is longer, all worth it as there is fulfillment coming from the work. Hari is thriving in high school, taking responsibility for his learning, charting his course. Ram is dabbling in a lot of stuff with scouts and Destination Imagination being good fit for his personality, sports done for movement and socializing, and Sunday school because his mom insists. 

It was tumultuous couple of weeks when appa was sick and the reality of staying so far away and the enormity of role reversal hit me like a ton of bricks. Visiting India, spending time with my parents, going around on my own, reconnecting with friends and life in India are most certainly the highlights of my year. 

We have gone green this year. We have been composting since the beginning of the year, carrying bags for grocery trips and minimizing the use of paper goods. Did I mention that we will be installing solar panels next year? The motivation for that though is the tax benefits rather than the environmental benefits coming from it. While our day to day choices still tilt in favor of convenience, we are more thoughtful about the use of plastics in our lives. 

My work has had several twists and turns this year. I miss my old team but I am happy to be part of my new team. I am learning new things, taking on new challenges and working with new team members. I have also become disciplined about going to office for three days per week and not using my work devices for personal purposes. It feels like some sanctity in my work life has been restored with these simple measures.  

After a break of over a year, got back to dancing, wherein we as students are steering the direction of our classes and making thoughtful choices. I feel good about this because I missed dancing and I took ownership to bring dance back into my life. 

I spent a lot of time listening to interviews and podcasts by Eckhart Tolle. I have read his works but somehow the podcasts took my understanding to the next level and the teachings resonated at a deeper level. For the first few days, I wanted to scream at the top of the mountain. I felt like I had found a treasure. An instruction manual on how to live life.

I leave you with my biggest learning for this year.  The present moment is all that matters. That is all there is to life. Surrender to it. Take refuge in it. Accept it willingly.

Posted in Dance, Experiences, Gratitude, Inspiration, Intentions, Introspection, Learnings, Life, Little Moments

Bharthanatyam – What it means to me?

I was nominated for a 10-day dance mom challenge on FaceBook, which entailed posting a picture a day in the life of a dance mom or a significant dancing moment. I chose to do it only for 5 days because I didn’t have the bandwidth to continue, I was getting distracted from my routine, and finally I felt vulnerable sharing too much. Since I don’t have much readership here, I feel relatively more comfortable sharing things that are close to my heart in this space. Along with that picture, I had put in a blurb providing context to the picture. I am  repurposing those posts, without pictures, with some expanded content here and there.  

  • I am lucky that my parents (thank you, thank you and thank you appa and amma) went along with my choice to pursue dance when the popular vote was for music (pursuing multiple interests was not as common in my growing up years). More importantly for just asking – dance practice eppadi porthu? Sometimes it is the simplest of reminders that galvanizes you into action. I am also fortunate to have been married into a family that takes interest and pride in my pursuits. I am thinking of my mil who would accompany me to my dance class with excitement. As the sole member in our family of four that enjoys Bharatanatyam, I do struggle with balancing “me” time with family time. A weekend afternoon spent attending a dance recital is an afternoon away from them. And sometimes that is the only time we have together. Often, I dilly dally not knowing what to choose. Sometimes family wins, at other times dance. What I have learnt is, the only person judging my choice is me. The trick is to not think of the dance recital I missed when I am with the family and not to think of my family when I am at the recital. Shout out to Da for being my rock, my punching bag, and for constantly reminding me that I am learning dance because it makes me happy. Flying kisses to the sonny boys for caring about my pursuits. They will throw a tantrum if I were to take them to an arangetram but they would be heart heartbroken if I were to pass up on an opportunity to perform. 
  • I have learnt Bharatanatyam, on and off, for the most part of my life. The breaks were sometimes short, and at other times were prolonged. Sometimes due to lack of continuity at the teachers’ end, and  sometimes due to life events and circumstances. Board exams, school in one city, undergrad in another city, postgrad in yet another city, work in fourth city, then came marriage, move to a new country, back to school, kid no. 1, kid no.2. One way to look at it is, it has been a slow and shaky learning experience. Another way to look at it is, life has been generous in bestowing me with opportunities and teaching me resilience through dance. A constant in my life. Thank God for that! Thank God for all my teachers who willingly took me under their wings, gave me their time and attention, and in the process kept the spark alive. I am exactly where I need to be, all those breaks were necessary to lead me to where I am today, to ensure that there was continuity in the journey. To all my dance teachers, past and present, gratitude from the depths of my heart. Without you, dance would have only been a longing.
  • Janmashtami tradition – may be it is the fact that I have two veshama kara kannans in my house, I love Janamashtami. Our Janmashtami celebration is more about storytelling than about bakshanam. When the boys were little, they would get dressed up as Krishnas, and Balaramas and we would act out Krishna Leela. What better way to tell a story than via Bharatanatyam? All those giggles, broken mazhalai tamizh, and role playing. Deeply grateful to the art form for giving me ways to bond with little humans, my own and the ones that cross my path. 
  • The day before a performance is humbling. You hold the blessing close to your heart and want to give it your all and beyond. You are also a bundle of nerves. You run through the sequence in your head. Once, twice, thrice, and a few times more. By yourself, and with your gang. Then you obsess over the costume, jewelry, food, and family. Details, details, so many details to think of for the compulsive mind. Then, there comes a point when you simply let go. And you remind yourself to just be and dance your heart out. Being in the moment, soaking in the music, taking in the space and the lights, and trusting that your practice will carry you through. That’s all matters! One of the nicest parts of learning to dance as an adult is all the fabulous women you get to meet over the years. Self-made, independent, accomplished and courageous. When the group clicks, you know you have surrounded yourself with empathetic, compassionate and strong women. Ones who inspire, encourage and support each other. The experience is heightened when you have found your people. My heartfelt gratitude to the girl gang, who have knowingly or unknowingly, have helped me in small and big ways.
  • Dance is my Zen. It has taught me the power of practice, perseverance, and having a growth mindset. To do something purely for the love of it, not as a means to an end. Through my practice, I learn more about myself. If you came up to me and asked, are you a dancer? My answer would be, I learn dance. I love Bharatanatyam. Dancer is a label that I hold to high standards and don’t think I am there yet. I am more like the Giraffe who found his music and learnt to dance. I found my reason to dance. So yeah, I learn dance. 

To be able to dance at this age and stage of my life is something that I never take for granted. Don’t know what tomorrow holds but I am thankful with every fiber in my being that my life has been touched by the art form all my life.

Posted in Experiences, Experiments, Food, Health and fitness, Learnings

Lost and Gained

In the context of weight loss, I have lost, gained, lost again, gained again… you see the pattern right. Basically, I have not been able to sustain my efforts or maintain my weight. I was not following any fad diets, I lost weight the healthy way. But needless to say, they were not sustainable. Sadly, for the past two years, I simply have not been able to do what it takes. May be as I age, the reserve of determination is getting depleted. May be the body metabolism changes with every weight loss, and my body is demanding more than what I can provide. Today, I heard the Life Kit podcast and had some big takeaways.

  • Our body has a natural tendency to fight weight loss, which is why it is hard to maintain weight loss.
  • I knew what we eat matters more than how much we exercise for weight loss but what I didn’t realize was exercise helps with maintaining the weight you have lost. So for weight loss, eat right. For weight maintenance, exercise right.
  • Given that, there is no point in aiming for weight loss. Instead, take the high road, focus on making behavioral changes, lifestyle changes, changes that you enjoy because the chances are if you don’t believe in or enjoy what you are doing, you are not going to be able to embrace it in the long term.

The grand conclusion is weight loss should afterall not be the goal. Accept your body for what it is, do what works in the long term; you may not end up being slim and trim but you will be healthy and happy. Something to ponder about. 

Posted in Introspection, Learnings, Life

The ways of the mind

I keep telling myself if only I can be focused. Not jump from one tab to another, one gadget to another, one activity to another, one thought to another, one distraction to another. Have sharp focus and clean mind. Just give it my all to the task right in front of me, to what I am doing at the moment, to what is, then I can conquer mountains and boil oceans. The thing is that state of mind is elusive even when it feels like it is within my grasp.  The rare moments that I get a taste of it, I nod to myself in agreement of what’s often told – the high is real!

Posted in Experiences, Family, Introspection, Learnings, Little Moments, Memories, People, Research, Travel, Trying, Us

Goldstars

Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth in Happier with Gretchen podcast have a segment called Goldstar and Demerit. Think of Goldstar as a pat on the shoulder or a smiley face 🙂 and a Demerit as a kick on the bottom or a frowning face 🙁. In a fit of silliness, I started doling out Goldstars and Demerits to the kids during the trip and somehow it has caught on. Every now and then, the boys now come up to me and ask , “Do I get a Goldstar for cleaning up?” “Do I get a Goldstar for doing my homework on time?” I think it is beginning to mean something to them, I can see their eyes shining at the mention of Goldstar. Funny, what started of as a joke is evolving into something more meaningful. 

Why not some travel related Goldstars to all of us?

  • Goldstar to Da, for taking the plunge, and booking the tickets. I kept dilly dallying, procrastinating and feeling utterly overwhelmed. Not knowing where to begin, I conveniently resorted to inaction. Also, Goldstar to Da for constantly making conversations with the Ticos to get local knowledge on places to visit. Thanks to him, we visited the botanical garden and learnt about the artisans shops, which we would not have uncovered otherwise.
  • Goldstar to Hari, for carrying us through this trip with his spanish. He has had only two years of training at school, so is not an expert by any stretch of imagination. Yet, he conversed with the driver, the shopkeepers, and the restaurant folks. Thanks to him, we did not feel the pinch of visiting a country that spoke an unfamiliar language. Mighty proud of him!
  • Goldstar to Ram, for being a trooper. The child had ear infection, bronchitis, and was coughing throughout the trip. But he held on, did not complain, and was eager to take in the travel.  
  • Goldstar to yours truly, for ensuring the house was in order before we left and that our routine would be seamless following our return. I also read up a lot and familiarised myself with the Costa Rican culture prior to the trip.
  • Goldstar to my friends, P and V. We went to Costa Rica from New Jersey. P’s place in NJ is like a second home for us. We go there without even packing our toiletries. Not only did we have a good time there, P helped us with all things that we would need before and after travel. My childhood friend V, did the housekeeping for us here, and welcomed us with home cooked meals and groceries for this week. Truly, I have the best of friends!
Posted in Experiences, Family, Gratitude, Intentions, Introspection, Learnings, Little Moments, Milestones, Us

2018 Year end report

Time for year end review post. What were the mile markers in this year’s journey? How did we do as a family?

The year started with all of us settling down in our renovated house. It was a humongous relief getting the house to ourselves after living with the construction noise, clutter, dust, uncertainty, and intrusion for close to six months. We hosted our immediate and extended family for Hari’s poonal function, our neighbors for thanksgiving, and are hosting the weekly Destination Imagination meetings. Many evenings, we are huddled together in the home office to finish up on commitments related to school, work and others. Weekends are spent watching movies as a family cosying up in the media portion of the attic.  The day is not complete without Da and Hari chilling out in the attic tossing a few balls and hitting a few shots in the attic. Ram has made use of every inch of his room, and has been royally kicking us out should we not honor the rules that he has set. All in all, incredibly thankful for the big and little moments that the renovation had made it possible for us.

Soon after that we got knee deep in poonal preparations. It was a ton of work, money and planning. It was an enjoyable and learning experience. It was a very humbling one too because you realize it takes many hands and all stars to align to make it happen. Lucky for us, our friends and family were such troopers! Loved loved having all the little humans gathered under our roof. Every once in a while, we, meaning I, guilt Hari into doing his sandhi or atleast the Gayathri mantram. Other than that, post poonal life has been business as usual for the chap.

We had Aaru and family stay with us for an additional month, and my parents for the next few months. T.H.A.N.K.F.U.L for the joy, for the bonding, and for the opportunity. And oh, our yard saw some pruning, trimming and planting, all credit goes to amma and Da. They made my dream of having rose bushes in the front yard happen. We did local stuff and celebrated festivals with appa and amma. Hari and Da went to San Francisco and Washington DC for cricket tournaments.

Fall went by in a blur with back to school, navratri, diwali, halloween and thanksgiving. A ton of stuff packed in these months, there was hardly any time to breathe.

Hari and Ram have lapped up all the affection they got from the family during their stay and have lavished them in return. They have been working hard on school and other activities. Private baseball did not work out for Hari this year but he has channeled all that energy towards cricket. School is keeping him on his toes. He has taken advanced math course and that’s been the training ground for him and us as a family for high school. Ram’s academics has ramped up too. His sole mission is to do all things required of him, so he can just relax and get bored. And I can tell you, there is no better motivator than that! Da has done well, and the highlight for him is taking up managing the Destination Imagination for a small group of kids. It is not easy work and I proud of him for doing it with enthusiasm, without an iota of resentment. As far me, the year was a mixed bag. Worked on a really interesting project at work during the first six months. I could not take up dance class due to schedule conflicts. I helped organize the diwali event for the town this year. I embraced a little bit more of technology in Sunday school. I have languished on my eating and workout habits. Going easy on myself is not an approach that works for me. Lesson learnt!

How did your 2018 go? What are you proud of? What are some lessons your learnt? 

Posted in Learnings, Life, People, Uncategorized

Transgender Awareness Week

I read on FB that this week is Transgender Awareness Week. So thought I would share something that has been brewing in my head for sometime now. 

A colleague of mine is a transwoman. I have known her long before she transitioned (from male to female). When she disclosed her transition, it was a shock. I did not have an inkling! She has been generous about sharing her journey, educating the rest of the world about what it is to be trapped in a body that one does not belong to, about the high suicide rate amongst transgender people due to family pressure and societal stigma. It is not a life choice, she says. You don’t transition because you want to, you transition because you have to.

Can you imagine what a person with that condition must be going through? It must be an unbearable, excruciating, and lonely journey. Kudos to them for going through enormous physical, emotional and mental pain to be true to themselves. As a society, we have a lesson or two to learn. To not judge what we do not understand. To not dismiss what we do not relate to. 

I am proud of Massachusetts that voted YES on ballot question 3, which is s a referendum on the state’s 2016 transgender rights law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity in places of public accommodation, in the midterm.

On a side note, I thought Arundathi Roy did a fabulous job of articulating the inner turmoil of transgender people through her protagonist, Anjum, a hijra, in her novel the Ministry of Utmost Happiness. It’s worth a read.

Posted in Gratitude, Hari Katha, Introspection, Learnings, Life, Little Moments, Ram Leela

End of school year

I am lying down on my belly, my legs swinging up in the air and hitting down on the ground  playfully, as I thumb through Ram’s workbook from school. Akhil is lying down on me, his belly on my back, peeking at the book that I am thumbing through and explaining the details on the page every once in a while. It’s a rare moment. One I keep intending to have but never end up having. Finally, I have the time and he has the inclination to go over what he has been upto at school.

I take delight in knowing the nitty gritties – oh he knows to do 2 digit and 1 digit addition, he has been taught to identify coins based on which US President is on the coin, he has been tracking the pumpkin growth from the seed to sapling, and there has been a lot of learning about guppies and pillbug just like Hari did, he has been learning about maps, and he has been introduced to poetry.

“Hari, do you think you can take a moment to reflect on your seventh grade, and write a little something for me? I want to know what you thought of your seventh grade?” Dead silence is what I hear in reply. I can hear the talking going on in his head. Writing is boring and reflecting is even more boring. Who does that anyway? Still, it’s mom, she is asking, what choice do I have? So he obliges and whips up something for me. The crux being, “form my own opinion and not to piggyback on someone else’s” He went into seventh grade thinking that he was going to hate it because of all the things he had heard about the team he was assigned to but came out of seventh grade feeling like much fun was had!  

I have been very hands off with both the children this school year. Fall and early winter went by with renovation work, early spring and rest of the school year was full with upanayanam preparations. I have been feeling very out of touch, very uninvolved and incomplete this school year. As I closed the last of the pile of materials that were sent at the end of the year by Ram’s teacher and read Hari’s year round up write up, I heaved a sigh of satisfaction. I finally felt like a mom who knew what her children have been doing at school, albeit in hindsight. Hopefully more real time next school year. 

Posted in Kids, Learnings, Little Moments, Sunday School

Learning

Ram and I went to the local fire station as part of the Cub Scouts activity. I love love being part of guided tours, you get to learn so much as you listen while you see. Under the guise of taking Ram, I had the opportunity to get a glimpse into the behind the screen activities at the fire station. The most amazing part for me was learning that the firefighters will the have to get into their bulky gear and out of the door within a minute of receiving the call for action. The need for being swift is not surprising given what they do, but you develop an appreciation for how meticulously it is practiced.  The boys had a blast climbing into the fire engine, trying the hat, lifting the equipments, and chit chatting with the firefighters. 

Hari is working on his diorama project at Sunday school. He has chosen migration to India as his research topic, and we have been learning some cool facts together. Did you know that Nepal and India share open borders? Unencumbered movement of people between two countries. Did you know Amartya Sen was actually born in Bangladesh? The only China town in India is at West Bengal. George Orwell was actually born in India? The Parsis, the Syrian Christians, the Indian Jews. Truly, India is such a diverse nation.

Posted in Introspection, Learnings, Life, Me, Uncategorized

February reflections and epiphanies

  • When I was in high school, I knew I was a procrastinator. “Thanks to my habit of procrastinating, it has taken me this long to reply….” or something to that effect is how I recall writing letters to my friends. And then life happened and I neither wrote letters nor used the word procrastination as much.  It hit me as I typed the recycling bin post last month that an absence of the said word in my life does not imply the absence of the said trait in my personality. Meaning, I continue to be a procrastinator that I once was. A very useful insight because procrastination with inertia make it difficult to pick up momentum once I lose it.
  • Case in point, I wanted to write the Feb. reflection post on the last day of Feb. I forgot, then I procrastinated, and the post is still swirling in my head. If I don’t write it now, I know it will just remain locked in my head. So here I am tackling procrastination head on.
  • How did Feb. go? Let’s just say, I need a slap on my wrist, a kick on my butt, and a knock on my head. Da returned from India with goodies and I would have been fine had I indulged in just the said goodies. But the break lingered and had a ripple effect. I realized that the time when you know you are slipping is the time you need to double your efforts and bring the habit back on track. Once you don’t act in that phase it becomes too overwhelming with all the self admonition. Also, I realized when I slow down, it does not result in improvement in quality of my life  or an increase in leisure time. It just leads to plain inefficiency. On a positive note, I read quite a bit and that made me so very happy. I don’t feel like a sham when I say I enjoy reading because I know what it is when reading becomes compulsive and takes your life over. Of course, there is the practical difficulty of how to balance it with chores, work and other things, which is why reading has taken a back seat in the first place. As they say, you can have it all, just not at the same time.   I did a solo performance at the temple for Shivarathri. I have performed the dance several times in a group so it was good to compare and make corrections. I learnt that I have to constantly talk myself into relaxing because I get stiff unintentionally due to the focus. Also, it was another exercise in accepting that I may not be excellent in absolute terms but there is immense pleasure in becoming better.
  • What tone do I want to set for March? There is so much important but not urgent stuff to do that I am not doing under the guise of slowing down. Also, one of the important things about building habits is doing the same thing at the same time in the same order. It may not work for everyone but it is something that resonates with me and has worked for me in the past. I need to nail that routine for me. Part of it also would be to come up with tactical actions that would connect to the year of “Us”.

Alright folks, have a good weekend. Thanks for lending me your ear, and I happy to return the favor if you want to let me know how your Feb. went.