It’s about 5:42 AM now as I type this post. I am feeling a little groggy, a mild headache. A dryness in my mouth too. I have been feeling mildly under the weather, a bug that Ram and I have. It’s not strong enough to stop me from my regular activities but one that makes me want to slow down every now and then, here and there. I hear chirping from outside. Chirping of different kinds. I wish I could identify what birds they belong to. Like how I wish I could name the different flowers I love. For now, this is enough though. Listening to the sounds around me is the form of meditation I love. It is the closest I feel to Being. I don’t hold on to the sounds. I just listen, one sound after the other, or sometimes, all the sounds in unison. The experience brings a quality of lightness and peace. The restless mind rests a little. Wouldn’t it be great if we applied the same experience with our thoughts? We can do that too, it comes with practice and perseverance. And the beauty is, every moment is a chance to practice. We just need to be believe that the pursuit is worth it and be willing to try, again and again.
I was puttering around the kitchen, our morning routine at its peak. Hot water with elachi, ginger, and mint simmering on one burner for our morning tea, another set of boiling water with salt and olive oil getting ready for pasta, the third burner with the dosai that was turning crispy, the chopping of veggies for the dinner happening simultaneously, the usual morning juggling act in motion. However, a cloud of doom was hanging over my head. I knew that all it needed was a small prick and the cloud would burst open with a torrential rain of words.
Da came down, and posed his standard question – did you sleep well? I did but I am kind of feeling down, I replied curtly. Then came the first born – “Good moring ma, how are you doing with the post birthday blues ma?” he asked me teasingly. And that cracked me up unexpectedly in a good way. I knew I was feeling down but I was not labeling it right. I was feeling the blues, blues of all shades and hues – the monthly hormonal imbalance blues, the post birthday blues, the monday morning blues, you name it and I was feeling it. And what was great about labeling it? If you name it, if you identity it, it has less power over you. By calling it blues, it freed me from the other emotions (PMS inflicted inadequacies, the pangs from know that a year has passed by, the urge to be productive and in high power mode during the work week etc.) that imprisoned me. More importantly, a tone of empathy when Hari said, feeling the blues? It was not something that only I went through. It is normal. It is acceptable. And you accept the blues for what they are – passing clouds, nothing more. I just need to let them drift away.
My town library is celebrating its 150th b’day. At a time when the town did not even have a sewage system, its members came together to open a library. Pretty amazing, isn’t it? As part of the celebrations, the library has come up with several programs. One of which is submitting a Tall Tale around late returns to waive the overdue fine.
No prizes for guessing if I have accumulated fine or not. Here goes my Tall Tale.
Her fantasy. Wrapped in the softest of sleep robe, she would curl up with the library book in hand, eagerly thumbing through the pages as though there is no tomorrow.
He reality. Wrapped in the softest sleep robe, she curls up next to her offspring, with the library book by her bedside. The warmth of the little human wraps her in a cocoon of love, and before she rests her head on the pillow, she is sailing off to dreamland. The book by her bedside waits for tomorrow, just like the previous day. To be read, to be devoured. And the fine in her account piles, slowly but steadily, one dime at a time!
I open the calculator on my computer and type in 2018 minus 2001 and the answer pops out as 17. Of course, I knew the answer and didn’t need a calculator to do the math that my second grader can do in his sleep. But one feels the need for validation when the brain tells one thing but the heart feels something else. It simply cannot be 17 years, says my good old heart. But of course, it is, refutes my sassy brain. God, 17 years is a long long time, it does not feel that long ago. It absolutely does not! So goes my heart, utterly in denial, that I have been away from my home country for 17 years.
In the initial years, I remember meeting an Indian who was away from the country for a long time and did not know about Sachin Tendulkar when I spoke of him. I fell off my chair. How could you not? He is practically a God for a nation of over billion?
Fast forward 17 years…
I am very much that person today. I know very little about what is happening in India. Having lived most of my adult life outside of India, I feel disconnected to the dynamics of day to day living in India. The excitement of visiting India is overshadowed by the anxiety over logistics and practical difficulties. The India of today feels so alien to me.
I go an extra mile to go to sunday school to be on time for special assembly to sing the Indian national anthem. I tear up every time I sing Jana Gana Mana. Yes, Every. Single. Time. No rhyme or reason, no exaggeration. I hang out with the desi moms from Hari’s cricket group, and can’t help but notice that the conversation feels intuitive and effortless. I swell with pride when Hari quizzes me on Indian states and capitals and knows more than what I do or when Ram sings, oodi vilayadu papa. I go out of the way to stay involved in the local Indian American organization so we can bring exposure to all things Indian to the broader community. When conversations on Whatsapp revolve around how NRIs, and non-citizens, do not have the eligibility to complain or comment about the Indian state of affairs, it stings. All I I want to say is, I still care. Is that not reason enough?
Being an Indian has become that intangible feeling that does not scream out loud but a subtle and comforting presence that I carry with me at all times.
Happy Independence Day India.
I can’t stop yawning. I should go to bed. I feel deep exhaustion. I have not done my weekly chores and I have an early morning meeting. But I know if I don’t write this post tonight, it is unlikely that it will ever see the light of the day.
I turned 40 this Saturday. I don’t feel a day older or wiser. I feel so many other things though. I feel like I am living the best part of my life with so many commitments competing for my time, energy and attention. I feel lucky that I get to pursue all the things that my heart desires. I feel deeply grateful to have been born and raised in, married into, and living in a nurturing and supportive environment. The more years you add to your life, the more you see that life is not a level playing field and there are so many different battles that are being fought. The air of entitlement that you once had slowly gets replaced with an attitude of gratitude. You learn to err on the side of kindness and compassion.
I also feel a pang for the years and the milestones that have gone by. I wince as I catch strands of grey hair that are now coated with color from the henna that is fading away. What lies ahead is not as exciting as what has passed by. I remind myself that nothing is more natural than aging, so why fight it? The 50 year old me will likely laugh at me as I read this post ten years from now. It’s all relative. I am also reminded that time is precious, and that I should not take my time with people around me for granted. More than ever, I am convinced that the most meaningful impact I can have in my life is raising my boys.
Recording some special moments for my diaries.
- Ram getting excited about my b’day and spreading the word around to any and everyone that crossed his path. The earring holder and the key chain that he made with his tiny fingers.
- Hari and Da with their version of cards.
- Da going above and beyond to make the day more relaxed for me. Not to mention the idol of Ganesha on an easy chair reading a book (so cute!).
- Earrings made by one the kids that I am fond of at dance class
- My childhood friend coming home with yummy bisibele bath just because I like it.
- Food, and more food..!
- My friend’s son made a jigsaw puzzle for me and framed it. Love that kid and it meant much!
- My twin having a great day..!
- Phone calls and wishes from appa, amma, family and friends
- A beautiful darshan at the Lakshmi temple.
Signing off for now! Have a good week.
- 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.
We leave out recycling waste in a bin that has been counting its last few days for the past several years. Every Monday, I wince, look at the bin with disdain and embarrassment and promise myself to have it replaced at the town public works department by the following week. And nothing would have changed. Replacing the bin is a fairly straightforward process. It costs nothing. And yet, I kept procrastinating.
Enough is enough, I told myself and headed to the center with the recycling bin this afternoon. All it took was 22 mins – 10 mins to go, 10 mins to come, 2 mins to deposit and get two brand new bins in exchange. The time it took to get the job done was a minuscule fraction of the mental space it had occupied over the years.
A classic case of self-inflicted misery.
I did the monthly reflections post last year for a couple of months and abandoned it after. Let’s see how far this year takes me.
January has been a slow and steady month.This is the time of the year I normally tend to push myself to build new habits. But this year, I am just going with the flow without any grand goals or lofty ambitions. Just making sure to put in small consistent steps every day. This month I focused on infusing some discipline into my eating habits and imbibing 15 to 20 mins workout. It is not a lot but it has helped me get some of my stamina back. I also worked on one of my very annoying habits – I often leave my handbag unzipped (yikes!) and forget where I leave my keys (I never lose them but always misplace them as a result spend a lot of time searching). I can’t say I have conquered the clumsiness (I doubt I ever will) but have certainly been more mindful.
For workout, I wanted to share the youtube video series called Jessica Smith TV. It works well given the weather outside. There are many styles to choose from setting you free from monotony. They are for different chunks of time ranging from 10 mins to 30 mins, so lack of time cannot be used as an excuse. There are different levels to choose from. And the person who does it, keeps reiterating that something is better than nothing, which is kind of a great slogan when it comes to workout because you don’t have to do a lot, just a little something everyday. Some days that pushes you to do more and on other days, atleast you know you did a little something.
How quickly one month has gone by, isn’t it? Where are you with your new year goals?
How did I do? Is it worth continuing with the word of the year? Is it a meaningful exercise?
I did ok with Mindfulness although I forgot it was THE word a few times. Setting intentions in the beginning of the year did unintentionally influence my everyday actions. I am able to sense tension, tightness and panic when things don’t go my way. I don’t become zen or calm about the situation right away. But I have learnt that the place to start is relaxing my jaws and facial muscles. Paying attention to that tactical action, settles me a bit even when there is restlessness raging within. I talk myself into getting some alone time and engage in some productive work so I am not being disruptive to the ones around me. It works a few times even if not always. I have also learnt to drift back to sleeping when I wake up in the morning. This is worth a mention because it is part of my effort to not to be a slave to my To Do or routine.
Mindfulness like Discipline and Detox (my Word for the prior years) is a lifelong practice. So this year was just the beginning. I did not move mountains or boil the ocean but I have made incremental progress as a person. So I see value in pursuing this practice.
For this year, I am choosing the word “Us”. Hari has five to six years with us before he takes full responsibility for himself. There are so many interesting things to do with him. There are so many things that he needs guidance on. I want to be fully present for him in this critical phase of growing up. Ram is still young and he needs me differently. I want to do all the things that I enjoy doing with him – reading, cooking, playing, coloring and what not. And with Da, I will be a little nicer, kinder and compassionate instead of using him as my punching bag. As rudimentary all these aspects sound to you or may come naturally to many of the moms that I know of, they are hard for me. I tend to oversee these finer aspects as there are so many things I want to dip my tips in.
While the “Us” does not preclude my parents, siblings and families, I am doing pretty ok on that front, which is why I am narrowing the focus to the immediate concentric circle around me.
This does not mean I will abandon pursuits outside home. Far from it, I want to do my bit, so they are not going away. But I will be deliberate about what I take on and make sure that I balance between what gives me intrinsic and extrinsic joys. I missed out on reading, writing, cooking experiments, and connecting with friends this year and I hope to pick up the slackness there. I will strive to be more consistent with eating clean and healthy and working out.
These are the intentions I am setting for the year. What are yours?
I get to do one of the coolest things right in the middle of the work week, in the middle of work day – yoga! My company conducts a yoga session every Wednesday. I so look forward to it and I am very protective of this time.
“There is earth beneath you, breath within you, and you have good intentions. So many things should have gone right for you to be right here, right now. There are places to go. There is work to do. The most important work begins with you. Take the time. Take care of you,” the yoga instructor reminds us as we stretch and warm up. “Believe in the power of your strength, and the natural ability of your body to find balance,” she continues. I hang on to every word she utters and commit it to memory.
I love these reminders.. To stretch, to pause, to reflect, and to connect my breath with my body. Immensely thankful for this mid-week break that refreshes and rejuvenates me like no other.