I’m on Mums Write

So, I submitted an article to Mums Write and actually got accepted. If you are a parent or are going to be one, this might be some useful information. If you aren’t a parent, then share this with others who are.

http://mumswrite.com.au/putting-yourself-first/

Published on Mums Write

Life’s lessons from retrospection

Life's LessonsA sense of peace has resided within me. I have been feeling it ever since I set foot in India. I don’t know if it was the travel or India or the fact that I am older (and hence wiser?). I realise that things don’t hurt or tick me off as they used to. Being born and growing up in India, I knew what to expect, both from places and people. I had made up my mind to not let things/people bother me. What surprised me most was that it wasn’t at all difficult to do just that. I was more relaxed and much more forgiving. As a result there was almost zero anxiety related to anything, however big it was.

Being back at places I have lived gave me an opportunity to remember old times and on more than one occasion I wished that I should not have let the bridge break. I missed a few people and wished I was more forgiving back then. I realise that things that I thought were huge back then are now of no importance. Most things turn out to be nothing with time. I was obviously too young, too inexperienced and too naive to see it that way. Now that I do, I have decided to not let things matter, no matter how big they seem. With time, we change and heal. I now believe in second chances.

Friends who were extremely close a few years back haven’t seen each other for years now. We lived in the same city but didn’t meet for a long time (before we moved). Now that I made an effort to reconnect and a few responded. We met and we picked up right where we left. It felt nice. I learnt that all relationships take a lot of work and effort to survive and sustain. Effort from both ends.

As I sit, my eyes closed (as I usually do when I want to imagine), I see my life, from as early as I can remember. I see the negative feelings I kept bottled and how they have influenced me as a person. Or, if I’m being honest, hindered me from growing. It now seems like a waste of time and waste of space in my mind. Have I finally learnt to let go?

Contemplative

It is a dull grey day. The sky is overcast and it has rained a bit, early in the morning. I usually don’t find it gloomy. I find beautiful. I love the rain, the huge dark clouds, the chill in the air. It brings me joy. Whenever there is a cold drizzle, I just stand in front of the window, take a deep breath and smile. Today, I stood in front of the window and just stared at the sky, my mood pensive.

Yet again, I am at a stage where I am asking myself ‘what am I doing with my life?’. I am almost 32, with a demanding and rapidly growing child, no job, no future plans and no idea how to go about doing things I want to do. I feel like I have aged 10 years in the last two. What in the world do I want to do? What is my calling? How do I figure it out?

Time is slipping by, without me even realizing it. It is already an year since I moved here, to Melbourne and I still have no idea what I am going to do with myself or how I am going to change my life. Am I happy? I am not sure. Yes, I have a a good family life and a nice extended family with no drama. But I feel the lack of any kind of personal accomplishment. May be that is why I keep thinking about taking up challenges here, which tend to fall apart in the end. I feel like Julie from ‘Julie and Julia’ who can’t seem to be able to finish anything she starts.

I recently advised a much younger friend to follow her dreams and live the life she wants. She is deciding what to study. I think I have sufficiently motivated her to do what she loves. That, for some reason, got me feeling like a hypocrite. I limited myself at a time when ideas were freely flowing and my creative self was at peak. I chose the safe path, became a software engineer and got sucked into independence, having fun, living life etc. I don’t regret it one bit. In fact, I am thankful I did what I did, as it is because of that decision, I am where I am. But the need to do more, feel more, see more and live more is slowly building up.

My whole life, I’ve been trying to come out of the shell I seem to be hiding in. And it looks like even the shell keeps growing a bit, pulling me back again. I wonder how some people are so positive, motivated and optimistic all the time. I always let something stop me from doing things. Or I cannot figure out what to do in the first place. It is easy to say that we need to be happy with who we are. I am not. I mean, I am. But I want to be more. I want to set an example for my daughter. Well, you might say that I am doing my very best and that I am a good mother and wife. That staying home and doing chores is also work and that is important. I agree, but I am not someone who can be happy doing just that. And eventually it leads to times when I desperately search for motivation using a magnifying glass to get through the day. If that is not disappointing I don’t know what is. What would baby A think, a few years down, when she sees me like this? Would she think it is OK to feel sorry for yourself and not do anything about it? Or would she think I am a loser who couldn’t set her life straight and hence not worth paying attention to? Either way it is bad for her and my self respect and esteem.

But right now, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to go about it.

All I know is that I have to take it one day at a time.

On swamis and religious gibberish

For once, I don’t believe in religion or caste. I believe I am a human and that is enough a distinction from other species I am sharing the planet with. I and S still go ahead and mention ourselves as a Hindu in the Census because we want to give the poor school teachers a break and let them accept the change of not mentioning our caste before we omit the Hindu too. Most of them still don’t seem to stomach the fact that we don’t want to specify the caste in the caste field.
The situation is that, my cousin sister had an irritating encounter with a swami who claimed to be the know-all be-all of Hindu religion and strongly advocated caste system because he thought his was superior. Wonder what he would have to say if his was like the least in the social ladder!

As soon as she arrived at her aunt’s place, she was asked to go greet the swami who was there with his son. Then, what started as series of questions ended up being a huge lecture. Let me go in detail.

Looks like he had his input from her aunts. He started by asking her to agree for marriage, which right now she doesn’t, which is quite fine by people like me, which right now are only me and S. She remained quite demure and didn’t answer back, then he started telling how she cannot be unmarried and still be in the same as everyone else. That meant she should move towards spiritual attainment and blah, which meant she has to become a sanyasini or something. The audacity!

Who in the world is he to tell her what to do with her life? Just because stupid people blindly follow him, he thinks he is almighty. I fail to understand why all the elders have to take it upon themselves to force it down the throat of the person in question, the idea of marriage.

The he starts blabbering about some vishva hindu sammelana which was attended by all religion swamis and how there was a saabi (slang for muslim) had also come and he sang verses of highlighting Hinduism. (And that is why I should be proud of being a Hindu? Gimme an effing break!) This is the point where she lost it. If he can’t respect his fellow swami, albeit of a different caste, how can he respect someone else?

A lot of argument went on between swami and sister, in which she said she doesn’t believe in caste system and that all are equals. He started giving example of how Sun and Moon can’t be equal, that is why we have castes. Haha! I’d have laughed at his sorry face.

I wish I could meet him and give him a piece of my mind. Ask him simple logical questions and prove that he is a fraud. Would that be asking for much?

My own opinion on swamis is not so good either. I don’t touch their feet, I don’t talk to them much, I don’t even sit in front of them. They don’t deserve the kind of respect they gather just by talking rubbish. I’m yet to meet a swami who is quite learned and makes sense when he talks. Someone who is open to discussion and has logical reasoning to back him.

Btw why do we have swamis at all? Why do we call them for functions/celebrations? Why do we have to touch their feet? I wonder.

The happiness guide

a.k.a “things one should avoid doing in order to attain happiness”

There are so many things that we do that distance us from people we love or hurt them. We always take our closest for granted. We always say mean things thinking it shouldn’t matter. Is it really ok to take people for granted? Is it ok to treat them disrespectfully because they are the near ones?

Here I want to state some simple facts which gives a certain set of people an idea of what provokes/hurts/irritates/annoys/angers people involved.

1. Don’t force someone or emotionally blackmail them into doing something they are not comfortable doing.

This one is the most prevalent tradition in any society. People think love is to do whatever the other person says or wishes. By not doing something the parents or elders say, the youngsters are being disrespectful of them. The expectation that one will feel loved when forced is an unwritten rule in every Indian family. Be it force-feeding the grown up kids or forcing them to attend a wedding or forcing them to get married. The worse form of forcing is blackmailing. People say things like “I want to see you-married/grandchildren before dying” or “you will study so and so course only, because I say so” or “I am not sending you to work, girls in our family don’t go out and work, that is not our tradition”. Why do they think that the other person is obligated to fulfil their wish against their own? Even if the person in question is happy to do what others say, it is still wrong to make those statements.

If I am really antisocial, you can never make me sociable just by dragging me to a goddamned wedding. It’ll rile me up more and I might actually start hating social gatherings. Try to understand why I am saying what I am saying. And if there is a problem with that, discuss it and try to solve it, rather than forcing a solution of your own down my throat. And I won’t even go in detail about the emotional blackmailing. It starts right at home and people attach so many strings to each other in the name of tradition, respect and love that they get entangled, keeping the people involved in a snare.

Some people are what they are, and no matter what you do, they won’t change. Stop forcing and start accepting.

2. Stop lecturing, stop comparing.

No really, I mean it. Whats the point of hitting around the bush when discussing a certain point in conflict? Come to the point. I’ll either accept or not. But don’t spend my energy and concentration in giving examples from a certain family in the colony or a certain uncle/aunty’s son/daughter.

This happens especially during marriage/planning a baby. You should get married because of blah blah reasons and so and so got married at such an early age which makes him the best son ever. You should have a child at a certain age because of blah blah reasons and so and so got pregnant at such young age which makes her a perfect daughter. I am not saying it is wrong to ask them to plan for a certain things. But it is wrong to command them to do so.

And if you don’t do it comes statements like “Its my karma I’m having such a bad son/daughter/husband, that I cannot even expect a happy moment in my life” and I’ve saved the best for the last “I did so much for my son/daughter, I sacrificed all my happiness to bring him/her up and now this is wat I get in turn.” Believe me, people say it all the time. May be they feel it too, but is it not wrong to feel that way? They are entitled to care, respect and love, but children have their wishes and aspirations too. It is very cruel and mean to expect them to give everything up just to fulfil parents’ wishes.

Healthy comparison and competition is good, but more often comparison between siblings leads to rivalry and comparing to someone else degrades self-esteem.

Stop comparing. Start loving unconditionally.

3. Stop abusing

Just because you are my parent/relative/sibling doesn’t give you a right to verbally/physically abuse me. Give respect to get some. Especially once I am a grown up and have a sense of respect. As you keep abusing me, the respect I have for you keeps diminishing. Remember, one day I might even give them right back at your face. Be careful of what comes out of your mouth.

Stop abusing, start respecting.

4. Don’t replace love with respect

I might love and respect you. But not necessarily respect and love you. There is a difference. I can certain respect despite of all the bad things, but I can’t love. Many people can’t. So make sure you don’t expect respect assuming love will follow, it might not.

In case things are already sour, to get respect, you need to only give respect. But to get love, you must give respect, love and something else too to fill the gap. If you know what I mean.

But if things are ok, you still need to give both love and respect to get them back. You can’t get respect by just loving and not respecting. And you can’t get love by just respecting and not loving.

5. Don’t think you have a right over the other person, whoever that might be.

Everybody has their life. They are entitled to one. No one person has a right over any other person. We have right over only things, not living beings. Esp. not living beings which can think. You might have helped them, why, you might have even saved their life too, but that doesn’t entitle you a right over them. You might have given birth, but you won’t have a right over the children. You might be best of friends ever, but you can’t control their lives. Everybody is entitled to live their life the way they want, you can guide, suggest and advice, but you cannot live your life through them or control how their live their life.

Stop living through others’ lives. Make a life of your own.

6. Learn to let go

People are not things that you can always keep with you. If they stay, well and good. If they decide to move on, it’s their wish. You have to learn to let go to be happy. This might just be the hardest thing for parents. Some cry over their children for a long time, some just stop living, some always think of old times, some try hard to hold on to their drifting children. Here I don’t mean kids who leave their parents to go settle abroad. Though, there too letting go helps.

I am actually talking about children growing wings and getting out of the nest to make something out of their lives. The parents might not feature regularly in the children’s new life, but they still love and cherish their childhood. And still visit parents for holidays. It is same for children who expect their parents to be available at all junctures of life. Like having someone around to take care of the house and children. They might like it or not, but it is not their duty. Their duty ended the day you made a life of your own. Now they stand behind and guide you at crucial moments. They might just choose to retire for a leisurely life, unburdened.

Let them go. Don’t hold people against their will.

7. Don’t hold others responsible for your happiness

The main reason for sorrow are expectations. People become sad that something they expected didn’t happen. That someone didn’t behave as they expected. That their son/daughter/wife/husband didn’t treat them like they expected. This one always hurts the most. So try not to expect. It is really difficult not to expect all the time, but with conscious effort one can successfully stop expecting in most scenarios. Trust me, I’ve done this and I’m happy most of the time.

Remember, nobody but yourself is responsible for your own happiness.

My calling, where art thou?

It is a big question for me. As in, “what do I really want to do in life?”. It bothers me that I still haven’t figured that one out. There are definitely things that I like doing, but I don’t know if they are “THE” things. I have been struggling with my concentration toward things I am doing right now, like my job. I don’t know if I really want to be where I am right now. There is this feeling there is something amiss. Time and again, I’ve failed to find out what it is.

Ever since I’ve started thinking independently, all I wanted to do was become self-dependent, in every way possible. I’ve made that possible. Then I started feeling the need to find my calling. I realize it is the only way I can really and actually be satisfied in life. I don’t think my calling is made of one thing. I have figured two out – travel & writing. I’m still in the process of figuring others out.

I appreciate Swaram and others like her, that they have found their calling. I’m glad for them. I wonder if there is a moment of enlightenment associated with it, so I know when I’ve found it. Or, a formula, applying which, I can get what I am looking for. How I wish. But life can’t be that simple, it shouldn’t. It’s when we strive for something that we learn the importance of it. I’m sure when I find what I am looking for, I will value it more, because I’ve had to work for it. All things of value come with a price. It can be anything : effort, failure, hurt, pain etc. If it came easy, it is most often of no value.

For once, I want to feel it in my heart, mind and soul. I want something to click, which will open my inner eyes and the path forward looks as clear as daylight. The rush and madness that engulfs when one is completely immersed in doing something, does it truly exist? Of course every body can’t be really happy doing things that they do every day. Also, not everyone bothers to find out if there is something else that they enjoy more. Most can’t afford it. It is sad place to be in. I wish people valued and respected each other more than things they owned. It definitely will change a lot of things, like our outlook towards life and things that we hold important. It would be like a dream, to be able to live like that.

Though I’m not sure how long I need to try to keep looking for it, I shall continue my efforts, for I don’t want to have a regret on my deathbed, that I didn’t even try, or gave up when I was just about to figure it all out. I’ve realized that the proverbs and sayings I’ve heard until now have a lot of meaning. To try until you succeed, to not give up when you’re down, to stand up and fight for what you believe in, to not accept failure until you’re done with are some of them. I try to draw inspiration from within and from people who’ve been there and done that and still continue doing it.

Here goes a shout out to all of them. “I appreciate you. Please keep doing what you are doing, for many people like me are motivated by you.”

I shall not give up until I’ve found it. My calling, the desire from the innermost corner of my heart, the light inside of me guiding my soul. At other times I would’ve found this too poetic, but today, I’m on a high of inspiration, giving it a spiritual edge.

In retrospect

Have you ever felt that moment of astonishment, where you suddenly realize that you are not exactly the same person you were a year ago? You see a photograph and wonder how in the world did you end up wearing such a hideous outfit or meetup with friends and remember a party, to find yourself thinking, how would you have gotten so drunk. The scenario might be different but the feeling of strangeness with one’s own self, the old self, creeps into the mind making us wonder. I’m sure most have felt. Some might revel in pride over the past achievements, some might regret doing things they did, others might feel they have actually changed for the better. Or may be something entirely different. It is different to different people.

I have been blogging since 2006. Holy s**t! I know. And I still have the old blog “It’s A Beautiful Life” (in case anybody still remembers). I am not going to delete it any sooner, as I have some very closely held memories of feelings, captured in that. When I am finally ready to let go of all that, I shall let go of the blog too. But for now, it is to stay. Sorry for digression, I do it a lot.
So here I was, reading through the old blog, post by post and trying to remember and feel whatever I felt, when I was writing it. It all started coming back. Not ready to let go then. But that is not what intrigued me. It was the way I wrote, that caught my mind. I almost laughed at how I had actually reflected the styles of the authors I was reading back then. It was childish, but it was something I did subconsciously.

My old blog

A screen shot of my old blog

I am not ashamed that I tried to copy others. I can see that those are the stages of my growth, in my own sense. I feel strangely proud at having tried. Clearly, I wrote for myself, because I found many posts with absolutely no comments. I was writing to vent, so that the angst and anger didn’t eat me up from inside. It is not surprising that many people didn’t find it interesting. As I said, childish stuff. I also found some nice, soulful poetry. It is when I read them, that it struck to me, that I am not doing it anymore. Not with that kind of frequency and brilliance. Where did that emotional, lyrical and dreamy girl go?

As I went through the posts, out of which most were purely venomous, I found that I was blabbering in a majority of them, instead of speaking about something clearly. I realized that instead of making a point I was dragging myself all over the place, confusing myself and others in the process. I guess that one attribute is still there in me. When I have issues and I know I can’t talk about them, I tend to blabber incoherently. Hopefully I won’t do it here.

I also felt that I have grown. Tremendously. I thought I was mature back then. May be I was, in my behavior and outlook. But in my writing, I was completely juvenile. And I am a little taken aback, to see myself now, clearly putting thoughts into words, spending time thinking how I want to articulate a certain thing. Blog, for me, is no more just a place to write my mind, but a place of a purpose. To mend my writing skills, to get feedback and improve. I want to write something of value, if not for others, but to myself. Of course, it will still remain a place where I put my innermost thoughts, now, in a better fashion. Or so I’d like to believe.

I’m sure that someday I will read this and laugh at myself. After all this too is still a baby step. I’m sure there will be a lot of things that I will learn every day from well-known writers, websites and blogs. I am fortunate to have been exposed to so much information and learning. I am hopeful to make use of it and come up with beautiful, thoughtful, hopeful, cheerful (among many other things) write-ups, which might sometimes also be insane, given that I am incurably crazy. That is going to stay with me forever, for I believe insanity is a blessing in disguise.