Life lessons from the “big toe”!

 

Don't do it. Don't take anyone or anything for granted.

Don’t do it. Don’t take anyone or anything for granted.

A little backstory:

Act I : 14 days ago: Was walking to my parked car. Saw the stump of a tree and was actually going to pat it and commiserate with it. Next thing I know – am facing the hard tarred road 1 inch from my nose. I’m flat on my stomach and I don’t really know what hit me. I just tripped.

I found it difficult to get up. But with the help of 2 men I managed to get up and felt this burning pain in the big toe of my right foot. Other than that, I dusted myself, felt a little shaken, my knee hurt, my elbow too, but nothing was broken, I wasn’t bleeding. Mercy!

I walked to my car with the pain in my big toe. It was quite unbearable. Had some water, cried a bit and then gingerly started the car. I just wanted to be home. I got home after about 40 mins. I went to my aunt’s place that day as that was the plan, that my mother too would go there and we’d have lunch together. My cousin with her daughter was there too. The knee was throbbing by now, the toe seemed to be screaming at me and I just grit my teeth. I had lunch and then decided to get an X-ray done to see if my toe had a hair line fracture. Thankfully nothing. Just a dose of painkillers, an ice pack and the doctors said everything would be fine.

Act 2: 4 days ago: Had two meetings almost back to back. Decided to car pool for one and use the local transport for the other. Finished both. Headed to the same aunt’s (refer para above) place as I was dying to meet my little niece. Well, at about 7.40 pm I realized that I needed to be heading home after having spent sufficient time with this little ‘un. And since I hadn’t brought my car, getting the local auto rickshaw to home was going to be quite a Herculean task. Aunt concurred. So I thought let me book an auto through an app (yes, everything is about an app nowadays and Bangalore being the Silicon Valley of India, everything, even our parents will be on apps nowadays). The wi-fi at my aunt’s place was not up to speed so the app didn’t load (and 3G sucks! Vodafone you listening?) Called up Just Dial for the number of the service provider. The service provider says, you can only book these ubiquitous 3-wheelers through the app. Really? And a cab? Oh well, those could be booked, but there was none available till 11 pm. So I rushed out after bidding good bye to my aunt, hoping that I’d somehow manage to get transportation to my place which was honestly not too far away, perhaps about 4-5 kms.

I didn’t get one. (That’s certainty). The autorickshaws were charging me double the fare. (That’s manipulation). I was stubborn. I didn’t give in. After trying for a bit, I decided to just walk it home. It’d take me 40 mins., maybe 45, no big deal. It was past 8.00 pm. I bravely started walking. My wedges were not meant for walking. They started chafing the soles of my feet. I slipped them off and walked barefoot for half the distance. As I neared home, I knew that there were passages in the road that I couldn’t navigate without my shoes which I slipped back on again. All the while my toe was hurting, my soles were chafed and I thought they would bleed any minute. (I imagined leaving behind bloody footprints on the hard road).

I reached home, safe and sound. I heaved a sigh of relief. I was in pain, but everything was okay. I ate, I ice-packed my feet, applied whatever salve that could assuage the burn and I gave reiki to my big toe. I slept. I was almost as right as rain the next day. The big toe continues to hurt a wee bit, but it’s almost okay. My sole and soul both are healed.

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Lessons from my “big toe” and the big walk

Big toes or little ones. They're all important.

Big toes or little ones. They’re all important.

Never ever take your body for granted. Least of all those that you look down upon, like the “big toe”.
Your body is a gift. We don’t realise it’s value unless it gets hit. And when it cries out in pain, you know it exists. It’s akin to life. Never take people in your life for granted, especially those who care for you – they could be in any shape, live anywhere, but for God’s sake, don’t wait for them to get hurt to remember them. Reach out and express your love and support .Because remember, when the going is good, everyone is good, everyone laughs and you think the world is your oyster and it’s all pearly. Wait till you hit that goddamned speed bump and then suddenly you were wishing you’d noted that little garage helper’s number, it’d have come in handy. 

There are always multiple options. Sticking to one is just being a pain in your own ass.
We don’t have to stick to the tried and tested. If you’re determined to stand your ground, you will find a way. And when you just slip your feet off those trying shoes for God’s sakes, you realise those shoes may not be meant for walking, but your feet surely are. Resilience is the key. And honest to God, the roads may be hard, but your feet can take it. And so can your soul. And taking the path less trodden doesn’t mean you’re going to fail. Let the people stare, let the people think you’re a slut, let people think you’re funny and foolish, it’s their problem, but you know where you’re headed. Keep straight and keep on. And even if you got hurt, big deal. You nurse your wounds and you’re back up on your feet. And guess what, the view from wherever you are perched looks sweet doesn’t it? And your feet got stronger. Remember that.

Keep focus and don’t douse yourself in self-pity. It stinks.
As I continued to walk toward home, I felt the familiar twinge of self-pity knocking on my door. I knocked it back, with a left hook on its solar plexus. It staggered. Of course I was in pain. But hell, I wanted to get home safe and sound. Those arse-holes who stared at me, whistled, thought that I was a woman, walking home late at night (well 8.15pm or 8.30 pm is not really late, but when you’re walking through lanes which do have cars and people about, but are dimly lit and even though you know them like the back of your hand, when you’re walking with bare but injured feet and the big toe screaming at you, it’s like walking in Hell) and could have screwed my happiness, I was ready to screw theirs back. Nothing was going to keep me from getting home. I was determined. And I kept plugging on.

I didn’t want to drown in self-pity – “why me, why can’t those posh people in their cars give me a lift, ask me what was wrong, I wish I had a pair of flats, God doesn’t love me, etc”. – I knew this wasn’t the time for it. Life doesn’t need self-pity. It needs decisiveness and action. Get on with it mate it tells you. Lots of people with no limbs. Get on with it. And stay on the path. And instead of wasting time on self-pity, think of practical solutions to what you’d do if there were obstacles in your path. Think of all the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon movies and the flying kicks, that’s more like it.

Plan better. And blame no one. If your inner voice is saying “listen to me” what the fuck are you doing? Playing deaf won’t cut it.
This entire episode wouldn’t have come to pass if I had planned better. Didn’t I know that getting transportation from my aunt’s place to home was tough? Didn’t I know I shouldn’t leave it till too late? Then why did I waste time and bring this upon myself? No one to blame but myself.

When in doubt, never ever shirk or ignore that little warning sign that comes in the form of an “inner voice” that says, “it’s time to go”, “it’s time to plan”, “don’t waste your money”, “it’s a great idea”, “this is going to work”, “I’m going to make it”. It’s there for a reason and you’d be better off listening to it. Business, relationships, hardships, idea-ships, entrepreneur-ships – any ship – works better when you put in faith, key in a few co-ordinates and steer it with faith and perseverance and I’d say luck too. But for God’s sake be pragmatic, not foolishly idealistic and hang on to something even if it’s sinking, you don’t know to swim and there is a life vest. You’ve got to make swift, practical decisions on what will get you to the island of Hope.

Walk the road. Gauge for yourself how hard it can be. Don’t just baulk at imaginary potholes and glass shards.
I didn’t know I was going to walk home. Home wasn’t too far away. In good flats or walking shoes, it’d have taken me 35-40 mins. I was in heels. Not ideal. But when are conditions in life exactly ideal? I took a decision. I stuck by it. And I soldiered on. I was upset, angry, giving in to self-pity, but I knew once I’d be home I was going to be okay. I knew the road. Not from up close he he, but I knew the lie of the land. It looked arduous, but nothing is ever as you imagined it would be. My toe felt okay on the hard macadam, my feet almost sighed with relief at getting rid of the wedge heels and I was fine. The road wasn’t so bad after all.

Dreams and passions cannot be achieved if we just dream. And baulk at the arduous stretches (imaginary though they may be). So let’s start walking shall we? Get our hands down and dirty. The only way to learn. And grow.

Don't take things for granted

Love your life and it will love you back.

Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. We don’t really know what we got, until it hurts.
As I cursed my luck a little bit and was getting into the “fuck the world” zone, I heard myself thinking of the little children in crisis hit countries, war torn places, I thought of how they were managing in this 21st century and I cringed. I cringed at my own petty-mindedness and I looked down humbly at my toe and I told it, “please don’t let me let go of you. Stay on and don’t clot or let me have surgery, please. I can’t do without you.” You might think I was being melodramatic, it was after all only a toe, but that’s where you’re wrong. It’s never “only a little thing”. When things go bad, we tend to think the worst, but ground reality is different. I stubbed my big toe and it probably suffered some internal ligament injury or whatever. It would get better and it has. But I made it out to be an imaginary monster. 

I had grit, I had gumption and I wanted to make it home. I did. And I realized how important it is to be thankful for what you have. Everything. In whatever shape or form. Because truly, we are blessed. If I have a loaf, it’s true there’s someone out there who’s been hungry for days. I have a roof and I have family and I have clothes and I don’t have to crib about the noise from the neighbours (after all think of kids getting used to bomb shells exploding all the time or people losing their limbs due to mines for no fault of theirs). I can’t begin to tell you, how thankful I am for what I have. I truly do.

One toe. A little pain. A whole bunch of life lessons. That’s what taking a knock can do. Here’s to my “big toe”. I love you, you fat little toe. I do. And I’ll never ever take you for granted again.

 

The struggle with struggles!

Writing is a struggle

Writing is a struggle

I’ll be honest. I’m having to struggle to keep up with a whole bunch of things in my life. When I pause to exhale and think about my struggles I realise I’ve always struggled with my struggles. Right from childhood. Of course the struggles morphed into more mature, more adult struggles as I grew up, but they never went away. There was no magic abracadabra to make me feel invincible, or super confident, or super positive and make my struggles seem really small, like a grain of sand in the Universe.

 

I have the power to make now count

I have the power, really?

When I was young
My struggles were about being dark-skinned, euphemistically called dusky skinned nowadays. I struggled with having ‘matured’ faster than some of the other older girls in the neighborhood. I struggled with having my body thrust itself out in a hurry quicker than some of the other skinnier girls. I struggled with them giggling and poking and whispering and pointing at my blooming femininity and wondered what I’d done wrong. Why were they all  laughing? I was a smart kid and I managed to learn things by rote better and so would stand first in class. I was considered “intelligent” and I struggle with that label, till this day. I struggled with the burden of my family’s expectations of “studying well, shining bright, winning accolades and getting a great job”, none of which I really did. I struggled with the idea of having buck teeth and no one ever bothering to tell me that I could actually get it fixed. I struggled with never being great at sports and always losing out to someone better. I struggled with the idea of losing even though I was told that winning was not everything, participating was (and I know that wasn’t the truth, there’s really nothing like winning is there?). I struggled with being plump and short and dark and “smart/intelligent”, and not being good at sports.

When I was a teen

Struggling for a reason

Give me a reason

I struggled with never looking stylish enough when I was in college. At 16 all you want to do is look good in jeans and have shiny hair, a brilliant smile and hope all the boys want to take you to some party, any party. All you wanted was an invite. I struggled, because I was only giggled at and never invited. I struggled to figure out what would make extended family stop comparing me to other “prettier” girls in the family and I struggled to learn how “not to feel bad” when these comparisons and blatant favouritism was displayed. I struggled not knowing how to language it and so becoming temperamental and moody and depressed were my form of expression, for attention, for somehow wanting to tell those who hurt me to look at me as me and not as someone they wanted me to be. I struggled with the lies about my father, and his work, and the shame and the guilt that accompanied me whenever someone asked me about him. I struggled to comfort my mother and support her as my anger came in the way and I didn’t know how to channelise that anger into something meaningful and purposeful. I struggled when my grandfather died and I held my father responsible for his death and the eventual death of my grandmother 3 years later. I struggled with the guilt of being my father’s daughter.

When I was an adult
No one told me life wasn’t a piece of cake. I struggled to define my purpose. I struggled to have faith in my ability to do anything. I struggled to come up with a plan for my life. What did I want, where did I want to go, how would I go about getting there, would I find a man who could love me? I struggled every time a man came into my life and left me for another. I struggled with my desire to tell the world I could be the bride too, every single time I attended a friend’s wedding. I struggled as I grew singler and singler and older and wiser. I struggled with the chains of a 9-5 when my heart cried out to be free. I struggled to make sense of the pain of just being an adult and watching my life somehow not panning out the way I imagined – no fame, no money, no career, no travels, no books, no “love of my life”, no children – no nothing really.

Everybody has their own cross to bear

With you in yours.

When I am in the prime of my life now
I continue to struggle. My struggles are not vastly different from yours. I struggle to keep my body from sagging. I struggle with the narratives of loneliness and fear of death. I struggle to find meaning and purpose. I struggle with self-worth and coming to terms that I’m ordinary and very average. I struggle with my writing and the fact that I can never be a great writer. I struggle with acceptance and forgiveness. I struggle to keep my head high and not regret the past. I struggle with dealing with sarcasm. I struggle to keep bitterness with past behaviours of my family and find it so hard to keep my rage (rage, not just anger) at bay. I struggle when my life coach asks me about my father. I struggle to realise that I have one life to live and I haven’t achieved pretty much anything and we have Marc Zuckerberg who was the youngest billionaire in the world. I struggle when my trust is misplaced and yet I continue to place my trust in people’s goodness. I struggle with hope and I struggle to find meaning. I struggle to keep the greys out of my hair as I struggle to be patient with a parent who is only getting older, greyer, frailer. I struggle with my unexpressed passions, and I struggle to dream sometimes. And when I dream, I struggle to keep them burning, happy to put out the embers.

I struggle with struggles. All the fucking time.

Do you?

 

 

 

Is now all we have?

Are you, like me, thinking of taking a vacation, sometime in the near future?
Are you, like me, saving up for a new car, sometime in the near future?
Are you, like me, thinking of writing a book, sometime in the near future?
Are you, like me, thinking that this life of yours (as I think of mine), is forever?
Are you like me, assuming that you will remain young forever?
Are you like me, pretending that Time can be your slave?

Lol. Such fools. You and me.

Look around. Cast your mind back to yesterday. Can you live that day again?
Look around. You have your tomorrow all planned out.
6.00 am – walk
7.00 am – meditation
8.00 am – breakfast
9.00 am – get off to work
9.45 am – 1st meeting of the day
10.30 am – mails to send, follow up on that estimate, remind colleague/ team member of the report, check with boss on leave, some more mails
11.45 am – time for a caffeine rush
12.00 pm – stop by at colleague’s cubicle and chit chat – while away time – make small talk, share a joke
12.30 pm – time to head for lunch
1.15 pm – rush to cubicle, engage with some social media on your smart phone
1.30 pm – meeting again – so sleepy…shit!
2.20 pm – got to figure out what to cook for dinner
2.25 pm – quick call to boyfriend on plans for evening
2.45 pm – stop by for water cooler gossip
3.00 pm – time for caffeine
3.15 pm – send a couple of emails, thank some people, start on that report
4.00 pm – attend a few quick phone calls, get some print outs
4.20 pm – head to the loo
4.30 pm – check time – another hour to go, mental check-list – refuel car, pick up some DVDs, pay the credit card bill, pick up some ice cream, start on the tax investment planning, must speak to the cable services provider – just too bloody expensive for bullshit service – got to order the gas cylinder, sigh! am going crazy – lots of things to do…
5.00 pm – start on the report – interrupted by a few more pings on the local office intranet, a few flirty winks, sign off
6.00 pm – still finishing that report – got to send it by 6.30 pm latest
6.45 pm – pack up and rushing to the car park – mentally cursing for the crazy traffic jam and how life sucks!(why the hell can’t life get better? why am I stuck here doing this when I could be writing a book, baking cakes, finishing up my creative writing course, learning to be a teacher, go on that hike)
8.30 pm – home – exhausted, tired, irritable, hungry – and I have to cook dinner…Gawd!!!
9.00 pm – boyfriend reaches home – exhausted, tired, irritable, hungry and has to make small talk with girl friend and pretend to be interested in her day or her cribs or her queries
10.30 pm – both watch some stupid TV channel zombie-like and grope each other…quick foreplay and then retract – too tired to make out really
11.00 pm – lights out!

Look around you. White light. Blinding light. You feel weightless. You look and you see yourself, sitting there in your room, thinking, planning, for tomorrow. Worrying sick about the day after tomorrow. Angry about all the miserable things that happened yesterday, no, 10 years ago. Look around you. There’s nothing, just a feeling of weightlessness and the unbearable lightness of being. You can see your body, you can read your own mind. Worry, fear, pain, guilt, shame, lack of confidence, worry, fear, pain, guilt, shame. For what? For tomorrow? But, look, I planned out my tomorrow, I was grappling with my yesterday, but I died today. I slipped and fell in the bathroom and hit my head on the commode and had an internal hemorrhage. I just lay there lifeless, with a pool of blood slowly spreading around my head and crawling toward the ivory commode, with my eyes lifeless staring at the ceiling, my body twisted. I died today.

Such fools you and me. We plot and plan for days that were never ours to plot and plan for. We had today, sorry, now. But we were too busy giving the now the short shrift. Move over bitch, make way for a tomorrow that is going to be rosy, and healthy and rich and happy. Yeah right!

Who has the last laugh?

Look around. You and me. Such fools.

Are you like me, thinking, that tomorrow will always come? That tomorrow is another day?

Such fools. You and me. (“now” winks at me slowly, hands in pocket, whistling a tuneless tune, merrily leaving me as I chase a dark shadow called tomorrow).

“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.”
Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

What moves you?

Movies.

When I see the nuances of a relationship in a movie play itself out – daughter and mother, father and daughter, husband and wife, brother and sister, girl friend and boy friend, friends….I have always wondered why some scenes move me? Death, intense love, intense desire, separation, sacrifice, romance – am like an ice cream in an oven – sniffing and snivelling away and my throat is all constricted with unshed tears and I am transported to moments in my life when I have been desperate for luck, love, understanding, relief.

Music.

Every time I fell in love the lyrics of songs would somehow take on an extra special meaning. I have made mix tapes for boy friends, girl friends and self with specially selected songs and little notes tucked into the Sony or TDK 60 or 90 mins tape cover, hoping the man would never forget me every time he listened to the songs peeking out behind the spool. Of course the folly of living in hope in a failed or distant relationship cast its long dark shadow unrelenting and winning.

Children. Ads. Great deeds. Family. Human spirit – Sherpas looking out for the mountaineers rescued from an avalanche with worry and wondering if he/ she is alive. A heart transported from a hospital to the airport where the police, the authorities are all on standby to ensure that a little baby somewhere gets a chance at life. And so many other such stories of courage, selflessness and extraordinariness.

Why do these slice of life moments move me? Because I live a little through these experiences. Vicarious pleasure. Transposed emotions. And the throbbing of my heart becomes louder every time I see what life is, what life could be.

When I saw this movie today, I felt that the woman, a daughter was playing me in many ways – looking after her cantankerous old father – and that was her raison d’être. Parents can be selfish without realising it. Parents can be worried about being alone in their infirmity and how illness could affect their lives. When their children, especially a daughter looks after them selflessly, however acerbic, caustic or frisson-ridden the relationship may be, you do feel for the woman right? Her loneliness can burrow a hole in your soul. You wonder if there will be a great big romance. If there will be friends with whom she can share a brownie and talk about her sexless unsexy life or unshaven armpits or the need for sex the without sounding maudlin or pitiable or desperate. If there would ever be a great man-woman friendship which could turn out to be a comforting duvet enveloping her with its warmth. You wonder if she could ever take a vacation and meet someone who would be the great big adventure and soul fulfilling episode of her life.

Yes. I realise I am unbelievably alive and human when:  my 18 month old niece shouts out my name and apes evey action of mine. When my nephew and niece come straight home from the car park when they come visiting their grandmother it fills me up. When that guy in the car next to mine in a narrow lane waits patiently and actually allows me to make that difficult turn, it fills me up. When someone holds the lift for me, or someone at the cash counter doesn’t worry about the 50p change that I don’t have and tenders change, yup, it moves me.

Yes, little instances fill me up, move me to tears. In a world where basic humaneness and goodness and compassion are becoming rare commodities, think about what moves you. All the little things add up. It makes for a life beautifully lived. It restores faith.

Move it, move it, move it. Feel it.