Why are we afraid of asking questions that matter?

Quote by Melissa Senate

Asking the question

We’re bloody complicated people. Hah! No kidding! No seriously, we are. We go about our lives in such dramatic fashion, but we long for a life without drama. Peace and serenity and quiet with all the money, the luxuries, the material comforts sounds really like a must-have no? What BS! We’d be tearing our hair out, dying to throw caution to the winds and just give peace and all that jazz the royal slip. Who wants to be a peacenik?! Hrmph!

Let me park all of the above for a moment and get to the crux. We spend so much of our time hiding from answers to questions that we don’t even know how to question any more.

|| I’m your wife, the mother of your child. I see red when I see you. I can’t stand it when you drive, or talk, or eat. || >>>> What am I really angry at? <<<<

|| You’re my husband, friend, lover and father of my child. I’m really tired of carrying the entire financial burden on my slender shoulders.|| >>>>Why the fuck can’t I just tell him to stop sponging off me?<<<<

|| I am a working mother with a hectic work schedule. I do love what I do. Thank God, I have a house-husband!|| >>>> How do I assuage my guilt of not being around for my child?>>>>

|| You are my wife and the mother of my children. I married you because I loved you. Today, I don’t care.|| >>>>You’re just an unpaid housemaid for whom I have no love, no respect, perhaps never did.>>>>

|| You’re my aged mother. You’re difficult and stubborn and you don’t listen to my requests.||>>>> I don’t mean a thing to you do I? Why am I unable to tell you that I am afraid that I don’t matter.>>>>

|| You’re my wonderful friend. I always end up saying yes to wherever you want to eat, whichever movie you want to see, wherever you want to shop.|| >>>>I can’t stand my own inability to stand up for who I am. I am worried about rejection aren’t I if I were to just be my true self?>>>>

I had a grandmother. In fact even two great grandmothers. They never told me to cut the crap and just ask the question. I never learnt therefore to get to the crux of the matter. I always brooded, glossed over, pretended. But I was always afraid to say something because it might make me look, sound, seem foolish. I’ve been in love so often when I was younger, and I was always afraid to ask, “do you love me?” and my fears came true. They never did. It was like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But that’s what we do. We live our entire lives disconnected from our true selves. Now in the age of smartphones, the disconnectedness is even more. Each of us lives in dysfunctional families, societies, states and countries. We see what’s wrong, we’re dying to ask why, yet we keep mum. When someone asks, “how are you?”, why do we mouth “I’m fine” on autopilot, when actually you’re burning with anger, pain, grief, disillusionment or what have you? It’s the same with everything and anything else. Do I write well? Will I ever write a book? Can I ever muster enough resolve to get rid of my insecurities? Will I ever be famous?

Questions that are always chasing answers, provided asked. Who are we kidding?
Why are we afraid of the truth?

3 ways you can press ‘pause’ now!

The alarm rings. That sound sets off your day and the mad rush of the day envelopes you. From that moment on when you rub the sleep off your eyes (waking up) to the time when you’re trying to rub the sleep off your eyes (trying to keep awake), Life is in a hurry. It’s become fashionable to be busy. So much so that people actually fake it. Wow!

Soon the juggernaut of life rolls on. While we ‘want to’, ‘think of’, ‘dream of’, ‘wish to’, ‘sigh’, and various other expressions in between, we are just waiting to exhale. I’ve lived a life of breathless anticipation – God alone knows of what. All the tension, excitement, ticking off the ‘to do’ list in your head before heading to work, going over dreaded incumbent telephone conversations, replaying confrontational scenarios with colleagues, feeling nervous and anxious at the presentation, with the sweat making your palms slide off the steering wheel, yes, been there and done that. I gave it all up. I knew I couldn’t live like this (or that, from where I am now at) anymore.

Today, living a more sedate but more fulfilled life is important to me. I remember being fascinated by a TED Talk by Carl Honore, author of In Praise of Slowness. Of course in the world where I come from, it did seem to me far fetched or an indulgence, but I was left wondering what it would be like to savour life slowly. So I’ve tried in my own way to build a life which is not a blur and I share that with you.

Wake up early and pause: everyday when I wake up, I consciously put in an effort to just sit on my bed, and go over and think about how I’d like my day to be for at least 5 mins. Earlier I used to use this practice as an excuse to go over my day in my head and would end up feeling agitated. Now I just close my eyes and pause before I get into the day headlong. 5 mins is all it takes. It helps me ease into the day rather than rush into it. I feel calmer, more relaxed and somehow more grounded and ready to take on whatever the day throws at me.

Meditate, meditate, mediate: Wherever you are, whatever you do, make this as normal and life-giving as breathing. Sit cross-legged or even with legs extended, close your eyes or keep your eyes slightly open, listen to meditative music or not, focus on your breathing. And feel the rush of thoughts. Don’t panic. It’s okay to have a million thoughts colliding like neutrons in a Hadron Collider. It’s called being human. And then slowly as your breathing gets into a rhythm, your thoughts get feebler, there’s a possibility you go into deep wakefulness. Yes, it’s sleep, but you’re acutely aware of ambient sounds, birds chirping, the sounds from the kitchen, the honk of a car, your body slouching, your neck hurting (maybe), but you’re resting. It’s peaceful somehow. I do this everyday, though there are Sundays or some Saturdays where I miss it. But meditating has helped me feel so centred, so calm that I am reveling in this new found spirit of ‘can do’. I suddenly feel so empowered and feel, unafraid. As if all my fears (well not all), have been dissolved. And when you experience that, you suddenly feel unconstrained and the ability to explore, do, be is simply phenomenal.

Mid-day breaks: I am self-employed and so when there’s work, there’s a flood of it and I work to meet my deadlines through the day. But earlier I used to go at it non-stop with lunch breaks. Now I deliberately go slow, I pause wherever I am at in the course of my work day and browse the internet, go to the living room, watch some TV, go watch the world pass me by as I stand in my balcony, basically, take a break. I don’t feel guilty. I don’t feel pressured to see the advancing hands of the clock, I don’t feel a sense of dread or panic. I have committed to deadlines and have by and large met them. But while I’m big on commitment, I realise not meeting a deadline isn’t going to kill me. All clients are by nature suspicious, angry, and somehow think it’s their birthright to be extra cautious about money (clients and their misplaced caution about budgets merits another post), feel an insatiable need to somehow have the last word, always rub it in that you’ve made a mistake, and feel really proud of their really sad ideas. Yes, they pay you money to get their job done, but in the bargain make you feel like they’ve done you a favour. So I’ve stopped questioning their motives, and am not fazed by all this anymore. If they can’t wait, well, here’s your money, thank you, but no, thank you.

Life is here and now. It’s true that all we have is this moment. So don’t rush through it. Take a moment, take a break, because as far as I know, YOLO. Pause~

 

 

What Rafael Nadal’s loss at the French Open taught me!

At the risk of being crucified by millions of Rafa’s fans all over the world, I’ll admit I’m indifferent to the man. I don’t really need to elaborate on his remarkable achievements, everyone who’s a true blue Rafa fan will know the statistics in their sleep.

I’ll be honest and I’ll tell you why I don’t like Rafa. There’s no rocket science to it. It’s not about his bullet-speed top spin forehands, his ability to run for miles, his grimace, his crazy routine of digging into his anal crack to perhaps get his stuck underwear out, his brushing of his left eyebrow, his pulling of his nose and finally taking his stance to serve, his entire demeanour like his life depended on it, or his legendary softness and gentleness or his apparently amazing humility and his fighting spirit and blah blah blah. Yup. None of that matters. For me, he’s the guy who dethroned my favourite player, Roger Federer. And I take that personally.

It doesn’t matter about the GOAT debate (Greatest Of All Time) that media loves to rake up. It doesn’t matter that Federer may not have won all these titles if Djokovic or Rafael Nadal had been around 5 years earlier than when they hit the scene and started making their mark on clay, hard court or grass. It doesn’t matter that Rafa has won an incredible 9 times on clay, most any human being has ever won in the open era, which means in almost a hundred years. Wow, when I say it like that it does sound stupendous. Add to that Rafa comes from a humble background, his uncle Toni, his parents separating, the way he speaks to his sister every day wherever he is, how paeans of praise have been written about how he is the true role model and his amazing ability to bear pain and play and so on and on and on makes him sound like Thor or some Nordic SuperGod.
No, none of that matters to me. I don’t like him. I cheer when he’s out. I feel delirious with joy that he loses. I sat up almost half the night reading everything about his loss to Novak Djokovic when he lost yesterday in the Quarter finals of the French Open. I felt so good when there were headlines such as “thrashing” “demolition” etc.

Yes, I was and am my meanest most darkest when Federer loses and Rafa wins, not necessarily against each other, even more so if that is the case. I think that mean dark side lives in all of us right? But as I thought more about this streak, I realised that our sporting heroes:
Represent us – when we like an athlete, they are for us, who we’d like to be. Strong, resilient, fast, mentally tough, and clawing their way back from impossible situations and winning. Aah that winning feeling!

When they hold aloft a trophy, we feel we’ve won. It’s we who have somehow triumphed against odds. Yeah, ma, look, I did it! And when they lose, we feel we’ve lost. And we’ve let ourselves down. And our  hopes and our dreams slowly seem to fade away. When they continue to lose, it represents our continued struggle against our very own human failings. Unable to come to terms with the challenges and the new challengers. That there’ll always be someone smarter, better, faster, more creative, genius, than the champion, who beats him at his game, is such a bitter pill to swallow. Because it perhaps means that yes, we’ll always be competing, always trying to prove our worth and always be running like a hamster on a wheel, hoping to be champions forever.

When they display human attributes of fear, disappointment, anger, arrogance, we don’t like it. We want them to be the epitome of grace under pressure, forever the humble champion mouthing sotto voce, “Oh I’m not great, it’s just luck” or  “that opponent allowed me to beat him”, “oh it’s so many people who I owe my success to”,” oh I’m so grateful to have some amazing trainers”.   We want them to be from humble beginnings because who doesn’t love a rags to riches story, the guy who made it against all odds. We basically want a typical story that conforms to our ideas of greatness. And if there are people who you have a grouse against and they like this champion against your favorite, well, all hell breaks loose. You want to rub every defeat of that fella, every bad word, every wrong move, every loss, in their face. You want to see them squirm and feel bad, because, hey, how dare my champ lose to yours?!

Yes, sport is the arena of life. Here every one tries to compete and do his best. Every one is fighting to raise the winner’s trophy and be declared a champion. Every one is trying to create magic and be written about perhaps in history books. Every athlete and sporting hero embraces a life of hard work, dedication, combining that with skill and talent and an “x” factor to prove his mettle. Our sporting heroes are the metaphor of our lives. That’s why we take to one sporting hero as opposed to another. Our loyalties are fierce. We want them to succeed because when they do, it’s like we ourselves have personally crested a peak.

No wonder when Rafa lost, I was actually happy. I was happy that he didn’t get his 10th crown. Because I wanted my sporting hero to achieve more than anyone else ever has and Rafa was definitely a roadblock. For some reason, Novak Djokovic doesn’t inspire so much devotion or attention or meanness. LOL! I mean, hey, he’s a supreme athlete, but for me, it’s Roger Federer or no one else. Like it was for me with John McEnroe or with Pete Sampras. I have tried to analyse why I like some players and I don’t like others. I don’t really have an easy or believable answer. Simple and short answer? I don’t know.

So well, Rafael Nadal lost to Novak Djokovic at the French Open quarterfinals of 2015. It’ll be a watershed year in his career as well as Djoker’s. I know people are writing him off. I know he’ll be back. I’ll give it to him, he does fight as if his life’s breath wouldn’t come easy if he didn’t. But hey Rafa fans, know that when your sporting hero’s achievements get marred by the slow decline, it hurts. You hope against hope. You wait for the legs to run faster, you wait for the sting in that forehand that used to be so fierce, you start counting the wins on the fingers of one hand as opposed to reeling them off like marbles on a slope, you wait to see that fire in his eyes again and then one day it’s all over. It’s time to cast your eyes on another sporting hero who can bear your burden. Yup, being down and out ain’t easy for no one. But in every human being’s life it’s inevitable. But it’s not forever. So we all live to fight another day. C’est la vie!

 

 

 

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.