Ok I admit, I’m afraid!

I was in a blue funk 2 weeks ago. I was in a ‘blue-funking-afraid’ moment 2 weeks ago. That’s why I haven’t  written since. I’ve been wondering how to stop myself from getting in the way.

As I take a walk and listen to Jon Acuff and Srinivas Rao on the Unmistakable Creative podcast, I realize what a boring, uninteresting and unimaginative life I’ve been leading. When I chanced upon this blog of a young girl called Sahaja Patel and I started reading it, I was a wee bit jealous of her wonderful way with words and her writing style. The thought of leading an uninteresting, unimaginative and boring life was further emphasised. I was left wondering why I couldn’t write like her and fell into the familiar trap of comparisons and self-flagellation. Pointless I know, but sometimes habits are hard to break :). Last week as I sat in a pub with 4 adult men who were all part of a start up team and were sharing stories about people, I just sat and listened. I didn’t have stories to tell, I was not a raconteur and yes, I had led an extremely uninteresting, unimaginative and boring life. My life was dull. There’s no two ways about it. No exciting boy friend woes, no drudge grudge against Mother-in-laws, no heart breaking but inspirational rags-to-riches sagas, no break-ups with BFFs, no bumping into amazingly gritty people on adventurous travels, no networking and meeting with the next wizards of Oz and storing away little nuggets of learning to be translated into a book later, no random trysts with handsome hunks in run down motels and orchestrated quickies or l’affair de coeur with a married man or woman, or overcoming natural disasters or failures of everyday life. Nope, nothing. B-o-r-i-n-g, I know.

Now I have ideas which if I were to somehow get the guts to implement and go after, it would lead me to glory. Like they say no guts, no glory. But I have no clue what to do, how to go about it, and while I keep trying to scratch my head about who to speak, how to get it off the ground, I am losing momentum, but that unmistakable feeling of ‘this is it, this can work’ just gets stronger. So when do I take that leap of faith and how? Beats me.

I know there aren’t any right answers or wrong. It’s all about me trying to figure out how to live an adventurous life at this age and stage of my life and somehow manage to do it alone. Shoot!

When I hear Jon Acuff in the podcast quoting Zig Ziglar telling a woman, “You’re going to be 44 regardless. Now it’s up to you to decide you’re going to be 44 and a nurse or just 44”,  I know it’s a brilliant metaphor for how you need to think about your life. I know.

A friend of mine the other day said, “Renu you’re always starting a sentence with buts”. Don’t I know it! That’s what I’m saying. I’ve got to get out of this mindset of “I can’t be a failure,”, “I wish I could but I can’t because I’m not as good as that brilliant person out there,” “I know that this is all my life is going to amount to and I hate myself for it”.

I want to take a pledge that from now on I want to think differently.

Not limited. Limitless.
Not fearful. Fearless.
Not lack. Abundance.
Not woe. Joy.
Not oh my god, what will I do. Oh my God, I can do this!

I guess it’s time to just go out there, lace up your keds and ‘just do it’. (And don’t run away from evil-eyed gremlins called ‘fear’, because life is to be lived not in fear of fear, but despite it. It’s time to beat them at their own game wot?)

 

 

How much we take for granted!

Take for grantedLife is like a game of chess. We are constantly trying to outwit nature as we make our killer moves. We have such grandiose plans of “making it big”, “living with purpose”, “doing something useful”, “giving back to society” or whatever plan we come up with. We are so desperate to make a life based on our conditioning, our definitions, social mores, cultures and what not, to give our lives meaning.

But when you really really sit down to think of it, life is nothing but the dots that connect one human being to another and everything that transpires in the lifetime of that connection and the journey of that dot from one to another.

I realised all this because of something unexpected that happened. Just a week ago, well almost, my youngest maternal aunt contracted dengue. She collapsed at the General Practitioner’s clinic, my uncle rushed her to the hospital and we all rushed as family to provide the necessary support. We gave our time, physical help, moral support, food, kept watch over her and prayed. During the course of this episode in my life I saw something unfold. It was like a story being woven out of the cocoon of a life that had taken ill. As a niece, sister, husband, daughter or son, I saw how all these varied and multiple relationships take on a different hue when something sudden, unexpected and disturbing and drastic happens to our loved ones. We are shaken to the core. Life as we know it stops for a heartbeat, a heartbeat that’s longer than a lifetime. Between one inhale and exhale our lives come to a standstill. We pray for health, we think of life without that loved one, we face fear of regret and are afraid to confront the truth of our lives and holding on by a tenuous thread. Yet when the Earth is firm beneath our feet, we live life without a care in the world about the people we care about. They’re there, we’re there, and everything in life will continue forever. It’s like wearing stilletoes for 25 years believing that varicose veins will never compel us to discard them heels. Hah!

What do we go through when news of some imminent danger hits our emotional antennae?
For the son who is tens of thousands of miles away, there is worry, there is hope, there is prayer, there is a certain detachment(perhaps) as it’s the sheer distance that makes danger seem not so profound or fatal. “Everything will be fine” is perhaps the underlying mantra.
For the husband, he’s worried about how life will continue. Who will feed, clean, take care of all the nitty gritties? “Will everything be fine” is his underlying query.
For the daughter away on work in another city, the sheer paranoia perhaps mixed with hours, days, weeks, months and years of piling on the stress of her slightly dysfunctional life and the hidden guilt (my assumption here of course)  creates a tsunami of emotions that unleashes itself in the form of heart wrenching sobs when she sees her mother.”God I want everything to be fine” is her underlying hope. Relief, guilt, fear, anger, hope – it’s like a Molotov cocktail, fiery and dangerous.
For the sisters, there’s genuine worry and fear and offering of prayer that all will be well.”Hope everything will be fine” is their underlying emotion.
For the niece, it’s about pushing away fear and taking charge of a situation and somehow trying to bring about normalcy and control – burying worry and fear deep where no one can see. “It will be fine” is her underlying belief.

We take our lives and of those around us so much for granted that the mere whiff of an aberration – illness, a sudden accident, a death, moving away from a city, a fight leading to permanent “blocking” out of the person, “unfriending” on FB, ending of a relationship /marriage, bankruptcy, natural disaster – anything, just about anything related to those we know and love puts our lives in complete disarray.

I remember when I was moving from Bombay to Bangalore 15 years ago, I felt my heart would leap out of my chest with pain and fear as I had no idea what I was heading towards, and I knew what I was leaving behind. My friends, familiarity, a way of life. Many of those friends and colleagues I no longer keep in touch with. I have moved on as have they am sure. Many of those people I thought would be my besties for life had milestones in life – marriage, babies, promotions, new property investments, cars, new colleagues, new friends – that old friends like me weren’t on the radar. After all out of sight is out of mind. I tried in my own limited way to keep in touch and somehow keep the intensity of friendship alive. Today it’s dead. While I say I don’t care about those who don’t care about me, it still hurts. Why? Because a bond that was sacred to me and which I took for granted that it’d be alive and well and kicking, could not withstand a wee bit of geography playing spoilsport. Therefore the rest is history.

It’s frightening to feel the ground slip from under your feet when a loved one who was there like a rock suddenly seems frail and mortal. The possibility of leading a life without that pillar suddenly hits you in the solar plexus. Panic sets in and all hell breaks loose. In that instant when one’s entire life flashes by and when you sink your head in regret, shame, fear, guilt and helplessness, you resolve to make it good, all you need is one more chance. Please.

And then your loved one is home. You can exhale. The ground beneath your feet isn’t as slippery as before. Life is pink and rosy and you can make your plans once again. Your pride, ego and “life is hunky dory” belief snaps into place. It’s yesterday once more. Time to take things for granted once again, until the next time. Human nature is funny isn’t it? And oh so foolish!

 

The Shame Of Being You. F#@$!

I journal as regularly as I can. I haven’t got down to my goal of journaling everyday. I’m upset at myself because of that. F#@$! It’s one of those bugbears which I’ve tried asking to some ‘experts’ about and never got any answers that I could really sink my teeth into.

Similarly I try exercising everyday. But I haven’t got down to it. It’s on my to-do list, and there it remains, winking at me wickedly, taunting me and sometimes bearing down upon me. F#@$!

When my professional colleagues are laid-back and chilled, and I’m running around like a headless chicken because I’m a Type A personality or what have you, I know I’m a sucker for ‘wanting to be accepted’ sob narratives in my head. F@#$!

The family gets together and everyone wants to have a good time. But some like me are running around chauffeuring people around, being worried, being the ‘go-to-gal’ for mostly anything that needs to get done. I feel like cursing the living daylights for this personality that I’m born with. I curse my karma, my stars, the sun, the moon, and everything, including myself. Why can’t I be the one who can sit back and relax just like some others who pretend to work, and guess what, get all the kudos and appreciation to boot from en famille. And poor old me? Yup, I remain poor and old and me. F@#$!

Men in my life have usually ordered me around. They’ve had their egos float on Cloud 9 and if most of these men have however fleetingly felt like an Emperor, it’s thanks to me. Jeez! I have always been a victim of the ‘what if’ syndrome and so have always cowed down, bowed down and bent down to listen to them. After all ‘what if’ they leave (which they eventually do), ‘what if’ they like someone else (that too), ‘what if’ they wander away from the altar (I can almost count myself to be the Runaway Bride in reverse where the bridegroom just ups it and leaves) and yeah, ‘what if’ I never “settle down” (in plain layman terms it means find a nice man, marry, get round, have kids, fight, get tormented, and play by the rules or you’ll be left behind, so what if it’s a shitty marriage, but at least it gives you status and so on)? So all the ‘what ifs’ have come true. F@#$!

There’s an underlying theme to this whole behavioural pattern. As you step into the journey of adolescence, teenager, crusty adulthood, your beliefs of who you are get firmer, not necessarily truer. And we’re happy about status quo. Who wants to dig deep and unearth the truth right? Truth someone said is bitter, ugh! We’d rather indulge our sweet tooth and get fat and Type A diabetes right than hear the bitter truth. Sadly we get so consumed by our narratives of who we are we never turn explorer and Xena-fearless to just do a reality check and turn our narratives on their heads. And make way for other more real, closer to the truth stories that could be the gateway of more fulfilled lives.

Which is why:
a) we’re needy
b) we’re weak with longing to be accepted
c) we’re stiff with fear of being rejected
d) we’re uncertain of our own strength
e) we’re aching to belong
f) we’re thirsty for acknowledgement of our own beautiful self from a world that doesn’t give a F@#$!
g) we’re dying to be heard

We’re crying out to the world, “see me for who I am” but the truth is we don’t see ourselves. We’re afraid. Of being naked to ourselves. We’re ashamed.F@#$!

Conditioned to believe that if we’re not perfect with 10 fingers (for women they need to be long and tapering and smooth with pearly long nails for that perfect feline quality meeow!), 10 toes, narrow waists, child-bearing hips, shapely legs, tiny feet, great breasts, the gap within the thighs, the tinkling laughter, the mane that no shampoo ad can rival, the skin like alabaster without a mole or freckles, acne marks or wrinkles, then we’re losers. And for the men am sure it’s a similar story. Poor men, even more insecure than women and can’t even admit to it. Only show machismo because that’s supposed to be how they are, vulnerability can go fly a kite! F@#$!

The conditioned self. The true self. The ‘narrative’ self. Somehow we find it so easy to float on a bed of lies, shame, guilt and fear that we really forget who we are. F@#$!

What the hell do we do now? How do we step back from the abyss of dismay, disgust and delusion? How do we reclaim our true selves? I don’t know. F@#$!

 

Are You Unbreakable?

Today I was hurt. I allowed something someone said to get under my skin. The fact that this person is a heel and is fairly uncivil didn’t seem relevant. That he is irrelevant to me and my life and my overall happiness and wellbeing somehow slipped past me. I guess I just let myself simmer and stew in the hurt that had piled up, the pride that I’d swallowed, the ego that had been pricked before and this time there was a lump that didn’t allow me to swallow the hurt so easily. It affected me.

It doesn’t matter who said what or why and in what context. The point here is how much are we willing to let someone affect us? How much are we willing to allow bad behaviour for the sake of maintaining a relationship? How thick a skin should one grow for meanness to ricochet off the hide? How wounded can the heart get before we allow all hell to break loose? How deeply can we let our silences affect us?

I don’t know. I do know that more often than not, I justify other people’s behaviour with:
“he/she is really not so bad. Look, they’re standing by their spouses, being great parents, they’re making the most of their really bad/sad/pathetic situation. Who are we to judge? It’s not easy to be making a living with his/her partner. They know best, and they have a point, it’s just me.” And so on.

Is my justification for another’s bad behaviour justified? If I feel like having a showdown, venting my spleen, sneering them, slapping them, creating a racket, raving and ranting, I guess now that’d definitely go down in the books as “UNACCEPTABLE”.

So what does one do? Accept, reject, grow a thick skin, ignore, continue to hurt and swallow and hide the pain?

To maintain peace, yes.
To not rock the boat with people you care about, yes.
To understand yourself and your resilience, yes.

I guess true power comes not from the storm within. It comes from the calm that you can rely on when the storm rages within. It comes from certainty of knowing that you are powerful beyond belief. No one can shake you or break you. You are unbreakable. Stand tall.