The burden of expectations!

When you were young did someone say, “what a fantastic singer!”? No?

Oh well, lucky you. And I don’t mean to diss praise, nope, not for a moment.

But when you get to hear that at every party, function or gathering, it tends to become a chain around your neck, dragging you down and asphyxiating you.

And then you can’t sing to save your life. Because the burden of expectations has made you fear failure. That OMG moment when you think if you didn’t hit the perfect pitch all was lost.

Sometimes adults do children a disservice when they believe they can play proxy with their children’s achievements, recognition, awards, talent.

Parents, grow up. Let children bloom to be their own person. You don’t have to be Tiger Mom, all you need is to have the commitment, belief, and some amount of skill to manipulate your child to grow up to be a whole person, not full of holes.

Singer, dancer, painter, mathematician, Nobel Laureate, poet, writer, scientist, fashion designer, hacker, or Ethan Hunt, doesn’t matter. He/she has her own unique fingerprint. Let them be.

Let not the burden of expectations become a millstone. Just applaud all the milestones, small or big, because life’s journey is tough and failure is part of that journey. Let our children not grow up to be afraid of making mistakes or fail. Who needs perfection? Perfection is boring!

 

 

 

 

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!

 

3rd time lucky they say!

So I have been a fairly prolific writer. I used to maintain 2 or 3 blogs at one point in early 2005. I started because I had a crush on a young man who actually wrote beautiful blogs. Today he’s married, has perhaps one child, is an entrepreneur, perhaps continues to write, really don’t know (and don’t honestly care) and the crush has thankfully worn off. It hurt for a while especially because my ego was bruised. After all when you admit that you’re attracted to a young man who in return is just not “into you” you tend to want the earth to swallow you.

Thankfully that was a decade ago. I’ve grown (hopefully), evolved mentally, emotionally, spiritually and today I write differently. I guess my blogs will continue to outlive me unless the Internet crashes and we’re closer to aliens bombing us out of existence. Oh well, the ether trail is what we shall leave behind for UFO bearing aliens to find and laugh long after we’re dead and gone.

So here I reproduce a blog I’d written when Roger Federer lost to Rafael Nadal in 2009. I don’t think any modern athlete has had such great control of my emotions as Federer. I’ve written about him here recently and also about Tennis Life Lessons. Yes tennis has that effect on my psyche. I do believe it’s about life. And I reproduce it here because once again when Roger Federer lost to Novak Djokovic yesterday at the Wimbledon 2015, I was despondent and felt like I’d lost the will to live. That’s what Federer does to me. I prayed for him, I had mental conversations with him and I somehow willed him to win. At some point I couldn’t watch the match either. I switched because I couldn’t bear to see my heart breaking into million pieces anymore. I’ve pieced my heart carefully after so many heartbreaks including thanks to the young man referred to above, that I know I don’t have the will or the capacity to piece them again if it does shatter. I’ve fortified myself and I don’t, can’t, won’t allow myself weaknesses such as breaking of the heart. In a world where I’m alone (as are we all) and I have only my arms to hug me or my voice to tell me it’s okay, or my gentle murmurings to console me, I can’t afford to let my heart break. And Roger Federer almost succeeded. Well, that’s what a genius can do. My only regret is that I haven’t seen him play in person and nor will I ever. That’s a tragedy and travesty of my hero worship of him. C’est la vie!

So here goes – a blog from the past – but still relevant! Enjoy!


Rafael Nadal won his first Wimbledon crown. Roger Federer stood forlornly as the dethroned but graceful champion and king, and probably the best grass player in the Open era or any era, ever.

Lessons learnt from both players:
a) Never never never ever give up. Even when you think and the world thinks you’re down and out.
b) Focus focus focus. The goal should be unwavering.
c) You may be genius, but you too are fallible. (Check Roger Federer’s unforced errors).
d) Age may be in the mind, but it’s in the body too. Speed, agility, tact and some
skill can make up for solid experience.
e) But the hunger to do more and excel more is not about age, but ageless. It’s an attitude and a part of your DNA.
f) Winning is everything (whether you like it or not – nobody will remember Federer’s 5 titles, his wonderful strokes, his will to come back from 2 sets down. Only ‘Rafa’ ‘Rafa’ ‘Rafa’ will be remembered for the victory).
g) Winning may be everything, but lack of skill, attitude, focus and determination won’t get you far beyond a few goal posts.
h) Without consistency you are nothing.
i) Never give all of yourself to every fight. Do save the best for last. Ironically you may not   get to the last if you don’t give your best. So work out the math yourself.
j) Money is definitely not everything. It’s just an escalator to a better quality of life.
Now what that quality means to different people is different so let’s leave it there.
k) Being calm, unruffled and determined under any onslaught and pressure, is the mark of   a leader. It’s also called grace under pressure.
l) But a show of emotions by leaders and world beaters is also ok. It shows you are
human.
m) Never tread on people’s bunions when they’re limping. (Notice Federer’s ‘You’re ok?’ when Rafa grazed his knee and took a tumble. He didn’t have to enquire).
n) Respect your greatest opponent and competitor, never underestimate his ability.
o) Be willing to give it your all again and again. Yes, never feel defeated. Just an
opportunity lost.

No more. I just know that I wanted FedEx to win his 6th. I feel miserable.

But tomorrow is another day!

Acceptance doesn’t mean you’ve given up!

 

Acceptance

It’d be good to accept.

 

I’ve grown up fighting acceptance. For some reason unclear to me, acceptance was equal to defeat. And defeat was equal to failure. And failure was anathema. Complete unacceptable.

But I’ve grown to realise that acceptance actually is a good thing. Non-acceptance of things can drain you of energy and occupy some really pricey real estate of your mind and heart. It’s a depreciating liability, not an asset.

How and why did I come to the realisation that acceptance is good for the mind, body, soul?

I think it’s a combination of many factors: growing older and perhaps wiser, maybe more vulnerable, maybe short on energy, maybe willing to actually let in a new experience, perhaps seeing the futility of hanging on to something that was unproductive, yes, many many factors.

So:

a) when I found myself unwilling to commit myself to a goal loftily stated, emphatically underlined, remembering that goal repeatedly over the weeks, months and years, without taking action to bring it to fruition, I knew I had to accept that this goal was not to be.

b) when I found that I spent far too much energy getting het up about some people’s habits which weren’t changing despite my loud, angry protestations, I knew I had to accept that it was me who had to change my approach.

c) when I found that I was happy to crib about everything that was wrong with the world without ever doing anything to change my attitude, habits, or contributing to change, I knew I had to accept that the world was going to continue as is.

d) when I found that despite how hard I tried, I couldn’t bring myself to like people due to my own hypocrisies, I knew I had to accept that it takes all sorts to make the world including people like myself.

Change the changeable

Accept change

e) when I found that Life continued to march to the beat of its own drum and was far too proud to succumb to my exhortations of maybe granting me a BIG favour or two, I knew I had to accept that Life was what you made of it.

So okay, I realised that acceptance did not kill you. It did not defeat you. It did not make you look small. Because you were accepting of certain things, did not mean you were cringe-worthy or were a ‘small, pathetic creature’. No, of course not.

On the contrary, acceptance of certain things can liberate you. It can make space in your mind, body and soul for new thoughts, attitudes and goals. With one fell swoop of acceptance, doors close and others open. You are no longer slave to your ego that denies the existence of acceptance as a good sister. You are free to chart a new course.

Not going to complete college and get that degree – just not you? Sure, accept it and move on. Who knows you could be the next Steve Jobs!

Not going to ever get the ‘ms popular’ title in college or be asked out on a date by the pretty cheerleader, accept it for what it is. Don’t cry buckets or feel vengeful or loathe yourself. Move on and make way for events and people that truly matter.

Not ever going to be a great parent, husband, wife, lover? That’s okay, accept it. Maybe you are a good friend or care giver. Not everything in life has to be like Gone With The Wind.

Not ever going to be able to complete the marathon? Big deal! Maybe you can do a 10k. But first accept it.

In my book, acceptance is honesty. Whoever said being honest was giving up? Honesty requires courage, a deep insight into yourself and willingness to do what it takes to blossom into a good human being. Flawed? Sure. But who wants to be perfect?

Yes, it’s time to accept that sometimes you’re not strong enough, or brave enough or smart enough or competitive enough or talented enough or healthy enough or understanding enough or compassionate enough or beautiful enough or wealthy enough or ambitious enough or knowledgeable enough. It’s okay really. Because in accepting you’re also giving up that which drains you but gains you a new inner calm and confidence. That you are enough.

Life and acceptance

Look forward to life

What are those areas of your life that you find are holding you back because of your stubbornness of non-acceptance? Identify 3. Think about why it makes you angry to accept it. And just say, “ok”, that’s it. And sleep over it. Tell me what happens next.