New Year and New Hopes

I don’t know what it is about a new year that makes us all so optimistic. It is just another year, like the many others that have gone by, leaving behind dreams, aspirations and resolutions that never really took off. And yet every year is vividly different from the one before and the one after it. I believe it is what we make it. For in the present moment we are planting seeds for our future.

With so many people taking time to celebrate and ring in the new year, the energy and excitement is palpable even if you are home and celebrating in front of the television. Many of us can simply ride the wave of excitement coursing through the world. Here in Cary it was a rainy day – ALL DAY! That would have been enough to dampen my spirits but I was on a high for no apparent reason.

And so it continues. Even after the kids left for school yesterday, there was this mounting excitement. Again I had no clue what was causing it. It wasn’t some outside event or circumstance. Sometimes when something bad is about to happen our soul senses it and we feel uneasy. I guess the same is true when something good is about to happen.

In contrast, December had a very different energy to it. The end of an unsatisfying year and all the trials it brought with it. One day I was just done with it. I’d had enough and wished that if 2017 was going to be the same old, same old, then I didn’t want to go on.

The next day I woke up with this song in my head – Don’t Let Go, You Got The Music In You. And it kept playing in my head all day. On the way to my kids’ eye appointments I switched radio channels and this song started playing. I was blown away. The lyrics if you haven’t heard it goes like this – Don’t give up, you have a reason to live. When the night is falling and you cannot find the light, If you feel your dream is dying, Hold tight. You got the music in you.

It kind of set the trend for 2017 for me. And somehow the way you feel on the 1st of the year sets the energy for the rest of the year. I felt carefree, light and happy and hope to cruise through the year.

I spent the last few months of the year in sober solitude and I vowed to make more friends in 2017. Let’s see how that reSOULution goes. Made a tiny step in that direction by enrolling ourselves in a spiritual group that meets every week. Things take time and perseverance. My motto is to not give up too soon, before the results show up.

Wishing all my readers a very happy 2017 filled with all good things, world peace and abundance in every corner of the world. Do share your resolutions when you comment and let’s all support each other.

Why I Volunteer

So things haven’t changed for the better since my last post. I’m still looking for work and resigning myself to the fact that I will have to wait until next year for something to come my way.

When I feel stuck or feel that things aren’t flowing or working for me, I do two things.

  1. Write in my gratitude journal. I did this to land my last job. I wrote thank you for my new and wonderful job in my journal every single day and even wrote about the kind of job I was looking for.
  2. Look for opportunities to give or serve. This worked for me years ago when I was trying to get back to work after a long hiatus. I volunteered in public schools for several years and then landed a job in a charter school.

It doesn’t help that most people are posting pictures of cruises and vacations in the Caribbean when I’ll be doing a staycation this year. So I decided to look for volunteer opportunities on Idealist. I found something that would use my skills as a writer/ editor and for a cause close to my heart (children and education).

Volunteering helps you feel good and gives you the satisfaction of contributing to the community in meaningful ways. It also helps you make friends and learn new skills. By taking away your focus from what is lacking in your life, volunteering allows you to appreciate what you have.

You have to give to receive. So whenever you feel things are not flowing to you, it is a good practice to give and get back into the flow of the Universe. Waiting till you have enough will keep you waiting indefinitely. Give how much ever you can of your time, money and efforts and you will be rewarded with peace and contentment.

Even if you are in a good place in your life, take the time to give back. There are so many out there who are hurting and can benefit from your generosity. Serve wherever you are, even if it is for an hour every week or every month and you will find it brings you more joy than all the comforts and things money can buy. This is truly one of those cases where the giver of the gift benefits as much or more than the receiver.

Still need convincing? A study report by CNCS titled “Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment” found that active volunteers were 27% more likely to get a job than non-volunteers.

A Day in the Life of the Unemployed

The novelty of moving to a new place has quickly worn off and I realize we are still unemployed albeit in a different part of the world. The days seem to bleed into one another. It doesn’t matter if it is a Monday or a Friday. Only weekends seem different, with the kids around. The rest of week sees us following pretty much the same routine. For me, my day starts with the alarm at 6.00. I rush into the kitchen to pack lunch for the kids. I set the cereal and milk on the table for breakfast. Then I keep screaming the time out, to make the kids hurry. Followed by banging on the bathroom door to get them out or screaming up the stairs to get them down.  I see them off at the door and then the house becomes incredibly quiet.

After all that excitement I settle down in front of my computer and compulsively check my e-mail, junk mail and spam for mails from prospective employers. Disappointment washes over me when I find nothing and then I go to social media to take my mind off it. After breakfast, a renewed vigor comes over me and I start sending out resumes to half a dozen companies. On some days there are no new jobs posted and I slip into despair wondering if I will ever work again. By noon I am spent and resign myself to the fact that I probably won’t hear from half of the companies I applied to. I cook lunch and eat it quietly. A weariness comes over me as I think of the whole evening spread before me. I curl into bed with a book to again escape from my cruel mind and the horrible stories it tries to feed me.

The kids return from school and suddenly the sleepy house wakes up. Battle over the computer and who gets first dibs. Piles of homework to be done. After school activities have to wait and I’m clouded with guilt when I see kids marching off to karate in their stiff uniforms or carrying violin cases down the stairs. If it is a Friday and the weather is good we end up playing tennis together.

Weekends are hard because I know I won’t hear from any employer till Monday. It’s also hard to stay hopeful and cheerful in front of the kids when despair is eating at your heart. Sometimes I snap at them in frustration and they wonder what they did to get on my bad side. But on most days I play the part well. Every grocery trip, every trip to the gas station, I know we are dipping into our savings. As our bank account shrinks, the number of days spent unemployed grows and grows and there is this huge chasm in my resume that I could slip in to any day.

Social live is nil. Who wants to admit to perfect strangers that one is not working? How can you admit your brokenness and then expect to make friends? Like water finds its own level when poured into containers, people also reach for others at their level or above. Everyone has their own problems, who wants to take on another’s!

Hope is my only reprieve and also this responsibility I have to my children. If I give up too easily, how can I lecture them about trying hard and not giving up when they fail? So here I am, back at the computer, applying for jobs and trying to stay upbeat even though every part of me is exhausted by this constant search for something in the distance. Something seemingly unattainable and yet so close I can touch it.

I know in spite of it all I am lucky. There are unemployed people out there who are hurting, there are people who woke up and saw their life’s earnings disappear in the face of demonetization. People on food stamps and people living meager existences in different parts of the world.

So this holiday season as you go on vacations, shopping sprees and holiday parties remember there are some amongst you who will be staying home just wishing they had the means to provide for their families. Pray for them, send them your good vibes and if possible give them something in kind.

30 Days of Gratitude

So I successfully posted one thing I was thankful for every day in November. Here is the complete list.

Day 1

I am thankful for the chance to start our life over in the U.S.A.

Day 2

I am thankful for my own beautiful space to think and be

Day 3

I am thankful for my tribe of sisters who have stood with me through thick and thin. Dedicating the upcoming posts to each one of them.

Day 4

I am thankful for my dear friend Shoms who has been around since the day I was born and continues to be there for me, pray for me and guide me (she even secretly follows me around all over the globe!) I love you and I’m eternally grateful that God put you in my life.

Day 5

I am thankful for my soul sister Namami who believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself and pushed me to be the best version of myself through her wonderful example. So so thankful that our paths crossed.

Day 6

I am thankful for my little sister Gayatri who has shown such courage, hard work, discipline and perseverance over the past several years. She is not afraid to chase her dreams and has inspired me to do the same. Love you to the moon and back and you are such a blessing in my life.

Day 7

I am thankful for my little sister Latha who reminded me to practice gratitude when I really needed to and who egged me on to finish my book. Thank you for being there for me.

Day 8

I am thankful for Hema who went out of her way to help me when I was in India struggling to keep my head above the water. She gave me hope, her husband helped my husband secure an interview and she still keeps checking on us and praying for us. Thankful for angels like her in my life.

Day 9

Today I am thankful for my children Anjali and Nitin who see humor in even the most solemn situations, who remind me to laugh and let me see that life is not about the big things but about the littlest of things – a warm hug, a snuggle, a giggle or breaking into a song or dance. Love you both to the moon and back.

Day 10

I am thankful for my parents who have always been there for me no matter what and who have shown me that being a parent doesn’t mean being perfect but trying to do your best in every situation. Love you both very much and wishing you a very happy anniversary and many more to come.

Day 11

I am thankful for our friends Raghu and Swastika who have been so helpful during this time. For being patient and taking the time to help us sort out stuff. We miss being neighbors with you and hope we meet again soon.

Day 12

I am thankful for good food on my table and for above average cooking skills.

Day 13

I am thankful for my brother Dinesh who has been around since I was 2 1/2 and has grown up to be an dashing young man. I’m thankful for the crazy times we had together making up jokes and laughing till the wee hours of the morning. I’m thankful for your unique and deep insights when I most need them. Most of all I’m thankful for your support through really tough times when I felt alone in the world. Love you and wish you have a very happy birthday and many more to come.

Day 14

I am thankful for children, not just my own, but the many I have come in contact with over the years through teaching and volunteering in schools. Their innocence, lack of guile and unconditional love always leave me speechless. If you are weary of this world, simply spend a day with a child and see your joy rising and hope returning to your cynical life. Thankful for all the little yogis and tiny Zen masters of the world. Happy Children’s Day!

Day 15

I am thankful for my brother Rohit for being my body guard in the streets of Chennai and for always being protective of me. We have laughed endlessly, shared our burdens and teased each other mercilessly. Even though he is far away, I know he cares and will do anything for me. And for that I am deeply grateful.

Day 16

I am thankful for my Valliamma who has always been around for my family. Illness, birth of a baby, trips out of the country, she is always there, a steady presence providing support, love and care. Love you Valliamma and I am very fortunate to have you in my life.

Day 17

I am thanful for my aunts, Uma chitta and Sridevi chitta, strong hardworking women who have crossed numerous hurdles to get to where they are today. Their steel grit and determination to succeed is admirable as is their poise and elegance. Love you both very much

Day 18

I am thankful for a good education from one of the finest schools in India – Good Shepherd Higher Secondary School. My love for the English language, good manners, a broad-minded and inclusive outlook and much more, I owe to this school which was truly my second home. I am thankful for the wonderful and dedicated teachers who nurtured our minds and expanded our perspective of the world. To this day they care about every student whose lives were touched by them. Thank you my sweet teachers and it is a honor to have graduated from Good Shepherd.

Day 19

I am thankful for my alma mater, Women’s Christian College, where I met an amazing group of girls and teachers and soaked in the history of the place that has been around since the pre-independence era. Lighted to lighten, a motto that many of us have taken seriously as we continue to shine on in our varied worldly roles.

Day 20

I am thankful for my 2nd alma mater, Madras University, where I turned my love of writing to a degree that would one day help me earn a living. Also met some great girls who are still my buddies. Beach combing at 2.00 in the afternoon, matinee movies with the whole class and a trip to Munnar. So much fun and learning packed into 2 short years.

Day 21

I am thankful for good books and public libraries that take you out of the mundane and into other realms, make you forget your worries while you dwell on their pages and shelves. So much so that I forgot to post this yesterday…had my nose buried in a book about a cat named “Cleo” by Helen Brown.

Day 22

I am thankful for Senthil who landed me a job in India and continues to mentor me and send opportunities my way. He would do anything for a friend and I’m glad our paths crossed 15 years ago.

Day 23

I am thankful for the joys of baking and an oven. Sorely missed it when I was in Chennai. Have a key-lime pie baking in my oven and will be dusting off my lasagna pan tomorrow. Nothing like the smell of melted cheese and tomato sauce wafting through the house.

Day 24

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Today I am thankful for food, family and the holidays. At the same time I want to take a moment to pray for those who don’t have food on their table, are not with their family for various reasons and also for those who don’t have holidays. I hope and pray one day everyone would have more than enough to eat and lots of things to be thankful for, like I do today. God Bless everyone.

Day 25

I am thankful for my blog, it has taken me places I never dreamed I could go and connected me with so many wonderful readers. Blogging is like sharing a part of yourself and it is mostly fun but sometimes excruciatingly painful to bare your feelings. But it also extremely rewarding and satisfying. One of the best things I did was create www.punctuatelife.com

Day 26

I am thankful for Reema Moudgil who has been a constant source of support and encouragement since I started blogging. She is a gifted writer and beautiful soul and I have been a recipient of her generosity many times. Glad that our paths crossed.

Day 27

I am thankful today for nature, her boundless beauty, her colorful seasons, her thirst quenching rain storms and her nurturing harvest. She reminds me that we worry too much and that we will be taken care of like the flowers and the weeds.

Day 28

I am thankful for gods, goddesses, angels and saints who guide us with unseen hands and embrace us when things go terribly wrong. If it were not for love, faith and hope we’d be dead inside.

Day 29

I am thankful for good health without which it is impossible to enjoy or even be grateful for any of the other blessings. I am usually thankful for it only when I fall sick, which is quite infrequently. Today as I nurse a cold, I was reminded to be thankful for health and well-being.

Day 30

Today I am thankful for blessings that are yet to come. I am thankful for a meaningful way to offer my talents and services to the world and be rewarded for it. I am thankful for beautiful relationships that honor and bring out the best in me and others. I am thankful for unity, peace, stability and abundance for all citizens of the world.

What I have learnt from this exercise is that you can never run out of things to be thankful for. Every day is a gift and every breath a blessing. Say thank you quietly in your mind for everything in your life from the time you wake up. Running water to brush my teeth – thank you. The beautiful sunrise – thank you. A nutritious breakfast – thank you. Nice clothes to wear – thank you. A car to take me to work – thank you. And the list goes on.

 

15 Days of Gratitude

I have tried over the past several years to do this 30 days of gratitude thing in the month of November but never before have I gotten this far. I thought I’d run out of things to be grateful for but I was wrong. The more grateful you are, the more you will have to be grateful for. Does that makes sense? Read on and maybe you can start your own gratitude list. It’s never too late and it doesn’t have to be November!

Day 1

I am thankful for the chance to start our life over in the U.S.A.

Day 2

I am thankful for my own beautiful space to think and be

Day 3

I am thankful for my tribe of sisters who have stood with me through thick and thin. Dedicating the upcoming posts to each one of them.

Day 4

I am thankful for my dear friend Shoms who has been around since the day I was born and continues to be there for me, pray for me and guide me (she even secretly follows me around all over the globe!) I love you and I’m eternally grateful that God put you in my life.

Day 5

I am thankful for my soul sister Namami who believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself and pushed me to be the best version of myself through her wonderful example. So so thankful that our paths crossed.

Day 6

I am thankful for my little sister Gayatri who has shown such courage, hardwork, discipline and perseverance over the past several years. She is not afraid to chase her dreams and has inspired me to do the same. Love you to the moon and back and you are such a blessing in my life.

Day 7

I am thankful for my little sister Latha who reminded me to practise gratitude when I really needed to and who egged me on to finish my book. Thank you for being there for me.

Day 8

I am thankful for Hema who went out of her way to help me when I was in India struggling to keep my head above the water. She gave me hope, her husband helped my husband secure an interview and she still keeps checking on us and praying for us. Thankful for angels like her in my life.

Day 9

Today I am thankful for my children Anjali and Nitin who see humor in even the most solemn situations, who remind me to laugh and let me see that life is not about the big things but about the littlest of things – a warm hug, a snuggle, a giggle or breaking into a song or dance. Love you both to the moon and back.

Day 10

I am thankful for my parents who have always been there for me no matter what and who have shown me that being a parent doesn’t mean being perfect but trying to do your best in every situation. Love you both very much and wishing you a very happy anniversary and many more to come.

Day 11

I am thankful for our friends Raghu and Swastika who have been so helpful during this time. For being patient and taking the time to help us sort out stuff. We miss being neighbors with you and hope we meet again soon.

Day 12

I am thankful for good food on my table and for above average cooking skills.

Day 13

I am thankful for my brother Dinesh who has been around since I was 2 1/2 and has grown up to be an dashing young man. I’m thankful for the crazy times we had together making up jokes and laughing till the wee hours of the morning. I’m thankful for your unique and deep insights when I most need them. Most of all I’m thankful for your support through really tough times when I felt alone in the world. Love you and wish you have a very happy birthday and many more to come.

Day 14

I am thankful for children, not just my own, but the many I have come in contact with over the years through teaching and volunteering in schools. Their innocence, lack of guile and unconditional love always leave me speechless. If you are weary of this world, simply spend a day with a child and see your joy rising and hope returning to your cynical life. Thankful for all the little yogis and tiny Zen masters of the world. Happy Children’s Day!

Day 15

I am thankful for my brother Rohit for being my body gaurd in the streets of Chennai and for always being protective of me. We have laughed endlessly, shared our burdens and teased each other mercilessly. Even though he is far away, I know he cares and will do anything for me. And for that I am deeply grateful.