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Harvesting Bountiful Gifts

The shorter days and longer nights make me thankful for the warmth of the sun and the long lazy days of summer that never ended. Pumpkins, squash and sweet potatoes in abundance remind me that Mother Earth will provide for us even when the cold winter winds blow. A roof over our heads and family and friends that care fills my heart with gratitude.  A job, healthy children, joy and abundant energy add to my already overflowing bucket.

I can’t  say I felt the same last year. We had just moved from India and were finding our bearings in a new place. We were planting seeds in the fall. Seeds of abundance, love and joy that had been missing for a while. But our seeds lay dormant in the winter. It took every ounce of my strength to do the 30 days of gratitude exercise which I shared with you last November.  But I knew from past experience that gratitude was the way to bring more blessings into your life. Not feelings of worthlessness or pity. So I watered my seeds with gratitude over the winter.

Some sprouts tried to push through the frosty earth but quickly died.  But some survived. The strong intentions, the ones I didn’t want to give up on, lived under the frozen ground. I couldn’t see them but a tiny glimmer of hope wedged itself in my heart.  In March the tiny sprouts surfaced and I watered them eagerly.

A year has passed since I planted seeds of abundance, joy and a beautiful space to call our own and now our tree of prosperity is blooming.  One seed that I presumed had died in the winter somehow surfaced a few weeks ago. My longing for a friend in this new place was fulfilled. Thanks to V who moved to Raleigh. We’ve known each other since college and it was refreshing to just be myself in her company (as opposed to making new friends at my age!)

So this year’s harvest has been bountiful and I won’t be surprised if more seeds come back from the dead. Who knows? It doesn’t hurt to keep watering them and maybe next spring is when they want to emerge. Who am I to judge?

I challenge you – yes you – to practice 30 days of gratitude starting from the 1st of November. I will be doing it as well although it is going to be challenging with my busy schedule. I think I’ll keep a journal at my desk to remind me to be thankful. And I don’t do this just in November. Whenever I find joy ebbing and whining taking over my life I stop myself and try to focus on gratitude. It always helps and makes me feel better and less whiny of course!

The Right Moment Will Never Come

How many times have you put off doing stuff just because the conditions weren’t as perfect as you wanted them to be? For the longest time I wanted to do a yoga teacher training(YTT). I looked up several classes in the area. I looked up schedules and everything but always felt like it was a lot of money to spend. Also the schedules didn’t work for me or rather I thought they didn’t work for me. Getting away for the entire weekend to attend yoga class was unthinkable. It was as though my kids would starve and be neglected if I was not around!

When I started working I swore that I would enroll in the course once I earned that much money. When I had that exact amount in my bank account I moved from Florida to Washington and was out of work for a few months. I again looked for YTT courses in the area. I found one which was cheaper, the schedule worked perfectly (it was just one weekend) and the studio was quite close to where I stayed. But then I had to go and ask for someone else’s opinion and they felt like I should spend money on a course that would help me earn more money. Again I didn’t enroll for the yoga course nor did I join a career-oriented course.

A year later I again wanted to do a YTT certification but ended up doing a course in technical writing because that was more ‘practical’. It has been 7 years and I still haven’t let my yoga seed come to fruition.

The same kind of pattern emerged once again in my life. I finished writing the book “Thank You Dadima” and want to get it published. But we were both out of work and I figured I’d do it once I get a job. Three months into my job nothing has changed. Now some other excuse has come up. I don’t have the time. I don’t know who to use as an editor…so and so forth. If I went with all the excuses my mind keeps conjuring up I guess that book will just be a file on my computer. Which is not what I want. So I’m going to dump my big bag of excuses and get cracking on getting my book published! Off to e-mail a blogger/editor contact now.

A Chapter from my Book : Thank You Dadima

Weekends at Dadima’s house were a lazy affair, for me that is. I woke up late, wandered around in my PJs, with my hair in a tangled and disheveled mess. Dadi would be up by 7.00 a.m. and would wash her hair, starch her cotton saris and put them on the clothesline for the maids to stretch out and dry. Dressed in freshly ironed white cotton salwar suits, she would then proceed to supervise Smaller (yes that was his name) as he polished all the brassware in the house.

Around 8.00 a.m. she would notice that her bed was not made because I was sleeping in it! She would try to wake me up. I would moan and groan and throw the blanket over my head to muffle the noise. She would then peel the blankets away from me and insist that I wake up that instant. I would join her for breakfast after hastily brushing my teeth. Still clad in my wrinkled nightie, I’d take a look at her freshly scrubbed glowing face, her damp hair loosely held with clips with not a single strand out of place, and sigh. The idlis on my plate looked off-white against the brilliance of her kurta. I knew what was coming next. She would tell me to go have a bath and get dressed before guests started trickling in after ten in the morning. There were the regulars – the family doctor, the nieces, office staff, and then sometimes someone unexpected came along.

After breakfast, I hid in the guest room which doubled as my study room when there were no house guests. She would seek me out and give me another disapproving look before I meekly went to take a shower. If I was too lazy to comb and braid my long hair, I would just put it up in a bun, which would meet with instant criticism. “Buns are for old ladies. It doesn’t suit you!” she would say the moment I walked into her room to watch some TV. Jeans were also not her favorite. Or faded T-shirts for that matter. Both of which happened to be my favorite weekend outfits.

For years I wore a white uniform to school and Dadima wore her white starched cotton saris with matching white sandals. Given the nature of the place she worked in, carrying a white handbag and expecting it to stay white over a week was wishful thinking. Dirt, dust, grime, ink, carbon paper left no mark on her black handbag which she carried to work every day. The white handbags came out for special occasions – parties, weddings and conferences.

White was something widows wore to somehow symbolize the lack of color and joy in their spouse-less worlds. But one look at Dadima was enough to let you know that for her white was a fashion statement. She did not wear make-up, jewelry or a saffron dot on her forehead like married women. Her blouses were always stitched in the latest style, she wore dressy heeled sandals, chic sunglasses and a big-dialed omega watch. White did not make her look colorless and boring, but made her stand out. It was her trademark. Her signature. Her power.

No matter what her health was like on any given day, she would get up, wash up and get dressed. If guests were coming over, she would brush her hair and sit up straight on her bed with the support of pillows. Even at the hospital, she cared about her appearance. She never wanted to look sickly, hapless and pitiful. To portray herself that way meant that she was weak and could be easily tricked. That did not bode well for a business woman who wanted to be taken seriously and respected for who she was.

White demanded respect and helped her get into places others could not. In hospitals, she was mistaken for a physician and could enter restricted spaces and even talk to senior doctors who were not very approachable. The lack of color also concealed her true identity. She could pass off for a Jain, Christian, Muslim or Sikh. And when people cannot pin you down and compartmentalize you based on your appearance you become universal. Now white does not magically confer all these qualities to a person who merely chooses to wear it. I have seen other widows who wear white but don’t yield the kind of power she does. So why did it work for her?

Widows evoked images of heartbroken women, shunned by society and living on the fringe, boding bad luck for those who crossed paths with them. I vividly recall one such widow. The widow next door in her faded orange sari with her prickly hair peeping out of the edge of the sari clumsily draped over her head. Her wrinkly face and arms made me wonder if she ever had oil baths. But what struck me the most were her sad soulless eyes. In fact she had an air of melancholy that somehow seeped under my skin and made me shudder. Every time I saw her I quickly looked away and secretly pledged never to be her.

Dadi had sparkling, lively eyes, sometimes full of mischief. A strong positive vibe emanated from her. Her white clothes almost gave off a glow and it attracted one and all. She took the stigma associated with white and turned it around to her advantage. Probably because she never once looked for pity and knew pretty darn well how to take care of herself. In fact she took excellent care of herself. She never denied herself or neglected herself like widows were wont to. She moisturized her skin, ate vitamins and a lot of healthy foods. Every Sunday the family doctor would come take a look at her and check her pulse and heart.

People notice the way you dress and the way you portray yourself to the outside world. When you neglect this aspect of yourself, people don’t take you seriously. Dress sharp and people know you mean business. A well-dressed person is also confident and competent.

The law of attraction also plays out in this. When you dress like an affluent person, wealth and abundance must naturally come to you. If you dress in tattered, unkempt clothes your financial situation could deteriorate. Dadi dressed well and attracted abundance of all kinds into her life.

I still like to wander around in my PJs till late in the morning but I try to tidy up my act when I go out to work or when I have people coming over. When I wear white I feel a connection to my grandmother and feel powerful and confident. Thank you Dadima for teaching me to dress for success.

 

Signs I Can’t Ignore Anymore…

As my long-term subbing assignment was nearing its end, I was plagued with questions about what I would do with my time. My future lay ahead of me, glimmering with innumerable possibilities, enough to confuse and confound me.

One day I walked into the classroom and was told that it was author day at the school. A famous children’s author was going to give a talk for most of the morning. I did not think much of it. Even thought that I should have simply taken the day off, for there wasn’t much work to do, except sit in the old gym and listen to a man talk about his books. Anyway, I was already there, so I simply followed the class to the gym and settled down to listen to whatever he had to say.

The author, Paul Owen Lewis lives in Washington and is a very gifted orator. A few minutes into his talk, he had all of us spellbound and hanging on to every word he uttered. He didn’t always know he wanted to be a writer. He practically stumbled upon a writing career when he was a substitute teacher in a local school. They had an author day at that school – you can imagine what was going through my head – this is no coincidence! He thought it was pretty cool to write books. Paul loved to draw and was pretty darned good at it. The author spoke about different ways to write stories. All stories did not have to start with words he said and this struck a chord with Paul. He loved telling stories through his illustrations. The rest is history. He now stood before us as a famous published author of children’s picture books.

He also compared the process of writing to putting the pieces of a puzzle together. You may only have a few pieces to start with but you can always find connections and link the pieces together. The idea appealed to me. Thinking that I needed a logical story line that flowed from one scene to another from beginning to end kept me going around in circles. In the planning stages nobody has the complete story or knows how to put it together. I only had a bunch of disorganized ideas. I had to put them down on paper and try and connect the pieces and add details to my story.

The morning session ended and I saw some teachers and students go up to the author, talk to him and pepper him with questions. Something within me was urging me to go talk to him but I quietly followed the kids back to class. A few minutes later I was back in the teachers lounge taking my lunch break. I was almost done when the author walked in. He smiled and asked if he could sit at my table. I nodded. I told him how much I enjoyed his talk and also added that the kids loved it. I blurted out everything about my dream to be a published author. He listened quietly and good-naturedly answered my questions while trying to chew his meal.

I knew wannabe authors like myself probably run up to him all the time asking for favors, tips and publishers’ contact details. Maybe that was the reason I did not approach him in the old gym. But when he sat by me at the table, I could not hold myself back anymore.

I knew this was a colossal nudge from the Universe. The term ‘in your face’ comes to my mind. I have seen signs before, subtle, faint, quiet whispers or visions that were sometimes hard to decode. But this time around the Universe gave me direct and perfectly clear orders. It didn’t get more direct than this. Or so I thought until later in the week another sign showed up. I was talking to a new friend I had made, who had just started reading my blog. She really liked the way I wrote and just like that out-of-the-blue suggested that I should write a book. She even mentioned an Indian author who grew famous through her blog and then ended up writing so many best-selling novels. I had heard of this author and even read her blog. I had even harbored this silly idea that if she could do it so could I.

Anyways, that’s what it always remains – a silly idea. I might get all fired up to write a scene here or a scene there or research a few publishers. Or follow an author’s blog as he tracks his word count and daily writing process. But soon enough the fire dies out and my enthusiasm flags. I just felt like I did not have the juice to see this thing to the finish.

The very next day, the Universe deciding that it was not done with me, but definitely done with my excuses, set-up this chat session with my cousin S. She is an aspiring writer between jobs, mulling about her future. Coincidence you say? I think not!

She said to me – I spoke to my cousin yesterday and he told me to write a book. I gasped at the impossibility of what I was reading. Those of you who were with me from the beginning know that I wrote my first ever blog entry after talking to my cousin. He asked me to write and some force outside of me took possession of me and before I knew it I had written and published a note on Facebook. In two months I had my own blog and three years later I still have so much to say – something I had never imagined possible!

Three years later the Universe wanted to remind me of that leap of faith, to get out of my own way and just do it. Just write and see where it takes you. Don’t worry about selling the book even before you type it up.

Paul Owen Lewis said to me – if you are looking to make money or become famous, don’t do it! For me it is more than that. It is about reaching out and touching someone else. It is about sharing life’s ups and downs and knowing you are not alone. So I’m going to do it and I know I am not alone because my cousin and every one of you reading this will be cheering me on much like you did ever since I started my blog. And for you – yes you! I am very grateful.

 

 

 

Coming Full Circle

“Almost all your blogs talk about work,” my daughter declared a few weeks ago. I mildly protested but then it struck me that she was right. The years since I started blogging have been devoted to finding work, finding my passion, quitting jobs, moving and trying to find work again. At times I was under employed, stressed out at work or totally unprepared for the job. I persevered because for me it was work (with all its problems) or no work at all. It wasn’t exactly raining interviews and offer letters.

When we moved, Seattle definitely had more opportunities than Florida but that didn’t equate to a job for me. Frustrated, I applied for a substitute position at the school district. Several months of subbing did not fetch me a regular job. The new year came and went with the promise of regular writing work that pays. It lasted a month and then I heard nothing. The first few weeks of February saw me grappling with issues of self-worth and it all came out in my blog – In the Brink of a Mid-life Crisis.

The very next day after I published my blog, a long term subbing job became available. I decided to take it up. It was a full day assignment and the work was challenging at first, but I fell into a rhythm. The people I interacted with were wonderful. It was perfect. So when the assignment ended, they wanted to extend it and they wanted me back. All the years I struggled with feelings of worthlessness melted away. I did amount to something. Of course I knew that and I had learned that lesson sometime ago. But to finally have the outer world reflect that was like a resounding YES!

When you know your own worth you stop putting yourself last and you stop putting yourself down. You value everything you do even if the rest of the world doesn’t. I stopped being invisible and stopped hiding in the house thinking I had nothing to offer. I started loving myself more and making time for things I loved to do. Instead of always serving everybody else’s needs, I started serving my needs.

In the beginning it all seemed like a farce. It was as if I was putting on a show pretending to know what I was doing. When actually I was scared as hell, just waiting for someone to call out my bluff. I was a nobody strutting around all confident and knowledgeable. But that was just the ego in me that hated being pushed out of its comfort zone. My comfort zone was a bundle of low self-esteem that kept me stuck in a rut without the courage to chase my dreams. So I ignored that little voice and showed up and did the best I could. And it paid off. Time and again people acknowledged my presence or appreciated what I did. The tiny voice stopped trying to discourage me and I got bolder and bolder.

Once you step out of your comfort zone, you create another comfort zone where you can stay stuck unless you push yourself again. For me it was this feeling of discontent that kept pushing me. Some need inside that wanted to be filled. It just wouldn’t go away. No matter what I did. I volunteered – it didn’t go away. I blogged – it didn’t go away. I subbed – it didn’t go away. I wrote every day in January and got paid – and it didn’t go away.

This job I have now somehow filled that empty space inside of me. A space that had been aching from within. A space that marked the years of giving and giving of oneself till one became broke. A space that was open to receiving a kind word, appreciation or gratitude.

It is as if I have come full circle from a bedraggled housewife who spent her days serving her family while ignoring her own needs to a woman who is perfectly balanced and perfectly at ease at her workplace and perfectly at ease doing dishes (who am I kidding!). But jokes apart, I have come a long way. I know when and how much to give of my time and resources and when to receive. I know when to stop giving before I reach rock bottom and burn myself out. I have learned to honor myself as much as I honor others.

It is always tempting to do too much, give too much or take too much. And we are all walking a tightrope, flitting between balancing everything and falling flat on our faces. At some point we get it and our inner compass leads us to balance and happiness.

I would love to tell you that my work saga that started in 2012 has concluded, but such is not the case. Then again that is fodder for another blog.