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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.

Blogging: My Road to Self Discovery

I still can’t believe I’m a blogger. I knew writing was in my soul but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine owning a blog. It was my cousin who led me down that path and before I knew it I had a website and was doling out my existential angst and advice by the bucketfuls. Here’s what a year of blogging taught me.

The First Step is the Hardest

I know that’s a cliche and has been done to death but anyone who ever had a major breakthrough in life would shout it out from the roof tops. The first blog I ever wrote and published as a note on Facebook was totally on a impulse. I didn’t fret about it and plan for months in advance. I just sat down and typed it all up in less than an hour and then published it. If I hadn’t taken that risk I wouldn’t be a blogger today.

Something Better

You get what you ask for or something better. I didn’t ask to be a blogger. In 2011 I was looking for writing gigs and met with no luck. At one point in my life I even questioned my ability to find a job – any job! I applied for jobs at banks, day care centers and preschools. I finally got a part-time job at a Kumon Center. It wasn’t my dream job but I felt I still had something to offer. Like I wasn’t worthless. A month later I had to quit and stay home because my daughter broke her arm. I was back to square one. I had no time to feel sorry for myself because my daughter needed me 24/7. A few months later I started blogging and a couple of months after that I had my own website! Now if I could only get paid to share my opinions!

Walk your Talk

It’s easy to give advice. Ever tried following your own advice? I couldn’t write about “Living Fearlessly” and be afraid of driving (outside my comfort zone) or salons anymore. I couldn’t preach about the universe and “Signs from Above” while I ignored all the signs that were appearing in my life. I had to align my life to be in sync with everything I believed. I had to live the life I was telling everybody about. Since writing the post on fear I’ve taken the wheel when we went on road trips and made two trips to the salon!

The Bigger Plan

In hindsight, there was nothing accidental about becoming a blogger. The Universe was nudging me all along. When I was foolish enough to question it, alarming and unmistakeable evidence presented itself.  It showed me that I was just an instrument and a higher purpose was being fulfilled through the blog. Case in point – my post “Love Never Dies”. I wrote it and didn’t publish it. The very same night my brother wrote to me saying his friend had lost her father. She used to read my posts and find comfort so he asked if  I could suggest one to help her grieve. I published the post and sent my brother a link. This has happened more than once. What can I say?  I’m blessed beyond my wildest dreams and I’m deeply grateful to be given this opportunity.

Expansion and Connection

The most rewarding thing about blogging is connecting with like-minded people. My experiences are not unique in that atleast a dozen other people have been through the same thing. The more I blog the less lonely I feel. I have kids, a spouse, neighbors and friends. Yet a part of me always felt lonely. The part that stayed under wraps for far too long. It’s this part that finds solace through my blog. The sensitive soul, yo-yo optimist, facebook activist and the many other sides of me that people never get to see. The parts of me that I am no longer ashamed of because through my blog I can reach out to some who can totally relate to my different avatars!

Blogging vs Venting

Blogging got me into the habit of writing every day or writing without the intent of posting. Why is this important? Because I almost ended up using my blog as a place to vent. By journaling regularly I could weed out stuff that wasn’t blog material even though it was cleverly disguised! It also got me into the habit of keeping a prayer/gratitude journal. This one habit has transformed my life.

It’s no surprise to me that my first post was “Experimenting with Miracles”. My blog is a little miracle to me even today!It has sown many seeds near and far. Seeds of magic, hope and possibility. It reminds me that miracles happen every day, we just have to believe!

Dear Universe…

I have stayed positive, written in my gratitude journal, prayed every day and tried to be one with your flow. And nothing! Zilch!

I know you hate it when I live in the past but I can’t help it. Just look at last year – 2012. It was nothing short of magical. You got me writing again after a long hiatus and people were actually reading my posts! You egged me on to start my own website and I did. It was scary but I got all the support I needed thanks to you. I even got my posts published in other websites. I started off with zero confidence in my skills as a writer and by the December of 2012 you had me thinking that I could write a book! I felt free, fully alive and at the height of my creativity.

Magical meetings with old friends, a trip to India at very short notice to attend my cousin’s wedding and miraculous healing – you made all this and more possible! The new year 2013 looked full of promise and I happily jumped headlong into it. And then splat! I fell on my face! Without any warning. It was painful. I felt abandoned. The magic was gone. The creativity barely trickling. I had a good mind to quit and go hide in the bowels of the earth where no one would find me. But I had kids who looked up to me and I had readers I was accountable to. And then there was my baby – my website.

It took all of my strength to keep myself from sinking into dark despair and deep depression. Everyday I told myself that things would get better. I just need to keep at it. The creativity will flow again. This dry spell will pass. Month after month went by in banality, half-alive, hanging by a thread.

You sent many distractions my way to shift my focus. People who needed support, prayers and healing. It was your way of preventing me from having a meltdown. As much as I appreciate what you did I can’t help asking – where was the support I so badly needed. Why were you holding it back from me?

It’s July now and things haven’t changed. I wanted a fresh start, something different but you thwarted it. So I’m back to where I started. Sometimes I just want to scream till I can scream no more. It’s like every cell in my body is calling out for help. But you turn a deaf ear to me.

Yes you keep sending me signs – pennies here, clover leaves there, butterflies everywhere. Just the other day I was walking in the mall and having a conversation with you. I give up. I can’t take this anymore! I look down and I see a penny. Very funny!

You know how patient I’ve been. You know how long I have waited to finally do what I love and then you just expect me to give up the binky cold turkey?

Maybe I should just write off this year. It’s sort of like a ‘test year’ isn’t it? You are watching me and watching my every move. You want to know if I will throw it all away when the frustration peaks. Or do I want it so bad that I will keep on going on even though it feels like I have iron shackles on my feet. You want to see if I have truly overcome the demons of the past that keep dragging me down away from your light. Will I still be able to spread the light, despite fear and doubt gnawing at my heart.

Are you happy with the way I dealt with everything you threw at me this year? I think so! The struggle was under the surface. Outside it was business as usual – kids, blog and everyday life. I watched others struggle with major crises in their lives. The drama in the world escalated. It was hard to wake up every day to the constant chatter of death, injustice and despair.

But through your infinite grace you sent little rays of light in what would have otherwise been an endless tunnel of darkness. Although the magic had temporarily left my life I could see it unfolding in the lives of many a friend. Friends who had waited patiently for many years, praying and hoping for something to manifest. Folks in a slump who found renewed strength and pulled themselves up to face the world again. It made me feel so happy and thankful to finally see them have breakthroughs.

On a final note, I have no idea what your plans for me are. Why don’t you just surprise me? In the mean time I have enough evidence from my own life and  from friends and family to simply sit tight and wait it out. I know you are busy working things out for me now. In your own way. In your own time. All I can do is trust and stay open until you work your magic again.

 

Out of the Ashes Rises the Phoenix

I can count the number of movies I have cried for. “Anjali”, “Taare Zameen Par”, “The Notebook” and “Titanic”. This week I added a new one to my tearjerker list – Dolphin Tale. It is a tale of triumph. Overcoming odds. Resilience. The American Heritage dictionary defines resilience as the ability to recover quickly from illness, change or misfortune. Or the property of a material to resume its original shape or position after being bent, stretched or compressed. Like a rubber ball. You squeeze it and it pops back up.

But this movie goes beyond resilience. I wonder if there is a word for recovering quickly from being pushed into the jaws of death and then popping back up much better than ever before. Because that was just what the dolphin did. It happened right here in Florida and someday soon I’ll be taking the family to see that dolphin. Cos this ain’t no ordinary dolphin. This is a dolphin with a higher purpose.

“Winter” loses her tail after being hurt by a crab cage. Imagine a dolphin that cannot swim – it’s as good as dead. But Winter learns to swim without a tail. Like that’s not enough, she gets a prosthetic tail – something unheard of and after several times rejecting it, learns to swim with it. Wait! That’s not it. Today she brings hope to veterans and children who have lost their limbs. Somehow they can relate to this amazing cetacean that cheated death and is a beacon of hope.

Oprah once featured a dog on her show. This amazing animal had lost the use of its hind legs and was walking on its fore legs. It’s the spirit of these animals that is incredible. They are as joyous as they would have been with all their limbs/tails intact. They do not perceive themselves as broken, handicapped or in any way deprived.

I’ve seen this trait in humans as well. The ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and emerge triumphant. A kind of invincibility that gets activated only under dire circumstances. I saw this man on stage with Dr. Wayne Dyer. A man who got severely burnt at the age of two. A man who lost both his hands.  And a man who decided to be a drummer. Yes! A drummer without hands. I watched in awe as he approached a drum set and attached the drumsticks to the ends of his arms with elastic bands. He then went on to play the drums with such gusto that I hardly have words to describe it!

And then there is the story of a mother who lost all her limbs to a flesh eating bacterium after childbirth. She didn’t have hands to hold her baby. The baby that she nurtured in her womb and waited to see and hold after 9 months. But she just wanted to hold her baby – with or without hands. She can now hold her baby and also actively helps out with taking care of her. Her love for her baby kept her from slumping in a corner, defeated and broken.

Some of you may not think that everyone is capable of such courage in the face of utter defeat and despair. I think that these animals and people are here to remind us that we are capable of great things. We just haven’t tapped into it yet. We just haven’t been burnt to ashes yet. Only then can we rise whole and resplendent.

I’m sure there are many more stories like the ones I’ve shared. If you know one, please share it below. The world could do with some inspiration right now!