Tag Archives: fearless

Walking into the Unknown

It’s a scary place to be. The vast openness in front of you. Myriad intertwining paths stretching across the horizon as far as the eye can see. Fear immobilizes you. One wrong step and you think all will be lost. How sad it is sweet child that you have forgotten where you have come from. Squeezed out of a dark and snug chamber through a narrow canal, forced to breathe that air which was alien to you a second ago. Deprived of your continuous supply of nourishment, you had to latch on and suckle to survive. From simply being you were pushed into doing. You had to learn the tricks of this brand new world. Cry to get attention so your needs could be met – needs that did not exist before your birth. And isn’t it a wonder that you did incredibly well, although you had no idea what to expect.

Yet you falter when faced with the unknown. When uncertainty looms large, you fret and fume, cemented to your narrow path, unable to make a choice. Until you are pushed own the rabbit hole, forced to take a plunge and fill your hearts with courage. Why must you be afraid? The same force that birthed you and made you take in that first breath of fresh air, will nudge you along the right direction. If only you are patient and quieten your mind to listen to its guidance. For it is always there. It is like the background noise of a dripping faucet that you learn to tune out. But if you tune out  everything else, the noise becomes ominously loud – too loud to ignore. Follow that guidance and it will never fail you. It will in time take you where you are meant to go.

When I made my appearance into this world, my hip was dislocated and I wasn’t breathing. I could have made an exit without my first breath of air, without ever being held in my mother’s arms, without ever crying. Miraculously I survived but I was not out of the doghouse yet. Was my brain damaged because I was deprived of oxygen? Would my hip fix itself and would I ever walk normally? These were not questions that ran through my head. I was too small to know or even remember any of this. My parents didn’t know either. But when I visited my pediatrician, she would give thanks for every milestone I crossed. For she was the one who saved me from the jaws of death as I lay lifeless in her arms. She was witness to the miraculous power that let me live and thrive.

I don’t doubt for a second that help is always available for those who ask. But we must have the courage to follow through even in the face of imminent disapproval. Only we can hear our inner voice. We cannot let the voices of others drown it. Nor can we allow the noise of the world obliterate it. We cannot let fear dictate our actions. We have to trudge forward in full faith that the force that birthed us will take us home.

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.

Unleash the Goddess Within

Whenever I think of Goddesses incarnating on earth I fondly remember my grandma. She was a powerful matriarch with an iron staff (or should I say sword?) She was fearless and stood up to most anyone – die-hard patriarchs included – who saw her as a hapless widow. She owned her power. She was kind, generous, loving and very shrewd. She saw through facades and flagrant unctuousness although she appeared to revel in it. She was like a fierce lioness with a brood of cubs that she guarded vehemently. She was definitely a Durga. There is this picture of her taken on her birthday. She is dressed immaculately in white, brandishing a sword (thanks to her indulgent brother) while sitting on her bed with her dogs languishing in the background. On her nightstand she had a picture of the Goddess Durga slaying Mahishasura with his decapitated buffalo’s head and body lying under the goddess astride a lion. The lion is mauling the remains of the demon while blood drips off her trident.

I was reading the book, “Awakening Shakti” by Sally Kempton and it was all about the different goddesses and their powers. It even had a fun quiz at the end – Which Goddess are You? The author didn’t want the readers to take it too seriously and just wanted everyone to have some fun. I took the quiz in that very same spirit but slowly it took on a serious turn. I related to different Goddesses with very contrasting qualities. Of course everyone is a mix of qualities and it’s not always possible to fit in one particular category. In my case however, I saw how I was dominated by one Goddess during one part of my life and others during other parts of my life.

Every woman goes through a phase in her life when she feels like a goddess, oozes charisma and a dizzying fragrance that others find irresistible. In fact some men fear the power of such a woman and demonize her as the femme fatale. The evil one that seduces one and all. Some patriarchal societies don’t encourage women to flaunt their beauty. They want it kept under wraps and want women to feel ugly about their bodies. In extreme cases they mutilate women as a way of punishing them for embodying the beauty of a Goddess. Look around you and notice how people make you feel ugly or unworthy or encourage you to hide your inner beauty because they are afraid of it. To be a goddess you must see beauty within you and appreciate beauty around you.

At one time widows were expected to shave their heads and wear drab or white robes and no jewelry so they would not tempt other men into entering into a liaison with them. Which brings me back to my grandma. She wore white saris but was the epitome of style. Probably the years she spent in England made her realize that not everywhere are widows treated as outcastes. But she did not discard all of her Indian upbringing. She somehow molded the two and made white her fashion statement. How empowering is that?

Remember Sita? The beautiful goddess who married the handsome Prince Rama. The divine couple were a dazzling sight and people could barely take their eyes off the two of them. But later on in the story the beautiful Sita follows her husband to the forest, suffers untold miseries and then gets abducted by a demon king. She waits for her husband to come rescue her while ugly demons taunt and torture her. Ravana, the demon king waits for her to join his harem. She refuses until one day he can take it no more and attacks her with the intention of molesting her. Only then does the timid Sita take on a fiery persona and forbids Ravana from touching her lest he gets burnt by the intensity of her Shakti or power. Ravana backs off, sensing the intensity of her power and not wanting to risk his life.

To cut a long story short, Rama kills Ravana and rescues Sita but refuses to accept her since she has lived with another man (Sita suffered the changing seasons and was at the mercy of the elements in the Ashoka garden. She never stepped into Ravana’s palace nor did she wear any of the silks and jewels that he offered her.) She had to pass the test of fire to prove that she was chaste. Only then did Rama accept her as his queen.

So many women I know fall into the Sita category. They sacrifice their joys, ambitions and dreams in order to support their spouse and always put themselves last. Why even I am guilty of being a Sita during the early days of my married life. Isn’t that what every mother teaches her daughter consciously or unconsciously? I was reading my journal from many years ago and one of the entries struck me. I was told to “act submissive” during the wedding ceremony. It incensed me now, but my 23 year old self was willing to comply with that absurd request!

We are all taught to be Sitas. To be docile, in the shadows, ever serving our Lord (husband!) Made sense in Sita’s case because Rama was really the Divine incarnate. Now how many husbands treat you the way Rama treated Sita. And even Rama wasn’t perfect!

I was happy to play the domestic goddess. To cook, clean and care for the kids while my husband worked for a pay check. After a few years my domestic goddess felt disempowered. I could no longer play the role of a supportive, self-sacrificing Sita. The Durga in me emerged – fierce and seated on a lion – ready to pounce on anyone who doubted my power. I had to find a balance between nurturing others and myself and that came only from knowing where to draw the line and having the power to defend it.

When I don’t take good care of my needs the Kali comes out in me. Now Kali is the shadow side of the goddess. Dark and menacing with a necklace of skulls and a thirst for blood. Some call it PMS  which to me stands for Protesting Matriarchal Suppression! No one wants to be around Kali. She strikes terror in the hearts of men. And yet she is needed every now and then to restore the balance when it is too far gone to humanly restore.

Is the female of the species deadlier than the male? Occasionally yes, if you push her buttons too hard and too often!  But in a balanced state she nurtures one and all, imparting beauty, knowledge, protection and creativity. So which Goddess are you or which Goddess do you aspire to be?

Happiness, Trust and Uncertainty

I don’t want the fleeting happiness that comes from acquiring beautiful things. Nor the shallow mirth that comes from people who please you, praise you and bring you gifts. But I crave the satisfaction of one who need not try so hard to prove one self in a cruel world. One who without seeking has all the treasures of the world at one’s feet for the taking.

I no longer know what I want. After much striving and finally arriving at the place I wanted to be, I reveled in my success for a while before I realized all that I had strived for were worthy goals but in itself could not sustain my happiness. Husband – check. Kids – check. Home – check. Job – check. Sense of purpose – check.

Why can’t I enjoy the journey instead of fretting about the final destination? Especially since I have learnt many times over that there is no such thing as a final destination (even for a soul’s journey). Life does not stand still and idle. It seeks to go further and further to unseen lands.

The grey clouds outside reflect the gloom that has descended over me. A shroud of uncertainty that keeps the hopeful sun from lighting up my face. How many times will I falter and fumble knowing fully well that I am not in control. I never was. Led by an invisible hand to realms I had never dreamed of and experiences I never wished for. And yet all of it was necessary. All of it was beautiful. Even the cruel, dark places had their purpose. Uncertainty is not such a bad thing after all but it brings out the worst in us. The what-if questioning mind with its apocalyptic scenarios. But when I look back I see the paths that this hand led me down – sunny, shady, dark and gloomy. And I always emerged unscathed and stronger. So why can’t I trust that this hand will lead me down the best path yet. Down winding sun lit meadows and fragrant orchards. Up hillsides soaked in dew to mountain tops kissed by the clouds.

Trust is like plunging headlong into deep murky waters and suddenly bolting to the surface on invisible life vests. It is like falling backwards off the edge of a cliff placidly and getting caught in a safety net that happened to be there.

Why can’t I be like a child walking into the ocean holding its mother’s hand, trusting that when a big wave comes threatening to engulf him, she would clasp her arms around his little body and lift him up before the ocean could swallow him whole.

When you place your trust in something bigger than you then you can be certain that the right path will open up. When you trust, you give up anxiety about the future and are filled with peace and a deep inner knowing that it will turn out ok in the end. But to trust when you are in the eye of a storm and unraveling is the biggest challenge of all. After facing enough storms and upheavals I can assure you that those invisible arms held me tight and never let go – not once (although it felt like I was alone when it was all happening.)

So surrender and be at peace. Let the drama play out in your life and in the world and be no part of it. Know that it will all be over soon and you will be exactly where you are supposed to be.

Tried and Tested Steps to Change

So the new year is here and you’ve written your resolutions and sworn to stick by them only to find yourself stuck. Stuck with the same old, same old. Many of you started making changes and then found that your enthusiasm fizzled out and some of you haven’t found enough strength to take that first step. Whatever your predicament, the following steps will ease you through the process of change. They have been tried and tested by yours truly.

Taking that first step

So now you have made up your mind to change but you have a big problem. Every cell in your body has turned to lead and it seems impossible to overcome the heaviness. It’s hard to take that first step. You want to just give in to the heaviness and slump down in a heap on the floor. It’s too hard or too scary to change. Fight it! Muster all your strength and make that all important first step.

Do it as long as it takes to form a habit

You took charge and started making changes but somewhere along the way life and its complexities got the better of you and slowly but surely you went back to the old ways. It takes time to form a good habit or make a positive change in your life. If you do it every single day for a month you end up making it a habit. Consistency is the key to success. Make time for what is important to you every single day and victory will be yours. Now you own the new behavior and you can work it like a pro.

Make a small change

Don’t try to change everything at once. It took years to get into the mess you are in so it will take time and a lot of WORK to get out of it. Don’t be discouraged. Take that first step and make a small change – no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. It will have a ripple effect and before you know it you are in a completely different place in your life.

Don’t listen to that negative little voice in your head

Your worst enemy is your mind especially if it is constantly playing negative events and saying negative things about you. You say you want to change and it says you can’t. Shut the voice out for long enough and it won’t have any power over you.

Be your own cheerleader

If you can get that little voice to cheer you on, you will be unstoppable. Replace all the negative mind chatter with positive stuff. Keep repeating it like a mantra and soon your mind will catch on. Fake it till you make it baby!

Be strong in the face of opposition

Not only do you have to deal with that inner voice in your head (like that isn’t enough!) but you also have to deal with the voices of your loved ones. They are guaranteed to react adversely every time you try to change something in your life. It’s just a test. They (or their ego) wants to figure out if you really want to do this because it means they cannot continue behaving the same way. They feel threatened. Ultimately your change will transform those around you. So they better co-operate or bail out.

Remember your victories

This is important when you are afraid to take the next step. Remember how far you have come and step boldly to face the next challenge you have decided to take on. Usually what is most scary to change is the one thing you will really benefit from. It is your most important lesson. Once you cross that hurdle, all else will be easy.

Persistence

If something doesn’t work or doesn’t give you the desired result try something different. But don’t give up. Persistence has its rewards.

The buddy system

This works if you find it hard to motivate yourself or are not clear on what steps to take to reach your goals. Friends help you work through your fears and insecurities and also help put things in perspective. It goes without saying that it is fun to have someone share your journey with you. When you are slacking they will give you the much needed push to get up and get going.

A word of caution before you embark on this glorious and extremely fulfilling quest. Don’t try to fix your spouse, your boss, your mother or your kids. I guarantee you that you will fail and end up right where you started. Your job is you and that in itself is a daunting task. Be clear about your motives for change. Do it for yourself and know what you want and why you want it. Doing it for others only gets you so far, doing it for yourself is what keeps you flying high.